I receive many letters; far more than I can answer. I do try to answer all those which contain questions. Recently a brother in Oklahoma sent me six questions having to do with worship. They are vital questions and should be of interest to every Christian who desires to please God.
Question 1: How do you worship God?
Answer: I think that the brother wants me to tell him how I, personally, worship God. That is a good question for each of us. How would you answer the question?
I believe that I worship God in the way prescribed by Jesus in John 4:23-24. Jesus in that instance makes it clear that there is no set PLACE for the worship of the Father. Men can and should worship the Father wherever they are; and as a matter of fact they should worship or "serve" the Father all the time, in every action, and in every place. The Father seeks such to worship Him.
There are no set times to worship God, such as the Arabs and most churches have it prescribed. MEN, not God nor His word, prescribe the places and times when people are to attend what they erroneously call "Worship Services." On the signboard out in front of the Church (meaning "building") there is usually given the times for the "Worship Services". These "Worship Services" begin at a certain time and usually end about an hour later; hence, we have today "the hour of worship" that the majority of people think has been prescribed and set by God Himself. The church the building, the Sanctuary, or the Holy Place is the required place for the people to go in order to worship God. So there is today a special, required (by MEN) PLACE where the people must go for the "official" worship of God; and everything done is under the direction of men. The poor pew-people have no voice in it at all. They are to do just what their Rulers, who run and manage the Church, tell them to do. The laity or pew-people are required by the rulers to 1 ) be taught; 2) OBEY; and 3) PAY. If the people do these three things and keep in line, then the assurance is given to them by the Rulers and the hired professional preacher that all is well with their soul because they are "faithful Church members." May God have mercy upon those who have been victimized and "brainwashed" with this false teaching.
Now the above is largely to recount briefly how what is called "worship" is done in all denominations, including the C of C church denomination. It is all from the will and wisdom of MEN! Nothing like that is taught in God's word.
"Worship" and "serve" are almost synonymous words in the original language. Don't you believe that when you "serve" God that you, in doing such, also "worship" Him in what is done? Jesus said: "You shall worship the Lord thy God and Him only shall you serve" (Matt. 4:10). These are not two different things; they are just two different words that mean substantially the same thing.
In Acts 17 Paul was trying to inform the heathen Athenians about the one, and only, true God. He told them concerning the "Unknown God" that this God they worshiped in ignorance is the one I proclaim to you. He proclaimed that this God "does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is he served by human hands as though He needed anything..." God is the object of true worship and He is the one Whom we are to serve. When we serve God we worship God; what we do to help others is worshiping God and it is serving God.
Worship of the Father is NOT something confined to an appointed place, to be done at an appointed time, in five (or, even three) appointed acts. In reality all of this staged, ritualistic, man-designed "5-acts of Worship Service" is from men not from God. All of these "church services" are from men. You can't find the "5-acts rituals" required anywhere in Scripture. There is no "pattern" for such, as is claimed by the clergy/preachers. Men have put it all together to hold the people (laity)"captives" to the institutional church.
It is from these lowly members that the institutional church "extracts" its financial resources. The laity are the "payees." They are "taxed" by the churches and they must "pay up" or else they are disobedient to God, they are told. Of course, that is a lie, but it has been "sold" to the laity as "saving truth" and the obedient, submissive church members ignorantly submit and pay their "tithe" or "taxes" to the Church! How else could the Church organization obtain the money to build these expensive cathedrals and churches (buildings) and pay the salaries of these professional preachers unless they "take it" from the people? It is a form of "taxation without representation . The people, in most cases, have neither voice nor vote in how the money is to be used. Usually, they are not even informed about how or for what the money has been spent. It is a big rip-off or con game. The people are taught that when they drop their "pledge" or "tithe" into the coffer of the local church institution that they are giving it to God! Don't you know that God does not need any money! No where in Scripture are we required to give "as prospered" into a church treasury. But submissive members have swallowed the deception and in ignorance comply, believing that such is an "act of worship" required by God.
Where in Scripture can you read of the so-called "5-acts of worship"? There isn't any local church institution in Scripture, much less a divine command that His people must financially underwrite the total operational cost of such a human institution.
I have written a lot in this paper in objection to and exposure of the modern Church-controlled rituals called "Worship Services". I have also come down hard on the erroneous teaching that there is a "divine pattern" for the worship of God that requires and spells out the so-called "five acts of worship." This Oklahoma brother apparently decided to write for more and clearer information. In other words, he may be asking: If the "five acts of Worship Service" is not God's pattern, then how should we worship? Let us look deeper into this vital matter.
Let me challenge you with this observation: I do not believe that there is any WRONG or SINFUL way that a sincere, knowledgeable child of God can worship or serve the Father! I mean by that that the "field" is wide open; there are many, many ways that as God's people we can worship or serve Him! Worship is NOT limited to a mere five acts. Service , which is worship also (Matt. 4:10), is not limited to some restricted number of "items of worship" beyond which we dare not go.
It is like love; it is unlimited and unrestrained. As the poem says, "How do I love you? Oh, let me count the ways," so it is with worshiping or serving God, the ways are almost without limit. It can be summed up in the statement of Jesus: "Follow Me." When we do that, doing the things that He did, living as He lived, serving as He served, that is worship and service that counts in the eyes of our Father in heaven! This man-devised "Worship Service" is an erroneous, cheap substitute for what our Lord wants from us in the way of worship and service.
Let's look at some examples of "worship" and/or "service" given to our Lord, as well as to the Father. John 12:1-8: Mary "served" or "worshiped" the Lord when she "took a pound of very costly, genuine spikenard-ointment, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair..." That was worship or service that Jesus accepted.
Luke 7:36-50: Jesus was in "the Pharisee's house, and reclined at table. And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was ... in... the house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with perfume." That was "true worship" which Jesus accepted! To which one of the "Five acts" does that belong? Can we do this today? Certainly we can. Jesus said: "Truly I say unto you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matt. 25:40).
Mark 7:24-30 tells of a Gentile woman who "immediately came and fell at His feet." Jesus accepted her "service" or "worship" and granted her request, healing her daughter.
Rom. 1:9: Paul wrote: "For God whom I serve ... in the preaching of the gospel of His Son ..." Paul "served" God in the preaching that he did. Was this not also worship to God?
Rom. 12:1 : Paul instructs us to present our bodies as "a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Using our bodies in doing the things the Lord wants us to do is here called "service" and "worship"! This is not one of the "Five acts" and it is not something done in the Church "Worship Service."
Many passages teach us what it means to worship and serve God. Look at Matt. 25:31-46. Those who had "worshiped" and "served" the Lord did so in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting those sick and in prison. These people who were on the "right" side were "blessed" of the Father and told to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you ..." This certainly tells us something of what constitutes worship and service. Have you ever thought about feeding the hungry being worship to God when done in the name of the Lord? Well, it is!
Acts 2:42-45: "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Surely this constituted worship and service. "And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Worship of God indeed. Who can doubt it? See Acts 6:1-6 for another example.
Romans 12 is a whole chapter dedicated to how we are to worship/serve our God. See also Romans 13:1-13. Yes, when we are "in subjection to the governing authorities" we are obeying, serving, and worshiping God. Obeying the teaching of Gal. 5:13-26 is serving and worshiping the Father. Also, Gal. 6:1-10 sets forth the service or worship of the child of God who wants to please Him.
Ephesians 4:17-6:20 contains a wealth of instruction about how we should worship and serve God. Paul even breaks it down to wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, and masters. He even orders that we are to "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (5:21), which is serving and worshiping God.
To restrict or limit the worship of God to "Five acts" performed once each week at some Church (building), under the control of the Church (organization) officials, is a far cry from what "true worship" of the Father really is. The idea that God has ordered such rituals and form as the "worship" or "service" that He wants from us is absurd! Nearly everyone who "attends" these ritualistic "Worship Services" dresses in her/his finest attire, which naturally excludes the poor from such a gathering; and there they all sit in their favorite pew as they go through (endure!) the "Worship Service" for one hour. And they go away thinking that they have "paid their dues" to God for another week!
Perhaps we can sum up the worship and service to our Father with these teachings: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Col. 3:17). "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). If what we do brings glory to our Father, is that not worship? Note this passage: "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ ..." (1 Pet. 4:11). How much clearer must it be made for us to understand that the words worship and service are substantially the same in meaning? God's people should live a life of daily and continuing service and worship to God. Nothing would please Him more.
Let me emphasize it again: All of the, so-called "Worship Service" rituals fall far short of being the true worship and service that our Father wants from us. Binding upon the saints the practice of regular attendance at "Worship Services" of the Church is not from God. Even the prophet Micah understood what constitutes worship and service to our God: "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
Yes, when saints observe the Lord's Supper they are engaged in service and worship to God; wherever they do it and when they do it as Jesus has directed. There is no LAW from the Lord telling us when we must do it, how often we must do it, or with whom we must do it. We are instructed to do it in a "manner that is worthy" of that which it symbolizes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given for us. There is not any teaching that the Lord's Supper is to be controlled and dispensed by the local church organization; requiring that the saints report in at the appointed time at the appointed place where it will be officially administered. This whole concept is borrowed (or "stolen") from the Roman Catholic Church teaching and practice, where that Church dispenses it as authorized by the Church.
Christians can observe the Lord's Supper when they please. Jesus and His disciples observed it on Thursday evening, which should be a good time, since we have this "inspired example" to follow. We can have the Lord's Supper with whom we please; just the husband and wife, as a family, or with others as the opportunity comes. Or, if one is alone he or she may observe the Supper.
One of the most absurd things I know about is the "law" of the clergy that Christians who are to travel must make sure to locate a "sound, loyal C of C" church somewhere enroute with which they can meet, but especially to "get" the Lord's Supper! This "item of worship" seems to be the only one that justifies all this effort to find a church which can officially administer the Lord's Supper. And sometimes there have been those who arrive just in time for the Lord's Supper and leave immediately after "getting the Lord's Supper" to go on their way. The other "four acts of worship" are not vital it seems. Many of the "brotherhood" journals sell Church ads so these travelers can get to a Church for an "official" Lord's Supper. These journals rake in a lot of money by taking advantage of the ignorance and superstition of the people. The Lord's Supper does not belong to the Church! It belongs to the saints, the individual, you and me.
One other "item of worship" gives churches a problem as far as traveling saints are concerned. They are admonished to find a "faithful" C of C church and "get" the Lord's Supper, but, when it comes to "giving as prospered into the church treasury, they must NOT "give" to that church that provides them the Lord's Supper! NO! They must either give their "as prospered" contribution at their membership church before they leave or hold it till they get back there and give it the next Sunday they are there. (This "act of worship" can be done only on the "first day of the week" according to C of C church "law", you must understand.) Nearly all preachers emphasize this vital point of "law". It is "the law of the Church and the clergy". You can do the other four "acts of worship" with a "foreign" church, but the money belongs at home! Wonder where they found that "law" in scripture?
None of these so-called "items of worship" belong to any Church to control and administer.
You are individually responsible for the worship and service you should give to the Father. No one else, and no church institution, can do your service or worship for you. You cannot "ride" on what your husband or wife does. You can't count as your service anything done by the organized local church! What the local church does is institutional or organizational action. I doubt that it counts for anything for anyone, even though some of what is done is very helpful. God has no where directed us to give our responsibility to the local church, letting that institution have our proxy in serving God. It is your individual responsibility to do what He wants you to do. Responsibility is individual: "… so then each one of us must give an account of himself unto God."
Well, I must close for this time. There are five other related questions about worship. Perhaps I can give some attention to them in the next EXAMINER. - cah