As we seek to be Christ’s Church in this world, there is a fundamental question that must be answered, namely, “What are we here for?” When we think about God saving a people for Himself, we realize that He could take any soul immediately into heaven if He wished to do so. Yet the Bible makes a distinction between the Church on earth and the Church now in heaven. We can see this description in Hebrews 12:18-29. There we see that, when the Church on earth worships, we are not only earthly, as indeed we are, but we are also joined with all those already in heaven. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” When we speak of the Church on earth and the Church in heaven, we call the one the Church Militant, and the other the Church Triumphant. We remain upon earth to serve Christ’s Kingdom purposes, and our first service is to worship the Living God (Acts 13:2).
As the Church Militant, then, we echo the sentiment that worship is warfare. God has given His people a powerful weapon to be wielded against the world, the flesh, and the devil. This worship is powerful in that it is by the Spirit speaking in the Word. Jesus said that God is seeking those to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Our worship, then, must be spiritual and it must be in accordance with the Word.
What does it mean to engage in spiritual worship? To worship in spirit means that our own spirits join with the Holy Spirit in all the means by which He leads His people into all truth (John 16:13). Jesus, the Great King, is right now at the throne of God making intercession for us as High Priest and Mediator of the new covenant (Rom 8:34; 1 Tim 2:5). Because He is no longer with us in bodily form, but will one day return in bodily form, He sent to us the comforting Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Who is the 3rd Exalted Person of the Godhead, is the One Who testifies to the Son (John 15:26; 16:7). He testifies to the Truth of the Scriptures. He gives us the Word of God to be our comfort and guide in all things spiritual. Paul also tells us that the natural man cannot know the things of God because they are spiritual. Therefore, we must have the Spirit to tell us the things which, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1Cor 2:6-16). The Spirit confirms to our spirits the truth of the Word, that we really have been adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God (Rom 8:14-17). So to have “spiritual” worship, we must have the Spirit speaking in the Word to us, His children.
This means that the Bible is central to our worship. This is the second description of the worship God seeks. As the first is to worship “in spirit,” the second is to worship “in truth.” What is truth? There could be a myriad of answers depending upon whom you might ask. But the most correct answer is that: truth is the mind of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. “Thy Word is Truth? (John 17:17). When we say anything is true, we are not speaking a truth of ourselves, but we are thinking God’s thoughts after Him. He makes it plain that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours, and His paths are past tracing out (Rom 11:33). This doesn’t mean that we can’t know God or understand His revelation concerning Himself. But what it does mean is that we must be completely dependent upon Him in order to understand anything He has to tell us. And because all truth comes from God, we cannot find the truth or speak the truth at all, unless He first has uttered it and given us understanding of it. So to worship in truth, we must ask what God says about how He is to be worshipped and glorified.
Because we believe this as a church, our worship will only contain those elements to which the Scriptures command. We do not worship Him through our own vain imaginations (Rom 1:18-25), but only in the ways prescribed in His Word. How are we to worship God? What is included in the worship of God?
Since the Bible is central, we believe that we must take advantage of all it has to say to us. Our worship is “dialogical.” God speaks to us and we speak back to Him. He speaks to us through the Bible, read and preached; we speak back to Him by praying and singing His Word back to Him. In the course of this dialog, we hear Him call us to Worship. We speak back to Him in prayers and hymns of adoration. He speaks to us in His holiness and righteousness; therefore we must speak back to Him in the confession of our sins. He speaks back to us His pardon and forgiveness. We speak back to Him of our thankfulness and we confess our belief that He is mighty to save. He speaks to us words of encouragement through the preaching of the Word. We speak back our confirmation of hearing that Word and of our desire to obey it. He speaks His benediction upon us and we say “Amen” to it. This is how the Bible tells us to worship. This is the way Christ’s Church has worshipped in the past, and how she is called to worship today.
As part of this dialogical worship, there are regular occasions when we partake of the sacraments that Christ has commanded us to observe. Those ordinances include Baptism and the Lord’s Table. These two sacraments are given to the Church to mark out those who believe in Christ for salvation, and who remember and proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. The sacraments are instituted by Christ for the building up of the body and for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.
Although all of these things mark true and spiritual worship, we must never fall into the thought that our worship is perfect, or has become the ground of our justification before God. Proper form does not ensure propriety. As we join together in corporate worship, Christ is formed in us (Gal 4:19); and only through Him may we approach God with reverence and awe to worship Him aright (Heb 12:28). “Who would dare of himself to approach Me?” asks the Lord (Jer. 30:21). “No one would be so foolish” we reply. But there is a Mediator. “Through Christ Jesus we have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:18)