Worship has specific avenues through which we must pass to worship God acceptably. God appointed these for our benefit as well as to revere and praise Him. Sometimes an atheist will parrot “why would an all-powerful God need the worship of men? Truth is—He doesn’t! Worship is not an e-go trip for God; it is a time of refreshing for we humans. Every act of worship asked of us in the word of God will if done correctly lift us spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Each is simple in its own right yet requiring our full devotion when passing through them. Half-hearted and non-committal worship will not do. When the Creator of the universe declares by way of His Son, “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:23-24). The option is not left to us (frail humans,) worship to God requires our participation in both action and manner. Creatures and innate objects may be worshipped without one or both of these, but not God. Notice closely, Jesus said, “they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Let’s name and learn something about each avenue of worship.
There are few things that stir the heart, incite the emotions and express the innermost thoughts more than singing. When we are sad we sing the blues, when we are happy we praise the day for its goodness, when grateful singing allows all around us to know the gratitude we hold within our being. What better activity could God have chosen to lift our spirit and relax our tensions more than to actively join others in singing in worship to our heavenly Father? James reminds us of the stirring effect of singing when he wrote, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms?” (Js. 5:13). One does not need a beautiful and melodious voice to fill himself with the spirit grasp in song. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:19). God has designed singing to be an expression of the soul unto Himself. We may not appreciate the one leading us in song, we may not think the song selection is the very best, yet we sing from the heart in praise and adoration to the God that loves us and blesses us. Singing is not only beneficial to the singer but renders a grace to those who hear the song. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in you hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16). The church of Christ is a singing people, when we gather in worship and we go about our daily activities. The word of God that redeemed us and governs our life is expressed through singing. Singing shows to the world about us the dispositions of God’s people as well as rendering praise to our Maker. There are some things some of us cannot do, but singing is not one of them—we all can sing. Can we ever thank God enough for making singing a vital part of our worship?
The calm and serenity of thinking beyond our own physical comfort is a trait that only human beings experience. While we live in a world that is ever changing, always decaying and constantly filled with dying we have a communication with eternity when praying to the Father. I have no idea what all can be brought to pass through prayer, but this one thing I am certain of: “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (Js. 5:16). We may not be able to answer every question about prayer yet this one we can be certain that God wishes us to pray, if for no other reason than the good we receive from the exercise itself. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” ( I Tim. 2:8). The context of this passage is speaking of worship. It is the obligation of men in worship to have clean hands and a pure heart when praying. When a person—any person will not heed the word of the Lord the prayers offered are unacceptable to God. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.” (Prov. 28:9). When a congregation comes together for worship long prayers may be uttered, but if these have not regard for the law of God, not only will God not hear, but such prayers are disgusting to Deity. Congregations that have perverted worship by bringing in mechanical instruments along side of singing, destroying the assembly by dividing into classes for teaching, substituting individual cups for the cup of the Lord and like things the prayers offered are disgusting. Furthermore, when a church has openly embraced immorality among its members praying that the worship is acceptable does not change the situation; in fact, the prayer itself makes God sick to His stomach. All the praying in the world does not change sin into righteousness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in Darkness, we lie, and do not the truth…If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I Jn. 1:5, 6, 8, 10). Woe to the congregation that harbors the sinful and woe to those who worship in that congregation. Is there anything that should give us pause more than our prayer being an abomination? The words of the man who had his blind eyes opened should weigh heavily on our hearts, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” (Jn. 9:31). “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” ( I Pet. 3:12).
THINK ABOUT THE COMMUNION
Concentrating upon the sacrifice of Jesus’ body for our sins, reliving the time when the Roman soldier ran his weapon through the Lord’s side freeing His life giving blood and recalling the blood bought New Testament causes our heart to melt within us. As we quietly meditate on God’s love expressed in this wonderful gift and supreme method of delivering us from sin pushes our personal problems and cares far to the background. “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (I Cor. 11:23-29). The Apostle addresses the subject by considering whether one partakes “unworthily.” Of course the opposite is to eat with “worthiness.” This has brought about (and still brings about) anxiety in some people. It is construed the passage in such a way as to create in their mind an unnecessary sense of uneasiness while sitting before the table. When looking back over the previous week, if they find they have done something unbecoming a Christian, there is the fear that the Lord will count them unworthy to partake of the Supper and lest they bring a curse rather than a blessing they do not eat. Then others looking back over the last few days find they have been fairly moral deem themselves peculiarly fortunate therefore fit to commune with other disciples. Such is hardly the idea of Paul, as he speaks of the manner of our partaking rather than our condition while partaking as he speaks of our discerning the Lord’s body which is to see or remember the sacrifice of Christ for sin. All of us are conscious of our imperfection anytime during worship and especially is this true at the table. There is a need for self-examination. I would not; I must not allow another to “examine me”, as the cost is too great. The Lord’s sacrifice must be paramount in my heart as I partake of this sacred meal. The difference is glorifying to the Lord or damnation to myself. To partake with irreverence (unworthily,) is a sin I wish never to commit. With bowed head and humiliated heart the bread must be broken and eaten, the fruit of the vine must be drunk from the cup to refresh my heart melting it as nothing else does or can—the Lord designed it so. Common meals we have the power over to choose the manner in which we eat, but this meal is to control our very spirit stirring the eternal soul. Be it remembered that the items on this table have been pre-selected by none other than the Lord Himself. To remind us of His suffering, humiliated, rejected—even tortured body is the simplest food—bread. The Lord could have chosen something more palatable, some more glorious in the eyes of men, but He did not. He chose bread and other lessons were taught by it. The American Standard Version translates it “a loaf.” Since it to us is the body of Christ we know He had but one body and He has but one spiritual body sent forth into the world, how fitting and complete that He would choose a single loaf that would show the world these truths. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (I Cor. 10:16-17), When a congregation substitutes many loaves for the one loaf is it possible to partake in the proper manner? I trow not. The cup containing fruit of the vine also has lessons for us. The cup is the New Testament sealed by the blood of Christ. After thanks we are to drink of the cup as the disciples all drink of it when given them by the Lord. This reminds us that the Old Testament although God given does not contain the rules to guide our lives in the present dispensation. It is the new covenant God promised by His prophet (Jer. 31:31-14, see Heb. 8:8-13). It is “the cup of blessing” not the cups of blessing. How can I have the proper attitude or manner when I am not doing what the Lord said to do? Drinking of a cup that is individual to me destroys the design of God. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:16). “We” is in the command, not “I.” It is the many that commune not one as an individual. Individual cups destroy the design of unity God set forth by the Lord’s Supper. The pure blood of the grape (in the cup) pictures the pure blood of Jesus. He was not contaminated by sin and His blood is able to cleanse us from sin. John wrote “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I Jn. 1:7). To substitute water or fermented wine is disobedience to the Lord. We cannot contaminate the drink element and think we can at the same time properly remember the shed blood of Jesus. We are not left to make our own choice regarding the element that represents the precious blood of the Redeemer. God’s design is the greatest, simplest, and clearest.
THINK ABOUT THE LORD’S COMMANDMENT “THIS DO”
After having taken bread engaged in giving thanks, breaking and giving it to the disciples present that He said, “this do in remembrance of me.” The same procedure was followed regarding the cup. The command is easily understood and can be obeyed with the slightest effort. “This do” means do what I have done, not something similar. The command is not to do just anything or is to do something without any connection with the Lord’s will. His example comes into play and that is what we are to follow. Some have asked, “when is an example binding on us?” For sure this one is because Jesus demands that we do what He has done. In discussing the matter of individual cups with a brother preacher, he stated “I know Jesus used one cup and the disciple all drank from that cup, but that does not mean we should use a single cup for all to drink from.” I responded, “if it doesn’t mean that, what does it mean?” He did not answer and it cannot be answered by anyone. How can members of the church of Christ contend that we are to follow the New Testament and turn around and disobey—yes, I said, disobey these plain directives of the Lord? Surely the legs of the lame are not equal. When a child is shown something and told to “do this” that does not mean the child is to do what he wishes without any regard for the instruction. When Jesus said “this do” He meant for us to follow His example and the direction to follow it. What did Jesus do? He took a loaf of bread, gave thanks for it, break it and give it to the disciples with instruction for them to “do this.” Can we follow His example? Yes. Then we are to do so. The Lord took a cup containing fruit of the vine, gave thanks for it, gave it to His disciples with the instruction to “do this.” “They all drank of it.” (Mk. 14:23). Can we follow His example? Yes. Then we must do it. God designed the church and the worship the members are to practice and may I say it is God’s finest design.
Barney Owens 1706