Biblical Worship

15. Biblical Worship: An Issue of Sound Doctrine

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Biblical worship is a matter of sound doctrine, just as much as the doctrines of the Trinity, the holiness of God, or the atonement.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 15 of a 20-part series. Read part 14.

Biblical worship is a matter of sound doctrine, just as much as the doctrines of the Trinity, the holiness of God, or the atonement.

Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. People bow down, and each man humbles himself; therefore do not forgive them. (Isaiah 2:8-9)

Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility (Colossians 2:18)

Those who have deceived large segments of the church into believing that God is not specific about His requirements for worship have either simply not read the Bible, or else they have deliberately chosen to ignore it or twist it. From the very beginning of the Bible all the way to the end, from Genesis to Revelation and everywhere in between, we find clear and repeated declarations and specifications concerning worship that is acceptable to God. Just as importantly, we find clear instruction about that which is not acceptable to God in worship.

The Word of God deals with both sides of the subject so fully and in such detail that there can be no question about the mind of God on the matter of worship. Biblical worship is a matter of sound doctrine just as much as the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the holiness of God, the doctrine of sin, or the doctrine of the atonement.

The doctrine of worship is not a secondary doctrine. It is front and center throughout the entire Word of God. The only way you can miss it is if you decide not to look for it. God has redeemed a people for Himself for the very purpose of receiving their sanctified worship.

The Keynotes of Biblical Worship

What are the keynotes of that worship? We find one keynote in Psalm 29:2, and again in Psalm 96:9 - "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." We find another keynote in Jesus' own words in John 4:24 - "God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."

God's Word tells us, very clearly and repeatedly, that true worship is worship that is untainted by the influences of the world. That must be the constant goal of the people of God in their worship. Truth unmingled with falsehood. Truth unmingled with the things of the flesh. Truth unmingled with the things of this fallen world-system that is under the sway of Satan.

"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Holy worship, sanctified worship, worship that is set apart from the thinking and the practices and the trappings of the unbelieving world - that kind of worship, which is the only genuine worship, is a beautiful thing in the eyes of God, and it should be a beautiful thing in the eyes of every believer in Christ.

The corollary to this is that anything that we may choose to call worship that is not truth unmingled with error, that is not worship in the beauty of holiness, of set-apartness from the world - those things are unacceptable to God as worship.

The gathered saints of God, individually and collectively, are to be clean vessels, clear channels, glorifying God and communicating His truth. Lifting up and exalting not themselves, not performance, not atmospherics, not emotionalism, not ritualism, but exalting our great God, and His infallible Word, and His Son Jesus. No aspect of worship is a performance to please or to impress or to manipulate men, because we are not the audience. God is the audience for all true worship.

A Proper View of God, And Ourselves

The God we worship is a holy God. We are commanded to "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29). A proper approach to God involves a proper view of ourselves, a Biblical view of ourselves. We are absolutely unworthy of the least of God's favor apart from the merits of Jesus Christ. We are in every sense the objects of God's grace in both the present life and the life to come. This was the realization of Isaiah in his great vision of the throne room of God in Isaiah chapter six, beginning at verse one:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 6:1-5)

And lest we think that such a vision of God is only to be found in the Old Testament, let me remind you of the Apostle John's vision of the Lord Jesus Christ on His throne at the end of time, at the end of the book of Revelation, in chapter twenty:

And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. (Revelation 20:11)

God has not changed. He is still holy. Christ on His throne is still holy. Much of the problem in what is falsely called worship in our time is the lack of reverence for God, for Christ, for His holiness. Such lack of reverence is absolutely foreign to the Biblical doctrine of worship. True Christian worship is an act of deep reverence, of God's people abasing themselves, as we approach the throne of the holy God of the universe. As we shall see in our next article, the focus of our worship is not to be on things of this earth, but on things above.


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