Jerry C. Brewer
Neither the time, place, nor acts of acceptable worship to God have ever been left to man’s discretion. This is seen in the first recorded instance of worship in Genesis 4. Abel offered his worship, “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). That means that God prescribed the acts, items, and place of his worship because, “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God’s word produced the faith in Abel that motivated his worship. On the other hand, Cain offered worship that was a product of his own wisdom and device. Because he refused to offer what God prescribed, he did not offer worship “by faith” and was rejected.
When God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, He said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:2), The time—following a three day journey (Gen. 22:4), the place—upon a mountain designated by God in the land of Moriah, and the act of worship—a burnt offering of his son, Isaac—were all designated by God. Abraham was not told merely to “worship.” He was given specific instructions of how, when, and where to worship. He had no “worship of his choice.”
Upon arriving at the place designated by God, Abraham told the men who accompanied them, “…I and the lad will go yonder and worship…” (Gen. 22:5). The Hebrew word sachah, which is here rendered “worship,” means “to prostrate, to bow down, crouch, fall down, humbly beseech, do obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop” (Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary, p. 114). The Greek word for “worship” in the New Testament is proskuneo and defined essentially in the same manner: “To kiss like a dog licking its master’s hand, to fawn or crouch, prostrate oneself in homage, do reverence, adore” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary of The New Testament, p. 61).
There is a pattern of acceptable worship prescribed by God in the New Testament which must be followed in order to please Him. Jesus said true worship must be offered “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). While the specifics of New Testament worship must be found in other places, Jesus stated the basis upon which acceptable worship may be offered to God in that verse.
To worship “in spirit” is to prostrate oneself before God with the recognition that He is the Giver and Sustainer of all life and that we are totally dependent upon Him in whom we live, move, and have our very being (Acts 17:28). Furthermore, it is to offer worship to God from a heart that desires to worship God—that longs to express its gratitude to Him. Of necessity, such a desire requires men to prepare for worship. Abraham made preparation by gathering the necessary items, such as the fire and the wood, to carry with him on his three-day journey. He did not go, as is often the case today, at the last minute with no forethought of worshiping God.
To worship “in truth” is to worship according to God’s word. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). That eliminates all the concerts and dramas that are called “worship” by the denominational entertainment industry today. If they are not “in truth”— authorized by God’s word—and they are not, they are vain and sinful acts of “worship” (Matt. 15:9).
God specified in the New Testament those acts of worship in which Christians are to engage. They are singing (Eph. 5:19), praying (1 Tim. 2:8), preaching God’s word (Acts 20:7), eating the Lord’s Supper in memory of Christ’s death (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:2326), and giving of our material prosperity to support the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:6). All of these are commanded by God as acts of worship and must be done if our worship would be “by faith.” The manner—in spirit and in truth, the time—on the first day of the week, the place—in the assembly of the saints (Heb. 2:12; 1 Cor. 11:17), and the acts—those delineated above—are all specified in the New Testament pattern and only in this way can we offer worship to God that He will accept. All else is vain.