Though most people think it doesn’t matter how you worship God, the Bible shows that it matters to God. That’s why Jesus says in John 4:24 that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
In Genesis 4, God accepts Abel’s worship and rejects Cain’s. We’re not told why in Genesis. We have to turn to the New Testament. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts” (Heb. 11:4). Abel was righteous because he worshiped God “by faith.” According to Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing God’s word. Abel offered what God told him to offer. Cain must have ignored what God said and offered what he wanted instead. So God rejected Cain’s worship. All worship must be in spirit and in truth, or God rejects it. To worship in spirit means to worship from the heart and offer to God the thanks and praise He’s due, especially for sending His Son to die for us.
Just as important is worshiping in truth. Jesus refers to God’s word as truth in John 17:17. Paul does the same in Second Timothy 2:15. Worship “in truth” is according to the requirements in God’s word. Since Jesus established a New Testament, we find in it God’s worship requirements for us today. Worship “by faith” is the same as worship “in truth.”
If your worship isn’t according to God’s word in the New Testament, it’s rejected just like Cain’s. The same is true if it isn’t from the heart.
God rejects worship that’s not from the heart and isn’t according to His word. Cain’s worship in Genesis chapter 4 was rejected, and two sons of Aaron—Nadab and Abihu—were killed in Leviticus 10 for using fire God hadn’t specified for offering sacrifices.
To find out how to worship God acceptably today, we’ve got to look in the New Testament. The Law of Moses in the Old Testament doesn’t apply today because we’re answerable to the Law of Christ. It’s in Christ’s law where we find God’s requirements for worship in our day.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:17 that whatever we do in word or deed must be in the name of the Lord. All religious activity, including worship, must have the Lord’s authority. Worship in the name of the Lord is what the Lord has authorized. Inspired men gave the commandments of the Lord to Christians in the first century, teaching them how to worship acceptably. Jesus commands the apostles to teach those who obey the gospel to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20. This includes worship. And we can learn how to worship acceptably by reading Acts and the epistles.
Jesus said our worship must be what God wants in the way He wants it (John 4:24). Paul says the same thing in Colossians 3:17. Otherwise it will be rejected just like the worship of Cain, Nadab and Abihu. Friends, can you find your worship in the New Testament? Does God accept your worship? Those who say it doesn’t matter how you worship God don’t understand what Jesus and Paul taught. God only accepts worship offered on His terms.
Prayer and Lord’s Supper
According to the New Testament, five acts of worship are required today—singing, praying, studying God’s word, eating the Lord’s supper and contributing money. God wants these five things done without addition or subtraction on the first day of every week.
Prayer is so important that Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. Paul addresses acceptable worship, and he singles out prayer in First Corinthians 14:15-16. Prayer is a wonderful opportunity to approach God.
God also wants us to remember the Lord’s death every week by eating the Lord’s supper. Paul writes about the proper observance of the supper in First Corinthians 11:23-33. The food is unleavened bread, and the drink is fruit of the vine. These represent the body and blood of Jesus. Inverse 27, Paul emphasizes respectful observance of the supper. God wants it eaten reverently.
Can we eat the Lord’s supper on Thursday, Tuesday or to celebrate holidays like Easter or Christmas? The church in the New Testament ate it when they came together (1 Cor. 11:20) on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:2). To eat the supper any other day is to do so without the Lord’s authority. That’s a violation of Jesus’ command to worship in truth (Jno. 4:24) and Paul’s command to have the Lord’s authority for religious activity (Col. 3:17).
Does the church you’re a member of include prayer and the Lord’s supper every Sunday? If not, why? The apostles taught the church to include these in worship on the first day of each week.
Multiple passages in the New Testament deal with Christians singing in worship to God. For example, Paul writes that we are to engage in “singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16 ASV). He tells the Corinthians that they must “sing with the spirit…and…with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15).
Singing also teaches and encourages. Paul mentions that “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16) results from singing. We learn of God and are encouraged to be faithful to Him as we sing biblical songs. But is singing restricted in any way?
Yes. God specified singing. That eliminates accompaniment with musical instruments. Using a piano, organ or any other musical instrument lacks New Testament authority and is not worship in truth (Jno. 4:24) and is not in the name of the Lord (Col. 3:17). “But the New Testament doesn’t say not to,” some say. But silence doesn’t authorize, a point made in arguing that Jesus couldn’t be a priest under the Law of Moses (Heb. 7:12-14). For the same reason, we have no authority for instrumental music in worship today.
Another argument is that people in the Old Testament used instruments, so we can. But we live under the New Covenant Jesus established with worship requirements peculiar to that covenant.
A third defense of instrumental music is that “it sounds better.” Whether it does or not is irrelevant. There’s no authority given by Jesus or any New Testament writer for musical instruments in worship. Their use violates John 4:24 and Colossians 3:17.
Preaching and Giving
Paul commands us to give money on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2). The amount is determined by how much we’ve been prospered by God. There’s no set amount. Most people think that we’re supposed to tithe, or give 10 percent. But tithing was part of God’s Old Covenant with the Jews. Under the New Testament, we’re simply told to give as we’ve been prospered. But we’re to give cheerfully and from the heart (2 Cor. 9:7).
The Hebrews author writes of the New Testament’s greater blessings and obligations. While ten percent is a good place to start, it’s important to remember our debt to God for offering His Son to die for us when considering how much to contribute. And it’s only on the first day that we’re to offer. Some religious groups collect money other days, but Paul commands to contribute each first day of the week. Specifying the first day excludes every other day, and taking up a collection any other day is forbidden.
Each first day of the week we’re also expected to study God’s word, and this is done by hearing preaching (Acts 20:7). It’s vital to study God’s word so that we’ll know how to please Him and so our faith will grow. That’s why it’s so important to hear only “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). It’s only through hearing the proper preaching that we’ll be saved (1 Tim. 4:16).
Many people consider worship optional, but God doesn’t. God expects to be worshiped the way He wants, not the way I want. If we don’t give God the worship He wants, He’ll reject us like He did Cain, Nadab and Abihu in the Old Testament. Do you want to be rejected by God?