Exaltation

 

One cannot imagine being confronted with God and not yielding worship. Worship, praise, and adoration are natural responses to beauty, perfection, greatness, and grandeur. God is the ultimate of beauty, perfection, greatness, and grandeur. How could we not worship him?

As we begin to worship God, we immediately wonder what we are supposed to do. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 NASB). Christians are blessed to live in this special time of worship.

Throughout the Old Testament God foreshadowed this time of worship. Psalm 86:9 says, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; you alone are God.” Isaiah spoke of the day when all the nations would “go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3).

Hebrews 12:28-29 exhorts us to worship and to worship appropriately. The Bible says, “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” There are three great worship principles in this exhortation. First, worship must stem from Christian gratitude. Secondly, worship must be acceptable. Finally, we must remember the fearful nature of our God whom we worship and approach him with reverence.

GRATITUDE

Worship is to be reverent and to flow from hearts filled with gratitude. Just as Paul reminded the Philippians to “rejoice” our worship is to be a time of joy. Remember all that Christ has done for you and approach worship with gratitude. It is sad to see saved people who are not thankful to be worshiping their God. Gratitude and joy should be evident in the lives and worship of every believer. The Psalms are a wonderful place for us to see the proper attitude of worship.

The Psalmist said, “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1). The word chosen there by the Holy Spirit and translated as “glad” (שָׂ֭מַחְתִּי) is often used in worship contexts. Hannah prayed, “my heart exults in the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:1). Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Psalm 95 says, “Oh come, let us sing unto Jehovah; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with Psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2).

In the New Testament era, Christians are blessed by the Great High Priest, the better covenant, and the better sacrifice. Therefore, Christians have even more reason to rejoice for the grace received. Colossians 3:16 commands Christians to worship “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The word “thankfulness” in the ESV or “grace” in the ASV is the Greek word (χάριτι) which is typically translated grace. However here is has to do with “response to generosity or beneficence, thanks, gratitude.[1]

This gratitude in worship is evident in Paul’s life as he said:

 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

Every Christian has had a similar experience and should also have similar expressions of devotion and worship.

Acceptable Worship

Gratitude is necessary to worship, but the Christian is also expected to worship appropriately. A survey of Bible history should teach the reader to expect some direction from God in how he wants to be worshiped. God’s covenants always included a plan for worship. So Hebrews 9:1 says, “Now even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service” (ASV) “worship” (ESV).

Therefore, the Christian must concern himself with the proper plan of worship in the New Testament dispensation. Therefore, Jesus commanded to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Hebrews 12:28 demands the Christian to offer “acceptable (εὐαρέστως) worship.” The word “acceptable” tells us that there is both acceptable and unacceptable worship. The same word is used in Romans 12:2 as Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Christian, examine the Scriptures to see acceptable worship for God.

Christians should want to see what God has said and yield to His will. Rather than exerting one’s own will, the Christian should submit to God’s will. The early church has left us examples of worship to follow. Every Sunday (Acts 20:7) the Christians came together in order to observe the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The Christians are exhorted to pray (1 Timothy 2) and male leadership is prescribed. An offering of funds for God work is to be collected each Lord’s Day as an act of worship (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8). Christians are also expected to worship God in song (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:17).

Nadab and Abihu rejected God’s plan for worship and offered unauthorized fire (Numbers 10:1; 3:4;26:61) Why not offer God worship which we know is acceptable? Why not be safe as we approach God?  Why not have Bible authority for our practices? Why not promote unity among God’s people by submitting to God’s authority? The worship wars can be settled peacefully if all will yield to Father’s plan.

Reverence

“For our God is a consuming fire” is the reason given for worshiping appropriately. When modern worship is surveyed, there is unfortunate lack of reverence displayed among the worshipers. Christian worship is to be accompanied “with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). This reverence is displayed in many ways by God’s people. The preparation for worship, dedication to worship, dress for worship, and style of worship help to promote and display reverence for God.

Even Jesus’s prayers are characterized by reverence. Hebrews 5:6 says Jesus offered up prayers and was “heard because of his reverences.” Polycarp, a second century Christian wrote the following about reverent worship:

Let us therefore so serve Him with fear and all reverence, as He himself gave commandment and the Apostles who preached the Gospel to us and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of our Lord; being zealous as touching that which is good, abstaining from offences and from the false brethren and from them that bear the name of the Lord in hypocrisy, who lead foolish men astray.[2]

While Christians have the opportunity to draw near to God with boldness and are blessed with a closeness which former covenants have not offered, we must also remember that we are in God’s presence and that deserves a proper decorum.

[1] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1080.

[2] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 179.

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