Study 11 Objective: What is worship, and how is it expressed in the life of the believer?
Chronicles 23:27-32; 2 Chronicles 8:12-13; John 12:12; Acts 2:5-11, etc).
Full participation in public worship was restricted in the Old Testament. Within the temple precincts women and children were typically not allowed into the main court of worship. Emasculated men and those born out of wedlock were prohibited, and various ethnic groups such as the Moabites were disallowed “forever” from the assembly (Deuteronomy 23:1-8). Interestingly, in analyzing the meaning of the Hebrew concept of “forever”, Jesus is descended on His mother’s side from a Moabite woman called Ruth (Luke 3: 32; Matthew 1:5).
How did worship in the Old Testament help establish a national identity for Israel?
Collective worship in the New Testament
There are distinct differences between the Old and New Testaments concerning holiness in relation to worship.
As has been noted, in the Old Testament certain places, times and people were regarded as more holy and therefore more relevant for worship practices than others.
With the New Testament, however, from a holiness and worship perspective, we go from Old Covenant exclusivity to New Testament inclusiveness; from specific places, times and people to all places, times
For example, the tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple were holy places “where one ought to worship” (John 4:20) whereas Paul instructs that men ought to pray not just in assigned Old Testament or Jewish places of worship, but “everywhere, lifting up holy hands”, a practice associated with the sanctuary of the temple (1 Timothy 2:8; Psalm 134:2).
In the New Testament church assemblies take place in people’s homes, in upper rooms, by the banks of rivers, by the edges of lakes, on mountain slopes, in schools, etc.
Preaching occurred everywhere (Mark 16:20). Believers have become the temple in which the Spirit of God dwells (1 Corinthians 3:15-17), and they meet wherever the Spirit leads them to assemble.
As for Old Testament sacred times such as “a festival or a new moon or sabbaths”, these represent “a shadow of things to come”, the reality of which is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). Thus the concept of special times falls away in the fullness of Christ.
There is freedom in choosing worship times according to individual, congregational and cultural input. “One person esteems one day
above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). In the New Testament assemblies take place at various times. Church unity was expressed in the believers’ lives in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, not in traditions and calendars.
Regarding people, in the Old Testament only the nation of Israel constituted God’s holy people. In the New Testament everyone everywhere is invited to be part of God’s spiritual holy nation (1 Peter 2:9-10).
From the New Testament we learn that no place is holier than any other, no time holier than any other, and no people holier than any other. And we learn that God, who is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), is
also not a respecter of times and places.
In the New Testament the practice of assembling together is actively encouraged (Hebrews 10:25).
Much is written in the epistles about what happens in church assemblies. “Let all things be done for edification” says Paul, and “let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:26, 40).