Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the patterns that God has given us with regard to the church and over the last couple of weeks the patterns regarding the church’s worship. Hopefully, it has become clear that God really has established His pattern in the New Testament. Passages like the following underscore for us the importance of patterns, standards, and examples in Christianity…
- Romans 6:17 “…you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,”
- Philippians 3:16 “…keep living by that same standard …”
- Philippians 3:17 “…observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:7 “…follow our example,…”
- 1 Timothy 4:12 “…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example …”
- 2 Timothy 1:13 “Retain the standard of sound words…”
- Titus 2:7 “…show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,”
- 1 Peter 2:21 “… leaving you an example for you to follow in [Jesus’] steps,”
Last time we considered the pattern of worship for the Lord’s Supper and singing. But there are three more acts of worship that are part of the Lord’s pattern that we should know about.
A consistent part of the worship of the church as revealed in the New Testament includes the preaching of God’s word. In Acts 20:7 as the church in Troas met together on the first day of the week, Paul preached until midnight. In Corinth (1 Cor. 14) it is clear that preaching in the form of “revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching” (v. 6). It would even appear that the book of Hebrews is actually a sermon, being called a “word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22). Although the length of the message, the style of the message, the logic or passion of the message, and the illustrations, parables, metaphors, or allegories may vary; the pattern from the preacher must remain the same — it must be the truth of God’s word, the whole counsel of God. And for the listener the pattern is also important and could be summarized in Acts 17:11 “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” So, the pattern is that the preaching must be the truth of God’s word, and it must be received by the church eagerly, with examination of the Scriptures preached upon.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 the inspired apostle Paul writes “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” Financial giving is to be done, then, every first day of the week, proportionally as one is prospered. In the Old Testament, the pattern for the appropriate amount was a tithe (a tenth) of one’s holdings; but throughout the New Testament and especially in 2 Cor. 8,9 the appropriate amount is better than a certain percentage, the standard is simply “generosity”. As we give together to the Lord we provide for and participate in feeding the hungry, clothing the cold, teaching the children, supporting the full-time workers of the church, maintaining a building in which to meet and teach and worship etc., and helping with the costs of reaching out into the community with things like Gospel meetings and brochures and Give-Away-Days.
Although prayer is something that should often be done privately by the Christian, it should also be noted that the first century church was a praying church (e.g,. Acts 1:12-14; Acts 4:23-31; 1 Tim. 2:1-8) and that it is part of the worship pattern of God’s people, when they gather together. There is power in “corporate” prayer:
Matthew 18:19, 20 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Acts 4:31 “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Together we can offer our thanks and praise in prayer, present our petitions about both our physical and spiritual needs, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, pray for the sick, ask for strength and boldness, and even more.
Together these five acts of worship, offered in spirit and in truth are most pleasing to God. They don’t need to be offered by practiced professionals to be pleasing; but done according to God’s pattern with the whole heart they find favor in the eyes of the Lord. Let us always offer to God the worship HE wants.