As a guest author, we welcome to this series Dr. Jason Groe, pastor of Upper Helton Baptist Church, who will present to us five of the eleven essentials we’ll explore. I pray he’ll be as big a blessing to you as he has been to me!
The Thessalonian congregation was given a most prestigious commendation from the apostle, “you are an example to all those in Macedonia and Achaia.” They had become the “pattern” to follow in church life. What “pattern” was established by the Thessalonian church? What traps are lurking near the foundations of the church? How can the contemporary church follow this example? Answering this question involves taking a closer look at some of the essentials of biblical worship in the Church.
One of the essentials of biblical worship is the priority of the Word of God. We are told in John 4:24 that the “true worshippers” will worship in “spirit and Truth”. The “Truth” Jesus is referring to is God’s self-revelation through His Word. Therefore, Biblical revelation is not only a pillar of worship, but it is one of two cornerstones of worship. Timothy is admonished by Paul to “preach the Word” and to not give in to the temptation to entertain the ears of the congregation. Jonathan Edwards and A.H. Strong affirm this truth. Edwards exhorts, “Worship is not worship when detached from the Word of God and the Spirit of God.” Strong supports this truth by saying, “Worship is that which ascribes to God His worth and surrenders to Him in light of who He is, in light of His self-revelation in Scripture.”
What does it mean to worship God in “Truth”? What are the signs a church is “Word-Based”? First it means we are approaching God truthfully, that is, honestly and wholeheartedly. Isaiah condemned those who claimed the name of Yahweh with this strong indictment, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” They were giving the form of worship without internal integrity. We must not pretend to worship or pretend in worship. According to Jesus, unless there is honesty on the part of the worshipper, there is no worship.
Second, to worship God in “Truth” means we worship on the basis of the Biblical revelation. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He rejoices to the Father that “Your Word is Truth”. During the Protestant Reformation which took place under Martin Luther, the doctrines and principles of the Word of God had laid covered by the traditions and encrustations of ceremony. He immediately elevated the Word of God to prominence and entrusted it to the hands of the people, not simply the corrupt priests.
To worship God in “Truth” also means to be hermeneutically responsible and accurate. Expository preaching is the ONLY means to attain this principle of truth. Expository preaching is not simply going “verse-by-verse” or “book-by-book”. Expository preaching is understanding and interpreting the text in its context by applying sound hermeneutical techniques to the text. A trap for preachers of the Bible to avoid is the temptation to be unique and clever. This trap will entice the preacher who desires to be thought of as possessing a “deep spirituality” unshared by anyone else. Hermeneutically responsible and accurate teaching is simply “letting the text speak.” It is the opinion of this author that the Word is so self-sufficient that an eleven year old child can stand up and simply read the Biblical text, and the Word would accomplish its purpose.
Similar to the aforementioned point, a “Word-Based” church makes much of the reading of the Word. The fourth chapter of Luke’s Gospel records the story of Jesus returning to His hometown. He enters the synagogue and begins reading from the prophet Isaiah. At the conclusion of His reading (not preaching, simply reading) those in attendance became astonished. If we believe the Biblical revelation to be the Truth, then we must read it like it is the Truth.
To worship God in “Truth” also means to be affected by the Word. The Samaritan woman was experiencing internal metamorphosis as she spoke with Christ. The town of which she heralded the news of Christ’s appearing was being affected. Jonah was hesitant and negligent to proclaim the message of God because he knew the power of God’s message. James summarizes this principle with great clarity. We are to be more than simple “hearers” of the Word, but “do-ers” of the Word. Great diligence must be practiced in a passive reading of the Biblical revelation
Finally, to approach God in truth also means that we approach God Christocentrically. The Bible is a Christocentric book. John writes at the end of his Gospel that “all these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” A Word-Based church will teach Christ as the central necessity to humanity. Human needs and desires become secondary to the desired will of God as presented in His word.
May your worship be Word-based!
Links to previous posts in this series: