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Can we be the church of the New Testament?

Yes, if we worship according to the New Testament

First, we must understand that the forms of worship in the New Testament are completely different from those in the Old Testament.

When the Samaritan women asked Jesus whether one should worship at Jerusalem or Samaria, He replied: “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

Many false forms of worship result from the introduction of Old-Testament practices in a Christian context. Even heathen forms of worship are found in some denominations, such as the worship of images.

To be the church of the New Testament we must worship according to the New Testament.

Christians come together to break bread on the first day of the week. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them” (Acts 20:7). ‘Breaking bread’ refers to the Lord’s supper.

The church at Jerusalem “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Paul describes the Lord’s supper as follows: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Christians also give of their means on the first day of the week: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).

The first day of the week (Sunday) is a special day for Christians. On that day Jesus rose from the grave (Mark 16:9). That same day, He revealed Himself to two disciples when “He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30, 31).
“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19). A week later He appeared to them again, while they were assembled (John 20:26).

Although the first day of the week has special meaning for Christians, and they assemble to break bread on that day, it is not a ‘holy day’ or a ‘Sabbath’ (Romans 14:5, 6; Colossians 2:16, 17). Christians serve God every day.

When the church comes together, all activities should be up-building. Paul told the Corinthians, “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Christians pray and sing in their worship. Paul said: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Although music instruments were used in Old Testament worship, they are contrary to the spiritual nature of the worship of the new covenant. Paul calls them “lifeless things” (1 Corinthians 14:7). A mechanical instrument cannot worship in spirit and truth. It cannot sing with spirit and understanding. It cannot teach and admonish.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19, 20).

Worship [προσκυνέω] is a specific, conscious glorification of God flowing from an inner attitude of lowly submission to His authority and awe at His majesty. Worship is expressed through actions such as praying, singing or fasting. But it is also possible to pray, sing or fast without worshipping, if the inner worshipful attitude is lacking.

Christian worship is not limited to the assemblies. Prayer can be in private (Matthew 6:6) or in the assembly (Matthew 18:19, 20). Songs of praise can be in private (James 5:13) or in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:15). Fasting can be in private (Matthew 6:16) or in the assembly (Acts 13:2, 3; 14:23).

We may not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). To worship according to the New Testament, we may not use forms of worship that are not prescribed by the New Testament. God’s instructions are prescriptive. When a pharmacist fills a prescription he may not add or omit any ingredients. Neither may we change the forms of worship prescribed by God under the new covenant.

Although Old Testament forms of worship were different, the Old Testament teaches us important principles about worship.

The death penalty of Nadab and Abihu shows that we are not free to worship God any way we please.

“Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:1, 2).

The literal meaning of the Hebrew word translated ‘profane’ is ‘strange’. It was strange because it was not a part of the worship God had prescribed. Notice the words: “which He had not commanded them.” Anything foreign to the worship that God has commanded, is ‘profane’. It is unholy.

We worship God when we read and listen to God’s word. We are reverent and bow our heads when we talk to God in prayer. Should we be any less reverent when we listen to God talking to us through His word? In Revelation 1:3 a blessing is pronounced on Bible readers: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy.”

A beautiful example of this is found in the Old Testament after the Babylonian captivity, when they read the law to the people. “Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.”
“Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose.”
“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
“So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. ... And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5, 6, 8, 12).

They worshipped when they listened to the word of God. Let us also be worshipful when we listen to the word.

“Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:7).

Can we be the church of the New Testament? Yes, if we worship according to the New Testament. Christians come together on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s supper and to give of their means. They sing and pray. They listen reverently to the word of God.
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
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