How to Worship God

By Royce Frederick

Worshipping God is good. But we need to be sure that our worship is acceptable and pleasing to Him, not merely pleasing to us. In the New Testament portion of the Bible, God has clearly revealed His will about how to worship Him.

Some worship is VAIN — empty, worthless. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). We must teach the will of God as He has given it to us in the Bible. We must not add to it or take away from it (Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 3; 2 Peter 1:3; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2; 4:1-5; 2 Jn. 9). If we depart from the Bible and begin teaching the commandments of men, our worship is worthless.

Our worship may make us feel good. People who see us may marvel at our great appearance of wisdom, self-denial, devotion, and humility (see Col. 2:20-23). Many people may be attracted to our worship and join in with us. But if we are not accepting all of God’s teachings, and only His teachings, He will not accept our worship.

We cannot worship THE LIVING GOD and IDOLS. “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you [Christians] are the temple of the living God...Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord...’” (2 Cor. 6:16-17). The Christians at Thessalonica “...turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). We must refuse to bow before any image in any place, and refuse to use any images in our worship. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21) See also Acts 14:15; 17:29; Rom. 1:22-23, 25; 1 Cor. 6:9; 8:4; Rev. 21:8; 22:15.

We cannot serve THE LIVING GOD and POSSESSIONS. When we covet money or possessions, they become our idols: “Therefore put to death your members [in your own life]...covetousness, which is idolatry” ( Col. 3:5). “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches] (Matthew 6:24). The living God will not accept only part of our service and devotion. We must choose.

We cannot serve THE LIVING GOD and SELF. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matt. 16:24-25).

We must worship GOD in SPIRIT AND TRUTH. “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” (Jn. 4:24). We must worship God from our hearts, with the right attitude, and in full harmony with the truth of God’s word.

The New Testament shows us that worshipping according to the will of Christ includes:

ASSEMBLING with the Lord’s church on the first day of the week. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some...” (Heb. 10:24-25). Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:2, which are quoted later in this article, show that the regular assembly for Christians in the first century was on the first day of each week.

PARTAKING OF THE LORD’S SUPPER 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 and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Also, by studying 1 Cor. 11:20 and 16:2, we see further evidence that the first day of each week was the time when the Christians assembled to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (Paul rebuked the Christians in Corinth because they had departed from the right purpose for assembling, 1 Cor. 11:17-20). Descriptions of the Lord’s Supper in Matt. 26:26-29 and 1 Cor. 11:23-29 show that there should be a prayer of thanks for the bread, then all the Christians should eat a portion of the bread. (The bread which Jesus used was unleavened bread, which means there was no yeast used in baking it. We know this because the Jewish feast of unleavened bread had begun, Mk. 14:12, 22-24.) Next, there should be a prayer of thanks for the “fruit of the vine” (juice from grapes), then all the Christians should drink a portion of it.

GIVING cheerfully on the first day of the week. “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 Cor. 16:2). Under the Old Testament law, the Jews were commanded to give one-tenth (ten percent) of their income. But Jesus does not command Christians to give a tenth. Instead, each Christian must decide in his or her own heart how much to give. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). The money which is given helps in the work of the church — preaching the gospel, building up the church, and extending help to persons in need (Acts 4:34-35; Rom. 15:26; Gal. 6:6-10; Phil. 1:3-5; 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 9:6-14).

SINGING by all members. In Old Testament times, the Jews worshipped with mechanical instruments of music, such as harps, trumpets, and stringed instruments, and they sometimes included a kind of dancing (Psalm 150). The Jewish worship also included burning incense and sacrificing animals on the altar. But instrumental music, dancing, burning incense, and offering animal sacrifices are not part of the worship during the Christian era. The Old Law was taken away when Jesus died on the cross (Col. 2:14; Gal. 3:24-25; Heb. 8:6-8; 9:15-17). The only musical instrument which Christians are commanded to use in worship is the human voice, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19) “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” (Col. 3:16). Since the New Testament does not tell us to use mechanical instruments of music in worship, we do not have any authority to add them to our worship (see 2 Jn. 9; Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 3).

PREACHING AND TEACHING. “So it was that for a whole year they [Saul and Barnabas] assembled with the church and taught a great many people...” (Acts 11:26). See also Acts 13:1; 20:7-11, 28, 32; 2 Tim. 4:1-5. When there are men present in an assembly, the preaching and teaching must be done by the men (1 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:34-35).

PRAYING. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). See also 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Cor. 14:15-16; 1 Tim. 2:1-2. When men are present in the assembly, the prayers should be led by the men (1 Tim. 2:8, 11-12).

When Christians worship God in these ways, and from a sincere heart — “in spirit and truth” — we can then be confident that our worship is acceptable and pleasing to Him.