Corporate Worship

In traveling among the assemblies of God’s people, one has noted that there appears to be a growing loss of focus in many assembly worship meetings, with many not being aware of just why they are there, and what is expected from them, so perhaps it would be helpful to review what we find in Scripture regarding worship and worshippers. Let us examine a few distinctives, that may help us to appreciate what worship is, and what is expected from us when we come together to function as a Holy Priesthood.


Personal verses Collective 


There are two temples in existence today: The Temple of our Bodies; (1 Cor. 6:19) and the Temple of the Corporate gathering of the Church, (1 Cor. 3:16) and worship is associated with each, the former is Personal, the latter Collective.

Personal Worship:

Worship is an integral part of our entire lives. For example, the apostle Paul writing to the Romans exhorts them, “ I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” So we learn that Worship means putting our lives on the Altar for God. Further, the writer to the Hebrews says “ By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) So we learn that our praises are considered to be offering worship to God. We may yield all of these sacrifices as individual priests on a continuous basis. These are but a few examples of the many aspects of personal worship.

Collective:

1 Peter 2 describes us as a Holy Priesthood, and this introduces collective worship. We are all priests to God, but we can only function as a Priesthood when we are together, and this is most clearly demonstrated when we come together to Break Bread. Considering the idea of priesthood, this means that the brother participating publicly is acting in a representative capacity, and is leading the assembly in worship. So we do not come together to speak to God to engage in personal worship, but with the whole assembly in view.


O.T. Priesthood verses N.T. Priesthood


God’s original desire was that all of Israel should be priests unto God, rather than the sons of Aaron. (Ex. 19:5) In the Church age, God has recovered His ideal, in that all believers without exception are Priests unto God. This is a great privilege and honor bestowed upon us, yet sadly the number of functioning priests is declining year by year. Let’s get back to the vision of our early brethren who recovered this blessed truth, and paid the price to be able to practice it, and come along exercised to offer worship.


Holy Priesthood verses Royal Priesthood


1 Peter 2 tells us that there are two aspects to the priesthood of believers. He first tells us that we are Holy Priests (v. 5) and later he tells us that we are Royal Priests. (v. 9) The distinction between these two aspects of Priesthood has become blurred, leading to confusion in our assembly worship. As Holy Priests we “OFFER UP spiritual sacrifices…” As Royal Priests we “SHOW FORTH the virtues of Him…” The direction of the one is vertical, the other horizontal. The one is directed to God, the other to man. The one involves worship, the other testimony. Lack of understanding of this distinction means that many assembly worship meetings have come to be a time for sharing ministry from the word, or sharing our experiences of God.(1)  Brother Boyd Nicholson used to say that as Holy Priests we minister to the Heart of God, whereas, as Royal Priests we minister to the House of God.


Worship – Spiritual verses Physical


The worship of the Old Testament was physical in its expression. An ordained Priesthood, Vestments, Ornate Structures, Choirs, Orchestras, Incense, Sacrifices etc., and a great importance placed on the Geographical centre – Jerusalem. In John 4, the Lord unveils some great truths about the great shift that was about to take place where the whole basis of worship would move from the physical to the spiritual. The Lord said “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is [a] Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4: 21–24)

This is an important principle to grasp, that our worship today is not associated with, or supported by, physical expressions, or organized programs, but it is entirely spiritual in its nature. The early church was a very simple entity, shunning the elaborate ceremonies and physical expressions of Judaism, to gather in simplicity to His Name. Let’s be careful that we do not lapse back into some modified form of Judaism with its emphasis on buildings and accompanying physical things. We worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, and our worship should be spiritual in it’s nature.


Worship verses Remembrance


When we meet to Break Bread, our main purpose is to remember our Lord Jesus. This is also an important thing to keep in mind in our assembly worship – that we should focus on remembrance rather than general matters of worship. Thanking God as the great creator, or as the giver of daily blessings has its place and time, but we come to Remember Him, our thoughts, our hymns, our expressions of worship to the Father must be Christ centered. After all there is enough in Christ to occupy and thrill our hearts for all of eternity, far less a short hour on a Lord’s Day.


The Table verses The Supper


In 1 Corinthians 10 the apostle deals with what he calls the “ Table of the Lord,” And in chapter 11 he deals with the “ Lord’s Supper.” These truths, though related to each other, are distinct. The apostle compares the Table to God’s provision for Israel in the manna and the water from the rock, and how that now God still provides for us in our daily experience through what he calls the Table of the Lord. So the Lord’s Table has to do with our daily fellowship with God. The Supper is distinct in that it was given by the Lord, imparted to the apostle by direct revelation, then delivered to the saints as an ordinance to be kept until He come, and this is the subject of 1 Corinthians 11.

May these simple distinctives help us to recover those blessed times of God glorifying worship among us that were once the hallmark of our assemblies, when we gather together as a Holy Priesthood to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
--------------

  1 We must not take Acts 20 as a pattern to encourage extended ministry to the saints at the Breaking of Bread. Most of the believers at that time were slaves and they did not have the luxury of a full day broken into sections, devoted to different exercises. Rather, having begun with Breaking Bread, their other spiritual exercises flowed on in a continuous manner, including the ministry of the apostle.