Vol.XIV No.V Pg.7
July 1977

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

What constitutes scriptural worship? Can one "worship at home? M.M.


"Worship" denotes an attitude of the heart, whereby one looks up to God praising and recognizing one's dependence upon Him. Yes, I believe one can "worship" at home, alone in the woods, or flying a jet plane. But this cannot be done with a heart that ignores God's instructions concerning our collective responsibilities. Reread that last sentence! Our public worship would be greatly improved if we better recognized the individual nature and requirements of worshiping "in spirit and in truth."

Precepts, examples, and inferences teach us that the early Christians sang praises, prayed, edified one-another, gave of their means, and partook of the Lord's Supper when they were gathered together publicly. This does not, however, warrant a "five item" definition of "worship" (are we worshiping on Wednesday night, in the absence of the Lord's Supper?); nor does it mean that merely "doing" five items constitutes acceptable worship.

In 1 Sam. 15: we read that Saul ignored God's instruction concerning slaying all the Amalekites and their flocks — saving some of the animals "to sacrifice unto Jehovah." Samuel said, "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Now sacrifice had been commanded — but the mere "doing" was not what God wanted. In Isa. 1:11-15 the prophet calls Israel's elaborate and extensive formal worship "vain oblations."' David said, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. 0 God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

Jesus taught the same thing. One may not acceptably worship, anywhere, in the absence of a sincere effort to serve God acceptably in all matters (Matt. 5:23-24). The most meticulous attention to details in worship "service" are useless unless we attend to weightier matters, as judgment, mercy, and faith (Matt.23: 23). Note that Jesus does not say, "If your heart is right the small things do not matter." Such is a complete perversion of the passage. He says, "these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

Worship begins with an attitude of heart, without which no conduct is acceptable. But this attitude includes respect for God's instructions. While God abhorred the offering of a fatted lamb, when the heart was not right; the offering of a pig (an unclean and forbidden animal) could not be accepted, no matter how "spiritual" one thought himself to be. In the New Testament saints are taught to "sing" praises to God (1 Cor. 14:15; Heb. 2:12) and no amount of self-assumed piety or imagined "right attitude" can make playing a mechanical instrument acceptable. One who ignores God's instructions does not have the right attitude — period.

Formalism cannot be overcome with new forms, mood music, dim lights, or other mechanical devices. Formalism will disappear only when we learn to sincerely worship our God.