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