I’m dealing here with this opinion: that Christian assemblies should have little or nothing to do with worship. I don’t agree with this opinion, but it is not baseless, and I esteem quite a few of those I’ve heard articulate it through the years.
My intent in two posts on this subject is 1) to acknowledge two opposing viewpoints, and 2) to affirm — although not in the typical, glib, contemporary way — that it is very reasonable to assume that worship was, and should still be, part of the Christian gathering.
At the baseline, though, we must acknowledge this: we have strikingly little material that explicitly indicates a strong connection between the Christian assembly and worship.
So, what are we to do with this non-corpulent corpus of scriptural material?
Without looking these passasges up … in the letters, we have a few bits on group worship in 1Corinthians 12 and 14; a brief, possible mention in Romans 15; and somewhat tenuous implications for group expression in Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and Hebrews 13:15-16. (Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 19, along with other passages in that document, also deserve hearty mention — especially given my view that Revelation speaks of the timeless Kingdom, not only of the future one.) There are several worship-filled paeans — near-outbursts of praise — in Ephesians and Titus and 1Timothy and Colossians and 1Peter and Philippians and other places. But these are individual expressions; the explicit, apostolic directives for worship in the Christian assembly are few, and brief.
I suggest that we not read the NC scriptures (assembly-related or otherwise) with a view toward proving the presence or absence of corporate worship. Such a mindset — no matter the topic or preconception — is destined to misguide the student of ancient texts . . . or the student of anything, really.
No, rather than approaching Paul’s letters (or the gospels or Revelation or any other document) bent on proving something you already think or believe, it is far better to start with an attitude of letting the text stand on its own. A text ought to be permitted to to say what it was originally intended to say, in its original historical and literary contexts.
In recent readings, trying to avoid preconceptions, I have seen plenty of evidence that the apostles and other writers thought worshipfully. If one thinks worshipfully by nature and/or by habit, it seems that worship would surface naturally. It would be expressed. It simply seems logical to assume that worship would have appeared in many activities in which Christians were involved — whether individual or corporate.
If, as we read scripture, our assumptions and concerns could be more closely aligned with those of the original authors, in the original contexts, I suspect we would see various subjects, including worship, in better perspective.
As sure as I am that the early Christians (just like the ancient Jews) worshipped God — and Jesus Christ as God — I’m also sure that some now will not be able to shake their view that Christian assemblies are about edification only, not really involving worship per se. But surely, Peter and Paul and the rest were sincere, regular — nigh unto perpetual! — worshippers.¹
God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Paul to the Philippians)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. (Peter to dispersed Christians)
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. (Paul to Timothy)
It’s really difficult for me to imagine Peter or Paul in a Christian meeting and not worshipping God. What do you think?
¹ I seriously doubt they, along with today’s Jamie Grace, would have thought in such a teeny-bopper fashion as to “get their worship on” (what a ridiculous lyric), but every day was truly a “beautiful day” when the Lord of All was your Lord, and He loved you, and you loved Him and worshipped Him in return.