Have you ever wondered why today’s church may attract a lot of people, but those individuals seem to have trouble growing into deep abiding discipleship? Often this is because worship has become more centered upon the desires of the people than it is upon pleasing the heart of God. For worship to transform lives, it must be God -centered and thus rendered according to God’s instruction. The church must clearly keep in mind that as God is the author of Scripture, He is the author of Scripture-defined worship. When we acknowledge this, it will drive us to God-centered worship—worship cultivated for the glory of God.
It would seem that the approach to worship in many churches today is to base its understanding and value system regarding biblical worship, both in all of life and corporate worship, almost entirely upon the New Testament. World-class Old Testament scholar, Daniel I. Block has rightly proclaimed to us in his recent book, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, that worship based upon the full counsel of God, should employ at least a “continuity of principle”—observed between the testaments upon study and comparison of (1) the underlying theology of the Israelite worship and (2) the theology of the New Testament. Thus, Block states
To be sure, in the light of Christ, the forms have changed—the sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, and the temple have all been declared passé through the death and resurrection of Jesus—but does this mean that God’s first instructions on worship have no bearing on contemporary worship? Hardly. If Jesus Christ is YHWH, the God of Israel in human flesh (Matt. 1:23; John 1:23; Rom. 10:13; Phil 2:11), and if Jesus Christ is eternally changeless (Heb. 13:8), we should at least expect a continuity of principle between the Testaments. Jesus does not declare the old theology obsolete; rather, in him the theology underlying Israelite worship finds its fulfillment.
So, it can only follow that principles gained from studying both the Old and New Testaments should apply in all of our worship of God—in both our corporate gatherings and in our daily living. Where the New Testament clearly cancels out the Old, we should make changes as instructed, but where it does not, we should employ the theological principles learned from the Old Testament and seek to understand them in the light of New Testament revelation in our lives and churches. By employing these principles, I mean that we adopt them as part of our doctrine that guides how we think about the worship of God and the way we do it. Our right understanding of truth as inspired by the Holy Spirit in God’s Word, and the illumination of our minds and hearts by the same, is essential in this process.
My next blog will outline the biblical words for worship according to Daniel Block’s excellent study.
Block, Daniel I. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.