Called to Worship
Reading: Acts 2:40-47
The word ‘worship’ comes from worth-ship, and is about showing honour and respect to those to whom it is due. ‘His Worship the Mayor’ is an expression still used today. Nowadays the word refers more to the honour and respect shown to a deity, especially in ‘acts of worship’.
In the Bible the words used basically mean ‘bow down’, or ‘serve’. They usually describe acts done out of reverence for God (or idols) – especially offering sacrifices, prayer and praise at the tabernacle or temple. Sometimes we find people bowing down in worship to God as a response to something wonderful happening wherever they are (e.g. Genesis 24:26, Exodus 4:31).
The Bible is not interested just in outward actions, however. True worship involves the heart (‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’) and includes every aspect of our lives. The prophets therefore called for justice and mercy, not just sacrifice, and ‘to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:6-8). Jesus likewise emphasized that the place of worship (the temple) was not as important as the attitude of worship: true worshippers worship ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23). And Paul taught that our response to all that God has done for us should be to ‘offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (Romans 12:1).
Our reading today shows several important points about worship:
Worship is a response to God
The believers in the Acts reading had just heard about all God had done for them through Jesus Christ; they had responded by repenting of their sins and being baptised, and then honouring God in their lives. But that was only the start. They wanted to know more! So they took every opportunity to learn more from the apostles. And the more they learnt, the more they honoured God by the way they lived as well as by the praise they gave him.
Worship is a corporate response
The most striking thing about the Acts passage is the unity of the believers – they enjoyed each other’s company, they ate meals together, they attended services together, they were generous to each other. Individual worship is important – each of us is responsible for what is going on in our own hearts, and for worshipping in spirit and in truth. But unity honours God and is a vital ingredient of worship. God is love, and our response to his love is not just to receive it but to pass it on. We cannot love in isolation; we need to be together! Nor can we serve God in isolation: God has given us gifts to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12), and to enable us to build one another up in our worship (1 Corinthians 14:26). The Trinity is united as one God; we have been brought into God’s family and God wants us to be united. Jesus prayed we may be one. It matters!
Worship is linked to forgiveness
We are only able to approach God in worship because we have been forgiven. Forgiveness always is costly. Our forgiveness cost the cross. By Jesus’ death for us, all barriers between us and God have been taken away; we can now live with God and God with us. Forgiveness brings unity with God.
Forgiveness also enables unity with each other: by costly acts of forgiveness fellowship is formed and maintained. God is honoured both by our act of forgiveness and by the united worship that becomes possible. If we do not forgive, the one who has offended us still has a case to answer before God. Jesus however came not to condemn but to take away sin, and by forgiveness we aid his work and spread his love around. It is Satan who is the ‘accuser’; we don’t want to help him!
Worship depends on the Spirit
How we need him! Let us be open to him – to his guidance and his gifts!
TO THINK ABOUT
1) In what ways do we depend on the Spirit in our worship? How can he be given a greater role?
2) How important is worship to us?