There is no better example of scriptural worship than that of the Scriptures themselves. The New Testament church was led by the apostles under the headship of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23 f; Col. 1:18) as the Scriptures were being written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We can be assured that we are on safe ground when we imitate approved apostolic examples (Phil. 4:9). The true and faithful disciple of Christ will attempt to follow these scriptural patterns and not invent unscriptural ideas or follow traditional practices which are not rooted in God’s word.
The church of Christ in the first century, from its beginning in Acts 2, worshiped God. Can we find a better example to follow in our worship today than this New Testament church? Would any deny that what they did under the direction and approval of the Holy Spirit and the apostles was pleasing to God? The New Testament reveals that the first century church offered these acts of worship and service to God:
Items of Scriptural Worship
Prayer: Worshiping people are praying people, as were the early disciples. “. . . prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God. . .” (Acts 12:5). “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42 ff; Romans 15:30; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17).
Singing: Worshiping people are people who sing. The New Testament church did not use choirs, quartets or special singing groups in their worship. They practiced congregational singing. It should be noted that music is mentioned nine times in the New Testament and, without exception, singing is specified. New Testament Christians sang as they worshiped. No instruments of music were used until centuries later as unauthorized practices began to multiply. If the apostles and early Christians were guided by the Holy Spirit in their worship, it should strike us as significant that the Holy Spirit did not authorize anything but vocal music. Note carefully these passages: Matt. 26:30 ff; Mk. 14:26; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12 and As. 5:13). We can know that our worship is scriptural when we sing praises to God.
Lord’s Supper: Before ascending back to heaven, Jesus gave the apostles instruction about a memorial feast to be observed “in the kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). He shared this first supper with them and, through the apostles, set it in the church for regular observance (Acts 2:42). The Holy Spirit revealed to Paul (who was not present at the first supper) how it was to be observed. The church at Corinth was observing the supper but not in accordance with truth and Paul wrote to correct it (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Likewise, he was present at Troas. when the church there met to remember the Lord’s death by eating the feast (Acts 20:7). By reading these Scriptures we learn that the early disciples, with apostles present, ate the supper regularly on the first day of the week. No other day is authorized. Every week has a “first day.” Scriptural worship includes eating the Lord’s supper upon the first day of the week, every week.
Giving: Worshiping people are people who give to the Lord. New Testament Christians were liberal in their giving. Whereas the Old Testament specified that an Israelite was to give a tenth of all (tithe), the New Testament does not state any given amount. Rather, the principle is given that we are under a better covenant with better promises (Heb. 8:6), having a better sacrifice (Heb. 9:23). We are to give accordingly, with abounding liberality (2 Cor. 8:2), with a ready mind (8:12), not sparingly (9:6) but cheerfully (9:7). Such giving is to take place on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1, 2), as is the Lord’s supper. No Scripture supports the church being engaged in business to raise funds, begging from the world at large or selling literature, property, food, or anything similar to raise funds. When Scriptural giving is faithfully observed, the Lord’s church will have the funds necessary to fulfill its vital work. Giving can be considered an act of worship since funds are contributed to God to support God’s work. Failure to give is failure to worship in this matter.
Teaching or Preaching: Preaching God’s word can be correctly understood as an act of worship. While teaching and preaching are directed toward men, it is an act of service to God. Paul felt an obligation toward God to preach to lost men and said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). He considered preaching the gospel to be a stewardship entrusted to him from God (v. 17), indicating that preaching was a service to God concerning something that belonged to God and not to God and not Paul. Other passages that stress the importance of this act are: Matt. 28:18-20 ff; Acts 5:42; 8:4; Acts 15:35; 1 Cor. 15:1ff; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph. 2:17; 3:8; Col. 1:23; 2 Tim. 2:2.
Women’s Silence: Scriptural worship prohibits women from becoming speakers in the assembly. Paul said by the authority of Christ, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Cor 14:33-35). Does this mean a woman cannot sing? No. Why? Because singing was a general command for the entire church (Eph 5:19 f; Col 3:16). It was never specified to man or woman. However, women cannot lead the singing, prayer, preaching or teaching. Why? Leadership roles in the church, preacher, elder, deacon, song leaders or any leadership role was given to the man (2 Tim 2:2 f; 1 Tim 3:1-13) Woman was prohibited from teaching or usurping authority over the man (1 Tim 2:11-15). This commandment never specified the church, or for that matter, any circumstance.
Be Content With Scriptural Worship
We have learned that scriptural worship is worship that God has ordered, worship that pleases God. If it pleases God and fails to please us, there is something wrong with us. There are those who complain that they cannot “feel right” unless they worship in some way other than, different from and in addition to scriptural worship. Such has it always been with people whose main concern is “will worship” (Col. 2:23) instead of “true worship” (Jn. 4:23, 24). “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). It is our prayer that you will seek the worship which pleases God and through it, direct the reverence and devotion of your heart to the throne of Him Who is worthy of all our soul’s adoration.