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Bible commentaries are expensive! If you look in a typical religious bookstore, many thin Bible commentaries cost at least $19.95 and several of those which are really helpful can cost $50 or more. One alternative to buying Bible commentaries from brick and mortar stories are Bible commentaries in a PDF format. Some online Bible commentary sites offer several online Bible commentaries for free! Other study resources, such as those at www.deeperstudy.com or www.abiblecommentary.com can also be a great source of assistance when trying to understand the Word of God and apply it to daily life!
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Which church should I attend?
There is no “official name” of the New Testament church, but there are Bible designations. In Acts 20:28 the Bible says “church of the Lord.” In 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5 it is “church of God.” Colossians 4:16 speaks of the “church of the Laodiceans” (Christ’s church that met at Laodicea). A similar use is found in 2 Thess. 1:1 and 2 Thess. 1:1. In 1 Tim. 3:15 the Bible says “the church of the living God.” Hebrews 12:23 says “the church of the firstborn.” Sometimes the plural is used: “churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4); “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16); “churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16); “churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33); “churches of Galatia” (1 Cor. 16:1); “churches of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19); “churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1); “churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2); “churches of Judaea” (Gal. 1:22). Never is an object or a single person like Peter, John, etc. used to designate the church; congregations were identified by their association with deity, location, or the relationship God had with His people.
Are people born in sin?
Total depravity is the first part of the doctrine and this terminology means Adam’s offspring inherit a “depraved nature” as well as the “actual guilt” of sin. These ideas are usually associated with verses such as Ps. 51:5; Calvinists affirm that no part of man has been left untouched by sin. Based on the belief that man is totallycorrupt, it is thought he cannot truly love, discern, or choose things that please God. Stated another way, Calvinistsdo not believe people have the abilityto understand or obey the truth of the gospel. Calvinistic supporters base their beliefs on verses that are understood to describe “inherited guilt” or man’s inability to do certain things. This system of belief says man has just enough freedom to be accountable for his sins.
Passages such as Ps. 51 are commonly used to support Calvinism, but these passages do not prove what is commonly alleged. While it is certainly true that David faced the consequences of sin (Ps. 51), he did not “inherit guilt.” In fact, the word “inherited” in the Bible is never associated with moral qualities. It is a legal term associated with transmitting property from one generation to the next (Gen. 31:14; Job 42:12-15). Rather than describe the “universal problem of sin,” Ps. 51 deals with David’s personal guilt over his sexual sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-5). David’s guilt over his adultery was so great he said, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). David hadcertainly sinned against Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, but his guilt was so overwhelming he said he was only guilty of sinning against God.
The fact that David said he had “only sinned against God” (Ps. 51:4) proves he was using figurative language (i.e. he used hyperbole—an exaggeration for emphasis. Compare Job 31:18). Just as a child might say, “Everyone is doing this” and that means “two or three people,” so David used highly figurative language. Notice how he also said, “in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). If “original sin” is taught in Ps. 51, David’s mother was an adulteress. Readers should also notice the repeated emphasis on “me” and “my” in Ps. 51. These personal pronouns are significant for they also tell us David was describing his personal problem—the fact that he had sinned and God knew about it (2 Sam. 12:7—“thou art the man”).
Ezekiel specifically dealt with this subject and he said sin is not inherited by people (Ezek. 18:20). Were it true that babies are depraved and stained by sin, Jesus’ comment about “little children entering into the kingdom of God” (Mt. 18:1-4) is indeed very strange. If a mother uses illegal drugs her child may suffer the consequences of this action but not the guilt of the behavior. At the end of Joshua’s life Joshua told fellow Hebrews to “choose” the God they would serve—the true God or a false God (Josh. 24:15). When Stephen was preaching by inspiration, he said men could “resist” God—something Calvinism says men cannot do (Acts 7:51). Paul said Christians can “fall from grace” (Gal. 5:4, ASV), something Calvinism denies. For more information on why total depravity is wrong, see the commentary on 14:20.
Rather than reading about unconditional election in the Bible, God’s word says apostasy is possible. The loss of salvation is why the Corinthians were warned about going “beyond what was written” (1 Cor. 4:6), and why John said continued forgiveness is conditional (1 Jn. 1:7, 9). Much of the Hebrew letter is directed to the subject of apostasy (compare Heb. 6:4-6). Other passages that refute this point are found under the “perseverance of the saints” section below.
Calvinism is an especially dangerous doctrine because it teaches Jesus did not die for all (limited atonement). One of the most well known verses in the Bible (Jn. 3:16) says the atonement was not limited to a certain group or number of people. Saying the atonement was limited makes God is a respecter of persons when the Bible says He is not (Acts 10:34). Believing in a limited atonement means God will not save all who obey Him, something denied by Heb. 5:9. Such a belief also casts reproach on the Scriptures such as the entire book of John (Jn. 20:30-31). John’s gospel was written to induce belief. This would be unnecessary if God supernaturally creates faith in the hearts of men. Another important verse is Eph. 5:17. This passage says God’s will can be understood; this was why the Lord said the great commission must be preached to every person (Mk. 16:15-16 and Mt. 28:18-20).
When those in the first century fulfilled this commission, hearts were touched by the word of God, not a supernatural act (Acts 4:4). Faith comes by listening to the word of God (Rom. 10:17), not a supernatural act on the human heart. Jesus spoke about “any man” coming after Him (Mt. 16:24-26). Peter said God wants “all men to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Paul wrote of all men “coming to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) and everyone confessing the name of Christ (Rom. 10:13). Calvinism leads one the conclusion that God is weak, lazy, or not all loving. The Bible teaches that God is all powerful, God is all loving and He is not lazy. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19a).
Calvinistslike to point out how Jesus gave His life for “His sheep” (Jn. 10:15), but they fail to observe that Jesus did not use the word “only.” Jesus did die for those who would embrace Him, but He also died for the world that would reject Him. Jesus died for “our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10), but this is only part of the story. Earlier in this book (1 Jn. 2:2) John said, “and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” Compare, too, Acts 10:43; Rev. 22:17; Tit. 2:11.
Concerning irresistible grace, several passages demonstrate that God’s grace is resistible. According to Rev. 3:20, Jesus is pictured as “standing at a door and knocking.” He is not knocking down the door; His efforts can be resisted because man has free-will. When Jesus spoke about the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. He said the Jews had been resistant time and time again (Mt. 23:37). In 2 Tim. 3:8 Paul spoke of both Old Testament and New Testament characters who resisted the truth (grace and truth go together; both can be resisted). Calvin’s doctrine says the Bible is not powerful enough to save man. Because Calvinism affirms man is so immersed in sin and requires a special or supernatural intervention by God, God’s word is not powerful enough to bring sinners to salvation. Contrast this view with the Scriptures: “The gospel is God’s power to salvation to everyone that believes” (all people can be saved, and God’s word is the power for this action, Rom. 1:16). People are “brought forth” by “the word of truth” (Jas. 1:18). It is the “implanted word that saves the soul” (Jas. 1:21). In 1 Cor. 1:21 Paul said God saves people through the “foolishness of preaching.” God “opened the heart” of Lydia (Acts 16:14a), and Luke explained how this was done: “giving heed to the things spoken by Paul” (16b). Lydia had a “good and receptive heart” (Lk. 8:15) and she was converted by the power of the gospel.
God’s grace is said to be for all people (Tit. 2:11) instead of “only the elect.” Paul also said that God’s grace requires people to receive instruction (Tit. 2:12) instead of coming through a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit. Grace is available, but it is conditional (Gen. 6:8 + Heb. 11:7). Today people may access God’s grace (Eph. 2:8), but this is conditioned on being obedient (Heb. 5:9) and this obedience includes baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). After accessing God’s grace a person must “continue” in it (Acts 13:43). God wants us to “stand” in His grace (Rom 5:2), but some choose to “fall away” from it (Gal. 5:4).
The perseverance of the saints is the foundational point of this error and it is sometimes based upon the Bible’s teaching of adoption. Calvinists have sometimes contended that once a person has been adopted into the family of God, he or she cannot be cast out. No matter what a saved person does (rape, murder, blasphemy—any moral defect or the acceptance of any erroneous doctrine), a Christian cannot lose his salvation. Support for this position is based upon Lk. 15:11-24 (a wayward son was still considered to be a son). It is pointed out that Jesus said the wayward son was “dead” and “lost,” but he was still a son.
It is true that the son was still called a son. What is overlooked is that the child had left home and had forfeited his blessings and fellowship with his father. As long as he stayed away in a “far country” (and this fact in and of itself implies apostasy), he was a son who had no future inheritance. Such is also true in the spiritual realm. People who live in sin (1 Cor. 6:9), and this includes Christians and non-Christians, will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” Christians were told to avoid “walking by the flesh” (Gal. 5:16) because this way of life will exclude them from heaven (Gal. 5:21). We must abide in and by the faith to “inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12).
Another perseverance argument consists of verses affirming saved people are “sealed” (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Christians are sealed, but this seal can be broken (Jude 20-21). Paul said we can grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and even “quench” Him (1 Thess. 5:19). If the perseverance of the saints doctrine is understood for what it really is, it means Christians who surround themselves with sin are not fit for “church membership” and must be withdrawn from (1 Cor. 5:1, 13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14), but these same people are fit for God’s eternal fellowship in heaven! Every passage dealing with the subject of faithfulness and apostasy shows that unfaithfulness and apostasy (falling away) are possible. Compare 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Heb. 3:12; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:1-5; Rom. 14:13; Mt. 18:7; Gal. 5:4 (ASV).
Paul spoke of people become Christians (Gal. 3:26-27), but then warned that they could be “severed” from Christ (Gal. 5:4, ASV). A person can be “in Christ” (Jn. 15:2) but choose to leave (Jn. 15:6). The Hebrew writer warned of becoming “enlightened” and “tasting of the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4-5) and then “falling away” (Heb. 6:6). For more information on why Calvinism is wrong see the commentary on 14:20.
All the preceding information showing the error of Calvinistic thought is consistent with the verb translated receiveth (dechomai) in 1 Cor. 2:14. Here this word describes “acceptance of the facts” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:292). All people can accept the facts of the gospel. In several places, and this is one of them, this word describes people receiving the word of God. For other examples of this see Acts 8:14; 11:1; 1 Thess. 2:13; Jas. 1:21.
Those who believe in Calvinism often use 1 Cor. 2:14 to affirm man cannot know God or even believe until God performs a supernatural act and then a person is “elected” to salvation. Since the preceding paragraphs prove Calvinism cannot be right (and Jesus affirmed this point as well in Mt. 13:3-7), what does verse 14 mean? The expression “the natural man” tells us.
The word translated natural (psuchikos) is an adjective; it is found six times in the New Testament (here, the word is used twice in 1 Cor. 15:44, 1 Cor. 15:46, Jas. 3:15, and Jude 19. In Jude 19 it is translated “sensual”). In each passage the word is used negatively. The person who is a natural man is controlled by the flesh and lives according to the world. He or she does whatever he wants and, just like animals, fulfills whatever urges he or she has (see Jude 19 and the commentary on this verse).
The highest level of life for mankind is Christianity (spiritual, verse 15). The lowest level of human life is the natural level (verse 14). Those who chose the way of the natural man are like animals. They have no interest in the things of God and thus do not understand what is spiritual (“receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God”). Such people believe the gospel is foolishness (compare 1:18). This type of person cannot know the things of God because he or she refuses to investigate God and Christianity (compare Acts 17:27). They are like deaf men who pronounce judgments on music. Such people are not willing to “put away filthiness” and “receive with meekness the implanted word” that saves souls (Jas. 1:21). Neither are they willing to “hear God’s words because they are not of God” (Jn. 8:47).
Other people are in between the extremes of natural and spiritual. There are those who behave better than animals and are somewhat interested in Christianity, but still do not obey the gospel. Many live in this “middle category,” but this type of life will not save them. Only those who seek the highest level of life (the spiritual level in verse 15) will be saved.
God's wisdom versus man's wisdom
Worldly wisdom extends to many other areas of life. The world often has very firm ideas about what education should involve, what is and is not moral, a standard for forgiveness, a definition for marriage and family, what is and is not suitable recreation and entertainment, what discipline for children and adults should and should not involve, a definition for commitment, what death is, what beauty is, what it means to succeed, what religion is, and what happiness is. In our day-to-day lives we are surrounded by the world’s wisdom. Consider how often we hear statements like these: If something feels good, do it. Do not deny pleasure today because tomorrow may never come or no one will ever know. An opportunity for pleasure may be lost so it should be taken now. Choose your own path. Everyone has sexual relations outside of marriage so it is no big deal. It is okay to tell “white lies,” and there are times when hate is acceptable. Love is conditional. True love is a feeling. Put yourself first. Get people before they get you. We have a right to be happy. We cannot trust anyone. All people are the same. People cannot change their behavior, especially when they get old. Life should be based on how we feel instead of what is true. The majority determines right and wrong. Pride is a virtue. Divorce is the best solution to marriage problems. Love your friends and hate your enemies. One can be committed to both seeking wealth and having an acceptable spiritual life.
A lot of the world’s wisdom deals with religion. People tell us, We cannot know if God exists. Absolute truth does not exist. There are many ways to heaven. The Bible is a “good book” but not relevant to modern society. Prayer does not work. Heaven is not real. Jesus did not actually live. Jesus did live, but He was not resurrected. Parts of Christianity can be disproved. All Christians are hypocrites. God does not need to be feared. There is nothing beyond this life. God is not fair. If God existed, suffering would not exist. God is just waiting to “catch people” in sin. God is dead. The devil is not real. All churches want is money. Christianity is “just a bunch of rules.” All “good people” go to heaven. We can save ourselves. I can get along just fine with my own religion. Everyone needs to find a faith that works for them. We cannot make judgments in religious matters. Good people go to heaven. Women are qualified to serve as preachers.
Hundreds of examples of worldly wisdom persist, and here we may list even more examples. We should insist on our rights, get all we can, put ourselves first, and “prepare for retirement” because “nice guys finish last.” Living together is acceptable because marriage is “just a piece of paper.” Taking revenge is fine. Abortion is also fine because what is in the womb is not a person. Animals are just as important as humans. A high percentage of people stand ready to follow heathen wisdom instead of divine revelation (the Bible).
What does the Bible say about worship?
In virtually every culture and every age (compare Gen. 4:3), man has expressed a desire to worship someone or something. There is an innate desire for worship because God installed this desire in humanity (Eccl. 3:11a, “he hath set eternity in their heart”). In some cases people have resorted to worshipping “unknown gods” (Acts 17:23). Man not only has a natural desire to worship, he is the only creature on the earth who has the privilege of worship.
Many have worshipped the one true God, but they have not always worshipped Him in the same way. Before the Mosaic covenant was instituted, people such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped under a patriarchal system (compare Heb. 1:1). In Hos. 6:7 we learn that God had a “covenant” with Adam. Although we do not have much information about this covenant, it seems the agreement with Adam and any of God’s other early agreements with man included information about worship (compare Gen. 4:3-4). When the Hebrew people were freed from Egyptian bondage, a new system of worship was given. Those who worshipped under this new way included Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, the Hebrew nation, a long list of prophets, Jesus, and for a time, the apostles.
Jeremiah promised that a time would come when God would offer a “new covenant” (Jer. 31:31); part of this new agreement would be a new way of worship. Jesus said His “blood” would be used to inaugurate this new agreement (Mt. 26:28) and He was right. Paul explained this point in slightly different terms. In Col. 2:14 he said Jesus’ death “nailed the Old Testament to the cross.” Paul also said “the law” (the Old Testament system) was to exist “till the seed came” (Gal. 3:19). He then identified this seed as Christ (Gal. 3:16). Since Jesus (the promised seed) has come, “the law” (and this includes all the Old Testament regulations about worship) has been removed. Paul illustrated this point in Rom. 7:1-4 by appealing to a married woman: Just as it would be wrong for a woman to be married to two men at the same time, so people cannot be joined to both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time. We can be only under one divine covenant at a time. Since the Old Testament has been removed, we must solely follow the New Testament. We may “learn” from the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4)—the Old Testament teaches us about the need to be obedient, how God rewards faithfulness and unfaithfulness, etc.—but our worship and way of life is strictly based on New Testament teaching. As Paul said in Rom 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.”
God has always regulated man’s worship. When Moses delivered the Old Testament to the nation of Israel, God ensured the people had everything they needed to properly love and serve Him. God also gave His people special gifts to help them worship (Ex. 31:1-11; 35:25, 30-35; 1 Kgs. 7:13-14; 1 Chron. 28:11-21). In the first century, when the New Testament was instituted, God again provided His people with special gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-14:40). Supernatural abilities allowed Christians to demonstrate that Christianity is now the right way to serve God (Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:4). These gifts also allowed various Christians to help construct the New Testament Scriptures. God’s special help for people from now until the end of time is the Bible, especially the New Testament. The New Testament Scriptures are “complete in every way” (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:17) and are “God’s power to salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Paul also called them the Holy Spirit’s “sword” (Eph. 6:17) that is very “sharp” (Heb. 4:12).
The Bible offers several simple facts about worship, some of which are these: “(a) Worship must be submitted to deity alone (Mt. 4:10); neither angels (Rev. 19:10) nor ordinary men (Acts 10:25-26) are worthy of worship. Because God is a ‘spirit’ being (Jn. 4:24), humans are not permitted to worship him by the use of material objects, e.g., images (Dt. 4:12; 15-18). The fact that Christ was worshipped, and that he accepted such adoration, is an unanswerable argument for his deity (Mt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33). (b) Worship to God must be rendered with utmost sincerity (Josh. 24:14; Jn. 4:24), not hypocritically (Mt. 15:7-9), for the purpose of show (Mt. 6:1ff), or arrogantly (Lk. 18:10ff). (c) Worship must follow a prescribed procedure, that of ‘truth’ (Jn. 4:24), which means in accordance with God’s word (Jn. 17:17). Ignorant worship will not be accepted (Acts 17:23)” (Bible Words and Theological Terms Made Easy, p. 195).
The preceding information reminds us worship is not about us; it is about honoring God (compare Ps. 100:3). Selfish and ignorant people often make worship about themselves. In some places worship seems to be “How Great We Are” instead of “How Great Thou Art.” Proper and acceptable worship means we come before God in the way the New Testament describes and acknowledge who He is. In Ps. 95:6-7 we read: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our maker: For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, oh that ye would hear his voice!”
Another passage in the Old Testament that provides us with a proper view of worship is Deut. 16:16: “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before Jehovah thy God in the place which he shall choose: in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before Jehovah empty” (readers may also wish to compare Mt. 5:23—offer thy gift). God expects people to worship and worship is a time to give. Today many who come to worship expect to receive. Worship is more about giving than taking (compare Heb. 13:15). Even the wise-men who came to visit Jesus came to give insteadof get (Mt. 2:1-2). We may not have the gold, incense and myrrhthese men had (and the Bible does not say there were three wise-men), but we can offer our heart, will, worship and life to God.
Implied in the preceding paragraph is the fact that true worship requires intent (compare Ps. 95:2). Contrary to the idea that everything in life is worship (this is a false view that has sometimes been taught), worship requires intent. Christians can certainly “glorify God with good works” (Mt. 5:16), but good works are not synonymous with worship. In many places the Bible affirms that worship is a specific act and an act that requires intent. This point is seen in the life of Abraham (Gen. 22:5), Joshua (Josh. 5:14), Gideon (Judg. 7:15), Elkanah (1 Sam. 1:1-3, 19), Jeroboam and the ten northern tribes (1 Kgs. 12:30), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and others in Babylon (Dan. 3:1-7), the wise men who came to see Jesus (Mt. 2:2), an unnamed eunuch (Acts 8:27), Jesus and Satan (Mt. 4:9), and the apostle John (Rev. 19:10). These illustrations not only prove that everything in life is not worship, they prove that Christians cannot wander into an assembly of Christians, passively sit through the worship service, and be counted as a true worshipper. Worship requires purpose and action.
Because worship requires purpose and action, it must never be regarded as a “spectator sport” or a performance. Too many people have come to regard worship as entertainment; in many large congregations or in situations where people watch a worship service from their home, many see worship as something done for them and this is wrong. Some not only watch instead of worship, they “rate” the service. People may score how well the song leader did as he led the congregation in song. They may evaluate who led the best prayer or judge the preacher’s sermon instead of considering the content of the message. When people concentrate on the minister instead of the message, they have a wrong focus. Those who concentrate on who dressed the best (or worst) instead of thinking of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross came for the wrong reason. It has been said that Americans “worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship.” Sadly, this is often a true saying. Many have turned “Sunday” into “Funday” and leave a religious assembly saying things like, “It was sure a good show today.”
When worship takes the form of entertainment or a performance, it is not worship. True worship is a reverent activity—a time when worshippers come before God and honor Him in humility, truth, obedience and love. Just as we must discern the body in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29), so we need to be discerning in every aspect of worship. If we do not do this, our actions will be classified as approaching God in an unworthy manner and we will be “judged” by Him (11:31b-32).
Although God requires us to worship Him in the way He has directed, and this includes intent and activity, people have often deviated from what God has specified. Some do not worship as the New Testament teaches because they do not believe God is serious about worshipping “in truth” (Jn. 4:24). People with this view worship in a way they think is best, but God says this is a very bad choice (Lev. 10:1-2). Others think worship should be based on what people want. People have also tried this in the past, but we are to “learn” from the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4) that this approach to worship is also a serious mistake (compare 1 Sam. 15, especially 1 Sam. 15:21). Some have said deviations from New Testament worship are necessary for numerical growth; if we just “widen the gate” (Mt. 7:13), worship will bring in more people. Jesus bought the church with His blood (Acts 20:28), so that makes Him the gatekeeper of (Acts 2:47) and rule maker for it (Mt. 16:18—“my church”). We are only permitted to do the things He has authorized (Col. 3:17). Some have said people “expect” certain things at worship and we must “give them what they want.” This is also an old argument and God says we must not pay any attention to it (compare Gal. 1:10). Still others want to do “what every other religious group is doing,” but Jesus said the majority of people (including a lot of religious people) will be eternally condemned (Mt. 7:13, 22). Finally, there are the “intellectuals” who believe they can improve on God’s plan for worship. Intellectual claims about “new ways to worship” are not new to God; they are part of the world’s foolishness (compare 1 Cor. 1:19; 3:18-19). Also, God says our ways (no matter how intelligent they seem) are not better than His ways (compare Isa. 55:8-9).
Many of the preceding points are related to a fundamental difference between the covenant given by Moses and the New Testament given by Jesus and the apostles. The Old Testament was largely based on an earthly (physical) type of worship. The New Testament, on the other hand, emphasizes a non-earthly type of worship.
Had we lived under the system given by Moses, we would have seen, heard, and sometimes touched the things associated with worship (worship often had a direct impact on the physical senses). When an animal was prepared for sacrifice, it was a physical object that could be seen, smelled, heard and touched. In some cases sacrificial animals may have been raised by a Hebrew family. Children may have named some of the creatures eventually used for sacrifice. Certainly passages such as 2 Chron. 7:3 describe how Old Testament worship was sometimes a very visual experience. Readers may also wish to compare Ex. 33:10 and Lev. 4:32-34.
Rather than stress what can be seen, felt and smelled, the New Testament emphasizes what is “not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). Under the New Testament system of worship, there is no high priest to see and no special place to attend for worship. There are no animals to sacrifice and no incense. Christians offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5), one of which is the “fruit of their lips” (Heb. 13:15). There is far less pomp and ceremony with New Testament worship and this is often not what people expect or want.
God says the New Testament system is better (this term is used repeatedly in the book of Hebrews), but many think the Old Testament style of worship is better because it appealed to the physical senses. As noted in the preceding paragraph, many long for some type of special ceremony, or things that can be touched, smelled and seen. Many expect to see a preacher wear distinctive clothing, though God says under the New Testament system “all are brethren” (Mt. 23:8). As shown in the next paragraph, New Testament worship is a very simple process. If we truly love God (Jn. 14:15; 15:14), we will accept the simplicity, beauty and spiritual nature of New Testament worship because this is right and because this allows people to see what New Testament Christianity is really like.
New Testament worship consists of five distinct and simple acts of worship, one of which is giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Unlike the Old Testament system which specified an exact amount to give, the New Testament tells worshippers to “give as they have been prospered” (1 Cor. 16:2). New Testament worship also includes prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). While our giving is largely horizontal (it mainly affects others—compare 1 Cor. 16:3), our prayers are vertical (they are directed to God). A third aspect of worship is the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), an act that helps us “remember” Jesus (1 Cor. 11:25) and “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Instead of being horizontal or upward, the Lord’s Supper stresses what is inward (1 Cor. 11:28).
Preaching is another part of worship (Acts 20:7); this element of worship allows us to better internalize and apply God’s word. Preaching is to be based on the “word of God” instead of jokes and good stories (2 Tim. 4:2). Gospel preaching involves “reproving, rebuking and exhorting” (2 Tim. 4:2). Although there are those who do not want to hear the truth preached (2 Tim. 4:4), faithful preachers “admonish and teach” (Col. 1:28) “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Since preaching glorifies God and helps people with their spiritual lives (Acts 20:32), it is both horizontal and vertical. Christians should have confidence in their preacher, but they should also verify what he says (Acts 17:11).
The final item associated with New Testament worship is music. Under the Old Testament system given through Moses, God specifically called for instrumental music (2 Chron. 29:25; Ps. 150, etc.). For New Testament worship Christians are commanded to “sing” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). While this point is discussed more fully in the commentary on 14:14-15, here it may be said that singing is to be a congregational activity (one another, Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). New Testament Christianity knows nothing of having a “choir in worship.” Since everyone is to be involved in singing, and this singing is also done unto God (see again Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16), this final aspect of worshipis both horizontal and vertical. There are five acts of New Testament worship. Proper worship requires these specific acts, the right object (God), the right attitude (spirit), and the right way—God’s divine pattern (the truth)—and doing them all on the right day (the Lord’s Day, Sunday). These acts of worship also remind us that worship is not a passive experience—worship is something we must do. When we leave an assembly we should come away with the attitude “I worshipped” instead of “I watched.”
In addition to telling us about “true worship,” the New Testament specifically warns us about worship that God will not accept. We are warned against offering vain worship (Mt. 15:8-9). Vain worship occurs when people substitute the “doctrines and commandments of men” instead of following the New Testament pattern for worship. We are also warned about ignorant worship. Some “very religious” people may offer worship on a regular basis, but if the worship is not directed to the true God or not based on God’s divine pattern (Acts 17:22-23), it is rejected. A final type of improper worship is will-worship (Col. 2:23). This is a “‘self-made’ or ‘would-be’ religion” (CBL, GED, 2:230). Paul regarded this worship “as freely chosen but wrong!” (CBL, GED, 2:231). Vine (p. 233) defined will worship as “voluntarily adopted worship, whether unbidden or forbidden.” Many avoid what is explicitly forbidden in worship (they will not worship angels—Rev. 22:8-9), but they are not concerned with unbidden worship (i.e. things on which the Bible is silent). This author once spoke with a woman who “played the spoons” at the place where she worshipped. She “had this talent” and insisted on “using it for God.” Sadly, she refused to consider that God might not want her unbidden worship. People often offer unbidden worship because they like it or they believe God will accept it, even though He has not asked for it. Those who claim to love God will never offer unbidden worship for such a choice is hypocritical. If we profess to love God and His word, but we worship contrary to what the Bible says, we say one thing but do another.
Some can worship in the right way but have the wrong spirit (Mt. 15:3-9). Others may have the right spirit but worship in the wrong way (Acts 18:24-28). Still others have a form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:5), but this is also not enough. People must worship in the right way (Jn. 4:24) and have the right spirit (Mt. 5:24).
Since worship is a very important part of the Christian life, it should begin in the home. Children need to be taught about prayer, giving, God’s word, singing, and even the Lord’s Supper by their parents. Some families do this through home devotionals. Participation and familiarity with spiritual things in the home will help children be familiar with and participate in spiritual things in the church. Parents help shape their children’s attitude towards God and spiritual things and they have a limited amount of time for this task.
Parents should regularly ask their children if they have read their Bible and prayed, just as they inquire about other things such as homework. It is also important for parents to offer a good Christian example in their home, especially when facing the problems of life. When health or job problems arise, children should see their parents respond to problems in a Christian manner. If parents continually set forth a good Christian example for their children, this will help their offspring be prepared to live as faithful Christians in their adult years. If worship does not begin in the Christian home, and parents do not further reinforce the Christian way of life by a good example (and this includes parents faithfully attending worship), parents should not be optimistic about having children who are devoted to God in their adult years.
There are some things families can do to enhance their worship and teach their children about the importance of spiritual things. One easy thing is “worship preparation.” Some Sunday worship services are spoiled by Saturday night activities—people stay out late on Saturday evening and then miss the service or the Bible class held on Sunday morning. Or, they come but are too tired to properly worship. The Hebrew people had a “preparation day” before the Sabbath (Mk. 15:42) and Christians can engage in some worship preparation by being careful about their Saturday evening activities. In addition to attending on a regular basis, Christians should try to be present before the worship or a Bible class starts. Also, the whole family should come together. It is usually beneficial to sit in a place where we will be relatively free from distractions. We can take notes on the sermon, actively participate in the singing, and stay after the service and visit with fellow worshippers. We can further train our children by using things such as “teachable moments” within our family. Some have taken their children outside at night, looked at the stars, and read Ps. 19:1. One family designed one night a week as “Ask anything you want about the Bible night” to help their children know God’s word (compare Acts 17:11). Homes are strengthened by regular private and corporate worship as well as instruction in the home and at the congregation where we worship. God warns us to start teaching our children as early as possible (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).
A final point about worship involves attendance. While this subject is discussed more fully in the commentary on Heb. 10:25, here we may make some simple observations based on Lk. 17:11-18. Jesus healed ten lepers but only “one turned back and glorified God” (Lk. 17:15). This caused Jesus to ask if “ten had not been cleansed” and “where the other nine were” (Lk. 17:17). When the church assembles for worship, one wonders if heaven is not asking where are the nine? If people have been washed in the blood of the lamb and forgiven of the debt created by sin—a debt they could never repay—why are they not always present at worship? If a congregation meets twice on Sunday (the morning and the evening), why do some not attend on Sunday night? If a congregation has a mid-week Bible class, why do some miss these special periods of study? In Mt. 10:37 Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Based on this passage, what may be said of Christians who could but do not attend the appointed times of worship and other activities at their local congregation? Are these Christians truly “seeking first the kingdom of God” (Mt. 6:33)? There is more to the Christian life than attendance and worship, but it is hard to understand how a person can truly be a Christian without regular worship and faithful attendance.
What is tongue speaking? Can people speak in tongues today?
In Acts 2 the word glossa (tongue) is used in conjunction with the word dialektos, a word that meant language. The apostles spoke with other tongues (Acts 2:4) and these other tongues were dialektos (languages, Acts 2:6). Luke further stressed this point in Acts 2:8 with these words: “How hear we, every man in our own language (dialektos) wherein we were born?” Three verses later (Acts 2:11) we read, “We hear them speaking in our ‘tongues’ (glossa) the mighty works of God.” If we let the Bible explain itself, glossa (tongues) were foreign languages (dialektos) spoken by human beings.
When giving the great commission Jesus promised that His people would speak in new tongues (foreign languages, Mk. 16:17). This gift was exercised on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4-8). When Cornelius was baptized he and his household received this same gift (Acts 10:46). Peter said those in Cornelius’ household received the “like gift” (Acts 11:17). In other words, the gift of tongues that came on Cornelius’ household was the same gift received by the apostles in Acts 2. The Corinthians had this same ability and it surely helped them communicate the gospel to the unsaved.
In spite of all the preceding information, members of the Pentecostal movement still contend that tongues were and are some type of heavenly, ecstatic utterance instead of the ability to speak in a human language one had never learned. To these claims we may say the Greek New Testament has a special word for “ecstatic” (ekstasis). This term is used in Mk. 5:42; 16:8; Lk. 5:26; Acts 3:10; 10:10; 11:5; and 22:17. The Holy Spirit could have had Paul use this word to describe the tongue speaking done by the Corinthians, but this was not done. Paul was certainly familiar with this term because he used it in 2 Cor. 5:13. In way after way the Bible shows that the modern claims of Pentecostalism are false.