Corporate Worship

William Burnett

In traveling among the assemblies of God?s people, one has noted
that there appears to be a growing loss of focus in many assembly worship meetings, with
many not being aware of just why they are there, and what is expected from them, so
perhaps it would be helpful to review what we find in Scripture regarding worship and
worshippers. Let us examine a few distinctives, that may help us to appreciate what
worship is, and what is expected from us when we come together to function as a Holy
Priesthood.

Personal verses Collective

There are two temples in existence today: The Temple of our Bodies; (1
Cor. 6:19) and the Temple of the Corporate gathering of the Church, (1 Cor. 3:16) and
worship is associated with each, the former is Personal, the latter Collective.

Personal Worship:

Worship is an integral part of our entire lives. For example, the
apostle Paul writing to the Romans exhorts them, ” I beseech you therefore brethren
by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to
God, which is your reasonable service.” So we learn that Worship means putting our
lives on the Altar for God. Further, the writer to the Hebrews says ” By him
therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of
our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) So we learn that our praises are
considered to be offering worship to God. We may yield all of these sacrifices as
individual priests on a continuous basis. These are but a few examples of the many aspects
of personal worship.

Collective:

1 Peter 2 describes us as a Holy Priesthood, and this introduces
collective worship. We are all priests to God, but we can only function as a Priesthood
when we are together, and this is most clearly demonstrated when we come together to Break
Bread. Considering the idea of priesthood, this means that the brother participating
publicly is acting in a representative capacity, and is leading the assembly in worship.
So we do not come together to speak to God to engage in personal worship, but with the
whole assembly in view.

O.T. Priesthood verses N.T. Priesthood

God?s original desire was that all of Israel should be priests
unto God, rather than the sons of Aaron. (Ex. 19:5) In the Church age, God has recovered
His ideal, in that all believers without exception are Priests unto God. This is a great
privilege and honor bestowed upon us, yet sadly the number of functioning priests is
declining year by year. Let?s get back to the vision of our early brethren who
recovered this blessed truth, and paid the price to be able to practice it, and come along
exercised to offer worship.

Holy Priesthood verses Royal Priesthood

1 Peter 2 tells us that there are two aspects to the priesthood of
believers. He first tells us that we are Holy Priests (v. 5) and later he tells us that we
are Royal Priests. (v. 9) The distinction between these two aspects of Priesthood has
become blurred, leading to confusion in our assembly worship. As Holy Priests we “OFFER
UP spiritual sacrifices?”
As Royal Priests we “SHOW FORTH the
virtues of Him?”
The direction of the one is vertical, the other horizontal.
The one is directed to God, the other to man. The one involves worship, the other
testimony. Lack of understanding of this distinction means that many assembly worship
meetings have come to be a time for sharing ministry from the word, or sharing our
experiences of God.1 Brother Boyd Nicholson
used to say that as Holy Priests we minister to the Heart of God, whereas, as Royal
Priests we minister to the House of God.

Worship ? Spiritual verses Physical

The worship of the Old Testament was physical in its expression. An
ordained Priesthood, Vestments, Ornate Structures, Choirs, Orchestras, Incense, Sacrifices
etc., and a great importance placed on the Geographical centre ? Jerusalem. In John
4, the Lord unveils some great truths about the great shift that was about to take place
where the whole basis of worship would move from the physical to the spiritual. The Lord
said “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the
Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is [a]
Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
(John 4:
21?24)

This is an important principle to grasp, that our worship today is not
associated with, or supported by, physical expressions, or organized programs, but it is
entirely spiritual in its nature. The early church was a very simple entity, shunning the
elaborate ceremonies and physical expressions of Judaism, to gather in simplicity to His
Name. Let?s be careful that we do not lapse back into some modified form of Judaism
with its emphasis on buildings and accompanying physical things. We worship the Father in
Spirit and in Truth, and our worship should be spiritual in it?s nature.

Worship verses Remembrance

When we meet to Break Bread, our main purpose is to remember our Lord
Jesus. This is also an important thing to keep in mind in our assembly worship ? that
we should focus on remembrance rather than general matters of worship. Thanking God as the
great creator, or as the giver of daily blessings has its place and time, but we come to
Remember Him, our thoughts, our hymns, our expressions of worship to the Father must be
Christ centered. After all there is enough in Christ to occupy and thrill our hearts for
all of eternity, far less a short hour on a Lord?s Day.

The Table verses The Supper

In 1 Corinthians 10 the apostle deals with what he calls the “
Table of the Lord,” And in chapter 11 he deals with the ” Lord?s
Supper.” These truths, though related to each other, are distinct. The apostle
compares the Table to God?s provision for Israel in the manna and the water from the
rock, and how that now God still provides for us in our daily experience through what he
calls the Table of the Lord. So the Lord?s Table has to do with our daily fellowship
with God. The Supper is distinct in that it was given by the Lord, imparted to the apostle
by direct revelation, then delivered to the saints as an ordinance to be kept until He
come, and this is the subject of 1 Corinthians 11.

May these simple distinctives help us to recover those blessed times of
God glorifying worship among us that were once the hallmark of our assemblies, when we
gather together as a Holy Priesthood to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

You can find even more Milk and Honey articles on their homepage. There’s plenty of archives since it hasn’t been updated in a few months. We have been featuring many of their articles right here for convenience and exposure to the truths contained in them.

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