Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Worshiping the Lord of Hosts

Anyone who has followed this blog for very long knows that I have strong opinions about the appropriate nature of Christian worship. One source that influenced my views was Robert E. Webber's Common Roots. (Another was Paul Manuel.) Webber looks back to what Scripture tells us about the practice of the Jews and then the early Church. Much of the book follows the evolution of worship practices though Christian history, including the views of the Reformers. He believed that modern Evangelicals had gone astray. This is an excerpt, not a summary, from a section titled "The Meaning of Worship":
In a full service of worship, the entire spectrum of Christian faith is included. Worship is a rehearsal of who God is and what He has done, and gives expression to the relationship which exists between God and His people. The focus of content in a sermon alone, or the emphasis found among the renewal churches where worship centers around a single aspect of God or a theme, misses the point of worship and fails to worship God in His entirety.

In summary the historic Christian approach to worship which emphasizes the adoration of the Father through the Son has been replaced in some churches by a program with a stage and an audience. And the nature of worship as an offering up of the whole person, the entire community, the body, through the head, Jesus Christ, as a ministry of praise to the Father has been replaced by an emphasis which sees the minister as the agent of God to evangelize the lost and teach the saints. While evangelism and teaching are integral functions of the church, they should not, as they have in some churches, constitute the sum and substance of worship. For that reason we turn to the historic understanding of worship in search of some guidelines to lead us out of our overemphasis on man-centeredness and restore a more balanced biblical content to our worship. ....

In worship we simply tell God the truth about Himself. In doing so we see ourselves in the proper relationship to God, which, in fact, is also an essential aspect of worship. Like Isaiah who, when he saw "the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" and heard the cry "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory," responded by crying, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isa. 6:1-5). To see the Lord in all His glory is to see ourselves as sinful and in need of grace. And that realization is an indispensable aspect of worship. ....
Robert E. Webber, Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity, Zondervan, 1978.

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