By Not Known

The word ‘worship’ can be used in several important ways.

First up, there is our life-worship, in which all of all we are at all times is lived in thankful service to the Lord (Rom 12:1-2). Without this, no other worship makes sense. Secondly, there is the gathered worship as represented by our Sunday services (eg Acts 2:42-46; 1 Cor 14:26; Heb 10:25). Thirdly, there is our devotional worship as we give ourselves to prayer, praise and Bible reading in our family and private life (eg Acts 10:9).

But, what about the ‘place’ of worship?

That question was easily answered in Old Testament times. Worshippers went to a special tent and its successor – the temple. They were places of guaranteed access to God (eg Ex 33:7-11; 1 Kgs 8:27-30). There was a big concern to centralise worship in this one place (eg Deut 12:5,11,13-14,26). In part, this was to ensure that gathered worship happened in a way that pleased God rather than in a free-for-all that pleased the worshippers. The form of gathered worship is as much an act of obedience to God as anything in the life-worship of God’s people (eg Deut 12:4,8,14,32).

It is doubtful if Old Testament worship was ever totally centralised in one place, despite Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem and the later efforts of Josiah to shut down the other shrines (2 Kgs 22). But the ideal was there: the Lord was only to be approached through the one place of his appointment.

All that takes a new twist after Jesus. He declined argument about the best geographical place of worship and instead pointed to the new sense of place and manner for worship (Jn 4:19-24). A concern for spirit and truth must now be central. Further, Jesus was to replace the physical temple as the ‘place’ of worship (Jn 2:19-22). God is still to be approached through the one place of God’s appointment, but that place is now the person of his dear Son. A church building is a church building, but Jesus is the living temple of the living God.

There is a paradox of singularity and universality here. On the one hand there is only one point of access to God (Jn 14:6) but this point of access is open to all peoples in all places. In the old days, you could not worship if you could not get to the temple. With Jesus, all can worship and we can do so in all geographical places. This is liberating!

So, let us worship God through Jesus. He alone enables our life-worship, our gathered worship and our devotional worship.

David Burke