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Biblical Worship

Essence of Biblical Worship in the Worship Ministry Manual
Article adapted from Worship Ministry Manual. Click to learn more.


Paging through the Bible we find some differences in how God instructed His people, Israel, to worship in the Old Testament, and how He instructed the Church, in the New Testament.

Though worship before Christ changed after Christ, the essence of worshiping remained the same, making those realities of worship applicable for us today.

Worship in the Old Testament

For the Israelites, worship centered around God’s presence and glory in the temple with other specific locations prior to the building of the temple (Jn. 4:21). The Israelites worshiped through scheduled and regulated feasts and literal sacrifices (Leviticus).

Though great importance was put on place and method, we still find instances of individual, spontaneous, and varied means of expression.

Worship in the New Testament

For the Church, worship centered around God’s presence at any location, where even two or three gathered (Matt. 18:20) and was to be done in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:21-24). Worship involved the whole of life and spiritual sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).

Though great importance was put on the heart, we still find instances of meeting in a place and planning for a specific or designated means of expression.

Essence of Biblical Worship Today

While differences existed between the Old and New Testament worship, some truths about worship weave though both Testaments. Certainly these must be truths that take us to the essence of biblical worship and should affect worship through all times.

  • God’s presence could never be contained in a building or place (2 Chron. 2:6; 6:18). Though God met with the Israelites in a set place, the place was not the source of glory. He was and still is the focus no matter where we worship.
  • God’s character never changes (Ps. 102:25-27; Heb. 13:8; James 1:17). We worship the same God. Though the form of worship might change, He doesn’t. He is still totally worthy of all we can offer Him.
  • God desires a heart response from His people and not mere outward conformity. Jesus quoted from an Old Testament passage when He said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7; Mic. 6:6-8; Hos. 6:6). Though it may be expressed outwardly, God looks for worship that flows from the inside out.

When we hold to these eternal truths, no matter what the style or location, we can still worship.


2 Replies to “Biblical Worship”

  1. Can you speak to the spiritual ramifications of allowing someone to participate on the praise and worship team who is not a Christian?

    Is there truth to the saying “the spirits we entertain in our life is what we minister to the congregation”

    • Hello, Roksanne. We can’t find a Bible verse specifically disallowing someone to participate on the praise and worship team who is not a Christian but neither can we find precedence for it in Scripture either but rather the opposite. In the Old Testament, God chose from among His people those who should lead worship. Even in constructing the place of worship in the Old Testament, God filled people with the “Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” (Ex. 35:30-35). That same Spirit also gives believers in His Church spiritual gifts(1 Cor. 12:7-11) as the primary way God wants us to serve in any capacity. Since unbelievers do not have these gifts, they do not have empowerment to serve in ways that lead to the true encouragement and building up of the Body (Eph. 4:16).

      Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He promised that the His Spirit would not just temporarily fill a person as in Old Testament times but would indwell those who put their trust in Him (Jn. 14:16-17). A person without the Spirit cannot even understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:10-16), so how can they lead people in worship of Him? They perhaps can provide some quality musicianship but that isn’t what true worship is about so it lacks spiritual impact if that’s all it is.

      Jesus warned about hypocrisy, which He said is what happens when “people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matt. 15:8-9) — Isn’t that what unbelievers leading worship are doing? “The kind of worshipers the Father seeks” are those who “worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23). Certainly leaders in any type of ministry (worship teams are leading the Body in worship) should be able to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

      Also consider 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 where we’re told not to be yoked with unbelievers. It brings out some other issues like a key question it asks in that passage, “what fellowship can light have with darkness?” You will never have a truly unified worship team which clearly has spiritual ramifications. Remember Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:23. –“I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” To be sure, the exposure to Christians on the worship team and the truths in the songs being sung can be instrumental in unbelievers allowed on a worship team eventually getting saved but in the meantime you have all the ramifications as written above.

      The quote you gave is not in the Bible but we do find teaching about how what’s in the heart tends to come out in what we say and do (Matt. 12:34; 15:19; Lk. 6:45).

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