Properly Formed New-Covenant Worship

Worship (610x352)Our True Citizenship

1 Peter 1:1-2: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.

Hebrews 11:13: All these people [the saints in the OT] died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw them coming in the distant future and rejoiced.  They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.

Philippians 3:20: Our citizenship is in heaven.

–          How are we to see our earthly citizenships?


–          Where is our true citizenship?


–          If we are citizens of heaven, then what should primarily shape our worship of God?


–          If we are citizens of heaven, how does that truth inform what we do in worship, what we sing, and even what we display in the church sanctuary?



Excursus: Heavenly Worship on Earth

Exodus 25:40: [God speaking to Moses,] “See that you make them [the Tabernacle and its furnishings] according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Wisdom 9:8: You [God] gave me [Solomon] the command to build a temple on your holy mountain and an altar in the city that is your dwelling place, a copy of your holy tabernacle that you established from the beginning.

Hebrews 8:5: They [priests] serve at a place that is a pattern, a shadow, of what is in heaven.  When Moses was about to make the Tabernacle, God warned him, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain.”


After God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), He gave instructions for building the altar (Exodus 20:2-26).  Then God gave instructions about keeping the Sabbath (Exodus 23:10-13) and the annual feasts (Exodus 23:14-19).

It’s then that we get to Exodus 25:40, which Hebrews 8:5 quoted.  In that chapter of Exodus, Moses received God’s instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and its furnishings.  The New Testament tells us that Moses based the Tabernacle’s structure on a vision of the heavenly sanctuary that God had shown him (Acts 7:44).

After that, Exodus, chapters 26 through 30, deal with the design of the tabernacle, the altar, and the outer court, the priests’ vestments and their consecration, and instructions for daily offerings.

So we can see, from the beginning, that God’s people worship in a structured and ordered way–that is, liturgically.  And as High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ serves at heaven’s altar in the true Tabernacle after which the earthly Tabernacle and Temple were patterned (Hebrews 8:1-2).

And so liturgical worship also takes place in heaven.  How do we know?  That’s because the earthly place of worship is but “a pattern, a shadow, of what is in heaven.”  In Isaiah 6:1-8, Isaiah briefly experienced heaven’s liturgy.  Revelation chapters 4 and 5 record the Apostle John’s vision of heaven’s liturgy, where he saw the resurrected Jesus, the saints in heaven praising Him and falling down (pipto and proskeneuo) before Him in worship, and even incense being burned.


–          How can the Apostle John’s vision of heavenly worship shape how we worship?


–          How can our worship “style” help inform and teach us that our worship is a reflection of what takes place in heaven?


We also see, from Scripture, that the earliest Christians had a deep sense that when they worshiped, they were using the Lord’s liturgy!

Acts 13:2: While they [the church at Antioch] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

“While they were worshiping the Lord” is more literally, “While they were liturgizing to the Lord.”  The participle, liturgizing, means “to perform liturgical acts.”  To translate this in a way that doesn’t do violence to the English language would be: “While they performed the liturgy of the Lord.”

This reveals that the early Church recognized that their worship forms were not their own but the Lord’s.  After all, the church in Antioch did not originate liturgical worship; its roots were in ancient Israel, of course with the liturgy being shaped by Jesus as the fulfillment and the Messiah to whom the Old Covenant pointed.

In the same way that Old Covenant foreshadowings (types) pointed forward to their fulfillment (antitypes) in the New Covenant (example: the great flood was a foreshadowing of baptism, 1 Peter 3:18-21), so also is it with worship.  The Old Covenant’s liturgical worship was fulfilled in the greater reality of the New Covenant’s liturgical worship.



With Whom Do We Worship?

But more takes place than our worship simply being a “copy and shadow” of what takes place in heaven.

Hebrews 12:23: You [the saints on earth] have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.  You have come to countless angels in festive gathering, to the church of the Firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.  You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.

–          Besides the people with whom we gather, are we worshipping with others?  Who are they?


–          What does it mean that the spirits of the righteous are made perfect?



What We Need that the Saints in Eternity Don’t

The saints in eternity are sinless and have the fullness of the faith (although they are still living in faith, awaiting the resurrection of the body).  Because we are sinful and have an incomplete understanding of the faith, our worship differs in some significant ways.

1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we [the saints on earth] see a blurred image in a mirror, but then [in eternity] we will see face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.

–          What does this mean about our understanding of the faith and the need for continuing instruction?


Luke 24:47: Repentance into the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his [Jesus’] name.

–          What does this show us about need to receive the preached Word?  For what purpose?


Matthew 26:26-28: As they [Jesus and His disciples] were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

–          What does this say about our need for the Lord’s Supper and what we receive from it?


Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, by teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

–          What is the purpose of what we sing in church?


–          What is the difference between teaching and admonishing?


–          How is this to shape your preferences for what you sing in church?