Expressions of Worship
A. Expressions of Idolatry
Because man was created to worship God, at its root idolatry is rebellion. Thus, all forms of idolatry—no matter how subtle—are inherently sinful and only serve to produce more sin. Furthermore, idolatry will always express itself through sinful thoughts, motivations, and behavior.
B. Expressions of True Worship
God not only created man for the purpose of worshipping Him, but He also revealed how man was to properly express this worship. This revelation is found in the bible. It is helpful to group the bible’s teaching on how to express worship into three broad categories:
1) Whole Life Conduct
God intends for worship to be expressed to Him in every area of life. Worship goes well beyond the cultic/religious setting. The bible makes it clear that first and foremost worship is expressed through one’s conduct in every area of life. This is seen most clearly (but not solely) in Romans 12:1-2.
2) Corporate Worship
God intends for worship to be expressed to Him by the corporate gathering (1 Cor 11:18; Heb 10:25) of the church (Eph 5:14). The corporate worship of God’s people on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10) represents a special worship that cannot be duplicated in an individual context. This is true because 1) corporate worship results in the mutual edification of believers (Heb 10:24-25, 13:1ff); 2) corporate worship reflects the worship of heaven (Rev 19:1-6); and 3) corporate worship proclaims the excellencies of God to the world in a special way. (Heb 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:4-10)
God’s word regulates the specific elements of corporate worship to: preaching; scripture reading; prayer; singing; giving; mutual service; communion; and baptism. Each element must be done in spirit and truth. (John 4:24) Among these elements the preaching of God’s word is to be central (2 Tim 4:2).
3) External Praise
Praise is the outward expression of inward worship through singing or declaration. This expression of worship is commanded (Ps 117), and it is intended to be a vital part of the worship of God’s people (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). This expression of worship is most commonly used in the context of corporate worship, however it is not limited this context. As with all other forms of worship, external praise is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
Praise through music is particularly important, and is intended by God to enhance one’s expression of worship (Ps 147:1). This is particularly true in the context of corporate worship where music is intended not only to enhance worship but also to edify the body of believers. Additionally, as is the case with every aspect of corporate worship, music is to be done skillfully (Ps 33:3) and humbly (James 4:6) so that it will not distract God’s people from genuine expressions of worship. Any external praise (through declaration or singing) not conforming to these principles in the context of corporate worship is not a legitimate expression of true worship.