Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 43 - October/November 2011 > Worship (by Norman Tew)


by Norman Tew

Worship - A review of 13 weeks of Bible study on Worship

In every Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world on Sabbath Morning there is a Sabbath School during which all age groups study a Bible subject chosen for the whole world.  During the past three months (July to September 2011) the subject for the adult classes has been Worship.

Full details can be found on the SSNet website where the lessons are shown, though most members study from a printed copy which has the same wording.

Week by week we progressed through the Bible looking at the following topics

How to worship

While I enjoyed the lessons and learned many things what intrigued me was that although in the church today the big discussion on worship is how we should worship, what types of music are acceptable etc, that did not appear to be addressed in the Bible.  At different times in the Bible worship was in different ways; originally sacrifices at family altars; then only at the tabernacle or temple; then more emphasis, especially by some of the prophets, on worship in lifestyle; then the words of Jesus to the woman of Samaria that worship had to be "in Spirit and Truth".

Who to worship

The big emphasis all through the Bible was on who we worship.  As the introduction to our lesson books stated, "We are also told to 'give glory to Him.' What is crucial here is that worship be about God and not about ourselves. We have to make sure that worship is not people-centered, culture-centered, or personal-needs-centered, but God-centered. We worship God, not ourselves; hence, worship must be about Him, about giving glory to Him, and not about music, culture, or worship styles."

All through the Bible problems arose when the people turned their worship away from the true God.  Even in the last book of the Bible chapter 13 talks about false worship given to the dragon (Satan) and his servants and in chapter 14 a message from the angel to worship the creator of heaven and earth.

But what is worship?

As the study proceeded, however, the question that kept coming to me was "what do we mean by worship?"   We have become used to the term "praise and worship" and of thinking of the 'worship team' as being those who lead the singing.  Is only praise by singing worship?

In the first book of the Bible worship seems to have been centred around animal sacrifices on the family altar.  After the Exodus from Egypt we get the record of songs of praise after deliverance from the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea.  When Moses came to the end of his leadership, God told him to teach the people a song in which they would recite what God had done.  Was this also a form of worship?  I would think so.

Prayer becomes more prominent as the story continues.  Many prayers are recorded as being offered by Daniel - surely that was a form of worship.

But what about Bible Study?  Is that a form of worship?  In the synagogue the centre of the service was around the reading of the scrolls. 

There are three interesting texts that describe the worship of the early Christians:

The first is a report from the Upper Room before Pentecost.   "All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers."  Acts 1:14 (NRSV) It is obvious here that prayer was the main form of worship and it was powerful in bringing the believers together in one accord ready to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The second is a report of how the believers acted immediately after Pentecost,  "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."  Acts 2:42 (NRSV)    The apostles' teaching would be listening to Bible studies (for the sermons that are recorded are full of quotes from the Old Testament (which was all the Bible they had then), the fellowship is described in verse 46 as home gatherings where they "ate their food with glad and generous hearts"

The third is an injunction from Paul to the church at Ephesus "but be filled with the Spirit,  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.  Eph 5:18b-19 (NKJV).  Here he appears to list praise as the main element of worship.

It would thus appear that all the elements of present day church services - prayer, praise, Bible study (whether in groups or from the pulpit), and fellowship over food are all parts of worship.  I would also extend this to say that personal Bible study and prayer at home are also forms of worship.

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