Volume 9, No. 4 (April 2014)
14. Turning from False to True Worship (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
Too often we talk about the gospel only in negative terms: that is, how it saves us (and gloriously so!) from sin, death and hell. But it is important to realize and to emphasize that we are not just saved from something, but also to something: to a personal relationship with our Creator, to fellowship with our Maker, to true worship of the one true God.
Salvation involves turning away from the false worship that, in one form or another, with one object or another, has infected every human soul; and turning to true worship. Paul characterized the Thessalonians’ conversion in this way:
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
Similarly, Paul and Barnabas in Lystra identified their gospel preaching as a call to turn from false worship to true worship of the Creator:
And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news [gospel], that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. (Acts 14:13-15)
Indeed, everyone worships someone or something; so the most important question that every human faces is: who is going to be the recipient of your worship? Whom (or what) are you going to bow down before, to put on the throne of your life? As we have seen (Worship Notes 8.9), Adam and Eve refused to “glorify God or give thanks” (Romans 1:21), and by rejecting the basis of true worship (acknowledging the unique glory of God as the only one worthy of worship), descended inevitably into false worship (1:25).
Jesus came to, as Tozer put it, “make worshipers our of rebels.” Indeed, it is “true worshipers” (those who worship “in spirit and truth”) that the Father seeks (John 4:23).
15. Doxology where It Is Due (1 Timothy 1:17)
To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
This is one of the great doxologies of the New Testament. When Paul expounds on the work of Christ and the plan of God, his heart turns inexorably to praise; Revelation demands a Response (see Worship Notes 1.5). Paul was not only a great theologian; he was also a great worshiper! (See also Romans 11:33-36, where at the climax of 11 chapters of the most profound theological treatise ever written, Paul erupts into worship.)
16. The Mediator of Our Worship (1 Timothy 2:5)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Much more will said about this in the book of Hebrews, but Paul emphasizes here the unique role that Jesus plays as the God-man, the “Bridge over the Great Divide,” (as the Navigator illustration and the song put it), the Jacob’s Ladder, the priestly connection between God and man and heaven and earth.
When the Church neglected the full humanity of Christ during the Middle Ages (after centuries of needing to defend his genuine deity on many fronts), it began to turn elsewhere for mediation, to gain access to God: Mary, the saints, priests. One of the Reformers’ rallying cries was to restore the New Testament emphasis that in Jesus Christ we have the only Mediator we need (and He is fully “the man Christ Jesus“). Indeed, “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” and “we have a great priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:19-21).
17. The Centrality of the Word in Worship (2 Timothy 3:16–4:2)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
The chapter division should not lead us to neglect the necessary connection between these two paragraphs. The indispensability of the Word for life (see Psalm 1), precisely because it is God’s Word to us (“God-breathed”) means that it must direct and infuse our worship gatherings, through (but not solely through) preaching.