The Worship Trajectory and Goal of the Entire Bible (Part 2: New Testament)

Volume 16, No. 8 (September 2021)

Scott W. Hahn, in his excellent article “Canon, Cult and Covenant:
The Promise of Liturgical Hermeneutics” (in Canon and
Biblical Interpretation
, ed. Craig G. Bartholomew, Scott Hahn,
Robin Parry, Christopher Seitz, Al Wolters [Zondervan, 2006]),
has given a fascinating overview of the entire spectrum of biblical
revelation as centered in and heading towards worship. In fact,
he shows how each major movement in the scriptural record
culminates in worship. Last month we drew on Hahn’s insights
to see this pattern in the Old Testament. This month we will
continue on to see the New Testament completion
of the Bible’s worship trajectory.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The human person has been shown from the first pages of Genesis to the last of Revelation
to be liturgical by nature, created and destined to live in the spiritual house of creation,
as children of a royal and priestly family that offers sacrifices of praise
to their Father-Creator with whom they dwell in a covenant of peace and love. . . .
The story of the Bible is the story of humankind’s journey to true worship
in spirit and truth in the presence of God. That is the trajectory, the direction
towards which the narrative leads. This true worship is revealed to be the very purpose
of God’s creation in the beginning. (Hahn 225-6)

1.  Christ

Even though Adam and Eve “knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him . . . [and they] worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:21,25). Christ, on the other hand, passes the test which Adam and Eve failed:

“It is written:
        ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
        and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Paul further develops this contrast in Romans 5:12-20:

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (5:19)

and in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, where Paul even calls Christ “the last Adam”:

“The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (15:45)

Unlike Adam, who was made in the image of God Christ did not grasp at equality with God, but instead offered his life in humility and obedience to God [Philippians 2:6-8]. . . . Christ’s self-offering is the worship expected originally of Adam and again of Israel as God’s first born, royal and priestly people. His sacrifice marked the fulfillment of all that Israel’s sacrificial system was intended to prepare and instruct Israel for—that through Israel all the nations of the world might learn to make a perfect offering of heart and will to God. (Hahn 221-22)

Hahn also sees a fulfillment in Christ of the Exodus theme of the Old Testament:

The New Testament writers appropriate the Old Testament understanding of the purpose for the exodus. . . . God’s liberation of Israel was ordered to a very specific end—namely the establishment of Israel as God’s royal and priestly people destined to glorify him among the nations. Echoes of that exodus purpose are clearly heard in Zechariah’s canticle the outset of Luke’s Gospel (1: 67–79). In a song resounding with exodus imagery, Zechariah sees the ‘goal’ of Christ exodus [Luke 9:31] precisely that of the first exodus—to establish . . . a holy and righteous people that worship in God’s presence. (Hahn 222-223)

2.  The Church

The Church is described by Peter with terms and functions highly reminiscent of Israel:

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:5,9)

Similar to Israel (though of course with some key differences), the Church is a “people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21)

And the members of this new people of God are to live a lifestyle of worship, in continuity with and fulfillment of (now with the Spirit’s help, Romans 8:4) the expectations of the Old Covenant:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

I thank God whom I serve [or “worship’], as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. (2 Timothy 1:3)

3. The Revelation of John

We see in the concluding book of the Bible the trajectory towards faithful worship of the Creator God completed (not without many scenes of final rebellion, however). The worship of which God alone is worthy, and which was denied him in the fall (Romans 1:25), is finally consummated around the throne of God. We see the great scenes of worship in Revelation 4, 5, 7 and 19, where God is surrounded by amazing angelic beings, “myriads of myriads” of angels” (4:1l), the redeemed from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (4:9; 7:9), and indeed all of creation (5:13 ), all exclaiming the praises of God and of the Lamb:

“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (5:13)

Thus is the call of the gospel fulfilled:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (14:6-7)

(See also Worship Notes 2.7, “The Gospel: A Call to Worship”)

And, tellingly:

“At the conclusion of our liturgical reading of the canon, we hear the purpose and meaning of the entire Bible summed up in the refrain of the Apocalypse: “Worship God!” (Rev 14:6-7; 19:20; 22:9) (Hahn 225)

With little two words, in the very last chapter of the Bible, the angel summarizes for us what is indeed the call of the entire Bible:

“Worship GOD.” (22:9)

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