Everybody members the powerful story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The book of Hebrews announces the eradication of the Old Covenant forms of worship. This is the time of which Jesus was speaking about. But what does it mean for us to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth. As part of my sabbatical, I worshipped at a bunch of different churches. And there were some that were similar, but some were quite different. Some seems to be a place directed toward believers’ worship of God, others seemed to be targeting unbelievers. Some were very formal and traditional. One church I went to had a fog machine and pulsating lights and electric guitars; other used hymnbooks, and I know of some churches in the city that use no hymn books and only sing or almost chant the psalms. If you go outside of evangelical churches, you may find some churches that use incense. Some pray to saints in their services. Some use images as tokens of worship. Some take the Lord’s supper every week, some once a month - I was in one church that did it once a year, if you missed it too bad.
What form should our worship take? We know that different churches approach things differently. We accept the tradition of the church we grew up in, or just attend a church because our friends are there or we like the pastor’s message’s or we like the music. But if you were a Jewish person, this was a huge deal. Under the Old Covenant God prescribed very specifically how worship of him we to be undertaken. And people died when they did not approach God according to His prescription. One thing we are taught again and again in the Old Testament is that we don’t get to determine how we worship God. God is God, and He demands our worship of Him be according to His rule. Think about this, if I’m going to see Justin Trudeau, I can’t just waltz into the government buildings downtown and approach him any way I want, I could only enter his presence if I approach him in the way he requires. How much more for the God of the universe.
The Spirit directed the author of Hebrews in chapter 13 to say some things regarding our worship. This makes sense because he has argued in the book that the Old Covenant and its outward forms has been fulfilled in Christ and set outside, so how do we worship now? And in verses 7-16, we in fact find some words to us regarding our corporate worship.
Heb. 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Our Corporate Worship is: Word-Centred For Jesus is Our Enduring Confession
Heb. 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
We preach the word authoritatively
This is why the Word is central. We preach the word. Not because it is our words, but because it is God’s words. The full counsel of the word of God to make the simple wise unto salvation. Not just self-help type messages, but words that form lives and churches.
We preach the word fearlessly
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. The outcome of their faith - is written pretty ominously. The word means their escape. they preached fearlessly until death, through trials, until God removed them out of their trials
We preach the word enduringly
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Verse 8 seems like it just a slappedinto the middle of the passage - where does it come from? but read it together with verse 9: Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, Here’s the point - Jesus doesn’t change. He is the same, and so their must be continuity between the message we preach today with what was preached then. We take care to go back again and again to the scriptures, and we are suspicious of novel approaches to the Word of God. We would disagree with churches who are always looking for a fresh word from the Spirit, if by that they mean a “new” word.
Our Corporate Worship is: Table-Centred For Jesus is Our Sustenance
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
This section is a bit tricky. He’s talking about food, and alters and going outside of the camp. This was a important part of worship under the Old Covenant. When sacrifices were made, the law provided specific instructions of who were to prepare the sacrifices, of how they were to be made, and then, instructions regard who could eat the meat. No one but the priests could eat of the sacrifices. And remember, the some among the original readers were tempted to give up their confession in Jesus and return to the former system. And so, in the context of talking about these ceremonial meals that they are tempted to turn back toward, we are reminded that we have an alter from which they have no right to eat.
Jesus, our meal, is divisive
There is a division around the table because Christ is divisive. We have to really consider how we worship God, because over the past twenty years there has been a very new and very calculated shift in who we consider who our gathering is for. For the first 2000 years of the church, believers gathered to worship God and to edify and instruct one another. Unbelievers were welcome to observe the worship service, but it was evident that the worship service was directed toward God and the saints. Yet in the past generation, there has been a shift within evangelicalism and we’ve started organizing our worship services to be directed toward the unbeliever. Yet look at the language here - we go outside the camp, we go outside the gate, we have no place in the city, but we gather here to look for the lasting city.
A meal of reproach
It’s not only a meal of division, its a meal then of reproach, a meal in which we share in the reproach of Christ. So our worship is allegiance oriented around the person of Christ, and his sacrifice for us.
A meal of expectation
we seek the city that is to come. John Piper calls this, Pilgrim worship. We are int he city during the week, living on mission, loving our neighbours, seeking the welfare of the city, but that is not our city. So on Sunday, we gather here as pilgrims to seek the city that is to come.
Many, many commentators throughout church history have seen here an illusion to the Lord’s Supper, and the point is that this meal we share is a divisive meal. Only those who have identified with Christ, have the right to share in it. In fact, in the early church, as close as we can understand from liturgy we have found, they would have have the Lord’s Supper every time they gathered, but before they would eat together, they would excuse all the unbelievers.
The two ordinances of the church are allegiance ordinances. In baptism we profess our allegiance to Christ and identifying with his reproach, and in the Lord’s Supper we continually identify with him. This is why we moved a few years ago to celebrate the table weekly.
Praise-Centred For Jesus is Our Joy
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Sacrifice of praise, praise from the heart, praise through the lips. This idea of a sacrifice of praise comes from that great Psalm, 107, which encourages us, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
Has God made any difference in your life, offer up prayers of thanksgiving and songs of praise. Christians are a praying people. Christians are a singing people.
Not emotionless. “the fruit of lips the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. And Jesus is our Joy - our praise is the fruit of our confession, that is, when we confess Jesus, something happens within us inwardly that turns into outward praise.
Not emotionalism: the emotion arises not from a throbbing bass line, or a pulsing snare drum, but from Jesus
What does this look like in church? It looks like Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We could do more prayer, more praise, more spontaneous testifying even in our service, all must be done in order. English Congregation Lunch today. Time of grace.
Generosity-Centred For Jesus is our Model
16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
We bring the sacrifice of praise, we also bring the sacrifices of good works and generosity directed toward each other. The word “share what you have” is the word - koinonia - the word we often translate as fellowship, but is better translated “partnership” - the idea is that part of our worship, part of our pleasing sacrifices, is sharing with one another, to meet one another needs. The early church actually took offering as part of their worship.
1Cor. 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.
1. The churches are directed to do this. 2. It happened on the first day of the week (when they met). 3. people put something aside 4. not prescribed, but as each prospers. The temple system prescribed a tax called a tithe, but, I believe that is set aside, so in the NT the prescription is as each prospers. 5. it was to help meet the needs of the saints, of churches and the expansion of the church.
Now be careful, we are not limiting good works and sharing with one another to the offering taken during the worship service, just as we could not limit or doing good to the worship service.
Jesus is our model, he always pleased the Father, and so his life transforms us and this we please the Father by emulating his love and generosity.
Now that you understand a little better of why we worship as we do, let us continue to worship our Lord together.