This week we’ve seen the amazing legacy of worship on earth demonstrated through the Tabernacle and Temple of God. We’ve seen the great detail and care that went into the construction of both. God gave Moses, David and Solomon Heavenly insight into how God’s people should worship Him. That worship included a “forward” look at the coming of the Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Jesus is the Lamb of God and He was crucified for our sins. Now, God’s people look “back” at what Jesus accomplished for them on the Cross.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11
Israel worshiped God in a Tabernacle or Temple over a period of almost 1,600 years (approximately 1,500 B.C. – 70 A.D.). The Roman Army destroyed the Temple of Jesus’ time toward the end of the 1st Century A.D., and it has not been rebuilt to this date. That’s a period of almost 2,000 years. How have God’s people worshiped Him during that time without the Temple or Tabernacle? Where did God go?
God introduced a new system of worship during the 1st Century A.D. We know it as the Church, the Body of Christ. The Old Testament system of worship, with the Temple and its sacrifices, is gone – something new has come.
God no longer inhabits a building as He did with the Tabernacle and Temple. God now inhabits His people! That is a stunning picture – the great Cloud of God’s Glory that led the people of Israel and filled Solomon’s Temple for hundreds of years now lives in you!
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:13-14
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23
The Apostle Paul’s letters make it abundantly clear that God is working with His people differently today. For one thing, there is now no difference between Jew and Gentile. There was a big difference before God called Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9), showed Peter the vision of the great sheet (Acts 10), and convinced the apostles that God was spiritually working with Gentiles in a new way (Acts 11 & 15).
“But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Galatians 2:6-9
This idea that God would work in the lives of Gentiles (non-Jews) the same way He worked with Jews was revolutionary to the apostles. It took a lot of discussion, Peter’s impassioned plea and Paul’s powerful testimony to convince the apostles that God was doing something brand new – something they had never experienced before. Gentiles who converted to Judaism were treated differently than Jews born into the faith. Gentile proselytes did not have the same access to the Temple that Jews did.
God introduced a new day in the life of His people. He made them all one in Jesus Christ – Gentiles became members of the same spiritual Body as their brother Jews.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
Can you imagine how revolutionary that was in the 1st Century A.D.? It had been almost 2,000 years since God singled out Abraham to become father of God’s chosen nation, Israel. God had spend centuries reminding Israel about the differences He wanted between them and all the other nations of the world. But when Jesus Christ came to earth, preached the coming Kingdom and sacrificed His life for Israel, the leaders rejected Him as their Messiah. That’s when Jesus introduced something new.
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.'” Romans 10:12-13
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-22
This message from God was unexpected. Jews were shocked – Gentiles were overjoyed. The new way God was working with Jews and Gentiles in the same spiritual Body was both a mystery and a revelation.
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” Ephesians 3:1-7
What did all this change in the way God worked with Jew and Gentile mean to the way the Church would corporately worship God? Jews knew the worship of the One True God in synagogue and Temple. Gentiles knew the worship of false gods in their heathen temples. Would God continue synagogue and Temple worship, but give Gentiles a new standing in the community of Jewish believers? He certainly wouldn’t allow any of the ways of worshiping false gods to enter into the way His people worshiped Him. No, God introduced something new. We know it as Christian worship.
“Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Acts 11:25-26
That was the beginning of the use of the name Christian – a name we are proud to bear. It also gives us an important insight into this new way of worshiping God. Christians of the 1st Century were given spiritual gifts for their service to God. They met in homes, were served by deacons, and led by elders. They no longer looked to the Temple for their worship of God. The believing Jews left the synagogues and joined with their Gentile brothers and sisters to worship God, often in the homes of Gentiles – a place a Law-abiding Jew would never enter.
Christians worshiped the same God the people of Israel worshiped – and the Lord accepted their worship! It was not the elaborate worship of Tabernacle and Temple. Christian worship is much different than Jewish worship. The primary differences? 1) God once inhabited the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and Temple, but now lives “in” Christians who worship Him in spirit and in truth. 2) Jews look forward to the day when they again can offer sacrifices to God at the new Temple in Jerusalem and see their high priest carry their offering to God — Christians look to Jesus Christ, their Sacrifice and High Priest, Who intercedes for them day and night with the Father in Heaven. 3) Jews look forward to the day of their personal and national salvation — Christians remember it.
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
As Christians, we should embrace what God is doing in us, for us, and through us – and that should lead to sincere worship. We are now able to enter into the Presence of God boldly and reverently. God allows us an access to Him that the people of Israel never had. Why? Think about the Tabernacle and Temple. How did Jews approach God? Through sacrifice. They brought their sacrifices to God as He directed them in His Law. But did their sacrifices give them bold entrance into the Presence of God? No. Only the high priest was allowed to enter into the Presence of God – and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement. No one can approach God with their own sacrifices. It is only through Jesus Christ that human beings are given access to God. It was Christ’s death on the Cross that made the way for the close, loving relationship we experience with God. Jesus is the Sacrifice and the High Priest Who brought the Blood of the Sacrifice to God.
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14
“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Hebrews 8:1-6
So, what does that mean for Christian worship? Our worship should be deeper, more meaningful and more exciting than the worship of the people of Israel. Each one of us has direct access to God because of what Jesus accomplished for us through His Crucifixion and Resurrection. We are now at peace with our God.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2
I’ll close this study with one other important aspect of corporate Christian worship – the spiritual impact it has on unsaved people.
“Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” 1 Corinthians 14:23-25
The context of 1 Corinthians 13 & 14 is the absolute necessity of love in everything we do and the difference between private and corporate worship based on that love.
“What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” 1 Corinthians 14:15-19
Paul’s message is clear – when Christians worship together, the love they have for God and others should manifest itself in spiritual maturity, self-control and concern for the spiritual wellbeing of others. May it be so in the worship of our church. May God’s people be edified and may the unsaved be redeemed to the glory of God.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”