God for Us

In the New Testament, all emphasis is on what God does for man. That excludes any interest in what man, through sacrifices and similar acts, is supposed to do for God (cf. Acts 17:25, quoted above). Only one kind of sacrifice is required from man in the New Testament, and that is man’s offering of his whole person to the service of God, as described in Rom. 12:1: “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is holy and agreeable to God.” Here the apostle calls it a logical, that is, a spiritual, worship (latreia). This is the sort of worship or sacrifice that may be said to be characteristic of the New Testament as a whole. And in this context liturgical terms are frequently used. But here there is no question of sacrifice in the technical sense of the word. The only sacrifice in the New Testament which may be compared with the Old Testament sacrifices, and which may be regarded as a continuation or rather a fulfilment of them, is the sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 4:25; Eph. 52, etc.).

—Bo Reicke, “Some Reflections on Worship in the NT,” in New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of Thomas Walter Manson 1893-1958, 197-8

Primary Theology

The language of praise is the primary language of Christian faith, and for that reason the liturgy is sometimes called “primary theology.” Primary theology takes place at the point at which God touches us through word and sacrament, and we in response offer thanksgiving, supplication, invocation, benediction to God. . . . The worship and praise of God is the living context, the precondition even, for the theological enterprise.

—Catherine M. LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, 357

Because He First Loved Us

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
No, I was found, was found of Thee.

Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea;
‘Twas not so much that I on Thee took hold,
As Thou, dear Lord, on me, on me.

I find, I walk, I love; but O the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee!
For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul;
Always, always Thou lovedst me.

—anonymous (1878) (hymn)

The Giver

God lovingly receives our affection, our worship, our gifts, our conversation. Be this as it may, the line is to be traced, for the most part, from Him to us: He gives and we receive. All that we offer to Him, our lives and hearts, come from Him in the first place.

—Edith M. Humphrey, “The Gift of the Father,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 94

We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone,
A trust, O Lord, from Thee.

—William Walsham How (1858) (hymn)

Revelation and Response

No one can claim, of course, that every God-human encounter in Scripture follows this clear pattern; even if it did, there is no forthright command to fashion Christian worship using this deep structure. Nevertheless, with such a consistent pattern of divine-human conversation seen in Scripture, it suggests a normative approach—even a solid rationale—for seriously considering this pattern for the divine-human encounters of corporate worship.

—Constance Cherry, The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, 82

The Sacrifice of Praise

The sacrifice of praise [Hebrews 13:15] . . . is offered to God through the Lord Jesus. All our praise and prayer passes through Him before it reaches God the Father; our great High Priest removes all impurities and imperfections and adds His own virtue to it:

To all our prayer and praises
Christ adds His sweet perfume;
And love the censer raises
These odors to consume. (Mary B. Peters)

The sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. The only worship that God receives is that which flows from redeemer lips.

Believer’s Bible Commentary, 2nd Edition (on Hebrews 13:15)

An End In Itself

In worship, the members of the church focus on God; in instruction and fellowship, they focus on themselves and fellow Christians; in evangelism, they turn their attention to non-Christians.  

—Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 1066-1067

All evangelistic activities of the church have as their goal finding more worshipers for God; all edification activities of the church have as their goal making better worshipers for God.

—Ron Man

The only parochial [church] activities which have any real justification are those which spring from worship and in their turn nourish it.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56

Worship is the only Christian activity which is an end in itself.

—John Piper

All of Life

The entire worship life of the Old Testament has been radically refocused onto Jesus Himself and has become a radically spiritual thing, as opposed to an external thing. The external is still important, but now the spiritual is so radically pervasive that virtually all of external life, not just church life, is the expression of worship. “Present your bodies as living sacrifices which is your reasonable service of worship” (Romans 12:1). That’s all the time and everywhere. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31): all the time, everywhere.

—John Piper, “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever” (sermon, December 8, 1996)

Our Priesthood

Through Christ’s priestly work Christians become priests (10:10, 14; 2:10 f.). As priests they have access to God and can approach Him without having to make an offering for their sins (10:22); in coming they receive grace and mercy rather than give (4:16). But though the Christian priest need not bring sacrifice as a condition of approach to God, yet in thankfulness for that access he presents the sacrifice of praise and service (13:15, 16).

Ernest Best, “Spiritual Sacrifice:  General Priesthood in the New Testament,” Interpretation Journal 14 (1960): 286

Access to God

Without the cross we have no access to God. ACCESS DENIED! You can sing, dance, prophesy, but only JESUS is the password into God’s presence. We will never write a song that will can lead people  into God’s presence!

—Bob Kauflin, “Biblical Values for Worship and Their Application to the Local Church “

Revelation and Response

Accordingly, the Church’s worship will be best conformed to its true nature when its pattern echoes the crystal logical pattern we have seen in Scripture.  In the first place, the Church must be attentive to the proclamation of the Word. . . . The second aspect of Christian worship is our joining in the latreia of Christ, offering through Him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

—William Nicholls, Jacob’s Ladder: The Meaning of Worship, 27-28

A Unique Song

The worship of the New Testament . . . is nothing else than song, praise, and thanksgiving.
This is a unique song. God does not care for our sacrifices and works.
He is satisfied with the sacrifice of praise.
I have no one to sing and chant about but Christ,
in whom alone I have everything.
Him alone I proclaim, in Him alone I glory,
for He has become my salvation, that is, my victory.

— martin Luther, Lectures on Isaiah

Beyond All Praising

O God beyond all praising,
We worship You today,
And sing the love amazing
That songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder
At every gift you send,
At blessings without number
And mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before You
And wait upon Your word,
We honour and adore You,
Our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
Accept the love we bring,
That we who know Your favour
May serve You as our King;
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless You still:
To marvel at Your beauty
And glory in Your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise!

—text by Michael Perry; sung to the tune of Thaxted (Gustav Holst) (in numerous hymnals)