One Mediator

The Christology of Hebrews also undoes forever any notion of mystical communion with God. By this, I mean that communion which bypasses Christ to have a direct experience of divine enlightenment, or some numinous spiritual feeling. This is important when we see many contemporary worship songs, activities and approaches which emphasis the inner psychological/emotional state of the worshipper and use it as the criterion to decide if worship has been effective or not. Hebrews will not let us replace the mediation of Christ with the mediation of the worship leader who is able to engender an effective response, which is then interpreted as direct communion with God.

—Noel Due, Created For Worship:  From Genesis to Revelation to You, 181

The Only Priest

The exalted Lord Jesus Christ is the only priest we need for constant access to God (Heb. 8:1-6; 10:19-23). Our ‘altar’ is the cross, where Jesus shed his blood to make us his holy people (Heb. 13:10-12). Since He was ‘sacrificed once to take away the sins of many’ (Heb. 9:28; 10:10, 14), there are no prescribed rituals for us to follow. Worship is to be expressed in every sphere of life, as a grateful response to the saving work of Christ.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together, 20

Our Exalted Advocate

Christ is our Mediator not only in that He once reconciled us to God and gained for us grace and salvation, but in this sense that He evermore lives on with God, as Head of the Church as our Advocate.  To Him the faithful belong but, as they proudly confess, He is now elevated to the right hand of God.

—Josef A. Jungmann, The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer, 135

The Divine Initiative

Worship depends upon revelation, and Christian worship depends upon the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Worship, that is to say, begins not from our end but from God’s; it springs from the divine initiative in redemption. We come to God because God, in Jesus Christ, has come to us: we love Him because He first loved us: we ascribe to Him supreme worth because He has showed Himself to be worthy of our complete homage, gratitude and trust. Worship is essentially a response, man’s response to God’s Word of grace, to what He has done for us and for our salvation.

—Raymond Abba, Principles of Christian Worship, 5

The Bottom Line

The Christian church is deeply divided into communities that rehearse different histories and embody divergent aesthetic preferences. Any lasting cease-fire in these worship wars is not likely to emerge from a resolution of the so-called culture wars which feed them, or from large-scale conversions of taste, or from carefully buttressed historical arguments about ancient liturgical precedents. Finally, such a cease-fire can only issue from the depth and mystery of the gospel which Christians proclaim. Christian worship is strongest when it is integrally and self-consciously related to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. The study of Christian worship is most helpful to Christian communities when it demonstrates how this has happened in the past and how it might happen in the future in more profound ways.

—John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” 18