A Kingdom of Priests

It is widely recognized that Revelation provides the church with a theology of history, however what is of great importance for our study is that this theology of history is built around the theme of worship. The action of the Son in shedding his blood to free us from our sins (1:5b) was so that we, the redeemed, would be made “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1:6) The goal of redemption is worshipful service.

—Noel Due, Created For Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, 221

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

Initiated by God

The worship of sinful and fallen people necessitates divine mediation if the sacrifice is to be good, perfect and acceptable to God. The pagan worship that surrounded the patriarchs was often a work of appeasement, a work initiated by people seeking to win divine favor. Biblical worship emerges in the Hebrew and Christian Scripture as that which is initiated by God, mediated by God, and is a response of the people of God to the grace and favor of God they have already experienced.

—Robbie F. Castleman, Story Shaped Worship, Following Patterns from the Bible and History, 38

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