Worship in Romans (20)

Pride is self contending with God for preeminence. [Romans 1:21]

—Charles Bridges (1794-1869)

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Worship in Romans (19)

Worshiping God by affirming God’s worthiness flies in the face of the Fall. In the Fall, humans got hung up on our “self-worth.” We wanted the status God had. [Romans 1:21; Genesis 3:5] We failed to perceive our proper place in the created order, and so we threw that order out of alignment.

In the first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve say to God, “We are worthy.” In the last book of the Bible, the elders say to God, “You are worthy.” God is back in God’s appropriate place, we are in ours, and the cosmos is right again. In a way, our public worship each week is an exercise in this eternal act of putting God in God’s proper place. Michael Lindvall describes worship as “weekly practice at not being God.”

—Nathan Bierma, “Worshipful Service,” Perspectives Journal June 2006

Worship in Romans (18)

Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This the great insult.

—John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 36

Worship in Romans (17)

The Gospel of the Glory of God is always very near to mankind, and yet always very far from them: near, because the divine image is in mankind and the Gospel is the true meaning of man; far, because it is heard only by a faith and a repentance which overthrow all man’s glorying in himself and his works. [Romans 1:21]

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 100

Worship in Romans (16)

The world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it not only “posits” the idea as a rationally acceptable cause of its existence, but truly “speaks” of Him and is itself an essential means both of knowledge of God [Romans 1:19-20] and communion with Him [1:21a], and to be so is its true nature and its ultimate destiny. But then worship is truly an essential act, and man an essentially worshiping being, for it is only in worship that man has the source and the possibility of that knowledge which fulfills itself as true knowledge: knowledge of God and therefore knowledge of the world—communion with God and therefore communion with all that exists. Thus the very notion of worship is based on an intuition and experience of the world as an “epiphany” of God, thus the world—in worship—is revealed in its true nature and vocation as “sacrament.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 107-8

Worship in Romans (15)

The charter of man’s existence is: Inferiority to God, superiority to all else in creation.

“Thou madest him a little lower than God . . . Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet” (Ps. 8:5 f.).

Man’s dominion must always be subject to the over-riding dominion of God, than whom he is always “a little lower”; if he throws off the yoke of service to God he loses his own proper authority, with and for which he was created. It was by blurring the distinction between himself and God, by an attempt to place himself on equality with God and thus to secure that nothing should be excepted from his rule, that man fell. [Romans 1:21]

—C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last: A Study in Pauline Theology, 17

Worship in Romans (14)

It is important to note from Romans 1-11 that theology (our belief about God) and doxology (our worship of God) should never be separated. On the one hand, there can be no doxology without theology. It is not possible to worship an unknown god. All true worship is a response to the self-revelation of God in Christ and Scripture, and arises from our reflection on who He is and what He has done. It was the tremendous truths of Romans 1-11 which provoked Paul’s outburst of praise in verses 33-36 of chapter 11. The worship of God is evoked, informed and inspired by the vision of God. Worship without theology is bound to degenerate into idolatry. Hence the indispensable place of Scripture in both public and private devotion. It is the Word of God which calls forth the worship of God.

On the other hand, there should be no theology without doxology. There is something fundamentally flawed about a purely academic interest in God. God is not an appropriate object for cool, critical, detached, scientific observation and evaluation. No, the true knowledge of God will always lead us to worship, as it did Paul. Our place is on our faces before him in adoration.

As I believe Bishop Handley Moule said at the end of the last century, we must “beware equally of an undevotional theology and of an untheological devotion.”

—John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World, 311-12