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

God’s Initiative

Throughout the Bible it is assumed that the initiative in true worship is God’s.

Christian worship is also human action. The human action is altogether secondary, being made possible by, and responding to, the action of God.

—C. E. B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,”  Interpretation, vol. xii number 4 (October, 1958)

God as Subject

All priestly action within the place of meeting was by way of acknowledgment and witness to God’s testimony of Himself in the Covenant. God is not acted upon by means of priestly sacrifice. Priestly action rests upon God’s Self-revelation in His Word and answers as cultic sign and action to the thing signified. That is particularly clear in regard to the teaching of the OT about atonement, for the various words used to express expiation or reconciliation are used with God as Subject always, never with God as object (except in describing heathen sacrifice), and are only used with man as subject in the secondary sense of liturgical obedience to God’s appointment. It is actually God Himself who performs the act of forgiveness and atonement, but the priestly cultus is designed to answer to His act and bear witness to His cleansing of the sinner.

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 3

Not Up to Us

In biblical teaching the initiative lies with God, not with us. We can certainly pray that He would move us to honor Him and encourage one another in our singing. But God’s ability to minister to us in a gathering of His people does not depend on the intensity of our singing, the degree of our enthusiasm or the style of our music.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together, 129