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

First Things First

Before there was a command to love God, there was the revelation, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  There is no truth, no validity in our worship if the one we worship is not the true and living Creator and Redeemer.

—Garry D. Nation, “The Essentials of Worship: Toward a Biblical Theology of Worship,” Journal of the American Academy of Ministry 5.3 & 4 (Winter-Spring 1997): 6-7

God Acts

In the economy of the gospel, everything is turned upside down—including and perhaps especially our worship. Theologically our worship is not what we do. It’s what God does from the past in the present toward an explosive future. In the Word God in Christ addresses us. At the table God in Christ is the host.  In our worship God comes to us as God promises. God takes what appear to be our actions, turns them upside down, and acts.

—Paul Westermeyer

The Spirit and Our Worship

There is the action of the Holy Spirit, apart from which the true human action of worship, the proper response of man to God’s action, would be impossible.  His is the divine action within our human action of believing and responding, of hearing the Word of God, of understanding the things of God (1Cor. 2:10-16), of confessing Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:3), of knowing God as Father (Rom. 8:15 f.).

—C. E. B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958):391

Tell Them about God

C.S. Lewis once told a young writer: ‘Instead of telling us a thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was a “delight,” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (“Horrifying,” “wonderful,” “hideous,” “ exquisite”) are only saying to your readers, “Please, will you do my job for me.”’

Lewis complains that authors of gushy and sentimental words are tyrannical because they tell the readers how they must feel rather than letting the subject work on them in the same way it did the author. Sentimental worship leading works in exactly the same way that Lewis describes. With typical comments—‘Isn’t He just wonderful?’ ‘Isn’t it such a blessing?’—the leader tells people how they ought to feel about God instead of telling them about God.

—Tim Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City” in Worship by the Book, 209-210 (citing Letters of C.S. Lewis, 271)