Lavish Giving

And while He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me.  (Mark 14:3-6)

There are many mausoleums that crumble to decay. But this monument to Jesus fills the whole world still with its fragrance.

—S. Lewis Johnson

The Lord raises for all time a memorial to her who had done her best to honor Him.

—author unknown

A great deal has been made through the years over the question of apostolic succession by certain churches, but I would rather be in Mary’s succession than in the succession of the whole crowd of the apostles on this occasion.

—author unknown

Undoubtedly Mary’s act of total commitment and love meant so much to Jesus because it was itself so Christlike—it was suggestive of what He what about to do: give Himself completely for the sins of the world, to allow himself (as the song puts it) to be “broken and spilled out” in an act of total selflessness.

Mary’s act also is a faint reflection of what the Father Himself was about to do: to give the very best He had—His only Son—for the salvation of the world (John 3:16). The Father is the author of lavish giving: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).



Acts 3:1-10, in the spirit of the season!

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The following whimsical musical version was prepared with classmates for an assignment by Professor Howard Hendricks in his Bible Study Methods class at Dallas Theological Seminary in December 1977: we were to fashion a creative retelling of Acts 3:1-10, and since it was the Christmas season, carols seemed to be an appropriate vehicle!

(sing to tune of “It Came upon a Midnight Clear”)
It came about in Jerusalem,
At the ninth hour of the day,
That John and Peter, our heroes,
Went to the temple to pray.
A beggar, lame from his mother’s womb
They met along the way;
This man would daily sit by the gate
To beg for what he may.

(sing to tune of “The First Noel”)
He look-ed up and asked them for alms,
With the old classic gesture, the open palms.
But that preachers are all poor, we need hardly to tell;
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
Know well,
An experienced beggar, you’d think he’d know well.

(And Peter said:)

(sing to tune of “Away in a Manger”)
“I’m living on faith and I ain’t got* no bread;    [*fisherman jargon]
The apostle business is still in the red;
And taking an off’ring’s not yet invented.
But how ‘bout a miracle maybe instead?”

(to tune of “Joy to the World”)
“All praise to God, I now can walk!
Just see them stand and gawk!
I’ll walk and leap and praise His name,
And all will see and shout His fame.
I used to sit and wait
Down by the temple gate—
For signs and wonders how does that rate?”

An End In Itself

In worship, the members of the church focus on God; in instruction and fellowship, they focus on themselves and fellow Christians; in evangelism, they turn their attention to non-Christians.  

—Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 1066-1067

All evangelistic activities of the church have as their goal finding more worshipers for God; all edification activities of the church have as their goal making better worshipers for God.

—Ron Man

The only parochial [church] activities which have any real justification are those which spring from worship and in their turn nourish it.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56

Worship is the only Christian activity which is an end in itself.

—John Piper

The Primacy of Worship

The only parochial [church] activities which have any real justification are those which spring from worship and in their turn nourish it.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55-56

Worship is the only Christian activity which is an end in itself.

—John Piper

All evangelistic activities of the church have as their goal finding more worshipers for God; all edification activities of the church have as their goal making better worshipers for God.

—Ron Man

Worship in Revelation

In Revelation 22, John is so overwhelmed by the angel who is showing him the visions that he falls down to worship the angel (22:8).

The angel quickly corrects John’s wrongly directed worship:

but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. (22:9)

And then in two words, in the very last chapter of the Bible, the angel summarizes what I think is the call, the invitation, the command of the entire Bible.

“Worship God.”

All that happens in the drama of redemption, in the scope of biblical and human history, is directed towards this ultimate goal: “Worship God.” Everybody worships something; it is all important, a matter of life and death, the difference between heaven and hell, that you worship God.


Worship in Romans (38)

After eleven chapters of the most profound theological thinking ever penned, the Apostle Paul ends the didactic part of his epistle to the Romans with a response praising God for the wonder of His Person and His ways, as they have been seen in the incredible truths which Paul has just been presenting. These truths have not remained lodged in his head alone, but have filled his heart as well; and he apparently cannot contain himself as he bursts forth with a song of praise to the God who has made these things possible. Paul has dug deeper into the depths of the divine mystery than anyone ever had, and there is still plenty of cause for standing and wondering at the still unplumbed depths of God’s wisdom and understanding and grace and love:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen!  (Romans 11:33-36)

 Paul was not just a great theologian; he was also a great worshiper. For Him, theology was not an end in itself; it was a means to the infinitely greater end of knowing God better and hence being able to praise Him more fully. He understood that it was for that purpose that He had been made and saved and called into ministry.

J. I. Packer once wrote: “The purpose of theology is doxology. We study in order to praise.”

—Ron Man, “The Principle of Praise: Theology Serves Doxology”

Worship is . . .

Worship is the response of the redeemed life (Rom. 12:1) to the glory of God in all its facets (Rom. 11:36), as revealed in His works (Deut. 5:24; Rom. 1:19-20), His written Word (Ps. 150:2), and preeminently in His incarnate Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14,18).

True worship is Word-informed (John 4:23), heart-grounded (John 4:23; Mark 7:6-7), God-centered (Rev. 22:9), Christ-exalting (Rev. 5:12) and Spirit-empowered (Phil. 3:3).

“Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church” (William Nicholls), the ultimate goal of the Church (John Piper), and as such should be the final trajectory of all life and ministry. “The purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.” (J. I. Packer)

Worship has as its root unchanging biblical principles applied and played out in a rich diversity of culturally inflected manifestations. Worship should simultaneously be transcultural, contextual, cross-cultural and counter-cultural (Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture).

—Ron Man, from a grant proposal to the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship on behalf of the International Council of Ethnodoxologists, 2005


Why study the theology of worship? Why is a biblical understanding and foundation of worship important?

1. God’s Word tells us who God is.

God is the subject of our worship.
Worship is about Him.
We must worship Him as He really is.

2. God’s Word tells us what God wants.

GOD is the object of our worship.
Worship is for Him, for His pleasure.
We must worship Him as He wants to be worshiped.

3. God’s Word is our guide in every area of life

So certainly it is in this important area of worship.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

4. God’s Word tells us that all of life is to be worship.

“. . . present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

So a biblical understanding of worship has ramifications for our entire lives.

5. God’s Word is our only unchanging standard.

“Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.”
(Psalm 119:89)

Times change, people change, tastes change; only God’s Word does not.

6. Only God’s Word can give us a unified understanding of worship.

What are the essentials of worship, that do not change from denomination to denomination, place to place, age to age?

—Ron Man, teaching notes

Lavish Worship

MARK 14:3-9

We are in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life here, and we see the opposition mounting, and see the wheels in motion which will result in His arrest and crucifixion. (See 14:1-2; 10-11.) It is against that black fabric of hostility and treachery that Mark sets for us a diamond; a beacon of light that shines brighter because of the darkness surrounding it: Mark gives us an account of

  • absolute devotion in the face of opposition
  • utter adoration in the face of rejection
  • supreme love in the face of bitter hatred.

Mark has inserted this account here almost as a parenthesis, to heighten the contrast with the conspiracy beginning to close in on Him. As G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

It would fulfilled all the demands of Middle Eastern hospitality for the woman to bring her alabaster vial and sprinkle a few drops on Jesus— but her heart was so full of adoration, her focus was so totally on Jesus, that she GAVE IT ALL: she broke the bottle, and POURED IT ALL OUT. She understood intuitively that “no sacrifice is too great, if made for Him.” She held nothing back; she gave it all.

You know why Mary’s act of total commitment and love meant so much to Jesus? BECAUSE IT WAS SO CHRISTLIKE— IT WAS SYMBOLIC OF WHAT HE HIMSELF WAS ABOUT TO DO: to hold nothing back, to give Himself completely for the sins of the world, to allow Himself to be “broken and spilled out,” as the Gaither song says, in an act of total selflessness.

“Worship comes from a heart that has been blessed by God, and says so in its own way.” This woman is a true hero of the faith, with her heart brimming and overflowing with grateful devotion to her Lord.”There are many mausoleums that crumble to decay. But this monument to Jesus fills the whole world still with its fragrance” (S. Lewis Johnson). We are fulfilling Jesus’ words in verse 9 even as consider this story right now.

May God help us to learn from this remarkable woman more of what it means to offer our worship, poured out lavishly and without measure from a full heart.

 —Ron Man