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