Worship and the Christian Priesthood
Arthur G. Clarke
English word "worship" (worth-ship) is primarily an act of respect shown to a person of high degree or merit (worth) ; " to worship " is to pay homage to, or hold in high honour, and, in the highest sense, to approach God with supreme respect and veneration. The worship of God is nowhere actually defined in Scripture, but its significance may be gathered from the use of certain words employed and from examples.
(b) Gk. sebomai = to revere, to feel awe for (e.g. Acts 1(5. 14), expresses the inward attitude (kindred words found Rom. I. 25; Acts 17. 23) ;
(c) Gk. Latreu = oft translated " to serve " is a wider term covering official service rendered to a superior, or religious service offered to Deity or false deities (e.g. Phil. 3. 3 ; Heb. 10. 2; 13. 10).
The following should be closely studied:
(a) Magi. Matt. 2. 1-12;
(b) Mary, Jn. 12. 1-3; 1 Chron. 29. 10-22; Deut. 26. 1-11.
The Psalms abound in expressions of worship, providing a vocabulary that may be very profitably used by the Christian ; cf. Psalms 95, 9(5, 107.
We must carefully distinguish between " Worship "—God's people coming in to God with acceptable offerings—and " Ministry "—God coming out to His people with blessings to meet their needs. Worship is Godwards—Ministry is saintwards—Testimony is worldwards.
Distinguish also terms often used for the general idea of worship:
(a) Prayer (in restricted sense) is asking blessing from God ;
(b) Thanksgiving is acknowledging blessing received from God ;
(d) Worship (in strict sense) is adoring God because of His worth (attributes). Psa, 103 illustrates (c), Psa. 104 illustrates (d).
Worship is the highest privilege and duty of a redeemed people—properly a continual exercise, the normal attitude of soul towards God rather than a series of isolated acts, Heb. 13. 15 ; cf. Psa. 34. 1-3. If not a worshipper during the week and when alone, it is not likely one will be so in company on Lord's Day I Here is fruit of the new life in Christ and consequent relationship to God in which believers stand. Worship flows only from the hearts of those who have a knowledge of salvation through faith in Christ. The unregenerate cannot worship God. Man must be a receiver of the gift of God, the living water of the Spirit, before he can worship in spirit and truth, Jn. 4. 10-14, 23-24. Only believers are constituted a holy and royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, 1 Pet. 2. 4-10. O.T. saints worshipped God as Jehovah, the covenant God ; Christians worship G<xl as Father. Of old, worshippers were taught to seek Jehovah ; hi Christianity, the Father seeks worshippers, Jn. 4. 23. Worship of the Father takes place in the holy intimacy of the family circle. His children approach with reverent love, all having access to Him on equal footing from the youngest to the oldest. Such a privilege saints of old never knew, though individually many rose to a high level of spiritual experience in communion with God. In the " family circle," Christ (firstborn among many brethren) is Himself the Leader (Precentor) of His brethren's praises, Heb. 2. 10-13. " Babes " in Christ are not excluded from this exercise, Matt. 21. IP with II. 25, 26.
Worship must conform to the nature of God, Jn. 4. 20-24. He is Spirit, therefore worship must be spiritual; cf. Acts 17. 24, 25. Israel had the shadows (the typical), and worship was in the realm of the material. The Christian has the substance, the reality— Christ—and worship is in the realm of the spiritual, Heb. 8. 5 ; 10. 1 ; Col. 2. IS, 17. All formality therefore is excluded. As a spiritual act, worship requires the prompting of our spirits by the Holy Spirit, the sole power for worship, Phil. 3. 3, the " flesh " being incapable of it. The human spirit is the highest part of man's tripartite being (1 Thess. 5. 23), and by it the believer is able to apprehend divine things.
Collective worship is indicated, Heb. 10. 19-25; 1 Cor. 14. 15, 16, etc., and cannot be dissociated from the gathering of the assembly for the breaking of bread. The spirit and the understanding are then both in exercise, the whole assembly uniting in the joyful liberty of the Holy Spirit to offer praise and thanksgiving to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. All human arrangement hinders the free operation of the Spirit. In the exercise of priesthood privileges any brother potentially may take audible part, but he should remember that he voices the worship of the whole assembly, not his own individual matters. Worship is a most solemn exercise, therefore due reverence before, during and after the gathering should be shown by all.
Worship is hindered by guilt upon the conscience. All the while his sin remained unconfessed, David's praise was silent, Psa. 51. 15 with 32. 3-5. He could utter only cries of distress and of complaint.
In no Christian exercise have fleshly expedients intruded more than in the worship of God. In so-called " public worship " or " divine service," human formularies have displaced the divine order. Such religious services commonly use a liturgy hurried through, often heedlessly, by a mixed company of believers and unbelievers ;. the sermon is the central feature. This is not true worship. Outward form only serves to cover inward failure. Fleshly aids, such as ornate buildings, imposing ceremonies, affecting music, and eloquent sermonizing on political or social problems of the day rather than expounding the Word of God, all betray a sad, carnal condition of soul. It is " strange fire " (Lev. 10. 1, 2) that soon or late will call down the judgment of God, a spurious worship that dishonours His name. Multitudes of nominal Christians, like the Samaritans, " know not what " they worship, Jn. 4. 22.
Patriarchal Priesthood Job, 1, 5; 42. 8.
Royal Priesthood Unique type of Christ now enthroned in heaven (Heb. 7) and as King-Priest upon the throne of David in the coming millennial age, Zech. 6. 12, 13. This offers a most fruitful study.
National Priesthood—Israel as a chosen nation, but they failed and so forfeited this special favour, Hos, 4. 6. God's purpose was not frustrated, only postponed till a future day, Isa. 61. 6;; Ezek. 44. 15, 16. Meanwhile Christian priesthood fills the privileged position, I Pet. 2. 5-9.
Levitical Priesthood This brings us to:
Spiritual Priesthood—Israel could not worship in Egypt (Ex. 3. 18 ; 5. 1-3), but when brought out, the system of divine worship was established. In the typical order, qualified priests were:
(b) Cleansed (bathed), Lev. 8. 6 ; cf. Tit. 3. 5 ;
(c) Clothed, Lev. 8. 13 ; Ex. 28. 40 (their garments evidenced their calling, even as the Christian's conduct does), 42 ; (d) Consecrated, i.e. set apart (sanctified) for service and worship by:
(i) application of blood, Lev. 8. 24 ; Heb. 9. 13. 14 ;
(ii) sprinkling of oil with blood, Lev. 8. 30; 1 Pet. 1. 2.
Every detail has its spiritual counterpart in the Christian priesthood, 1 Cor. 6. 11. Moreover, every priest must have "somewhat to offer Heb. 8. 3.); the wave-offering, Lev. 8. 25-28, God's appointed portion, the rest being given back by Him to His priests. " To consecrate" in Heb. is lit. "to fill the hands." As sinners we approach with empty hands, as worshippers not so, Deut. 16. 16.
(a) Perfect Title—the Shed Blood (" blood of Jesus ");
(c) Powerful Helper—the Great Priest (Leader and Sustainer of a worshipping people).
Godward aspect(a Privilege of Access. Right of entry is granted to the whole Christian priesthood, and unrestricted as to times; for prayer, Heb. 4. 16"; for worship. Heb. 10. 22 ; cf. Eph. 2. 13, 18; 3. 12. Contrast Aaronic priests to whom the outer compartment of the Tabernacle (holy place) alone was accessible, the holiest being barred even to Aaron except once yearly, Lev. 16. 1,2; Heb. 9. 6-8.
(i) Praises, Heb. 13, 15; contrast Hos. 14. 2; Psa. 50. 14. 23; 119. 108; not sacrificial animals, but sanctified lips,
(ii) Persons, Rom. 12. 1, 2 ; yielding up the body, not in death but in life, though this involves death to self, cf. 2 Cor. 5. 14, 15. In Lev. 16 we see two goats "presented," one to die, the Other to live, both at God's disposal,
(iii) Possessions, Heb. 13. 16; Phil. 4. 18; 1 Cor. 16. 1. 2 ; 2 Cor. 9. 7. 12. This lifts the Christian giving out of the realm of a mere charitable collection. Proportionate giving is true priestly service.
Manward aspect(a) Ministry of Prayer. Intercession for the saints (following the example of our High Priest, Heb. 7. 24, 25 ; Rom. 8. 34), see Jas. 5. 16 ; Heb. 13. 18 ; 2 Thess. 3. I ; Psa. 141. 2. Intercession for all men, 1 Tim. 2. 1.
Ministry of Sympathy. Spiritual help often needed more than material aid.
(i) to " tell out " Christ, Gk. " to proclaim fully and openly " ;
(ii) to discern and decide various questions, Lev. 13 and 14; 10. 10, 11 (contrast Mai. 1. 7, 8 ; 13, 14 ; Deut. 17. 9).
As to God's gracious provision for His priests, it is instructive to study the typical import of (a) Prescribed portions, Lev. 8. 31, 32; and (b) Prohibited things, Lev. 10. 8-11— note reasons given.