In Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19, the churches of the New Testament are told to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” “making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” So for the past 2,000 years, the Church has included singing as part of the worship of believers. But corporate worship is not singing.
What we need to question is whether the singing we are doing today is the kind of worship the early church was doing. In order to do this, the first thing we must do is investigate what worship is.
Several verses should help:
- John 4:24 – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
- Romans 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship
- 2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
- Psalm 51:1-17 – For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise, I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
- Amos 5:21-23 – “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps….”
Whenever we read about sacrifice in the Old Testament, we should understand that for God’s people, worship at the Temple was centered on the sacrifice. Hence, the term worship can be substituted for the concept of sacrifice.
When we look at both the Old and New Testaments, we will find that proper worship was much more than a ritual or rite. It was more than going through the motions. It was expected that the worshipper was performing the act of worship with something more than the act itself. In other words, corporate worship is not singing.
The scriptures above define what worship involves: John explains that worship must be in spirit. In Romans, Paul describes that it must be sacrificial and includes our physical bodies. The Chronicler shares that God is looking for those whose hearts are His. David writes in the Psalm that God does not want worship without our hearts being in the right place. Amos prophesies that God hates when we worship without these things.
Our hearts, our spirit, our body…without these, our worship is unacceptable to God.
So now we can return to our original question: is our worship the same as the early church?
The early church was told to use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in their worship. Today, we include those things in our worship service. However, I submit we are not worshiping the same way the early church did.
When I watch people in a church service, I often see them going through the motions…but not necessarily worshiping God. I see people singing songs but corporate worship is not singing. I don’t see people singing in spirit, with all their body and heart.
I know that many people feel uncomfortable worshiping this way. Why is that? Is it because they are more concerned with what others think about them than they are about what God thinks? Others will say that they simply worship quietly. But I have seen these same people shout at the kids, the ball player who messed up, or the politician they disagree with and heard them singing their favorite songs in louder voices (not always Christian songs either).
So it isn’t that people can’t worship properly. It’s that they choose to worship in the way they feel best and with which they are most comfortable.
But God doesn’t desire worship in the way you are most comfortable or the way you feel is best. He desires worship in the way He has prescribed.
I suspect that many people worship poorly because they have not experienced true worship. You see, singing isn’t worship. It is simply a way to worship. It is the tool that allows us to worship. However, worship is the attitude of our spirit, body, and heart. When we use singing to express our spirit, body, and heart, then we are giving worship as God desires.
If you will allow yourself to worship God with all your body, heart, and spirit, you will experience God in a new and powerful way. Once you do, you will understand why God desires that we worship Him in this way.
Make the decision today that when you gather for church service this week, to worship as God has desired. I promise, if you give yourself to this kind of worship, God will strengthen you and bless you with His presence.