“Worship and Morality”
The worship we offer to God and the subsequent life we lead upon leaving the service of worship are intimately related. Those are misguided who deny the importance of a firm adherence to the biblical pattern of worship as it relates to our broader relationship with God. History – both Biblical and otherwise – shows that, upon deviating from the authorized standard of worship disclosed by God, immorality ensues. One cannot expect to promote a life of righteousness when one’s worship does not strictly adhere to God’s standard.
A liberal approach to worship is not new but continues to prove itself increasingly attractive in the minds of many. The primary cause of this unfortunate truth is a lack of balanced Bible teaching. Paul declared to the Ephesian elders the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This not only included positive messages of exhortation, and consolation, but messages of warning against false teaching and immorality (cf. Acts 20:29-31; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:1-14). Paul’s preaching was heavy with concepts and applications of authority, for such is the only foundation upon which we can build (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 3:17). To deviate from the standard in any way is to depart from God, for those who practice anything without authority, or law, commit sin (cf. 1 John 3:4). Thus, the one who becomes more liberal in their approach to worship will inevitably become the same in their approach to everyday life before God.
Past issues of bible authority in worship are no longer discussed with the same frequency and fervency, or they are simply addressed as matters of tradition rather than substantial matters of faith. Preaching has become less focused upon God’s word, and more focused toward stories, jokes, and other things which appeal to the emotional man instead of the spiritual. Heightened emotions in worship have become conflated with spirit worship at the expense of worship in truth, not understanding that worship in spirit and truth are inextricably related (cf. John 4:24). The product of such things is not only the displeasure of God with such worship as past transgressions are repeated, but a life which leans more toward immorality, and less toward sanctification. The attitude which leads to unauthorized and irreverent worship is the same which leads to immoral living.
Consider Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli. These priests “were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). Such a description was fit for these men because they did not heed the instructions of the Lord concerning their priestly service (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-16). They took more than that which God allotted them. They abused their position of authority as priests, and desecrated the priestly services. “So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there”(v. 14b). It was their custom to transgress the commandments of God concerning their priestly duties. “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (v. 17). It is hard to imagine such irreverence before Almighty God, yet any failure to find authority for what is practiced in worship is a display of the same attitude. It is this attitude which naturally seeped beyond the parameters of worship to everyday life. Eli heard of their irreverence in worship, and disregard for the ordinances of God, “and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (v. 22). The corruption of these priests did not stop at the altar, but permeated their entire lives. How is it that those men consecrated to the grave work of priestly service could stoop to such debased thinking? It started with an irreverent attitude toward their God which was made manifest in unauthorized worship. If they did not care to submit to God’s will in worship, why would they do so in matters of morality?
Those who suggest that small departures from God’s standard of worship, or relaxed approaches to worship are harmless do not understand God, nor how He sanctifies us in a world of immorality. To worship is to do reverence to God. It is an action which emphasizes the prostrate attitude of one toward another who is worthy of such reverence. It is our created purpose as man to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Such a life of reverence is interwoven with worship of Him. However, it is God who determines what constitutes worship. We cannot know what will please God, and what He will consider as an act of obeisance without first appealing to His will (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:11, 16).
One who suggests God is not concerned with the particulars of worship fails to realize the nature of worship before Him. Worship is an exclamation to God, and even the world that the participant recognizes fully the position of God, and of himself before Him, thus, is in absolute submission to Him. It is a submission of heart, soul, and mind expressed in praise, adoration, and full surrender of will to God’s word. Thus, worship offered to God in a way that deviates from His expressed will, or even with a lax approach is inconsistent with what we are to be proclaiming in our worship to Him. Such an attitude expressed toward God in worship will incontrovertibly translate to other periods of life. One who does not care to observe every jot and tittle of New Testament worship to God with the mindset of utmost reverence will not bother with such in everyday service before Him.
God has determined to sanctify His disciples from the world by His truth (cf. John 17:17). This is especially noted in the worship of the Lord’s church. Christians are to make all things according to the pattern (cf. Hebrews 8:5). This sets the worship of Christ’s body apart from that in the world which bears more semblance to paganism than anything else. So it is with the living sacrifices we present to God daily (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Such is sanctified by the word of truth. However, if it is not in the mind of a man to surrender himself fully to God’s will in closest proximity to Him on this side of heaven, such will certainly be missing in the everyday, seeming mundanities of life. The man who deems it a good idea to relax his approach to worship, especially to the degree of changing Divine ordinances, takes a step back from God, and toward the world. It is then only a matter of time before persistence in such thinking will manifest itself in overt, immoral ways.