Last week, we said that one way you can prepare to come to public worship is to ask "What is Worship?" This week we explore another question that can help us prepare for congregational worship: "why, exactly, do we worship God together" or "why ought we to worship God?" or "what is the goal of the worship of God?"
Well, why do we worship? There is more than one right biblical answer. Surely at the top of the list is "for his own glory" (1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 29:1-2). There is no higher answer to "why do we worship?" than because the glory of God is more important than anything else in all creation. The chief end of the church is to glorify and enjoy God together forever, because the chief thing in all the world is God's glory (Philippians 2:9-11).
There are other answers as well: because God said to, because God created us to worship, because God saved us to worship, because it is our natural duty as creatures and joyful duty as Christians to worship, because our worship is a response of gratitude for saving grace, because those with new hearts long to hear his word and express their devotion, because God wants to bless us with himself, because God has chosen us for his own inheritance and seeks to commune with us in his ordinances, and more.
Hughes Old points us to the Psalms and Paul for the answer: "We worship God because God created us to worship him. Worship is at the center of our existence, at the heart of our reason for being. God created us to be his image-an image that would reflect his glory. In fact, the whole creation was brought into existence to reflect the divine glory. The psalmist tells us that 'the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork' (Psalm 19:1). The apostle Paul in the prayer with which he begins the epistle to the Ephesians makes it clear that God created us to praise him.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us inThis prayer says much about the worship of the earliest Christians. It shows the consciousness that the first Christians had of the ultimate significance of their worship. They understood themselves to have been destined and appointed to live to the praise of God's glory (Eph. 1:12)" (Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2002, 1).
Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us
in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless
before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace . . .
The Goal and Meaning of Public Worship
Our aim, as the congregation gathers to meet with God in public worship on the Lord's Day, is to glorify and enjoy God, in accordance with his written word. That is, the very purpose of assembling together as the people of God in congregational worship is to give to the Lord the glory due his name and to enjoy the blessing of his promised special presence with his own people, in obedience to his instructions set forth in the Bible.
Corporate worship (so-called because the body or corpus of Christ, that is, the people of God, the Church, is collectively involved in this encounter with God) is sometimes referred to as "gathered," "assembled" "public," or "congregational" worship. All of these names are helpful, and bring out different dimensions of this important aspect of biblical worship. Though the Bible indicates that there are, in addition to public worship, other distinct and significant facets of Christian worship (like family worship, private worship and life worship), the importance of public worship is featured in both the Old and New Testaments. When Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25 speak of "coming before the Lord" and "assembling together" they are both addressing public or gathered worship.
The great distinctive of our whole approach to public worship is that we aim for the form and substance of our corporate worship to be suffused with Scripture and scriptural theology. An apt motto for this approach is: "Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible."