Formal Worship - An Enemy of Soul Winning
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyles book, Enemies of Soul-Winning)
Of course, the word "formal" comes from the word "form," which means "an outline." From this we can believe that formal worship then would be an outline of worship - going through the form.
II Timothy 3:5, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof from such turn away."
The first mention of worship in the Bible is in Genesis 22:5, "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you."
This is the story of Abraham offering Isaac on Mount Moriah. Notice the words, "I and the lad will go yonder and worship." This is a far cry from what we call worship. The worship that Abraham was going to do was to go to a mountain, build an altar, take a knife, kill his son and offer him for a sacrifice.
The next mention of worship in the Bible is in Genesis 24:26, 48, 52, "And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD. And I bowed my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son. And it came to pass, that, when Abraham 's servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth." Abraham had sent his servant back to the old country to choose a bride for his son Isaac. At each step in the accomplishing of this task, the servant worshipped.
Neither of these two instances had anything to do with a public worship service.
Worship in the Bible Was an Individual Act
There is not one single mention of a worship service in the New Testament. There is not one single command or even an implication to the church to have a public worship service. Worship was a private matter.
In Genesis 22:5, Abraham and Isaac went to Mount Moriah to worship. This was an individual act. In Genesis 24:26, 48, 52, Abraham's servant worshipped in an individual act.
In Exodus 34:8, Moses worshipped individually upon the receipt of the second tables of the law. "And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped."
In Judges 7:15, in the midst of his battle against the Midianites, Gideon worshipped individually. "And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."
In I Samuel 1:19, when Hannah was told that she would bear a son, she worshipped individually. "And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her."
In I Samuel 1:28, Hannah brought Samuel to Eli, and Samuel worshipped individually. "Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there."
In I Samuel 15:31, Saul worshipped individually. "So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD."
In II Samuel 12:20, David arose after the death of his illegitimate child borne by Bathsheba, and after having repented, he worshipped individually. "Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat."
In II Samuel 15:32, David came to the top of the mount, and he worshipped individually. "And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head."
In Job 1:20, Job worshipped individually upon hearing of the death of his children. "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped."
In Matthew 8:2, a leper came to Jesus and sought cleansing. When he came to the Saviour, he worshipped Him saying. "And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He worshipped individually.
In Matthew 9:18, a certain ruler came to Jesus interceding for his daughter, and he worshipped individually. "While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live."
In Matthew 15:25, a woman seeking healing for her daughter worshipped individually. "Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me."
In John 9:38, a blind man was healed by Jesus, and he worshipped individually. "And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him."
In Acts 16:14, Lydia by the riverside worshipped individually. "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
In Acts 18:7, Justus worshipped individually. "And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man's house, named .Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue."
In Hebrews 11:21, Jacob, at the time of his death, leaned upon the top of his staff and worshipped individually. "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
Worship in the New Testament
The word "worship" is mentioned 35 times in the New Testament. Not one time does it deal with a public worship service.
In Matthew 2:2, the wise men came to worship Jesus. This was not a public service. "Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews ?for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
In Matthew 2:8, Herod enquired of the wise men so he could come and worship Jesus. Had this been done, it would not have been a public service, but an individual matter. "And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."
In Matthew 4:9 and Luke 4:7, Satan promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of this world if He would fall down and worship him. "And saith unto him, All these things will l give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." "If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine."
In Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7, we have the mention of vain worship. "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
In John 4:20, 22-24, we have Jesus rebuking formal worship as He talked to the woman at Sychar's well and explained to her that they who would worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. He was telling her that she worshipped one place and the Jews worshipped another place, but that worship was an individual matter and could be done anywhere. The woman at the well said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus answered her, "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
In John 12:20, the Greeks came to worship at a feast. This was done by bringing offerings. "And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast."
In Acts 7:42, 43, we have the word "worship" mentioned concerning the golden calf in the wilderness. "Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon."
In Acts 17:23, Paul mentions on Mars' hill that the Greeks were worshipping an unknown god. "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you."
In Acts 18:13, worship contrary to the law was rebuked by some. "Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law."
In Acts 24:11, the word "worship" is connected with Jewish worship. "Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship."
In Acts 24:14, the worship was done by believing the Bible. "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which were written in the law and in the prophets."
In Philippians 3:3, we have individual worship. "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ. Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
In Hebrews 1:6, we find the mention of angels worshipping. "And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him."
In Revelation 3:9, we have worship at the synagogue of Satan. "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."
In Revelation 4:10, 11, we have worship pertaining to the judgment seat; that is, worship that will be done in the air after the rapture. "The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
In Revelation 9:20, we have worship of idolatry in the tribulation period. "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk."
In Revelation 13:8, 12, 15, we have the worship of the Antichrist during the tribulation period. "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."
The consequence of those who worship the Antichrist is stated in Revelation 14:7, 9-11, "Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture.... And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
In Revelation 15:4, we have the tribulation worship. "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest."
In Revelation 19:10, John worshipped an angel and was rebuked for doing so. "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: lam thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
In Revelation 22:8, 9, we have the same rebuke given to John again for bowing down and worshipping before an angel. "And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God."
We have just covered every time the word "worship" is mentioned in the New Testament. It mentions not one public service where they worshipped, not one formal worship, not anything like the average formal church does on Sunday morning-no anthems, no "Gloria Patri," no "Sevenfold Amen," no liturgy, no high-church public service.
The Church Assembled for Things Other Than Worship
Though worship was a private matter and not a public matter, we nevertheless are commanded to assemble ourselves together as God's people. Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
According to the New Testament, the public meetings were for strength for God's people, for fellowship, for the taking of the Lord's Supper, for praying, for studying the Bible, for praise, etc. The soul winning was to be done publicly and from house to house. The worshipping was to be done alone, and the church assembled for the aforementioned reasons.
When formal worship is substituted for the real purpose of the assembly, Christians do not get strengthened, encouraged, exhorted or motivated to do the main task of the church, and that is to carry out the Great Commission, which is soul winning. To that end, formal worship becomes an enemy of soul winning!
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