Read part I here.
Continuing from yesterday*:
…Saying that Paul’s words here should have relevance to this debate is a tough sell though. People bring up the fact that Paul spoke of “becoming all things for all men – that I might save some…”. But one should be careful not to read too much into this passage (and this popular, evangelistic preacher is a Baptist!). Likewise, one pastor/district president has suggested that in I Corinthians 14, we see “the display[ing of] the concepts of cultural sensitivity, relevancy, and love, especially for unbelievers and new Christians”, but while I am naturally inclined to sympathize with this approach, I can’t see it in the text here….**
Please hear me: to say this is not necessarily to downplay evangelism! I will admit that I think it is likely that some Bible passages – like those in Matthew 28:19-20, II Corinthians 5, and Romans 10 (regarding “the feet which bring good news”) – were written primarily with pastors in mind, or those who would continue in the stead of the apostolic ministry. Even if this is the case however, John 4:39 and 14:12, Philemon 6, I Peter 3:15,16, Philippians 2:13-16, and even Acts 4:20 make it abundantly clear that lay Christians, while not being “sent” in the exact same way as is a pastor, are still to be an essential and active part of the Church’s missionary enterprises.
But this does not necessarily mean that worship should be designed to reach out to the unbeliever (of course, we can still try to make it as understandable as possible by providing visitor guides, etc.). At the same time, this does not mean the unbeliever will not be affected by what they see in worship (see I Cor. 14 again!)! For example, Lutherans like to say that God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does. When it comes to worship, I think we should also consider that while God doesn’t need our response (to His Divine Service) our neighbor does. For instance, when we gather together for worship we certainly benefit from seeing faithful people who desire to fall at Christ’s feet, to be taught at Christ’s feet, and to receive that gift of redemptive blood which flowed from His side, hands and feet – like little children who are better at passive reception than anyone…
Not only this, it seems to me that much can be learned from the highly corporate and liturgical acts – given by God for His people to enact – that soak the pages not only of Leviticus, but the book of Revelation. Truly, heaven will be everlasting, joyful, liturgical (i.e. formal ritual) celebration! Here on earth, we may begin to experience this (as pastors like Arthur Just and Will Weedon marvelously communicate), but note the evident origins of this joy:
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:18-29)
If you attend a contemporary worship service, does this description of worship fit with what you see there?
I think we desperately need words like these, for we are not in heaven yet. How then, should we worship? (for more challenging thoughts, see this, from a Lutheran convert to Catholicism talking about Protestant worship) “Let us be thankful” indeed! Shall we not, like children eager to follow their parents, follow in this historic train – a train which I think is about grace, not law ; freedom, not bondage ; joy, not legalism (even as it is also about reverence and awe!)? If not, why not? Why?!
I only ask persons to deeply consider these words. Again, I am not saying anyone’s salvation depends on their seeing eye to eye with me. Certainly, a lack of love can destroy faith. And yet, while sometimes not loving in a certain way is sin (think Good Samaritan), other times, I must admit, there may be a variety of ways we can show love. Let us be wise and prayerful in our answer.
For more discussion:
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. (Hebrews 13:9)
In light of the words in Hebrews 12 quoted above, it is interesting to think about what it means to have an altar… what are the churches that don’t have altars saying?
* Incidently, many of the bullet points from yesterday’s post were things I have picked up from many different pastors on Issues Etc, and elsewhere – and from Pastor Sonntag’s helpful book
** It seems to me that they “…will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” as they hear the one who not only prophesies such that he “strengthen[s], encourag[es] and comforts”, but also such that unbelievers are “convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare.” I see nothing in this passage implying that the worship service ought to be designed for unbelievers.