Worship is a central, universal part of the human experience. From our hearts, we know that there is a God who should be worshiped.
Pagan worship typically leads to license and debauchery. It’s no wonder that in most paganism sexual immorality is associated with the worship of their gods. You find this in pagan festivals all over the world today, and throughout history.
In worshiping the God of Scripture, we worship the one true and living God who differentiates Himself from the jealous, lustful, capricious gods of the pagans.
In worship, we become like that to which we offer our devotion. If your worship leads you to immorality and selfishness, then you’re not worshiping the right God, the one true God.
Prayer vs. Pagan Utterances
In the New Testament all true worship begins with the confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) It is the ultimate confession.
When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he addressed problems related to believers who had left their thinking aside. He reminded them that there is no such thing as Christian worship that is devoid of the mind. It is the Spirit of God, the presence of God in us and in our midst as we worship, that exhorts us to right and truthful worship.
When Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer He told them,
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
The disciples would have recognized this reference to pagan babbling, the ecstatic screaming and utterances that are so often a part of pagan worship.
For more about the Lord’s Prayer, read “How to Better Understand the Lord’s Prayer.”
Paul was also aware of the pagan ecstatic utterances that had no interpretation:
I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
He reminded the Christians in Corinth that worship must be conducted in an orderly way:
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Corinthians 14:29)
In other words, if a prophet speaks, let the church as a body, or the others in the teaching office of prophecy, decide whether what was said was in line with Christian teaching.
Sound Doctrine and Right Worship
Just because someone claims that a teaching is true doesn’t mean it is true; it must be measured by all the standards of sound doctrine. That’s why Paul begins this section of 1 Corinthians with the notion, “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Jesus Himself in the gospel of John also taught that the Spirit bears witness to Christ. (John 15:26) That’s the beginning of all proper worship.
Worship is declaring the worthiness of the God who has revealed Himself through Jesus. He is worthy, and His worth-ship means that we ought to offer Him our devotion. He is the Creator, we are the creatures. In offering Him the worship He is due, we begin truly to become the people that He has made us to be. When we fail to give God thanks and to acknowledge God as God, we are in danger of falling into debauchery and evil of every description.
To read more about worship, read my blog, “This is Why We Worship.”
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered on July 14, 2013 at Kingsland Baptist Church. A video of his original remarks may be viewed here.