Answers from Heaven
Section 1 - Worship (Advanced)
(Click for Basic)
This first section of the Answers from Heaven Bible Study series deals with the idea of "Worship." It looks at who Yahweh (God) is, who we are, and why the spiritual part of one's life is just as important as the physical or mental parts. In the Bible, Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ, the Son of God) tells us that the most important instruction His Father has ever given us is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37) In order to do this, in order to truly worship Him, we must first know a few things about Him, and about ourselves.
The questions below are presented for your consideration. Included as suggestions for answers and discussion are the references to Bible verses; however, the verses themselves are not quoted here. This is so that teachers and students can look them up in whatsoever version of the Bible they prefer.
Question 1: Who is God?
Bible Verses: Jeremiah 32:27, Job 37:16, Deuteronomy 32:4, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 1:5, Psalm 99:9, Psalm 116:5, Deuteronomy 32:4, Job 36:5, Exodus 34:7, Jeremiah 29:11, 2Samuel 22:32-33, Matthew 6:26-33, John 3:16, Psalm 68:4, Isaiah 12:2, Isaiah 26:4
Notes: In many approaches to the question of who God is, three primary characteristics are listed: Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omni-benevolence. In other words, He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good (which is also used to indicate that He is perfect in His love towards us). The first three verses provided in the set above reveal that this is indeed the case.
In addition, we look at the question from a few other perspectives. The next set of verses following the initial three (1 John 4:8 to Exodus 34:7) answers the question by looking at His characteristics, those things about His nature that make Him who He is. Those immediately afterwards (Jeremiah 29:11 to John 3:16) answer the question by looking at the things that He does because of those characteristics. These verses tell us about the things He wants for us, and what He has shown us about Himself by these things.
What we discover, by looking at the total picture, is that God is loving, powerful, and full of wisdom. Because He is fair, God also punishes evil - this is for the safety and happiness of everyone that would be harmed by wrongdoing. Because of this, the "judgment of God," that many people fear, is actually a good thing for those who worship Him and avoid evil.
The final few verses (Psalm 68:4 to Isaiah 26:4) tell us the various Biblical names that God has given for us to call Him. Note that while the spellings may differ from version to version, the idea that God has a distinct identifier by which He wishes to be called can prove a blessing to those who wish to know and worship Him "by name." Creation Seventh Day Adventists prefer, but do not insist on, the name "Yahweh," or its shortened form, "Yah" (both are used in the verses from Isaiah) as the most correct pronunciation of the Hebrew terms in those verses.
Question 2: What does it mean that God is "Holy?"
Bible Verses: 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Ezekiel 44:23, Hebrews 7:26, Leviticus 10:10, Leviticus 20:26, Leviticus 19:2, Exodus 3:5
Notes: The word "Holy" appears many times in the Bible. What does it mean? This is an important question since, based on the verses for question 1, we are told that the reason we should worship God is because He is Holy. In the verses above, we see that this has to do with separation from evil, and from impurity. We also see that if we are worshippers of God, we also are considered "holy," and therefore to be separate from these things as well.
The last verse in the list above, Exodus 3:5, is actually the first use of the term in the Bible. It shows that even the land near which the Almighty appears is "holy," set apart for His purposes. There is a sacred respect that humanity is to have toward holiness, and it indicates a number of vital themes: consecration, reverence, and unity. Although Moses is told to discard his shoes in a show of worship, he was nevertheless called to that place to meet with Yahweh, and to experience His glory.
Question 3: Why are we told to worship God?
Bible Verses: Psalm 138:2, Psalm 43:4, Psalm 28:7, 1 Chronicles 16:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Psalm 29:2, Psalm 96:9, John 4:23-24
Notes: Some people have asked, "If God is so powerful and mighty, why does He need people to worship Him?" As the verses above show, the true blessings of worship are for those who offer it. By acknowledging the glory of God, we gain joy as well as moral and spiritual strength. Worship transforms us into more spiritual beings, as our Father intends. As we behold Him with spiritual sight through the act of worship, we ourselves draw closer to glory, and partake of His divine spirit and nature.
A term that often appears with relation to mankind's experience of Yahweh is that of "fear" (such as in Psalm 96:9). A good person is called "God-fearing," which indicates not a carnal terror, but rather a deep and overwhelming respect for God's power and greatness. We worship Yah, because His Person is the utmost reality of all that mankind ought to praise, and a large part of the Gospel, or the "Good news" about Him, is that He has invited us to partake of, and become reflections of, His character.
Question 4: How do we know that God loves us?
Bible Verses: Psalm 116:5, Deuteronomy 10:18, Hebrews 13:5, John 15:13, John 10:18, Hebrews 12:6, 1 John 4:16-19, Revelation 1:4-5, Isaiah 42:8, John 17:5, John 17:22-23
Notes: Biblical love is more than just an emotion. It is a commitment. It is an active, living presence, and it shows itself in words and actions. The greatest of the actions that show love is that of "sacrifice," and the verses above show us that God has sacrificed more than we can understand in order to bring us close to Him. We love Him, and offer Him worship, because He first loved us, and showed us how.
The last three passages listed above (Isaiah 42:8 - John 17:22, 23) reveal something very special. First, we see that God does not share His glory with "another," and yet He shares it with His Son, who in turn shares it with us. This, more than few other Biblical teachings, shows that our Father wishes to share a powerful spiritual unity (oneness) with us, a supreme kind of love for which there is no real equivalent in human relationships.
Question 5: What does the death of Yahshua (Jesus Christ) have to do with the worship of God?
Bible Verses: Matthew 16:16, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, 1 Peter 5:10-11, Acts 4:10-12, Acts 2:36-42, Colossians 1:27
Notes: When Yahshua, the Son of God, surrendered Himself to death for mankind's sake, this was the clearest revelation of the character of the Father that the universe had ever witnessed. Because of this reconciling act of love, those who heard and believed these things were converted to Christianity. They became followers of this Savior, who was crucified and then raised back to life, and who teaches us to worship His Father because of His great love.
Some have asked, "Why, if Adam sinned, must all mankind pay the price?" The answer is because the beliefs and actions of a leader (particularly a spiritual leader) change those who are under his authority, even if they are unaware of this alteration to their spiritual state. This is a principle that has become known as "corporate accountability," and it has many applications to both doctrine and prophecy. In Acts 2, for example, the audience of Peter's sermon was composed of "devout men," (verse 5) who were individually innocent of Jesus' death. Nevertheless, because they were under the headship of the Sanhedrin - and ultimately under the headship of Adam - they were responsible for His crucifixion, since Christ offered Himself up specifically to redeem us from the natural fate of mankind.
Accepting this sacrifice on our behalf provides us with a way to reconnect with our Heavenly Father, to become representatives of His righteousness on earth, and to escape the corporate guilt, the spiritual change, that results from having been a child of Adam. We obtain the "hope of glory," the individually-gained, but corporately-experienced, salvation of our new Spiritual Leader - Christ Himself, the "last Adam." (1Corinthians 15:45) Generally speaking, human beings are responsible for the spiritually-significant actions of their leaders, and this is a principle that will appear again and again as the message of the Bible becomes clearer (e.g., Isaiah 9:15-16, 1Corinthians 15:22).
Question 6: Why do we need the sacrifice of Christ?
Bible Verses: Colossians 1:16-17, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Isaiah 53:4-11, 1 John 4:9-10, Romans 3:23-26, Hebrews 9:27-28, Galatians 2:20
Notes: Sin, to give a very basic definition, is a state of being that separates us from God. The result of this is death for the sinner, because God is also the source of our life. As the Colossian verses explain, it is only the power of God through Christ that keeps the universe together, and sin is that destructive force that would disrupt this.
Because all have committed sin, Christ's perfect life is offered as "propitiation," (KJV) or "expiation," (RSV) which means a payment, or an appeasement. By accepting Christ as our substitute, we may be reconciled unto God, and brought once again into harmony with His original plan for mankind: to be everlasting and joyful creatures.
There is a common error, in many forms of Christianity, that Christ's death cleanses the sins of mankind "both past and present." However, as the verses from Romans 3 indicate, the sacrifice of Yahshua is specifically applied to "sins that are past." One might rightly ask, then, "What appeases God for the sins that the believer WILL commit?" The answer, clearly stated - but rarely believed - is that the sinner, saved by grace, no longer commits those things worthy of death. (1 John 3:9) Accepting the death of Christ also leads to accepting the life of Christ. As the last verse listed above indicates, the life of the convert is truly the life of Christ, lived out again in this present flesh.
Question 7: Why do we need the resurrection of Christ?
Bible Verses: 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, Romans 5:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Romans 6:4
Notes: Being forgiven for sin is only the beginning of the Christian journey. Following that is a process of growth called "sanctification." Thereafter, seeing loved ones whom we have lost being resurrected in the Day of Judgment, and being taken to glory ourselves, these are scenes that the apostles instruct us to look for with eager anticipation.
Because Christ was raised back to life, we know that death is not the end for humanity. We know that resurrection to life without end is the result of a faithful earthly experience, both for those who have passed away, and those who remain alive and faithful when He returns to establish His kingdom.
While this life lasts, the resurrection of Christ is the promise of things to come, and the example of the glory to which we are called in our daily conduct. In the Book of 1 Corinthians, Christ is called the "Firstfruits." This is an Old Testament term referring to the first and best portion of the Spring harvest. It was to be presented before the Temple of Yahweh on the third day after the Passover, (Leviticus 23:5-11) a prophetic symbol that Yahshua perfectly fulfilled by rising on "the morrow after the Sabbath" following His crucifixion.
Here again we see an application of the "corporate accountability" principle. Just as all men have come under the shadow of death in Adam, so all may come into the light of life in Christ. Conversion to true, Biblical Christianity is not merely a matter of acknowledging Christ's sacrifice for us. It is accepting His life for ours and placing ourselves under His spiritual headship both individually and as a spiritual community, i.e., the "Church." (Ephesians 5:23) The resurrection of Christ confirms, rather than denies or invalidates, the need for the Church covenant represented by the New Testament Scriptures. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Question 8: What should our response be to the love of God as demonstrated by the Cross?
Bible Verses: Acts 2:36-37, Deuteronomy 7:9, John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, 2 John 1:6, Deuteronomy 5:29, Matthew 5:17-19, Rom 13:9
Notes: Some of the verses from the second chapter of Acts are repeated here, this time to examine the reactions of those who had heard about the crucifixion of Christ. We also see, in connection with the love of God, several verses that speak about obedience to His commandments. If an imperfect human being said to us, "Prove you love me by obeying what I say," we might have cause to be concerned. However, because of who God is (See Question 1) we know that His character is that of wisdom and love. We trust, then, that the instructions He gives us are for our own great blessing, as the verse in Deuteronomy 5 makes clear. In this way our obedience is a demonstration of our trust in Him, an important aspect of worship.
Some have said that the Old Testament commandments apply to earthly Israel, while the New Testament contains a different set of "commandments" for Christians. However, Christ's teachings (e.g., in the Matthew 5 verses) do nothing but reaffirm the importance of the words given to Moses on Sinai, and the reinforcing words of the various prophets that followed him. In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul quotes the first few commandments, and then says that all may be "briefly comprehended," by loving our neighbors as ourselves. The phrasing used, indicating that this is a summary of the commandments, certainly does not mean that their particulars may be ignored because their principles may be summarized as an expression of love. As the Savior said, "all the Law and the prophets" hang on the instructions to love our Heavenly Father, and our neighbors as ourselves.
Our response to the love of our Father, as demonstrated by the cross, is loving and faithful obedience to those things designed to bring us ever-closer to the unity that the Father and Son desire with faithful believers.
Question 9: How do we worship God?
Bible Verses: Psalm 28:7, Psalm 33:1, Psalm 100:4, Ephesians 5:19, John 4:24, Isaiah 66:23, Zechariah 14:16, John 13:35, James 1:26-27, James 2:22, Romans 10:4-10
Notes: The worship of God can be expressed in many ways. Songs of praise, testimonies of thanksgiving, and a dedication to truth and integrity are examples. Participation in times appointed for worship (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) also forms an important part of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
As the verse from John's Gospel reveals, those who are Disciples of Christ, following His example of life and faith, are known to be His because of their love for one another.
Additionally, the Apostle James gives us a very practical view of "religion," which is another way of expressing worship toward God. He tells us that kindness toward others, defense of the needy, and maintaining purity of life are examples of true worship.
In many forms of Christianity, it is thought that works are unimportant. Despite these opinions of men, however, the Scriptures are clear that true religion reveals itself in works, and in fact, true faith is strengthened, and "made perfect" by its expression in the real world through loving, consistent acts of righteousness.
The passage in Romans 10 is often misunderstood. Some have taken it to mean that "Christ is the end of the Law," and that thereafter confession and belief have become the "works" that save humanity. However, the passage actually tells us that "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness," meaning that it is He, and not the Law, that provides justification for mankind. It does not indicate that the Law has been "ended" in Christ for the purpose of revealing the will of God for mankind; this would be contrary to His own words in Matthew 5:17. Furthermore, conversion is not merely saying the words, but also believing in the heart - and that "unto righteousness." The word for righteousness indicates (according to Strong's Concordance, entry G1343) not only a doctrinal understanding, but "integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting." This is clearly more than just a theoretical or "spiritual" state of righteousness, but one that proves the words of the Apostle John, who tells us plainly, "let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous." (1 John 3:7) Worshipping God "in spirit and in truth" involves an entire change of the being, a resolute turning from both spiritual and practiced evil, and a belief in the heart "unto righteousness" in all aspects of one's life.
Question 10: Is worship designed only for special occasions, or particular days?
Bible Verses: Philippians 4:4, Psalm 16:8, Luke 18:1, Galatians 4:18, Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 6:18, Isaiah 66:23, Hebrews 10:22-25
Notes: For some, the concept of "worship" does not occur to them outside of weekly religious meetings, or when praying in times of trouble. The mark of a faithful servant of Yahweh is consistency in the way that faith is applied to life.
There is never a "wrong" time to rejoice in the Almighty, to be thankful to Him, or to call Him to mind. Paul tells us in Romans 1:28 that those who do neglect to retain Yahweh in their minds fall prey to all kinds of temptations.
This does not, of course, lessen the importance of formal occasions of worship. As we read in the Isaiah passage, and those that follow it in the list above, organized worship is a permanent aspect of the religion of Yahweh. Thus, while there is no "wrong" time for worship, there are also "appointed" times during which worship activities are particularly appropriate. If, as believers, we are to "let all things be done decently and in order," (1 Corinthians 14:40) how much more should this apply to the aspects of our relationship with the Almighty One? Fellowship, unity, and commonality in belief, these are characteristics that will clearly mark the Church of Christ in every generation, "and so much the more, as ye see the day [of His return] approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
Question 11: Why doesn't everyone worship God?
Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 2:14, John 3:19, 1Timothy 1:5-7, Acts 20:30, 2 Peter 2:18-20
Notes: Because God is holy, and therefore separate from sin, those who desire sin, and who do not want to obey the instructions that God has given to us for our benefit, avoid Him. They do not like to think about Him, or talk about Him, and they sometimes become angry when others do. They will often try to come up with arguments that deny the presence of Yahweh, or the reality of His desire for us to lead pure, faithful lives.
Sometimes, the worst enemies of the Biblical faith are former Bible students, or even present ones who do not understand the message that It reveals. This is why it is important to judge people's words, not by their reputation, age, or experience, but by their agreement with the Word of God.
Question 12: Does the Bible provide words of insight for those interested in learning more about worship?
Bible Verses: 2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 4:5, Isaiah 12:2, Hebrews 10:23, Titus 1:1-2, 2 Peter 3:13, Jude 1:24-25, 2 Corinthians 7:1
Notes: One of the clearest messages that the Bible provides is that God is worthy of our trust. He loves to promise us great things, and then to fulfill those promises in ways even greater than we had imagined.
Among the greatest of promises that God has given to mankind is that of freedom from sin, and everlasting life as a result of this freedom. He has begun to fulfill that promise even in this life, by drawing us near to Him and keeping us from falling, a divine truth that we affirm whenever we worship in His name.
As we have seen in the questions and answers of this section, worship is not merely a set of acts. It is a heart-level response to God's love, and a transformation of the life that will reflect His characteristics, bringing glory to His name through our testimony. A commitment to "holiness," which involves the steadfast avoidance of sin, is sadly missing from the definition of worship in many religious traditions. Nevertheless, those who purpose in their hearts to worship the Father "in spirit and in truth" will - through the sanctifying power of Christ - advance in the faith, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Here are some questions that a teacher may ask a Bible student in order to facilitate a discussion on the major topics of this section. By telling of their own experiences, and giving their testimony, Bible teachers can use these to guide the conversation toward the upcoming chapters of the study series.
Note that these do not have to be taken in order, and not all need to be asked. The conversation should be natural, free, and with the purpose of discovering the needs of the student that the Biblical faith can meet.
1) Do you believe that studying the Bible can teach you more about God, and how to serve Him?
2) What has been your experience with worship in the past?
3) Has your previous religious experience left you fulfilled?
4) If it has not, why do you think that is?
5) Are you thankful for the life that God has given you?
6) Do you believe that God is happy with the life that you are living now?
7) Would you like to be sure that your life is pleasing to God?