Summary: Here are five principles of public worship that are important for our understanding of worship.
Our text today is simply a background for what I have to say. I would like to draw your attention to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The church at Corinth had a number of difficulties. One area in which they were having difficulty was public worship. Their Order of Worship was in reality a Disorder of Worship. Anyone who wanted to do so sang or spoke in tongues or interpreted, and so on. It was chaotic and confusing. So Paul gave a general principle in 1 Corinthians 14:40: Worship must be done decently and in order.
Let’s see how Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40:
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:26-40)
God created the world and everything in it for his own glory. However, mankind fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, and ever since that time we have struggled to worship God properly. In fact, Paul tells us in the first chapters of his letter to the Romans that our foundational sin is idolatry. We constantly exchange the glory of God for a lie, and we worship and serve created things instead of our Creator.
When the Spirit of God regenerates us, he also puts into our souls a desire to worship our Redeemer. However, that desire needs to be guided by the word of God. If it is not guided by God’s word, it will lead to all kinds of error.
I would like to set down five principles of public worship that are important for our understanding of worship.
I. Internal Worship Is Distinct from External Worship
The first principle of public worship is that internal worship is distinct from external worship.
If you fail to grasp the distinction between the two, then your public worship will be hindered.
Let me distinguish internal and external worship for you.
Internal worship refers to the inner attitudes of the heart and mind while engaged in worship. It refers to the subjective feelings in your heart while worshipping. Internal worship has to do with your spirit, and only you and God know if you are truly worshipping. Internal worship is not perceived by the five senses and other people cannot judge whether or not you are actually engaged in internal worship.
External worship, on the other hand, refers to the outward acts of worship that are composed of what you say or do while engaged in public worship. Unlike internal worship, external worship is perceivable by the senses. Therefore, others can see and judge what you are doing. External worship also refers to the forms, liturgies, orders of service, and so on, which comprise the sensible parts of public worship.
II. Internal Worship Is the Essence of True Worship
The second principle of public worship is that internal worship is the essence of true, biblical worship.
Internal worship is absolutely essential. Internal worship has to do with the essence of worship while external worship has to do with the form, or outward acts, of worship.
Scripture makes it crystal clear that God is more concerned with your attitude, or your heart, while engaged in worship than with what you do or say.