By: Pastor ODC
“What God has joined together, let not man put asunder!” In the nineteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel Jesus was confronted by Pharisees, who were trying to put Him to the test, concerning his stands on divorce. In response to this inquiry Jesus recites the words spoken in Genesis 2:24 – 25 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave upon his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Then Jesus goes on to add this commentary on marriage, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
God has inextricably linked the word and worship together and the two should never be separated. There is, if you would, a marriage between the proclamation of the word and the community of worship. However, many of our modern churches have unconsciously created a schism between preaching and worship. Many individuals who gather in sanctuaries throughout the country believe worship is lead by the worship leader, the praise team, and the choir but not the preacher. Some congregations have matured to recognize giving as an act of worship but do not acknowledge preaching as such. We have treated preaching as if it is something that occurs after we worship, as if it is a footnote to the worship experience, or a spiritual addendum. We correct this misguided mindset by asserting that preaching is worship! There is worship in the pulpit. Preaching is not an afterthought; it is the crescendo of worship, the pinnacle of our service! In fact no Christian worship experience is complete without the preaching of the word. It is at this moment that we hear from God and our hearts sing, “Bread of heaven, bread of heaven feed me till I want no more.” When we mount the pulpit to stand behind that sacred desk, we bow in worship proclaiming that Jesus is Lord; glory, honor, dominion, and power to the One who was, who is, and who is to come!!
The preaching of the word enlightens the worshipper’s heart and mind, which enables them to worship with the proper perspective of the triune God. Worship without the word leads to ignorance. Moreover, worship that is not based on the word is void and empty. Knowledge of God is a prerequisite to worship God. Jesus reveals this to the Samaritan woman at the well. After perceiving that Jesus was a prophet she attempts to instruct the one who deserves true worship on liturgical beliefs of the Samaritan people. Jesus turns to her and exposes the emptiness of their worship saying, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know” (John 4:22). While this is a strong, and possibly offensive, indictment by the Savior, it is an accurate one for several reasons: (1) Samaritans did not have the whole Old Testament witness. They did not accept the historical books, wisdom literature, or the books of prophecy. (2) The Samaritans’ version of the Torah differed from the Jewish Torah.
Jesus tells the woman at the well that she does not know the God of the word, whom she professes to worship, because she does not know the word of God. Then, He gives her a lecture on ecclesiology and worship, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23 – 24). Furthermore, Jesus defines what the “truth” is in the high priestly prayer He prays for us in the seventeenth chapter of John. Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, God must be worshipped in Spirit and with the truth of His word. God has married worship with His word, and what God has joined together let not man put asunder.
Today our pews are filled with biblically illiterate congregants. Subsequently, often the “worship” within the walls of our sanctuaries is based on emotions rather than the truth of who God is, as revealed in His word. This leads to people basing their worship on a “feeling” not adoration of the triune God. Worshippers often leave service with the sobering complaint, “I didn’t feel anything.” This has caused many who lead worship, as well as those who preach the gospel, to appeal to people’s emotions, subsequently pleasing the crowd rather than the God of the crowd. It swings the pendulum from worship to entertainment. While we attempt to work the crowd, arouse the crowd, and please the crowd; the crowd’s worship grows more vain and empty because “they worship what they do not know” (John 4:22). Furthermore, the crowd leaves with their “feeling” but no understanding of the feeling, no conviction of their sins, and no discernment of God’s will for their lives. I am not denying the emotional aspect of worship because worship should engage our hearts and touch our emotions. However, I question what is stimulating our emotions? Worship must engage our minds and hearts, which will touch our emotions and move our will toward His will.
We attempt to enhance our “worship” with more musicians, a more contemporary song selection, technological advancement of media and sound but all these efforts, while well intentioned, does not prove to have a lasting effect upon the hearts of the people or lead to any spiritual growth. The only way to effectively enhance true worship is through sound biblical preaching which will improve the congregation’s biblical knowledge. Preaching is an act of worship, which leads to more worship because as we preach people hear the word, believe the word, are convicted by the word, and commit their lives to the WORD (Jesus – John 1:1 – 14). Paul asks, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe on him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” It is in light of what we know about God, first through biblical preaching, then personal experience that we are able to worship more intelligently. As the hymn writer penned, “Oh the world is hungry for the living bread.” The word must be preached in order for the church to properly worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Worship will get better when preaching get better! Therefore, we must work diligently to strengthen this marriage, which will strengthen the church. Word and worship: what God has joined together let not man put asunder.