God-Centered Worship

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One of the most important questions a person can ever ask is “Whom or what am I worshipping?” In Romans 1:21–23, Paul says that to worship anything or anyone other than the true God is evidence of futile thinking, a darkened heart, and the abandonment of wisdom. When fallen man — apart from Christ — is most religious, he is most rebellious.

One of God’s purposes in redeeming sinners is the recovery of His true worship (see John 4:21—24). As Christians, we count it both our duty and delight to worship the God who has saved us from our sins. But who is this God? He is the triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God into whose name we are baptized (Matt. 28:18–20) and by whose name we are blessed (2 Cor. 13:14). We do not worship three gods. We worship one God. In this one God are three distinct persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person is not a part of the one God. As Reformed theologian A.A. Hodge explains, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each equally one God, and the indivisible divine essence and all divine perfections and prerogatives belong to each [person] in the same sense and degree.” How, then, are the three persons distinct from one another? The Westminster Confession of Faith 2.3 declares, “The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” As Hodge explains, Father, Son, and Spirit “are revealed in a certain order of subsistence and of operation.”

Rightly does Louis Berkhof say that the doctrine of the Trinity is “beyond the comprehension of man.” But if it is beyond our comprehension, it is not beyond our apprehension. This God, after all, is the God we worship. If our God has revealed Himself as triune, then surely we must worship him according to his self-revelation. To do so, then, we must know what Scripture tells us about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Let us take Paul’s meditations in Ephesians 1:3–14 as our guide.

What may we say of God the Father? The Father has “blessed us” (v. 3). The Father is the source or origin of every “spiritual blessing” that you and I enjoy as believers. Further, the Father has “chosen us,” and that “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4). The Father set His electing love on us before the world was. He did this not because we were lovely or because He foresaw that we might be lovely. Rather, we were “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (v. 11). The Father, furthermore, has “in love … predestined us for adoption” (vv. 4–5). The “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has chosen us — we who were “dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1) — to be His adopted children. Blessed, chosen, adopted — reflection on these gifts, the Dutch Reformed pastor Wilhelmus à Brakel noted, “produces in the believer a childlike frame which causes the soul to sink away in humility.” Is it your goal to carry this frame each week into the public worship of God?

What may we say of God the Son? Notice how often Paul uses some form of the phrase “in Christ” in this passage — at least seven times. Scripture’s point is surely that the Father has poured out His goodness upon us in the Son. It is in union with Christ that believers experience the saving benefits that the Father has purposed for them from eternity. This Jesus — wonder of wonders — has, in our nature, shed His own blood so that we might have “redemption, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). The Son did this, Paul writes later in this let ter, because He “loved the church and gave himself up for her” (5:25). In Christ, we also have been given an eternal “inheritance” (1:11). We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Because the Father desires that His Son be glorified in the plan of redemption (see Eph. 1:10), believers have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Why, then, do we gather weekly in the public worship of God? To become more and more Christlike. Is this your goal?

What may we say of God the Spirit? The Father, Paul tells us, has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” When you see the word spiritual in your translations, you can often take your pencil and make it a capital “S”. Scripture is telling us here that the Father has granted us these blessings, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. In fact, every sinner, responding in faith to the “gospel of salvation,” is “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). The glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit is to keep and preserve us “for the day of redemption” (4:30). Thus, we may be sure that we will certainly come into full possession of our promised inheritance (1:14). The ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit strengthens and guards us until that day (see Eph. 3:16). He is a close, constant, faithful, and vigilant friend. When you gather for the public worship of God, do you realize that any profit you hope to receive will come to you by the Holy Spirit? Does this realization shape the way that you pray for yourselves and others before, during, and after public worship?

It is possible for a Christian to be Trinitarian in theory but Unitarian in practice. We serve a God whose work of salvation reveals His triune nature. As those chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and indwelt by the Spirit, let us worship in such a way as to show forth the glory of our great God.

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