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Do not underestimate or judge

The lessons of this Sabbath School Quarterly have revolved around the theme of worship. Like almost all religious and theological issues, it is not without controversy. Among Adventists, disputes have to do with the manner of worship-with the kind of music and appropriate instruments, with the liturgical forms, with the extension of the sermons, with the joy and celebration that, according to some should be in cults and, according to others, would transform the act of worship to an act of amusement or entertainment,and so on.

There is no dispute as to the object of worship: it is God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Not much has been written, however, on the subject of worship, i.e. the person who worships God. A look at the NT allows us to reflect on this. But first, a brief consideration of what it means to worship.

What is worship? 

The word “worship” means to give a tribute, to adore. The Romans used it with a hand to mouth (adore) and throwing a kiss to the object of their worship, whether idol or statue, or a king, or a loved one. 

Worship is reverence with great respect for a being.  Worship, according to the Bible, is due solely to God (Matt. 4:10). Worship involves not only formal elements but mostly attitude. It is the attitude of the person who recognizes the presence and the nearness of God, who alone is worthy of reverence and love as the Creator and Savior. The primary obligation of human beings, then, is to worship and serve his Creator. It is therefore essential that we understand what this implies. 

Worship is the act of prostration (Greek proskyneo), i.e. to express, through words or by tilting the body or prostration, a deep respect and full submission. 

Diversity in the New Testament 

The NT gives us evidence of the diversity in early Christian worship. Some church members worshiped in a Jewish cultural context, others who did not come from Judaism, worshiped in a different way.  Of course, there were disputes: those coming from Judea required Jewish forms (Acts 15:1-2,5). The contest was not small (15:2,7). As it is today, there was “much discussion” about the “right” way of worshiping. 

How was the debate settled? First, the apostles made it clear that “God knows the heart” (Acts 15:8). Worship is a matter of inner attitude.  It is an expression of what is in the heart: respect for God, gratitude, love, admiration, joyful and voluntary submission, and so on. Thus the elders of the church, along with the Holy Spirit, decided not to force non-Jewish Christians to worship as did the Jewish Christians (15:24-28). 

Paul expresses this agreement as follows: “Was anyone called to the Christian church being a Jew? Stay a Jew. Was anyone called not being a Jew? Do not circumcise, do not play a Jew. Worship being circumcised or not, does not mean anything to be so critical, the important thing is the attitude of submission to the will of God. Each stays in the state that they were called “(1 Cor. 7:18-20, author’s translation). 

What is admirable is the attitude of acceptance of differences within the same church. Paul did not teach the Christian Jews, who were “zealous for the law” of Moses (Acts 21:20), to abandon the Jewish “customs” (21:21). But the Gentiles did not need to keep these customs (21:25). The diversity was accepted within the New Testament church. 

Despite this evidence, I do not think in today’s church disputes will cease as to the forms of worshiping and worship styles. Subjectivity is of the essence of human beings, Christians and non Christians. And that subjectivity makes everyone believe, in good faith, that she/he is right. 

What may be expected of members of the church is to learn not to condemn those who think differently. On another highly controversial issue in the church of the New Testament, Paul taught: “He who eats, do not despise him that eateth not, and who does not eat, do not judge him that eateth: for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? “(Rom. 14:3-4, emphasis in italics mine). 

Do not underestimate or judge!  Who do you think you are? 

When it comes to worshiping God, “everyone is convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). Worship is a matter of inner attitude. It is subjective by definition. And the One who knows the heart, if He sees that the worship we do is “for the Lord” (14:6), without a doubt it will be “received”.

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