BIBLICAL KEYS TO WORSHIP
The People of Worship
This is the fifth in a series of articles exploring worship from the standpoint of the classic Pentecostal. The first article established that Pentecostal worship is trans-cultural and trans-generational. Pentecostal worship is worship led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The second article began an exploration of the biblical foundations of worship with the "spirit and truth" teachings of Jesus and the Lord's response to our worship is found in Psalm 22:3. The third article explored Romans 12:1, 2 and Hebrews 13:15, 16 as The Sacrificial Nature of Worship. The music of worship was the subject of the fourth article based on the verses in Ephesians and Collosians calling for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Now it is time to look to the Scriptures to understand the people of worship--The Holy-Royal Priesthood.
The People of Worship
I Peter 2: 4,5,9
As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him---you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Pet 2:4-5,9-10 (NIV)
Who are the people of worship? Who are the True Worshipers the Father is seeking? Has He found them? Of all those earthlings who gather in houses of worship and send prayers and praises skyward, who among them is getting through? Our Pentecostal history is the story of people who got through to God. They found biblical ways to sing and pray that brought them before the Throne of Majesty. The connected with the Holy Spirit and God's power flowed through them producing signs and wonders that confirmed a Word preached in power. Is this just history or is there a "people " today who are getting through with their worship? Of course there is, but the designation of those people is not denominational or otherwise humanly discerned. God responds to people who minister to Him with the Sacrifice of Praise regardless of the sign on their church door or the membership card in their wallet or purse.
One of the most important functions of True Worship is the building of group and individual identity. Paul makes in clear in I Corinthians 12-14 that the Holy Spirit is dealing with the whole church, not just individuals who happen to meeting together. Peter is determined to help us see who we are in God. Look at his catalog of identities: lively stones, a spiral house, a holy priesthood, a chosen generation (race), a royal priesthood, a dedicated (holy) nation, God's own purchased people, (for God's own possession). (1 Peter 2) The Apostle is using every means possible to try and communicate how important we are in the world. Our people don't know this. From the media one would think that government officials, sports figures and stars of the entertainment world are the most important people on the planet. But the Word tells us that among all the nations of the earth, and within every strata of every society that has been evangelized there is a people who have the attention of heaven's reporters and broadcasters. These people are not identified by eye shape, skin color, economic power, ethnic eccentricity, language, or intellect. They are known by their love for their God and for each other. The work of their hands and the words of their mouths, and the meditation of their hearts set them apart as people in the world but no of it, citizens of another kingdom, and subjects of another king. Wherever you find them you find truth and peace and goodness and mercy for these are the personality traits of the their king. These people elevate the standard of living in every nation of the world. They bring the healing presence of their king to the hurting places of the world. And their numbers are growing on every continent of the globe. More than 30 million of them are Pentecostal. Let's look at each of the terms Peter used and grow in our understanding of who we are in God.
Lively stones; a spiritual house. Jesus is the cornerstone but we are rocks too, rocks of praise that make a spiritual house. In this spiritual house we offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. We are the people of God because we are His dwelling place. He dwells in our buildings because we are in our buildings. We are his habitation by His Spirit. In reality we don't come to church--we carry "church" with us everywhere we go. The nature of the spiritual house is not carnal and cannot be administrated by the arm of the flesh if it is to be God's dwelling place!
A Holy Priesthood. Every New Testament believer must come to see himself as a priest unto the Lord. When we gather to worship we become the Holy Priesthood. That is why our corporate spiritual sacrifices are so important and so powerful. We are priests unto the Lord of Hosts! This truth extends beyond the worship service to daily life. Just as the Old Testament priests bore the Ark of God on their shoulders, we carry Him with us every day. We can do this because the Blood of Jesus has made us holy. Just as King David could not bring up the Ark with the finest new cart his kingdom could produce, neither can our finest efforts bring the blessing of God. We are made holy by His decree. The Amplified Version adds "dedicated, consecrated" to the description of this priesthood. We are holy because he has made us so; His Spirit has consecrated us to God's service.
A chosen generation (race). The word generation makes us think of time, but the real meaning here is race. Just as God chose Israel to be His chosen nation and the tribe of Levi to be the priestly tribe, He has chosen His blood-bought church to be His people. This is a spiritual race and not one of the flesh. We are chosen to come before the presence of the King to worship and serve Him. All the privileges of the High priests are our privilege. No wonder the writer to the Hebrews tells us to "draw near"!
A Royal Priesthood. We are set apart for use by the King--royal priests! To me this is a deepening of the "holy" aspects of our priesthood. We are made holy by His blood and we are made royal by decree. He has called us to His side to work with Him. There were many holy priests in Old Testament times, but not many were called to the courts of the King, to know the king's heart and to share His plans. But, we have been! Jesus said He wouldn't call us servants, but friends. How incredible! We are friends of the King! We can only wonder at the intimacy He desires to have with us. At Mt. Sinai, God intended that the whole nation of Israel would be a kingdom of priests unto Him. But when the golden calf captured their hearts, God appointed the tribe of Levi. What God intended at Mt. Sinai, he has accomplished at Mt. Calvary. Now, we, the church, are a kingdom of priests unto Him!
A holynation. We are a nation whose borders are truth. We live within the boundaries of the revealed Word of God. Our identity is a heart of integrity. Our language is the truth of the ages. Our actions speak truth as well, as do our choices, our plans, ambitions and dreams. Our defenses are those of the Spirit, a breastplate of righteousness, a shield faith, a belt of truth, a helmet of salvation and feet protected by good news that has been thoroughly rehearsed. Our offensive weapons are deadly to spiritual opponents and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Our citizenship is registered by a heavenly census known only to the heart of God.
God's own purchased people. We belong to each other because we each belong to Him. He has bought us at the highest cost, the value of the human soul--Calvary! How possessive He is of us and rightly so! How amazing that He lets us go our own way, never violating our personal liberty! How precious we are to Him and how it must please Him when we take time to minister to Him. He has extended Himself to us in every way and when we extend ourselves to Him in worship, He always responds with His presence and His sovereignty.
Called out of darkness to proclaim the excellencies of Him. The purpose of the people of God is the praise of God. He has reached deep into our personal darkness and brought us into the healing light of His truth and His presence so that we might proclaim His glory to the world. That is what a worship service is about--proclaiming His excellencies. His glory is reflected in the excellence of our music and the integrity of our hearts. We, the People of God---the People of Praise, are the portal through which eternal glory shines into the darkness of this world.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. No other nation has been formed like this one. These words of the Apostle Peter express a life-changing truth, a worship-transforming concept. As members of the Blood-bought church, we are the people of God. We are not God's people because we look alike, or like the same music, or even because we understand each other. We are His people, His Holy Nation, His purchased possession because He has bought us with the price of His very life. Unlike any other group on the earth, our "people-hood" is not based on race or culture. Our nationality is based in the mind of God and in our response to His call to follow him. We are not a nationality recognizable by language or appearance. Yet through the astounding grace of God, we have become a people who speak a common language of truth, love, and peace and who shine with an inner glow that is the countenance of an indwelling Savior.
When our people gather to worship, they cease to be only secretaries and executives, teachers and students, bosses and employees, teachers and students, old and young, even male and female. Our primary identity is this--We are the People of God. And the People of God are a people of praise.
Article published with permission:
Word of Life International Church
D.Wendel Cover, Sr. Pastor