O Worship the King 

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs 

The technique used by many liberals in attempting to discount sacred scripture as authoritative and substitute human opinion or subjective feeling as a standard is to create a quagmire of confusion. This is sometimes done by appealing to little known authors of antiquity, or to wrongheaded scholarship, or fuzzy thinking presented as logic. Whatever the scheme the end result is doubt that leads to unbelief - and unbelief is the bowels of liberalism. 

The presentation will be shot through with expressions like "in my opinion ... it seems to me ... this suggests ... it appears that possibly ... it could have been." Usually the person offering his far out and unique inventions, will speak in a manner that leaves the impression that he is an authority in his own right and will hand down decisions as if they came from the summit of Sinai. He becomes an oracle seeking to displace the divine oracle. 

Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Clement and Tertullian were not inspired and what they wrote does not surpass scripture. It may or may not be interesting to read their writing and consider their reasoning, but they are set aside when what they say contravenes revelation. You can go to heaven and never read anything these "early church fathers" may have written, but you cannot go to heaven without the sanctifying truth of God's Word (John 17:17). 

The same thing goes for theologians of every age. I don't care how bright they are, or how curious their pronouncements, if what they say does not agree with God's Word, they are wrong and the Bible is right. The Bible is clear, concise, and understandable. Still, it is possible for one to take plain statements of inspired revelation and wrest them to his own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). Some folks seem to make a career out of perverting the gospel. 

Worship is rife for wresting by those who seek to deprecate truth and cause distraction. The liberal game winds up in a pretentious bog generating doubt and disbelief Some carriers of this mischief insist that washing feet and kissing are worship. This results in clouding the true meaning of worship and corrupting its purity. The befuddled reasoning goes something like this: We [churches of Christ] are inconsistent because we do not practice the holy kiss but refuse to play the fiddle in our worship services. In the brain of the advocate of this view this somehow justifies the piano in worship of God. It is a tortuous trail to adulterated worship. 

Those who make the argument are disingenuous because they do not practice the holy kiss nor foot washing in worship, neither do they insist the congregations where they attend do so. If the holy kiss is an item of worship (strange view), as is insisted by some, then it would be sin not to do it. If one is truly convinced that holy kissing is a part of the worship of the church, how can he sit silently by and allow the congregation he attends to transgress this law of God. Basic honesty and love of right should compel such a one to press the matter until he has convinced every member of the congregation to observe the holy kiss as an item of worship. Failure to do so leaves the distinct impression that there is an ulterior motive-which is bringing the brass band into the assembly of the saints. If kissing is an item of worship then contend for it, but don't cry "inconsistency" for the purpose of perverting pure worship in song by bringing in the saxophone. To say, "Inconsistent, Inconsistent" smacks of thinking that two wrongs make a right. It is profitless hullabaloo. 

What Is Worship

Still, it is worthwhile to teach the nature of pure and undefiled worship. Those advocating kissing as worship stir a senseless agitation, but the end result may help us to be reminded of what is involved in New Testament devotions and bring profit where mischief was meant. Once we understand what worship is, the idea of either holy kiss or foot washing being a part of worship will disappear-at least it will not trouble those who are committed to doing all things in the Bible way. 

Shelly, The Second Incarnation, gives a proper and good definition of worship. In gathering up his statements we note the following: worship involves "knowing the greatness of God and the beauty of Jesus ... deliberate focusing on God ... principally intended for edification." In defining some of the Hebrew words for worship, Shelly says they mean "to serve God ... to bow down in reverence and humility before another." Of the New Testament words translated worship he says, "prostrating oneself (perhaps to kiss the ground) before the Holy God. It always denotes reverence shown to one who is superior ... to bend the knee ... to serve and signifies that God is due the devoted service of his creatures ... pious, religious.... From this survey of vocabulary words for worship, one infers that to worship God is to exalt him as the one above all others, to assign supreme worth to him.... In theological language, worship is the creature's acknowledgment of the Creator's transcendence." 

Shelly is wrong about a lot of things, but he is right about what the word "worship" means in the New Testament. 

Thayer, Strong, Vine, and Robinson agree with Shelly that the words translated worship in our English New Testament mean to concentrate on the Almighty Maker of man. The purpose and nature of worship is to exalt, laud, magnify, praise, and applaud the invisible and eternal One. It draws our attention away from earth and sets our affections on things that are above "where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." Worship is to render religious homage, to offer gifts to God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship as an expression of profound reverence. It is to make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication. 

We see the meaning of worship in the seraphim, "each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. 6:2­3). They covered their feet in humility, and their faces in reverence, and were ever ready to serve God who is high and lifted up and whose train filled the temple. 

In the heavenly scenes all is worship and is directed to and concentrates upon God. The twenty-four elders and the angels do not turn their faces away from God to worship each other. To come before the great white throne, the jasper wall, and the emerald rainbow and turn aside to greet fellow worshipers is rude. All worship, as Shelly says, focuses on God and always "denotes reverence shown to one who is superior." It is "the creature's acknowledgment of the Creator's transcendence." 

Worship is due a Supreme Being. No human can know what is due an Infinite Being, unless he is told. If a person presumes to worship God in any way God has not authorized, that person is guilty of arrogant sin and overbearing pride (1 John 1:9). That is what is wrong with trying to insert mechanical instruments and kissing into Christian worship. 

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). To worship in truth is to follow the instructions of revelation and to do so absolutely. There is no other way for God to be worshiped. To disregard his rule­book is sacrilegious and profane. To treat God's Word with contempt is to treat God with contempt. 

Worship must be only that which is due to a sovereign God. It must edify the worshiper. It must consist only of that which is clearly taught in the New Testament. 

The holy kiss is not worship. It is a greeting. Paul says so. It edifies no one. It is not something due a reigning God. It is not clearly taught in the New Testament as worship. It is all right for saints to greet one another with a holy kiss if they desire to do so, but it is not an item of worship. To say at the close of a letter, "Salute (Greet) one another with a holy kiss" is a request and not a command. It is like saying, "Give my regards to your family." The five times the holy kiss is mentioned in the New Testament it occurs at the close of an epistle. It is a salutation-a polite expression of greeting or goodwill. It is optional. It is not a command. To attempt to promote this gesture to a law and an item of worship is sophomoric. 

Foot washing is in order when it helps and benefits our fellow creature but it is not worship because, like the holy kiss, it is directed to humans and not deity. 

Singing, praying, giving, the communion, and teaching all honor God and exalt his name, edify the saints, and are clearly taught in the New Testament. To go beyond that and use an instrument to worship God, or inject a greeting of one another, such as a holy kiss, or making foot washing a condition of salvation is presumptuous arrogance, and goes beyond what is written so that the person who does so "hath not God." 

God is high and lifted up. He is majestic and separate. True worship is to honor him by carefully following the instructions of his Word and, in the process, to improve one another. We worship with a meek and quite spirit. "For ye all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; for God is not (a God) of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints" (1 Cor. 14:31­33). "Let all things be done decently and in order." 

Deep respect for God and his Word resulting in praise and adoration of the Holy One, bowing before him in humility and awe, offering gifts and making requests, this is worship. It is done with a meek and quite spirit. 

To make a circus, to center on the crowd, to create confusion and pandemonium, to feign religious ecstasy, to bark and growl, to make a show is not worship of God. It may titillate the naive and excite the untaught but it does not honor God nor improve the creature. 

In worship we emulate the heavenly host: "And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped" (Rev 5:11­14). 

O Worship the King, all glorious above, And gratefully sing his wonderful love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise. 

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Published May 1997