Unity: A Key Ingredient in Worship

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell upon Me.”  …   For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  …   Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. …  Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7)

This passage is the finale, so to speak, of the picture of worship that Paul paints throughout the book of Romans.  (This column featured an overview of worship in Romans that can be found at: Worship in the Book of Romans)  We find here the goal to which this path has been leading.

  • First, we saw the focus of worship to be God and God alone, and the corruption that is a result by misplacing that worship onto idols of any kind – whether man, beast or non-living entity (Romans 1).
  • Then Abraham was presented as an example of true worship.  His worship was one of responsive obedience and an unwavering belief that God could and would do what He promised.  We referred to this as the faith of worship (Romans 4 & 5).
  • After this, the path led once again to Romans 12 and the reality of worship being both internal and external.  This is the form of worship that engulfs the whole person and the whole of daily life.

And now we come to the fellowship of worship, which ultimately signifies the wholeness and unity, not only of each person, but also of the Church, which is Christ’s body. We can examine this goal for unity in the Church in Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:13.  Paul indicates that the point of a lifestyle of worship within the Church community is to “attain to the unity of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”  Although we find this concise phrase describing the results of a healthy Church life in Ephesians, we also find this end goal for worship described in Romans 15:1-7.

Here we discover Paul using worship terminology to discuss the fellowship of Christians loving and serving one another.  He is expecting the combined Christian effort of living godly lives to issue forth in a unity of purpose and voice.  “That with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:6).  Obviously, from the perspective of the larger context, our unified “voice” is not necessarily vocal but a reflection of our daily lives of obedience and service (i.e., faith).  “The word liturgy [i.e., the service of the people] derives from the Greek leitourgia.  The Greek connotes an action through which persons come together to become something corporately which they were not as separate individuals.  It means a gathering whose unifying purpose is to serve (minister to) the world on behalf of God.”

In this pattern of the worship life, we are to be others focused.  Paul refers to our “neighbor” (15:2) and his or her needs as that which determines our activity.  He even points to Christ as an example of this outward focus (15:3).  It is clear here, and in other places, that the life of worship is one of actively serving God by serving others.  James indicates this in his epistle when he says, “Show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).  I am not saying that a vocal and community time of “worship” (i.e., a worship service) is unimportant, but that in the broad sense of the idea of worship in Scripture it is only a part.

Paul also has the expectation that we will be committed to the body of Christ, forgiving and loving one another as God forgave and loved us (15:7).  This matter of loving, forgiving, and persevering with and for one another draws the body together – it is the key to unity.  Paul says it leads to the “same mind” (15:5) with “one accord” and “one voice” (15:6).  This is unity. Unity in diversity is a hallmark of the Body of Christ.  We differ in our giftedness and abilities, yet serve toward the same purpose – bringing glory (worship) to God.

Of course, Paul reiterates the “renewal of the mind” (12:2) idea in 15:4 when he states, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  It is no accident that Paul reuses phrases and terms.  His thought is interconnected throughout Romans, and his desire is that the Body of Christ becomes a community of loving individuals unified in their service to God, and also that God would be glorified in what we do.

And so we see that worship is an integral theme within the book of Romans.  It would be unique if it only appeared here, but we can see that these concepts cross through many of Paul’s writings as well as the other writers of the New Testament – and are founded upon principles laid down in the Old Testament.  This is why it is important to think properly about worship, that we may then experience a life of worship, which encompasses the whole of our daily lives.

References
1Vigen Guroian, “Seeing Worship as Ethics:  An Orthodox Perspective” in The Journal of Religious Ethics, 334.

 

(This article has been adapted from Mark Sooy’s book: The Life of Worship: Rethink, Reform, Renew.  For a more complete discussion you can order the book at www.MarkSooy.com.)

 

(Original Post on March 24, 2014 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/21476-unity-a-key-ingredient-for-worship)

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Posted on July 14, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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