Why We Do What We Do in Worship

Communion Trays

As Christians, we have an obligation to “do all in the name of the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). This means to do things by His authority (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). When it comes to the worship of the church, abiding by what has been authorized in God’s word means we will do those things that we can read about in the New Testament.

So what did the churches in the first century do when they assembled together to worship the Lord? There are five “acts” we can read about in the New Testament:

  • Singing – Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “When you assemble, each one of you has a psalm” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Elsewhere he wrote, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19; cf. Colossians 3:16). The New Testament clearly teaches that singing is to be done in the assembly. It is done “to one another,” which necessarily excludes soloists or choirs. Furthermore, only singing is mentioned – never playing instruments. Therefore, there is no authority for instrumental music, no matter how common it is in the religious world.
  • Praying – The early church “continually [devoted] themselves to…prayer” (Acts 2:42). After Peter was released from prison “he went to the house of Mary…where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12).
  • Preaching/teaching – In addition to the singing that we already noticed, Paul told the Corinthians that “teaching” was done when they assembled (1 Corinthians 14:26). When Paul met with the church in Troas, he preached “until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Clearly, time was devoted to “the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) when the church assembled.
  • Giving – Paul told the church in Corinth, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). This collection is the only means by which the church raised funds to do its work.
  • Partaking of the Lord’s Supper – Again in Troas, the church “gathered together to break bread” (Acts 20:7) – a reference to partaking of the Lord’s Supper. This was a memorial given by Jesus to remember His death on the cross (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

While many churches include other “acts” in their worship services (playing instruments, putting on dramas or plays, giving “testimonials,” etc.), there is no authority for them. We need to be content to do what has been authorized in God’s word so that we can worship the Lord in the way He desires us to worship.

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  1. Jan Patterson says

    Hi, just a small comment… just because the Lord did not mention “instuments” to guide the people in their singing, doesn’the necessarily mean anything Against them. David played instuments and worshipped his entire life. The Lord did nothing to either prevent him or chastise him for doing so. The Lord does not TELL us to go to a grocery for our food, should we not buy food when we need it?? I believe you are nit- plcking and are ridiculously taking scripture out of context. THIS is what gets so many churches at odds with each other and, consequently, gives Christians a bad name to the rest of the world.

  2. Hi Jan, thanks for your comment. This article was intentionally brief, so I didn’t go into the instrumental music question in detail. However, I have another article on this site that deals with that topic in more detail (Instrumental Music in Worship to God). I also preached on this topic this past Sunday. You can find the outline here – Singing Only?

    The example of David in the Old Testament is not parallel. Not only has the Old Law been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), but they were commanded BY GOD to worship with instruments (2 Chronicles 29:25-27). It wasn’t that God just overlooked it then, He commanded it. Yet there is no command, statement, example, or divine implication in the New Testament that would authorize it for Christians today in worship.