(This is the second in a series on the Church and Discipleship. The lecture and prior lessons can be found here: http://calvarybiblechurch.org/site/default.asp?sec_id=180007745 The prior entry can be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/discipleship-and-the-church-introduction/)
The Church is Doxological: It is the Place Where God is Praised.
Metaphorically, then, the church, as the temple of God, experiences his manifest presence as it gathers together in God’s name and on the basis of forgiveness obtained through his sacrifice, to engage in giving the God of glory the great praise and honor due his name.
I. God Must be Praised
A. God is to be praised for his creation.
1. The creation exists to praise God. Psalm 19:1.
2. God saw his creation was “good”. Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25. In 1:31, God sees that his creation is “very good.”
3. The “morning stars” praise God’s creation. Job 38:7.
4. God is praised in heaven for his work of creating and sustaining the universe. Revelation 4:12; Psalm 95:1-6; Psalm 100; Psalm 104.
5. The creation itself praises God. Psalm 89:11-12.
B. God is to be praised for sovereignty over all of human life. Psalm 105; 113.
1. For his judgment. Psalm 75; Psalm 76:76:7-11.
2. For his deliverance. Exodus 15:1-2; Psalm 3, 4, 77, 116; 1 Chronicles 16:8_11; Isaiah 63:7-9.
C. God is to be praised by all people. Psalm 117; Romans 15:8-13.
II. Therefore, God is most especially to be praised in the Church.
A. In the OT, the congregation was called to praise God: Psalms 78, 134.
B. The coming of Jesus into the world was marked by praise.
1. Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55.
2. Zechariah’s prophecy. Luke 1:67-79.
3. The angels at Jesus’ birth. Luke 2:14.
4. The shepherds. Luke 2:20.
5. Simeon. Luke 2:26-32.
6. Anna. Luke 2:38.
C. Jesus will be praised by all for his work of salvation.
1. Philip. 2:5-11.
2. Revelation 5:9-10
D. The Church begins and flourishes in praise of God.
1. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Acts 2:11. See also Acts 10:46.
2. Praise was among the first acts of the gathered church. Luke 24:52-53; Acts 2:27.
3. The continued work of the Spirit through the church brought praise. Acts 3:9, 4:21.
4. The Church (first through the apostles) witnesses to the death, exaltation and return of Jesus. Acts 5:31-32; 1 Corinthians 11:26.
5. The Church exhibits praise in every place. Acts 16:25; cf. Psalm 138.
6. The work of God in salvation from sin brings praise. Acts 16:34
7. Each letter of the NT begins (and most end) with explicit praise of God’s work in Jesus Christ.
E. The Church is a work intended for God’s glory.
1. Ephesians 1:12.
2. The Church is a temple and thus the place of God’s praise and worship. Ephesians 2:21-22
3. The Church is being built as the place to offer God sacrifice. 1 Peter 2:4-5.
4. The purpose of the Church to bring God glory. 1 Peter 2:9, 12.
G. The Church thus exists as a witness to the world of the glory of God. 1 Peter 2:12; 3:15; 4:4-5.
The New Testament church met together for a specific purpose. Paul urges his readers that whatever they do, they should “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Therefore, the church exists to glorify God. Everything the church does should be done with the purpose of glorifying God and exalting Christ. At the same time, however, Paul emphasizes the need for believers to be edified because he that when believer were edified or built up, then God receives glory (1 Cor 12). There are at least five main ways this purpose is accomplished. First, the church glorifies God through worship which involves reading and preaching God’s word (1 Cor 1:23-24; Col. 4:6; 1 Tim 4:2), praying (1 Tim 2:8), singing (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16-17), taking a collection (1 Cor 16;22; 2 Cor 9:612) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:17-34). Second, the church glorifies God through fellowship, which includes bearing one another’s burden (Gal 6:2; see also Acts 2:42; Heb 10:24-25). Third, the church glorifies God through discipleship , which includes equipping all believers (Eph 4:11-12) and training new leaders (1 Tim 2:2). Fourth, the church glorifies God through service, which includes using one’s spiritual gifts (1 Tim 4:14). Finally the church glorifies God through evangelism and missions. Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) and Paul expected the churches he planted to share the good news with others.
III. How must this be known in Church?
A. By direct instruction.
1. The Church must know that it is the temple of God. 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16.
2. The Church must know that it must be a place of praise and worship toward God. Phil. 4:4.
3. The proclamation of Jesus as Lord:
a. It was at the very heart of the earliest Christian proclamation: Acts 2:36, 5:42, 9:22, 10:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:28.
b. One must make such a proclamation to even a be Christian. Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-13.
B. By demonstration and imitation. Colossians 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:30-33.
C. Their [the first Christians’] ‘worship’ was a way of life with Jesus at its centre. Thus, Paul describes his ministry and preaching and teaching about the Lord Jesus at Ephesus as a way of ‘serving the Lord’ ([Acts]20:19, used the verb doulein)” (Peterson, Engaging With God, 150).
D. All of the actions of the Church gathered must be understood in the context of praise and worship of God:
From Romans 12-15 it is clear that the acceptable worship involves effective ministry to one another within the body of Christ, maintaining love and forgiveness towards those outside the Christian community, expressing right relationships with ruling authorities, living expectantly I the light of Christ’s imminent return, and demonstrating love especially towards those with different opinions with the congregation of Christ’s people. (Peterson, 178).
Thus, a rightfully worshipping and praising Church will necessarily be in the business of making disciples by proclamation (as shown by how we must live toward unbelievers) and how we live with one-another.
IV. Counseling Implications
A. If the Church (most especially) must worship God rightly, then the great danger is idolatry (false worship).
1. The failure to rightly give God thanks and praise lies at the heart of human rebellion. Romans 1:18-25.
2. Consider the example of the Thessalonian congregation:
a. The movement of their salvation was from idols to worship of the true God. 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
b. It was a movement which resulted in their joy. 1 Thessalonians 1:6.
c. This movement leads to a transformation of one’s life: “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18.
3. Christians must “flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
4. John charges the Christians, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
5. Paul calls any deviation from right understanding of Christ’s saving work (– think of this is both saving and a creating, 2 Corinthians 5:17), “a different gospel – not there is another one” (Galatians 1:6b-7a).
6. There is a great deal we will later say about idolatry (because idolatry is one important way to understand the trouble of the human heart). At this time, we should see the very work of praise – of worshiping the right God in the correct manner is the cure of this root of sin. Thomas Watson explains it well.
Use two. It sounds a retreat in our ears. Let it call us off from idolizing any creature, and lead us to renounce other gods, and cleave to the true God and his service. If we go away from God, we know not where to mend ourselves.
(1) It is honorable to serve the true God. “To serve God is to reign.” It is more honor to serve God, than to have kings serve us.
(2) Serving the true God is delightful. “I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.” Isa 56:7. God often displays the banner of his love in an ordinance, and pours the oil of gladness into the heart. All God’s ways are pleasantness, his paths are strewed with roses. Prov 3:17.
(3) Serving the true God is beneficial. Men have great gain here, the hidden manna, inward peace, and a great reward to come. Those who serve God shall have a kingdom when they die, and shall wear a crown made of the flowers of paradise. Luke 12:32; 1 Pet 5:4. To serve the true God is our true interest. God has twisted his glory and our salvation together. He bids us believe; and why? That we may be saved. Therefore, renouncing all others, let us cleave to the true God.
(4) You have covenanted to serve the true Jehovah, renouncing all others. When one has entered into covenant with his master, and the indentures are drawn and sealed, he cannot go back—but must serve out his time. We have covenanted in baptism, to take the Lord for our God, renouncing all others; and renewed this covenant in the Lord’s Supper, and shall we not keep our solemn vow and covenant? We cannot go away from God without the highest perjury. “If any man draws back [as a soldier who runs away from his regiment] my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Heb 10:38. “I will pour vials of wrath on him, and make my arrows drunk with blood.”
(5) None ever had cause to repent of cleaving to God and his service. Some have repented that they had made a god of the world. Cardinal Wolsey said, “Oh, if I had served my God as I have served my king, he would never have left me thus!” None ever complained of serving God—it was their comfort and their crown on their death-bed.
Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, “The First Commandment.”
B. Such idolatry is even easier to fall into than we believe:
A 2005 interview of Eugene Peterson by Christianity Today included these quotations on contemporary Christian “spirituality”:
Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. “We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals.” This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word. What’s the Word? Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least!
Still, the one big hook or benefit to Christian faith is salvation, no? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Is this not something we can use to legitimately attract listeners?
It’s the biggest word we have—salvation, being saved. We are saved from a way of life in which there was no resurrection. And we’re being saved from ourselves. One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.
But the minute we start advertising the faith in terms of benefits, we’re just exacerbating the self problem. “With Christ, you’re better, stronger, more likeable, you enjoy some ecstasy.” But it’s just more self. Instead, we want to get people bored with themselves so they can start looking at Jesus.
We’ve all met a certain type of spiritual person. She’s a wonderful person. She loves the Lord. She prays and reads the Bible all the time. But all she thinks about is herself. She’s not a selfish person. But she’s always at the center of everything she’s doing. “How can I witness better? How can I do this better? How can I take care of this person’s problem better?” It’s me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us.
C. Such knowledge of God’s presence and our worship must result in a transformation of our lives.
1. 1 Corinthians 7:1: Possessing promises (which Peter notes must result in our transformation and joy, 1 Peter 2:9-10), which leads to holiness.
2. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Knowledge that one is the temple of the Holy Spirit (the location of God’s praise) must result in holiness.
D. The right praise of God leads to/is instrumental in/causes transformation of the human life.
1. It leads to hope. Romans 15:13.
2. A right understanding of God’s work (for which he is rightly praised) leads to a hope which overcomes circumstances. Romans 5:1-5; 1 Peter 1:3-9.
3. Right knowledge (not exhaustive, just true) leads to hope (a transformation of desire) which leads to a change of life (holiness): 1 Peter 1:13-21.
E. Discussion: How does a doxological orientation of the local congregation:
1. Affect the content of discipleship/counseling?
2. Alter the manner of discipleship/counseling?
3. Encourage and support discipleship/counseling?
4. If the local congregation is not sufficiently oriented to the glory of God, what will be the troubles with discipleship/counseling? How might it people in the congregation (what sort of troubles would this cause in their lives)? How would developing a great sense of God’s glory and God being glorified encourage heart change?