WORSHIP: GOD'S BLESSING OR MAN'S BLESSING?
by Paul K. Christianson
Today many Christians speak about the blessings they receive in praise,
prayer and preaching, within the context of New Testament worship. One might
get the impression that like other things in our day, worship may be directed
toward God but is for the benefit of man. Many believe worship is coming
before God that man might be blessed. Certainly the old deities of Greece
and Rome were worshipped with that very thought in mind. The gods of the
rain and sun were propitiated that the community might have a plentiful
The modem analogy of these ancient rites which has found itself in the church
today am puppet shows, musicals, sing-spirations and the like. Such 'amusements',
in the popular religious language of the day are 'owned by God' to bless
His people. However, I would suggest this is entirely backwards: the purpose
in coming to worship is first and foremost to bless God, and God will not
be blessed ~ man is standing at center stage.
We are told in John 4:23 that the Father seeks worshipers. Who are
these worshipers? Peter helps us in his first epistle: 'ye also, as living
stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer
up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.' (1 Peter2:5)
Here we have a spiritual temple, a gathering of all the living stones together
to form the church of Jesus Christ. And since these living stones are a
holy priesthood, they offer spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ.
What are these spiritual sacrifices? Hebrews 13:15 tells us one of
these sacrifices is praise; Paul in Romans 12:1 says 'to present
your bodies a living sacrifice.' Again, Ephesians 5:1, 2 urges 'Be
ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even
as Christ also love you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice
to God for an odor of a sweet smell.' In Philippians4:18 Paul thanks
them for ministering to him by way of material things, saying, '...having
received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet
smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.' This 'sweet smell'
and 'fragrant offering' are unto whom? They are unto God In a passage dealing
with the context of worship, Paul exhorts Timothy '...that supplications,
prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men.' (1 Timothy
This is true as well in the Old Testament. The capstone of David's confession
in Psalm 51 asserts 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken
and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.' In Psalm 100 men are
commanded to come into God's presence, corporately, with gladness, thanksgiving,
and praise in their hearts and on their lips. Many other places in the Old
Testament including Psalms 35, 40, and 95 elaborate upon this theme.
Under the old economy as
well as under the new, all of our spiritual sacrifices are unto God. And
if they are unto God, then
it follows they are a blessing unto God as well. We are to primarily bless
God in our worship, and
that is done in our giving, loving, praying, thanking, repenting, singing,
amongst others. All
of this is to be a blessing unto our God first and foremost.
And why is that? Not because of any merit found in those offering sacrifices,
these sacrifices are offered through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Peter says sacrifices '
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.'
If our worship does not include the element of blessing God, then it is
defective worship, if
worship at all. Is this no less than robbing God of His due? The prophet
Malachi asks 'Will a man rob God'? Then he declares, 'Yet ye rob me.' And
he goes on to explain where this robbery takes place, summed up, (Malachi
3:10) 'in my house', a reference to the temple and its worship. We must
not 'rob' God in worship by having attitudes, words, or deeds which place
man's interest and man's blessing a center stage. When we come to worship
let us seek first to please and bless Him: to not do so is clearly a violation
of the First and greatest commandment to love God with your
whole soul, whole heart, and whole mind.
Yet, when we come to worship with right aims and right motives God has promised
a blessing. In the Old Testament Psalm 65:1 - 4:
Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion; and unto thee shall the vow be
Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail
as our transgressions, thou wilt forgive them. Blessed is the man whom thou
chooses", and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple.
Psalm 36:7 - 9 is even more explicit:
How precious is thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take
refuge under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied
with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou will make them drink of the river
of thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall
we see light. Oh continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee, and
Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
In the New Testament James commands us 'Draw nigh to God, and he will draw
nigh to you.' (James 4:8) This drawing near to God with a repenting
and humble heart, God promises,will result in His exalting of His people,
verses 9 & 10. But humility requires that the worshiper put God first
in his worship. May God be pleased to mature us in the understanding and
the practice of worship blessing Him as we come 'into His courts.'
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