The Holy Worship of God

Lecture #2 Biblical and Reverent Worship

(8) Reverent Worship

Definition: Reverence in worship is that spiritual attitude and disposition of soul that, entering into God’s presence in worship and standing before Him, humbles oneself before His majesty and glory. God’s Name, as His revelation of Himself, is holy and reverend, Ps. 111:9. He is worthy of all praise, honor and glory, infinitely exalted above all the creation, a God of infinite self-perfection and holiness. In His presence, the holy angels, themselves sinless, cover their faces, Isaiah 6:1-4.

Coming before Him, we stand in a certain relationship. We are creatures of the dust. If the whole creation in itself is as nothing against the measure of God’s glory, how much less are we? Isaiah 40:21-26 We are sinners, standing before a God of righteousness and truth, of judgment and justice, before He Who is a consuming fire over against sin, Ex. 19:18-25; Heb. 12:29 We must stand before God by no work of our own, merely by grace which God has wrought in Christ. God’s absolute infinite perfection, revealed in the limitless wonder of His grace, mercy, and lovingkindness is also the grounds for a holy reverence and awe. He wrought our salvation. He accomplished it. It is His work alone in Christ. “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared.” Psalm 130:4.

The reality of Who God is and who we are shapes all true worship. The Word of God says, “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools; for they consider not that they do evil.” Ecc. 5:1 The Word of God calls us to godly fear, also in the New Testament. Not to the terror of one standing before God’s anger, for the knowledge of the love of God casts out that kind of terror or fear, II Tim. 1:7; I Jn 4:18. We are called to that fear which consists of honor, respect, and reverence. We are called to that fear in every aspect of Christian life and faith, I Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:12; Col. 3:22; I Pet 1:17; 2:17 To that attitude of reverence belongs also the spiritual disposition of submission from the heart, shown in an earnest desire after the way of obedience in love. James 4:5-10.

The attitude of reverence and submission in godly fear is not contrary to the place of joy and rejoicing in the Scriptures. True scriptural joy is founded in the reality and truth of Who God is, in the amazing wonder of our salvation, and its privileges, blessings,and gifts, held as a profound debt of gratitude to God for His goodness and mercy. God’s holy glory, a matter of reverence, is also His saving glory, which is our joy. The holy God gave His own Son to save us when we were sinners and His enemies. Rom. 5:5-10. As children of God by the adoption of grace, we honor Him as “our Father,” yet also which art in heaven.” Matt. 6:9 True scriptural joy, found even in the midst of suffering and trial, I Peter 1:6, James 1:2-4, is not mere emotional exuberance, but a deep-seated reality, founded on the hope of the gospel.

Note: there is an unfounded rejoicing, not rooted in the gospel, but in sinful pride that ignores sin. I Cor. 5:2, 6. Reverence in worship calls us to be sober, sober-minded as believers and to watch unto prayer, I Thess. 5:6, 8; I Peter 1:13; 4:7. To this reverence in worship belongs the spiritual character of the house of God and our worship. It is a house of prayer. Matthew 21:13 Our behavior in it is to be orderly, not behavior of chaos, confusion and noise. I Cor. 14:33, 40.

The implications of a reverent approach to worship are important. We are called to God’s house to enter His presence in consecration of heart. “Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever.” Ps. 93:5 We are called to spiritual preparation that we may lift up holy hands in God’s house, Ecc. 5:1; Psalm 122:1. This shapes the character and form of what is appropriate and fitting in public worship, in addition to the elements that belong in public worship. The problem with much of modern worship is not the elements, but the irreverence, the departure from the true nature of worship of God, for the pleasing of men.

The principle of worship in godly reverence addresses by extension such matters as how we prepare for the Lord’s Day--Saturday evening activities, activities on the day of worship, how we dress. The custom of “dressing up” for church arose out of a sense of decorum rooted in a respect for the activity in which one is engaging. Thus too, we instruct our children in the worship and service of God, not as a matter of outward conformity, but of reverent participation.

As to the critique of what goes under the name of Christian worship today, there are so many innovations and corruptions of divine worship, that it is beyond the scope of this seminar, even to begin to speak of them. Every time one turns around, some new innovation appears, more debased that that before it. Rather, we should note that as God cut off those who walked in self-willed corruptions of worship in their generations. As He did in the matter of the sin of Jeroboam, so also will He cut off those who do not fear Him. Rather than pointing at others, we need to seek more fervently to come ourselves to God’s house with reverence and thereby leave a consistent witness also to others.

Return to: Reformed Worship
Lecture Series general theme:

The Holy Worship of God

Lecture #1 Living participation

Lecture #2 Reverent and Biblical

Lecture #3 Preaching the heart of worship