Who has the right to suspend the worship of God?


The Hebrew word tah-meed, usually translated as continually or continual, is frequently connected in the OT with what the Bible refers to as "the service of God" (Ezra. 6: 18; see also Rom. 9: 4). Thus, we read of the continual burnt offering, of incense being burned continually, and a fire on the altar that was never to go out (see Exod. 29: 42; 30: 8; Lev. 6: 13). Some things were to be done yearly, some daily, and some weekly (see Lev. 16: 34; 24: 3, 8). Thus, it was a disaster for Israel when the "continual [sacrifice] was taken away" (Dan. 8: 11) under Antiochus Epiphanes. Again, the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar was a signal of Jehovahís displeasure with Israel in that it removed from His people the ability to "come to worship in Jehovahís house" (Jer. 26: 2). Of course, an individual Israelite might still approach God but the service of the nation as a collective body was impossible. They had served other Gods and so Jehovah had removed them from His service. In this, the king of Babylon was only a tool in the hands of Jehovah (see Jer. 25: 9), for only God has the right to suspend His own service.

   When we come to the NT, and to Christianity, we find that the antitype of the OT house refers to a people: "And Moses indeed [was] faithful in all his house, as a ministering servant, for a testimony of the things to be spoken after; but Christ, as Son over his house, whose house are we" (Heb. 3: 5, 6). Its purpose remains the service of God, and it is still a building, but the stones are living and the sacrifices spiritual: "yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2: 5). Furthermore, just as the sacrifices of the Mosaic law could only be offered in the place where Jehovah had put His name (in the temple in Jerusalemósee 1 Kings 8: 29), so Christian worship takes place when the Lordís people "come together in "assembly" (1 Cor. 11: 18). Of course individuals may worship God when not gathered with others, but the idea of the house of God supposes a collective response. Thus, in the OT we have "I will give thee thanks in the great congregation; I will praise thee among much people" (Ps. 35: 18), while in the NT, others must be present to say ĎAmení to what is offered (see 1 Cor. 14: 16).

   Two things are essential for Christian worship: the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ. As to the presence of the Holy Spirit, from John 4 we learn that "God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth" (v24). Of course, the Holy Spirit dwells in the individual believer (see 1 Cor. 6: 19), but He also dwells in the corporate body (see 1 Cor. 3: 16; 2 Cor. 6: 16; Eph. 2: 22). If there is one body, then there is also one Spirit (see Eph. 4: 4). There is thus a collective answer to God from the Assembly, hence: "we are the circumcision, who worship by [the] Spirit of God" (Phil. 3: 3).

   As to the Lordís death, it is the very basis of the "new and living way" (Heb. 10: 20) by which the believer has access into the presence of God. Collectively, the saints "announce the death of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11: 26) in their partaking of His supper, and it is not difficult to conclude that the Assembly as gathered for that purpose (see Acts 20: 7 etc.) will inevitably be engaged in worship. Indeed, Scripture never gives even a hint that collective worship by Christians is arrived at by any other route. There is thus no reason to doubt that the service of God rests on the spiritual observance of the Lordís Supper. The Bible lays down no rule as to itís frequency (although that it should be celebrated often is implied by its association with the first day of the week). It is also clear that the Lordís Supper requires Godís people to be together physically (the idea that they can worship virtually is plain wrong, because it makes the presence of the Holy Spirit dependent on manís electronic wizardry. Gathering together is always in one placeósee Acts 4: 31; 1 Cor. 11: 20; 14: 23).

   These things being so, it is inconceivable that Godís people can be in a good state collectively and not be engaged as priests in the service of God. Those believers living under war and persecution show that they understand this in that they continue to meet together to worship and do not count their lives as dear to themselves. If it seems impossible for you and I, in much less demanding circumstances, to assemble, then we must face the likelihood that "Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land" (Hos. 4: 1) and that God Himself has shut off our service. We may blame government or a virus, but at root, it is our spiritual state that is the issue.

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