I presume that if I were to ask you why you came to church today, you would answer something along the lines that you are here to worship God. The next question though I would ask is, what is worship? And to that I suppose I might get a great variety of answers. Worship seems to have a rather loose description today in ecumenical circles.
I had a friend that recently passed away, and she had never been to our church, but she had heard of it. She lived outside of DC, but never came to this area to the beach. However, she did visit Naples, Florida during the winter a few years ago and while there she saw an ad for a worship service on the beach. So being familiar in theory with what we do here, she decided to go and try it out. And she said that it was a lot of fun. She said that during the service they had some music playing and a giant beach ball that the congregation kept bouncing up in the air.
Now, I guess that might be entertaining. But I doubt that qualifies as worship. I commonly hear people asking, “What is the worship style of your church?” People tend to think that there are a variety of flavors available, such as at Baskin Robbins, and you just need to pick the kind that you like. However, our worship should not be about pleasing us, but pleasing God. The quality of your band, the quality of your meeting place, the quality of your congregation, or the quality of your speaker is not indicative of the quality of your worship. God is the judge of what worship is acceptable to Him. Cain and Abel both came to worship God. But God accepted Abel’s worship, and not Cain’s. It’s important that we know what is pleasing to God.
And by the way, that shows that sincerity is not a guarantee that your worship will be acceptable. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” So it’s essential that our worship is according to God’s truth.
Another question is what happens when we worship? What is Jesus doing as we worship? I think this passage today reveals that Jesus is engaged in His High priestly ministry. In chapter 8:2 Jesus is described as a minister in the tent which God erected. “We have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” The Hebrews used to have a tent, a tabernacle, and then a great, beautiful temple, but in the New Testament they had someone’s living room, a river bank, or a beach. But Hebrews tells us that this new covenant is far better than the rituals and ceremonies of the old temple service.
How is that possible? How is this spiritual worship better than the pomp and ceremony, the costumes of the priests, the burning candles and incense, the aroma of burning sacrifices? The difference is as the author of Hebrews told us in vs.9, in spiritual worship we see Jesus. We look at Him, we study Him, we obey Him, we serve Him. We worship Him. He is the physical manifestation of the nature and essence of God. And the Spirit of Jesus is in the midst of the true tabernacle, His church. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
So the first aspect of true worship is that Jesus is the worship leader; He is the Chief Shepherd, or the chief pastor of the church. He is the captain of the church. He leads HIs children into the presence of God. To come before God we must be holy, righteous. And we are made righteous by the author of our salvation, who is Jesus Christ. Vs10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Only by representative suffering may man regain his purpose of fellowship with God. It is necessary that our debt be paid and our Lord has paid the debt. And by paying the debt, God is freed to give to men what he has determined to give them, adoption as children of God, and by extension the inheritance of authority and kingship over the earth.
Conceivably, God could have engineered a way to save us that did not require the suffering of the Son of God. But it was fitting for Jesus to save us at the cost of His own suffering and death. This is the ultimate illustration of the fact that real love, real giving, involves sacrifice. As David said: “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24). God’s love for us revealed itself in sacrifice and God could not make a substitutionary sacrifice unless He added humanity to His deity and suffered on our behalf. And in like measure, our worship requires sacrifice. Love requires sacrifice. Worship without sacrifice is just empty flattery.
There is a principle of hermeneutics which is called the principle of first mention. That is, if you are trying to understand a word of scripture, then it is often a good idea to go to the first place in the Bible that the word is used, and as you study it’s usage in that context, it will usually be an indication of how you should interpret it in later passages.
And it’s interesting that the word worship is first used in the Bible in reference to sacrifice. Abraham, you will remember, was obeying God by taking his son Isaac to the mountain that he might sacrifice him to the Lord. And as Abraham is considering what must have been the horror of that thought, that he would put to death his son, in hope that God would raise him up again from the dead in order to keep his promises to Abraham, he turns to his servants and says, in Genesis 22:5, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
Can you conceive of the word worship being used to convey the idea that you would offer up your son in obedience to the Lord in a sacrifice? And yet that is the context of the word worship. And I would suggest that sacrifice is what God requires of us in worship today. Consider Romans 12:1,”Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.”
So the author of Hebrews says, it was fitting for God, from whom are all things, and to whom are all things, to perfect the captain of their salvation through suffering. Why was it fitting? Because Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Because before the grace of God could be expressed, the justice of God had to be satisfied. Thus it was fitting that Jesus had to pay the ultimate price for our transgressions, so that we might receive the grace of God. God couldn’t and wouldn’t wink at sin. God didn’t stop counting our sins in the church age. He just counted them against Jesus. He punished Jesus so that we might be made righteous and holy. So that we might become adopted into the family of God.
Notice that word “perfect.” In no way does that infer that Jesus was not perfect. He was perfect in all things, without sin, blameless, otherwise He could never be the spotless Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. But perfect in this sense means complete. He completed our salvation by becoming obedient unto death. He completed the Father’s plan, He was faithful. He persevered even unto death. He added something to His nature which made Him the complete, perfect Savior. And that was human nature. He became like us, that we might be made like Him. That we might be His brothers and sisters in God’s family.
And that leads us to another characteristic of worship which is presented here in this passage.
Jesus is gathering us into worship as God’s family. “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,.” We are all of the same human family, so Jesus is not ashamed to call them (that is, us) brethren. He could not be our brother unless He was also human like us.
So that is what He means when the author quotes from Isaiah, “I will put my trust in Him.” Jesus put His trust in God, that because of His righteousness He would not allow His holy One to see decay, that God would raise Him from the dead. So we as His brothers, put our trust in God as well, that God will raise us from the dead because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ which He applied to us.
The next verse is another quote from Isaiah; “Here am I” says Jesus, “and the children you have given Me.” The church of Jesus is designed to become family. The principal perspective of New Testament worship is that the church is a family. That is how we impact one another, as family. We are to love one another as we love a family member. Worship is the assembly of the family of God.
We are coming to God our Great King, in all HIs glory, but we are coming as HIs children. Accepted into the family of God by the atonement of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Church programs can not change us, but our adoption changes us. Col.1:13 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” We have become children of God. Made like Jesus, with His nature, clothed in HIs righteousness, conformed to HIs image.
And that act of being conformed to His image is indicated in the phrase, “sanctified.” Sanctification is essential for worship. I think it is really better to read it, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one…” Jesus sanctifies us, but we are being sanctified. Sanctification is a progression. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. But we are sanctified, or set apart to righteousness in obedience to our profession, as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Eph. 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Sanctified means to be consecrated, holy, set apart for service to God. It was used in the temple worship to describe vessels used in service to the Lord which were first sprinkled with blood, and then set apart to only be used for holy service. That is what we are to be; holy to the Lord. Set apart, consecrated. We are no more to be consumed with common things, worldly things, but to be set apart for good works.
Going back to Romans 12, after it says we are to present our bodies to the Lord for service, which is our acceptable service, it then follows, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Our worship then requires sanctification, being set apart from the world, to be ministers of God.
Not only does Jesus sanctify us for worship, but Jesus leads us in our worship. The writer quotes from Psalm 22. “I will proclaim your name to my brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Notice first that our relationship to Jesus is emphasized again. Jesus did not divest himself of his humanity because he had finished his work on earth. He was raised in that humanity, and ascended to heaven in his humanity, and remains in his humanity that he might forever be our brother.
And then notice two things in this verse that Jesus does to lead us in worship. He proclaims or preaches the name of God to His church, and Jesus leads the singing in the congregation. The word congregation there is the Greek word “ekklēsia” which is the word we get our word church from. It means “called out ones.” Ties right in with being sanctified, doesn’t it? We are called out from the world, into the adoption of sons, that we might be the family of God. And in that family, Jesus leads us in worship of God. His word is proclaimed, and HIs songs are sung.
It’s interesting to remember that the songbook of Jesus was the Psalms. That is what the book of Psalms was for the Jews, it was their hymnbook. And everywhere you turn in the New Testament the Psalms are being quoted or referred to. Jesus quoted the Psalms extensively.
Paul said be filled with the Spirit as you are singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Our access to understanding the emotional life of Jesus is found in the Psalms. This is where David expresses Christ’s personality and His emotions. Consider this Psalm that Hebrews is quoting, Psalm 22. We find Jesus quoting from this Psalm while suffering on the cross. Vs.1, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” The whole Psalm goes on to describe the sufferings of the cross. It’s interesting that the author just finished saying it was fitting for Jesus to have suffered, and then quotes from this Psalm to show our relationship to Him.
What’s important for us to remember about the Psalms is that they are scripture. And so though we don’t often sing the Psalms today, but it remains that when we sing songs, we need to be singing scripture, and teaching doctrines of the gospel, even as the Psalms do.
I’m afraid that all too often our popular songs we sing in the church today do not really reflect the complete gospel as taught in the Psalms. Some folks must think that for a song to be praise to God, it must be joyful and upbeat. But I would suggest that is not what a study of the Psalms teach. The Psalms express worship in all aspects of life; not only in exuberance and cheerfulness, but also in fear, anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, brokenness, and repentance. Unfortunately the church has abandoned singing the songs that Jesus sang. But ironically the author of Hebrews talks so much about the new and better era of the church, but uses the Psalms to tell us about Jesus.
In God honoring worship, not only is Jesus the worship leader, but Jesus does the preaching of the word. “I will tell of your name to my brothers.” In the preaching of the gospel it is Jesus himself who speaks. In the power of the Spirit of Christ, Jesus preaches as He is preached. Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
It is oxymoronic that we can claim to worship God without the preaching of the word of God. 1Cor. 1:21 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” To know God, is to worship God. Jesus proclaimed the name of God means that He proclaimed the attributes of God, the wisdom of God, the plan of God.
In Ephesians 2, Paul says that Christ preached to those who were near, and those who were far off. Those near were those who heard Him, those far away are those who heard the apostles preaching. For instance, Christ preached in Ephesus through the preaching of Paul.
Another aspect of worship is that Jesus delivers us from the power of sin and death and the devil. [Heb 2:14 “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” We can’t worship the Lord if we are held captive by Satan.
David said in another Psalm, “if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Our bondage to sin keeps us from fellowship with God, which is the heart of worship. Jesus died on the cross not only to deliver us from the penalty of sin, which is death, but also the power of sin. Romans 6:8-11 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
The second part of this principle is found in our text in vs15, “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” Sin is addictive, is it not? All sin has an addictive quality to it. And whatever you are addicted to, you are enslaved to. The unsaved person lives a life of sin because they believe this life is all that they can count on. “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” The theme song of the 60’s generation was expressed by a band called the Grassroots, with a song called “Let’s live for today.” Sha la la la la la live for today, Sha la la la la la live for today, And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey“ Live for today. That’s the motto of the world. As John Lennon said, imagine there is no heaven, there is no eternal life. Get as much as you can because you only have one life and it’s going fast. But Christ has come to show us a better way, a way to eternal life, a way to be set free from the lies of the devil.
The final aspect of worship is that Jesus has come to help us in our need. The goal of worship is not to meet our needs, but the wonder of worship is that when we worship Jesus, He also meets our needs. Vs16 “For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.” I said last week that angels are not offered salvation. Those angels who rebelled against God are condemned to eternal punishment. But God has made it possible to reconcile man who rebelled to come to Him.
And specifically that is those who are descendants of Abraham. We are told in the scriptures that to be a descendant of Abraham is to be of the faith of Abraham. Galatians 3:7 “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”
Jesus is able to help us because He is One of us, He is fully human and fully God. He is able to help us because He suffered in all things as we have suffered, yet without sin. Vs17 says, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
When we come to Jesus in worship, believing in Him as our Lord and Savior, coming to Him in our time of need, in our time of loneliness, or abandonment, or suffering, or sickness, or temptation, or depression, or anxiety, coming to Him no matter what the trouble may be, we can find in Him an ever present help in time of need. He is able to empathize with our weaknesses, having experienced the same temptations and trials of humanity that we experience. Yet because He is also the sinless Son of God, our great champion who has defeated the enemies of mankind, He is able to help us, to be our faithful High Priest, to be our Mediator. Because of the surpassing greatness of His atonement, God has adopted us as sons, and we share in the inheritance of sons, even in the inheritance of Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:32 “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” We have a tremendous inheritance, in which God has promised good to us, He has promised life to us, even eternal life, and an eternal inheritance in glory with God.
The final question for you today in light of all this, is are you a son or daughter of God? Have you been made holy and righteous through faith in Christ Jesus? Have you received the adoption that is offered as children of God? Worship of God is only possible as we have been made holy by faith in what Jesus has accomplished for us. Trust in Him today as your Savior and Lord, that you might be made a child of God and receive all that God has desired for us.