Humans are instinctively worshiping creatures. The psalmist best expressed this  when he wrote, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for  you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).  As far back as the time of Cicero of the first century B.C., it was observed  that religion, regardless of its form, was a universal trait of man. Seeing that  men are going to worship something or someone, we must ask what is worship, whom  and how shall we worship? What constitutes a biblical worship service, and, most  importantly, will we be “true worshipers” (John 4:23) or  false worshipers? True worship involves a deep sense of religious awe that  expresses itself in acts of devotion and service. The English word “worship”  literally means “worth-ship,” denoting a being or object deemed worthy of  devotion.

Christ commanded that true worshipers worship in spirit and in  truth (John 4:24).  The apostle Paul explained that we worship by the Spirit of God (Philippians 3:3),  meaning that true worship comes only from those who have been saved by faith in  the Lord Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit living in their hearts.  Worshiping in spirit also means with the proper heart attitude, not simply  adhering to rites and rituals. To worship in truth means worshiping according to  what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. In order for our worship to  truly be biblical, it must not go beyond that which is authorized by the Bible  (Leviticus  10:1; 1  Corinthians 4:6), abiding within the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9; see also Deuteronomy  4:12, 12:32Revelation 22:18-19). True worship involves only the  instructions given in the Bible and nothing else—not a Book of Confessions,  Rules of Order, or other manmade books of instructions or guidance.

The  first-century church engaged in several devotional acts in their worship  services, from which we can determine what makes up a truly biblical worship  service. The communion supper was observed (Acts 20:7),  prayers were offered up (1  Corinthians 14:15-16), songs were sung to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:19), a  collection was taken (1  Corinthians 16:2), the Scriptures were read (Colossians  4:16), and the Word of God was proclaimed (Acts  20:7).

First, the communion supper commemorates Jesus’ death during  our worship as we memorialize His resurrection until He returns again (1 Corinthians  11:25-26). As with the Lord’s Supper, prayer must also conform to the divine  pattern taught in the Scriptures. Our prayers should be directed only to God (Nehemiah 4:9; Matthew 6:9), never to any dead person as in the practice  of Catholicism. We are not authorized to use devices such as rosary beads or  Buddhist “prayer wheels” that supposedly send written requests into the far  regions of the universe. Most importantly, our prayers must be in harmony with  the will of God.

Third, we are authorized to sing. The apostle Paul  commands us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the  Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).  Singing to the Lord and to one another conveys truth set to music as a form of  teaching (Colossians  3:16), singing with both the spirit and the mind in order to produce  understanding on the part of those involved (1  Corinthians 14:15-16).

Part of true biblical worship is giving of  our tithes and offering on the first day of the week, as Paul instructed the  Corinthian church: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told  the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you  should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so  that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Corinthians  16:1-2). Our regular giving for the support of the Lord’s work is a serious  responsibility and is part of true biblical worship. Our giving should be viewed  as a thrilling blessing, not as a burdensome matter for grumbling (2 Corinthians 9:7).  Additionally, it must be stressed that giving is the only authorized method for  financing the work of the church of Jesus Christ. We are not authorized to  operate businesses, conduct bingo parties, hold pay-at-the-door concerts, etc.  The church of Christ is not meant to be a commercial enterprise (Matthew  21:12-13).

Finally, preaching and teaching are major ingredients of  true worship. Our teaching must be the Scriptures alone, the only means of  equipping believers for life and godliness (2 Timothy  3:16-17). The godly preacher or teacher will teach only from the Word and  rely on the Spirit of God do His work in the minds and hearts of his listeners.  As Paul reminded Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of  season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful  instruction” (2 Timothy  4:2). A church gathering that does not include the Word of God as a major  component is not a true biblical worship service.

Without question, God,  in His divine wisdom, has provided the perfect model of true biblical worship so  that we can worship in a manner pleasing to Him. As we follow the course of true  worship, let us worship God with great passion. We must not convey to the world  the impression that the worship of our God is a boring, lifeless ritual. We have  been redeemed from sin. Let us therefore praise our Creator as His children who  are grateful for His bountiful blessings. “Therefore, since we are receiving a  kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably  with reverence and awe” (Hebrews  12:28-29).