Worship and the Kingdom

God has chosen for the Lord’s Day to be the focal meeting point between Christ the King and His subjects. During the church’s corporate worship, there is a twofold pattern. We worship Him as the sovereign King of the universe, and in return, He works through the liturgy to shape us into His image and likeness. Corporate worship matters to God, and it should matter to us as well.

Yet sadly, there is much confusion today among evangelicals about the purpose and practice of worship. For that reason, we need to recommit ourselves to the historic biblical view of corporate worship: on the Lord’s Day, we participate in a recurring coronation of the King and do so with reverence and an increasing desire for His kingdom to come. Let’s explore these postulates one at a time.

Through corporate worship, we declare Jesus’ kingship and celebrate His mission. When we assemble with other believers on Sunday mornings, we are participating in a profoundly political gathering. In accordance with the Scriptures and in conformity with Christian history, we recognize Jesus as the sovereign Ruler of the entire universe. Jesus is Lord, and by implication, Caesar is not.

This accords with Christian Scripture, and perhaps no other theme is more prevalent in the Bible. Jesus is the Creator of the universe (Col. 1:16), thus possessing all authority. He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16), thus relativizing the claim of earthly rulers. He is the “King above all gods” (Ps. 95:2–3), thus delegitimizing the claims of counterfeit gods.

Moreover, Christian history illustrates the passion and fidelity with which believers have made this claim. During the earliest years after Jesus’ resurrection, His disciples were hounded out of house and home, tortured and killed for the audacity of their claim. Paul languished in a Roman prison until he was martyred. Peter, James, and Matthias were likewise executed. Their offense? The stunning claim that Jesus is Lord.

Thus, we gather to worship Jesus as King. But in so doing, we also celebrate His mission to glorify God the Father by redeeming His image bearers from among all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations (Rev. 5:9–10) and to restore the created order by bringing it under His rule (chs. 21–22).

We gather to worship Jesus as King. But in doing so, we also celebrate His mission to glorify God the Father by redeeming His image bearers and to restore the created order by bringing it under His rule.

With a mission so breathtakingly grand, it is no surprise that God’s people erupt in praise:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev. 5:12)

Through corporate worship, we are apprenticed into a posture of reverence and humility. Given the magnificence of God and the grandeur of His mission, the only appropriate posture to take is one of reverence and humility. After all, Jesus is Lord, and we are not. Given that reverence and humility are not natural to fallen humanity, God provides the weekly worship service as an apprenticeship in those virtues.

Not only has God ordained the local church as the locus of kingdom formation, but He has also prescribed the nature of its worship, so that it is governed by God’s Word and His will rather than by our personal feelings or cultural preferences. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it well:

But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture (21:1).

When our worship is normed by God’s Word, it will include only those elements prescribed in Scripture—elements that will be ordered into a meaningful whole, including a call to worship, congregational singing, confession of sin, recitation of the creeds, prayer, preaching of the Word, celebration of the sacraments, and a benediction that “sends” God’s people out into the world.

Through corporate worship, God cultivates in us reverence and humility. By taking these elements seriously, we revere God, expressing deep admiration for Him and His Word. By participating in them, we gain humility, decentering ourselves so that God can regain His rightful place in our hearts.

Through corporate worship, we are sent into the world to be God’s ambassadors. When we participate in corporate worship reverently and humbly, God does a work in our hearts. He conforms us to the image of His Son so that He can send us forth as ambassadors of His Son. And that mission is nowhere better summarized than in the ending of Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 28:18–20).

Indeed, as Matthew reveals, Jesus’ first postresurrection sermon begins with a declaration of His lordship over the entire universe (v. 18). Based on that authority, He instructs His disciples to make disciples of all nations (v. 19), baptizing them in the name of the triune God (v. 19), and teaching them to observe everything that He had commanded them (v. 20). Finally, He reminds them that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age.

Thus, Jesus’ parting words follow the pattern of a local church’s corporate worship. We recognize Jesus as King of kings. We stand before Him in reverence and humility. And we are sent forth into the world as His ambassadors.

In the Old Testament, Israel worked for six days and then observed the Sabbath at the very end of the week. In the New Testament, however, the church gathers for corporate worship on the first day of the week, after which its members are sent forth into the world. Sunday morning worship prepares us for “Monday through Saturday” life. Thus, the church must center its worship on Christ and call the Christian to participate reverently in worship as an ode to the King.

This article was originally featured in the April 2024 issue of Tabletalk Magazine.


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