When I was a new Christian I didn’t understand why and how we worship and what the significance is. Therefore, I did significant research and study with Bible teachers to understand where Christian worship received its origin.
Where did Christian worship originate? Worship originated in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve obeyed God and lived according to His will. After the fall, worship became corrupted. God brought back worship through His covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Next, the Nation of Israel was established to worship the Lord. Finally, Christian worship became recognized after the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of, Jesus.
Christianity receives its roots from the Jewish community. Jesus Himself was a Jew, therefore, our worship is greatly impacted by the example that was portrayed in the Nation of Israel. This blog will teach you how Christian worship began in relation to God’s original creation all the way up to Jesus’ impact and the Early Church.
Table of contents:
- Origins of Christian Worship
- God’s Covenants
- God Re-establishes the Covenant
- The Beginning of a Chosen Nation
- Established Israel
- How Jesus Impacted Worship
- Worship in the Early Church
- Christian Worship Today
- Biblical Examples of Worship
Origins of Christian Worship
Christian worship has many expressions. Some are cultural and varied across the globe. Some Christian worship elements that we see today are Biblical. Others have been developed by man. Yet, when it comes to the origin of Christian worship we can’t just look at the expressions. We must look at the overall work of God within the world before and during Christianity.
We must first understand worship from the most basic level: creation and the fall. From there, we can see God’s original intentions compared to what we have today. Additionally, we recognize how God has worked throughout the Old Testament to bring back what sin and evil have taken. God re-establishes worship and His covenant to hundreds of generations.
We must examine worship in light of God’s redemption plan that has been in effect since the fall. God’s chosen nation of Israel was the forerunning to Christ and what we now consider to be Christianity.
The basis of Christian worship began long before there was Christianity. Christianity receives its roots from the Jewish background. However, before the Israelite nation existed, there was worship. Worship dates all the way back to the creation of the earth, the creatures within it, and the humans who were given dominion of it.
Adam and Eve
Humans were not created primarily for the act of worship. We are not puppets or pawns that God forces worship upon in order to enlarge His ego. Adam and Eve were not given the command to worship in song, dance, or good works. They were not told to bow before the Lord in reverence, fear, or trembling. We see in Genesis 1:27-28 what God did command them.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Before the fall, when the world was as it should be, full of God’s goodness and will, all that were in it were naturally worshiping God. Adam and Eve worshiped God by being obedient to their call to rule and be fruitful. Additionally, every day that they chose not to eat of the forbidden fruit, they were worshiping God.
Their worship looked much different than we may expect to see worship today. Adam and Eve had direct communion with God, something we have not experienced. There was complete unity within their relationship. There was no shame, no distance, no rebellion, and no wrath.
In perfect love and unity, Adam and Eve worshiped God by following the design that He intended. Their worship was simply remaining in line with the purposes, goodwill, love, goodness, and order of God.
Man Breaks the Covenant
Because of the disobedience and sin of Adam and Eve, “the fall” occurred. In short, the fall was when sin and death entered the world because Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life. After this, we see that perfect unity and natural worship were destroyed.
Genesis 3:7-8 portrays, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
The Effects of Sin
Instead of desiring to be close to God and function in His manner, Adam and Eve hid. They had done things contrary to God and now they had opened their eyes to good and evil. Rather than do and be good naturally, thus resulting in worship, they now struggled to live God’s way.
Sin had tainted their hearts, minds, earth, bodies, relationships, and entire lives. Now, there was effort involved in doing the right thing and worshiping God, when before, worship was joyful and innate. This struggle was described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-20.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
God Re-establishes the Covenant
The earth became exceedingly evil because the sinful nature within man was running rampant. Mankind did not practice self-control over sin in order to rule over it, as was depicted when Cain murdered his brother in Genesis 4:7. God said to him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
In order to bring worship back into the world, and the goodness that comes from following God, God had to bring His Kingdom and rule through different individuals. God chose to work through people who had faith and who would follow Him. After the fall, people do not inherently follow God.
They follow the devil who is the father of lies and all evil. The fall has subjected all human beings under the rule of sin until an individual allows Christ to intervene in his or her life. Once the blood of Christ covers their life, they are free from sin and death.
Therefore, as a forerunner to Christ, God established His covenant with specific individuals. This was the generational line that Jesus would come from. God established His covenant with Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, and David.
These covenants allowed these men, their families and people to once again meet with and follow God. They were able to worship God instead of foreign gods.
The Begining of a Chosen Nation
From these men, Abraham particularly, God called out the nation of Israel. This nation was to be called out from the rest of the world. They were to leave their old customs, worship rituals, and identities that they morphed from other nations. Instead, they were to follow the Lord God and Him alone.
Egypt enslaved the Israelites for 400 years. During that time they became subject to the rule of Pharoah. In Exodus, God hears the cry of affliction from His people. Then, in chapter 7:16, He used Moses as His vessel of liberation.
God explains, “Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened.”
God called the people out of Egypt to restore what was stolen by the Egyptians, but He also liberated them so that they could worship Him. After their triumphant exit, Moses and Miriam led the Israelites in a worshipful song and dance.
Exodus 15:1,20 portrays their worship in this way, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea…Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.”
After its liberation, Israel was to be consecrated to the Lord. Moses regularly met with God to receive instruction and laws to restore order, peace, holiness, and the presence of God. The congregation chose and vowed to follow all that the Lord had commanded them. However, they saw His glory and power at Mount Sinai, they were afraid and no longer wanted to meet with the Lord.
They reverted back to the worship of idols. They created a golden calf to worship in the place of God. The process to establish Israel in the Lord’s ways was long and gruesome at times. The people were exceedingly evil and disobedience. Therefore, it took generations before the people would sanctify themselves and obey all that the Lord had commanded.
Even when these generations did come, the nation would often fall back into the worship of worthless idols. Worship was intended to begin once again in this nation, however, they were stiffed necked and did not desire the Lord.
Judges 2:17 explains this, “Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.”
The Commands of God
God established worship back to the people through His commands. God gave specific instructions, rules, and regulations that were necessary for the sinful people to reach a holy and powerful God. First, God gave the Ten Commandments, which begin with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3).
Worship for the Israelites and worship today for Christians require that we worship only one God. This is still the basis of our worship as Christians today. Additionally, we notice that worshiping God alone involves obedience to His commands over the ways of the world or other gods or idols. All other acts of worship stem from this position.
God gave the laws through Moses to correct pagan practices that the people participated in. God wanted to purify the worship of the people. He wanted them to love Him and love one another as they love themselves.
Deuteronomy 6:5 states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Then, in Leviticus 19:18 we see, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
In the book of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God gives dozens of other laws. To most people, these laws seem too intensive and against the character of a good God. Yet, when we understand the cultural background we see the goodness of God so much stronger through these laws.
God’s Redefining of Worship
To give an example of what the pagan worship looked like, let’s look at Leviticus 18:21, which explains, “You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.” This practice was the sacrifice of children to a false god.
It was not uncommon for the people during that time, including the Israelites to sacrifice their children or abuse one another for the sake of their gods. The Lord made it very clear that this is not His way of love and peace. God did not desire sacrifice and obedience so that He could have negative control against the people. Instead, He desired that they follow the goodness that He once intended.
Through this process, we see God’s unending kindness and patience. God worked with the people through generations to continue to sanctify them and release them from the bondage of sin and evil practices. God was re-establishing Himself among the people. That meant that He had to eliminate all the evil that was against His character.
The problem wasn’t that the Israelites didn’t worship. The fact was that they were passionate worshipers but their passions were towards the wrong things. Since the creation and the fall, people have been avid worshipers. However, what they worship varies. Today in other countries, idol and demon worship are still extremely common. In the West, we worship sex, money, power, scientific advancements, and ourselves.
God’s Dwelling Among the People
The Lord decided to be near to His people. He wanted to dwell in the midst of them as He dwelled in the garden with Adam and Eve. However, since there was sin, there had to be justice. God could not let Himself dwell among the people if they were not cleansing themselves because His holiness and justice would consume them. Therefore, in His mercy, God made a way that He could be with His people without practicing His judgment on them.
God is a good God. In the same way that a good judge does not let a child rapists go back into the community, God is a good judge who does not allow injustice to continue. After giving the instructions, the blessings or consequences that would result, the people did not have an excuse for their actions.
God practiced His judgment on the people who were blatantly evil against Him and their fellow brothers and sisters. God also showed His mercy by establishing His tabernacle and Holy Presence. He allowed for animals sacrificed in place of the people, who were deserving of punishment.
The Means by Which God Dwelled
The Lord allowed for sacrifices to cover sins that the people did not have knowledge of. He also provided a system that would manage offenses and wrongdoing against the people. Additionally, He did something similar when the people did wrong against Him.
During this time, the Israelites worshiped God with their entire lives. They worshiped God by keeping His commandments. Worship involved walking in holiness, pursuing the understand and keeping of scriptures, loving one another, practicing mercy and grace. Furthermore, worship included animal, food, and free-will offerings.
The people had festivals of remembrance of all that the Lord had done from them in Egypt and after. They worshiped God by keeping these Holy and by celebrating, feasting, dancing, and rejoicing in the Lord.
How Jesus Impacted Worship
Jesus was an Israelite. He descended from the culture that did all these things and developed in all these ways. One of the reasons many of the Jews were against Jesus at the time and still are today is because they believed Jesus was a false prophet who was trying to deconstruct all that God had commanded.
In Matthew 5:17, we see what Jesus was really here to do. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus came as the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 which declares, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The law and all that was established in the Old Testament was to make way for Jesus, the ultimate promise and fulfillment of all those things. Due to this, we no longer worship God through sacrifices, whether they be of animals or food.
John 4:24 portrays our worship for today, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We worship God through the Holy Spirit that we received through faith in Jesus Christ.
We worship God by being empowered by the spirit to follow all of His ways. Now, we are free from the law of sin and death. We are able to worship God as we were intended to in the garden if we choose to follow the spirit instead of the flesh.
Worship in the Early Church
John 14:23 states, “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
After the life, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and Pentecost, the new believers finally understood what Jesus had done for them. In response, they worshiped Jesus in numerous ways. One way was by following His commands.
Another way of worship, much like the Israelites, was living a lifestyle of worship. 1 Corinthians 10:31 explains, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Furthermore, worship for the Israelites was based upon faith. In the early church, faith was still just as important. We see this in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
The Early Church also worshiped in song, prayer, and scripture readings. 1 Corinthians 14:26 portrays, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
They also worshiped by loving others well. Many of them sold all that they had to ensure that no one in the Body of Christ had a lack. They cared for the widows, orphans, sick and oppressed. Worship took of the form of fellowship and gatherings, encouraging one another, and using the Spiritual gifts to spread the gospel.
Christian Worship Today
For Christians today, worship still takes the form of the worship that occurred for the Israelites and Early Believers. Christians worship in spirit and truth. They worship with pure hearts before the Lord. Worship is a lifestyle and doesn’t merely involve songs and music. It involves faith, obedience, desire, and humility.
Moreover, worship is glorifying God in thought, and action, and with the heart, mind, soul, and strength. Expressions of worship involve dance, art, prayer, scripture reading, giving financially, blessing others, and doing all things for the glory of God. Learn more about the expressions of worship in “10 Types of Worship That Don’t Include Music”.
Biblical Examples of Worship
Various scriptural references can also give us an idea of how to worship and why we worship in certain ways today. In the table below there are verses from the Old and New Testament that give us a basis for our worship today.
Old Testament Verses
|1 Chronicles 16:31-34
|“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
|“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
|1 Samuel 15:22b-23a
|“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”
|“O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”
|“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
|“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
|“Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
New Testament Verses
|“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”
|“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”
|“so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father…”
|“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Find additional information about each of these verses in “Christian Worship: Definition, Biblical Examples, and How-To”
Learn more about worship by referring to “How Christians Worship: Places, Times & Types of Worship”, and “How and Why Christians Worship with Music (Biblical Examples)”