Last month, in my article “Gathered for Worship,” I discussed our purpose for coming together, made clear in the Word: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Historically, the Church has structured worship around the Word and the Table, set in motion by the earliest followers of Jesus: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). These earliest Christians understood the importance of coming together to hear God’s story—and to proclaim it! Let us, then, look further into Proclaiming the Word of God.
“It is in worship that our lives are formed by the Holy Spirit and informed by God’s Word.” Since scripture tells God’s story, and we understand scripture to be the story of worship, it is essential that the word of God be included in our corporate worship services. So important is the Word because it actually contains other elements that are essential to worship. Our understanding of God’s covenant and His story of salvation are contained within the Word. By hearing the Word proclaimed, the hope is for “God’s Word [to take] up residence within us and [shape] us into Christ’s likeness.” There are many ways in which proclamation of the Word can be accomplished, but these different deliveries are not the essential elements. Emphasis should be given to the Word itself—the retelling of God’s story should be the focus for every corporate gathering. “We recite the story; we proclaim the story; we sing the story; and we are called to live out the story. The heart and substance of the Service of the Word is the story itself!”
“The story of the covenants in the Bible is the story of God and vice versa.” We should not treat these scriptures merely as moral lessons to be learned. The divinely inspired words are God’s words—God’s real-life interaction with His chosen people. “It is also the story of salvation, for all God’s covenants have a single unifying thread—salvation.” By viewing the biblical story in four parts: “creation—fall—redemption in history —new creation”, we see that the Bible is the story of salvation, and salvation is the story. “That is why it is so important . . . that we use our whole Bible in coming to an understanding of salvation.” When we understand salvation to be something that God has already accomplished, our worship can and should be enriched. We can view salvation in all time periods: past, present and future, and we can know that it has been and will be forevermore “made available to all those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ” [the Word made flesh (John 1:14)]—regardless of who we are or where we come from. Realizing Christ has fulfilled the covenant for us, we use scripture to join in fellowship with multitudes of worshipers who can now proclaim, “Salvation belongs to our God” (Revelation 7:10).
To celebrate salvation is to retell that story, with hearts full of joy, gratitude and praise. For we are among those who have been saved, who are being saved and who will be saved, by the grace and power of God and the covenant blood of Christ.
That message of hope and grace—founded in the Word of God—should be repeated whether spoken, taught, preached, sung or shouted. Along with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, it has the power to change lives and is essential to all our worship. “Scripture forms the community into the body of Christ … [it] is a ‘means of grace’ used by the Holy Spirit to nourish and build up the community of faith … to unite believers to Jesus Christ.”
Next month, we will explore how we as worship respond to God’s Word.