Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are the Methods of Worship in the Old Testament Acceptable for the Christian to Use Today?

A student of the Bible quickly realizes that the Worship offered to God in the Old Testament was very different than the worship offered to God in the New. It is true that the worship offered to God in the Old Testament was pleasing to Him at that time, however, the questions arrises, “are the Old Testament methods of worship still pleasing to God today?”. 

There are those who appeal to Old Testament worship practices as authorization for their inclusion in worship today. Some of these practices include the burning of incense, instrumental music and maybe even animal sacrifice. This post sets out to show that worship practices of the Old Testament (although pleasing to God at that time) have served their purpose and are no longer the type of worship God desires.

Just because God approved of an action of worship under the Law of Moses, does not mean He approves of it in the Christian church today.

Concerning this point Dr. David Miller writes:
The Jews were under a completely different and distinct religious system than the one under which Christians serve (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-13). Christ and the Christian system were certainly foreshadowed in the Old Testament, being woven into the fabric of Scripture from the beginning. Types and shadows abound in the Old Testament (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). The various aspects of the Old Covenant were clearly designed and preordained to prefigure and foreshadow the New - they were “copies of the true” (Hebrews 9:24). Israelite life and worship conducted in 1500 B.C was preplanned and divinely orchestrated to anticipate Christian living after A.D 30. But one must examine each act of worship in order to determine weather an act or practice under the Mosaic system has any bearing on Christian worship. How may one ascertain which aspects of Jewish worship are perpetuated in Christian worship? Obviously, one must go to the New Testament to see what Jesus and His emissaries said, and how first-century Christians then carried out those directives. Doing so forces one to the conclusion that Christians did not incorporate instrumental music into their musical worship in the first-century-though the first Christians were Jews (Miller 8).
How should a Christian view the Old Testament today?

The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to sperate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. 

Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.

There are many complicated requirements in the Law (See the book of Leviticus). Because of man’s imperfections, he could not keep this Law completely. Thus, man was a transgressor. When Jesus died on the cross, He ended the requirements of the Law and the sin that disobedience toward it’s ordinances brought. 
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 3:13-17).
The Old Testament Law was a perfect law and it fulfilled its purpose. It was not abolished (as if it were not good), but instead it was fulfilled by Jesus.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
In the current Christian age, we are not subject to the requirements of the Old Law (including the specific worship requirements). The Old Law was only for a specific people (The Jews) for a specific purpose (To prepare the way for Jesus). Now, all people (Jew are Gentile) are accountable to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)
"He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. (John 12:28)
Although the Christian today will not be judged by the Old Testament, it still should be studied. The Old Testament is full of wisdom on how to live life, it teaches us about the nature of God and of man. The Old Testament shows the blessings the come from following God and the trouble that comes when giving into sin. The Old Testament shows us how the world was made and how powerful God is. It teaches us the importance of worship, and how we should offer God the worship He desires The Old Testament even gives evidence for the inspiration of Scripture through the fulfillment of prophecy. The Old Testament should be studied and taught.
(Romans 15:4)For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

If one is going to appeal to the Old Testament for authority to engage in a specific worship practice, they need to also be prepared to engage in all the rituals connected with the Temple, Feast Days and the Sabbath etc...

Just because God is pleased with one action at a particular time does not mean that the same action would be pleasing to Him for all times. We must allow God to dictate what He wants and when He wants it. There were times when God was pleased with burnt offerings (Psalm 51:19), but He is not anymore. There was a time when God was pleased with Israel when they took a city by force and destroyed the inhabitants, we would be in error to believe that this is pleasing to Him now.

The Old Testament shows us that God wants to be worshipped by individuals with correct attitudes and actions. The attitudes in worship remain the same, but the actions are not timeless. We need to allow the New Testament to teach us how to worship God correctly today.

Worship is a very serious subject. One principle found in the Old Testament that needs to be remembered today, is that God gets angry when false worship is offered to Him. 
(Leviticus 10:1-2) Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.  And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
Nadab and Abihu did not offer God the worship He desired, thus they were subsequently destroyed. God is the audience of worship. God is the only one worthy of worship and God determines what He finds pleasing. We must offer God the worship that He desires, for that is the worship He deserves.

By Cliff Sabroe
Quotes from NASB95 Bible. (Miller, Dave Richland Hills and Instrumental Music - A Plea to Reconsider , Sain Publications. Pulaski, 2007)