Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – How can our worship fulfill its great purpose in the New Testament age? What does it mean to worship “in spirit and in truth”?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In his chapter on worship, Wayne Grudem defines worship as “the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices and hearts.” Grudem acknowledges that “everything we do should glorify God” and is “worship” in a way, but he settles on a more narrow definition for this chapter. Grudem then explores the results of genuine worship as seen from the Scriptures. He ends the chapter by showing how we can enter into true worship.

True Worship 

God saves us so we can worship him. Edmund Clowney once said. “God brings his people into his presence that they might hear his voice and worship him.” This can be most clearly in Exodus 7:16 when God told Moses to tell Pharoah, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” God saved the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage that they would worship him in the desert. 

God is worthy of our worship. Since he has saved his church from a just condemnation, we too should worship him. He brought us out of sin and eventual destruction to a good place of peace with God, peace with others, and life everlasting. Therefore, we should call attention to God our savior in our preaching, in our prayers, in our music, in the Lord’s supper, and in everything we do in our corporate worship together. God is worth it.

The Results of Genuine Worship

When we worship him, there are several things that happen. For one, we delight in God. The Psalmist wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) When we worship the Lord, we delight in the God who saved us and guides us to our eternal home.

Second, God delights in us. Just as God looked upon his creation and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31), so also he looks upon his new creation in Jesus and delights in us. The prophet Zephaniah said of God’s people:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17)

A third result of genuine worship is we draw near to God and he draws near to us. The reality of the New Covenant is that God has come near to us. In the Old Covenant, the people of Israel were separated by the Law and the impossible, but true standards of a holy God. God’s people never got near to the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once a year (Hebrews 9:1-7). But in Christ, we can draw near directly to God through the blood of Christ. And when we do draw near to God, then he draws near to us (James 4:8).    

A fourth result of genuine worship is protection from spiritual enemies. Just as the enemies of God were routed when Israel followed and worshipped the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:21-22), so also our spiritual enemies will not be able to stand when God is near. The true God is greater than any pretend deities or demonic entities. When we worship God truly, we enjoy his presence and protection from his and our spiritual enemies.   

A fifth and interesting aspect of worship is what happens when unbelievers come to a worship service. Paul tells us, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). When the spiritual gift of prophecy is active, unbelievers will be convinced of their own sin and worship God. 

How We Enter Into Genuine Worship

Jesus taught about genuine worship. He said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24). 

Jesus invites us into a greater sense of God’s presence. He wants us to worship him in the spiritual realm, not just in a physical space. These are some elements of genuine worship:

  • When the church is at peace: “men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” (1 Timothy 2:8)
  • When the church loves each other: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
  • When husbands live with their wives in an understanding way so that their “prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
  • When the church does not allow a “‘root of bitterness” to spring up and causes trouble (Hebrews 12:15).
  • When the “pure in heart” gather to “see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  • When God’s people gather in a “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13).
  • When there are no distractions and God’s house is ordered (1 Corinthians 14:33).
  • When we offer “God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

Application: The Blessing of Worship

Worship is a blessing. God has ordained us to gather together to lift up his name on a regular basis and we miss out on his manifest goodness when we neglect to worship him. When I miss Sunday morning worship (which is not often), I find my week deficient. Something is off and my mind and heart are not complete. But things seem to fall into place when I and my family worship the Lord at a weekly gathering. Praise God for the blessing of corporate worship!   

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

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Resources: Wayne Grudem

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Image credit by Carolina Jacomin on Unsplash.

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