By Andy Constable
A couple of weeks ago, I blogged that worship isn’t simply a Sunday activity while we sing songs but involves our heart attitude in all of life (see: http://niddriepastor.com/2012/04/06/dont-just-sing-about-it-start-worshipping-god-today-everyday/) The question that necessarily flows from this conclusion is – what is the point of meeting on a Sunday? If worship is an activity that happens in all of life then why do we need to meet corporately on a Sunday to worship God? Does anything particularly different happen on a Sunday compared to the rest of the week? Is there any point?
I want to argue that our corporate worship is distinct from, and supportive of, the worship of Christians in all of life. It is distinct because it is time when we gather together and hear God’s Word preached to us in a special way. And it also supports our worship because it is a time when we remind ourselves of God’s truth, receive correction and see the beauty of who God is corporately so that we can then go and worship him with all of life. I want to argue that there are 2 particular reasons why its important to meet corporately on a Sunday.
Firstly Sunday is important for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church..” The word strengthening here is from the Greek work oikodome and means “edifying, edification, building up.” Paul instructs the Corinthians that the Lord’s people need strengthening when they meet together.
The writer to the Hebrews backs this verse up in 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The writer to the Hebrews commands the church to meet together regularly to encourage and stir one another up. The Sunday is therefore supportive of our worship during the week. The meeting up on a Sunday is to be used to instruct people in God’s word and strengthen them towards glorifying God all the more. In more modern, emotional centred churches the strengthening of God’s people is cast to the side. They say that the primary reason we meet is to “meet with God”. But Paul is very clear that the reason we meet together is to be built up for service. Teaching God’s Word correctly and simply must be an emphasis of our Sunday services.
However many churches would stop there. They would say that edification is the only reason we meet up. I would argue that there is a second reason to meet on a Sunday. The second reason we meet on a Sunday is to meet with God. Worship, as Carson writes: “is ascribing all honour and worth to…God because he is worthy, delightfully so.” We are therefore only truly worshipping God with our entire beings, including our hearts, when we are ‘affected’ by God’s glory because we see his worth. As Tim Keller writes worship is “obedient action motivated by the beauty of who God is in himself.” The second purpose of meeting on a Sunday then is to see the worth of God in all his fullness.
We see this in the Bible time and again. David writes this in Psalm 41:16: “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, The LORD be exalted!” The Psalmist says those who follow the Lord are to rejoice, be glad and love the salvation of the Lord and result is that we want the Lord to be exalted. If our services are simply geared towards edification and our heads then we miss out the rejoicing in and being glad in and loving the Lord, which is geared towards our affections.
This is what the reformer Calvin believed deeply. Calvin believed that the goal of gathered worship was to bring people face to face with God. Calvin’s aim was not that people would simply learn information about God, but that they would truly hear God speak and know his presence in the service. Jonathon Edwards argued along the same lines when he said that worship had not occurred unless our “hearts are affected, and our love captivated by the free grace of God” and when “the great, spiritual, mysterious, and invisible things of the gospel…have the weight and power of real things in their hearts.” Thus, the goal of gathered worship is to make God “spiritually real” to our hearts. That is where truths by the Spirit’s influence become fiery, powerful, and profoundly affecting. It is not enough to be told about grace. But you need to be amazed by it.
The goal of Sundays is edification and meeting with God. Our heads and hearts are to be instructed and affected by the beauty and truth of God. This is what we want to see in Niddrie! A church that meets on a Sunday to support our worship during the week and that instructs our minds and affects the heart. We want to be set on fire by the fame of God’s name and his renown. Please pray for us as leaders that we would prayerfully apply the gospel and allow the Spirit to do his work in the life of the church!