Biblical Worship 6: The OT & NT Change of Worship Administration

Biblical worship 6: The OT NT Change

Last time the topic was the way the Bible teaches the regulative principle of worship. The regulative principle is that only what God has instituted should be part of worship. This week the topic is the same. I will continue to explain how it works out in the OT and New Testament.

Obviously we worship differently in the present time than the church of the Old Testament did. They had a tabernacle, and later a temple, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16). They sacrificed animals, we have the final sacrifice in Christ (Heb 9). They had cleanliness laws, dietary laws, and clothing laws which no longer apply today (Col 2:16-17). They entered people into the covenant by circumcision, we do so by baptism (Col 2:11-12, Acts 2:39f). They worshipped on Saturday (Exo 20:14) we worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7, John 1:10). There is a difference.  That’s clear.

What do we do with the difference? Some say that there are two different religions. Some say the Church and Israel are not bound by the same principle of worship. That is, they say the church is not bound by what is written in the pages of the New Testament alone, but may do whatever feels worshipful so long as it is in Spirit and Truth. Though there are big differences in the way the covenant is administered in the NT, it is the same religion, same principles, and same ordinary worship as always. This is clear from the fact that Christ and the Apostlesgave specifics as to how the worship service is to be conducted.

Why the change in form between the Old to the New Testaments? There are several resons for the change. First, Christ is the reality. The Old Testament sacrificial system prophetically and figuratively foreshadowed the coming messiah, Jesus Christ. These ceremonies were to be practiced until the messiah came and imposed a time of reformation (Dan 9:24-27, Heb 9:8-10). That time of reformation of the worship of the church came in the era of the Apostles. For example, Paul argued for the end of dietary, holiday, and cleanliness laws since, “They were mere shadows of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:17). If Christ has come, then that which pointed to him still testifies in scripture to him, but no longer is required in religious worship today.

So what about those who think there are two religions in the Bible? They assume that because worship changed, the religion is different. But the Old testament was aware of th coming change, and the New brought in the change with the messiah. God has the right to administer the Covenant how he will. He chose to do so with the coming of Christ.

There is a message to the change God brought in Christ. Jesus explained the change to the woman at the well in John 4. He told her that one day worshippers will not be constrained to worship only at Jerusalem, but will worship in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The Spirit means worshipping in the Holy Spirit (which was already the case, but made clear here).  Truth means that we worship in light of the Christ having come. It does not refer to sincerity (though we should be sincere) but to the reality of the risen Christ to whom the temple pointed (John 2:19-21, 1Cor 3:16). Basically, the Lord’s worship can now spread throughout the globe in local congregations.