These examples from an early church service show us how the early Church lived out its life in worship of God. Worship, of course, was not a simple act done occasionally, but rather a way of life that involved one’s complete dedication to honor Christ and give our complete lives to serve Him. Worship cannot be reduced to a few songs, a Scripture reading, a sermon, and a closing prayer. It is a whole life of submission to the call of God that comes to us in the proclamation of good news. Christian worship is good-news oriented, even when reflective music is sung. We serve a God who does not abandon His children when this world’s challenges are overwhelming, but comes to us in all circumstances of life.
10 Worship Guidelines from an Early Church Service
1. Worship Involves Sacrifice
In New Testament times, worship consisted initially of sacrifice (of animals). However, the focus of worship for Christians is on self-sacrifice in honor and adoration of Christ (Mark 8:34-36). Worship appears to be the total response of grateful persons to the grace of God that comes to us in the work of Jesus Christ (see Romans 12:1-2). It is no longer related to the temple notion of animal sacrifice, but rather, in Christ the whole Church has become a temple and a priesthood inhabited by the Holy Spirit or presence of God (see 1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 2:19-22; and 1 Pet. 2:9).
2. Worship Is Spiritual
Even though worship does involve rituals, our worship, from a New Testament perspective, is essentially spiritual (see 1 Pet. 2:5; Rom. 12:2). It was an internal attitude rather than a practice of external rituals. This understanding is also found in Isaiah 1:11-20 and Psalm 51:15-17.
3. However, Worship Did Include Specific Practices
Some of the rituals in the New Testament include baptism (Matt. 28:19), communion (1 Cor. 11:23-34), laying on of hands (Acts 6:6; Acts 8:17; 13:1-3), foot washing (John 13:5-17), lifting up hands in prayer and worship (Luke 24:50; 1 Tim. 2:8; see Psalm 134:1-2 and Psalm 143:6), the reading of Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13), and contributions for ministry to those in need (1 Cor. 16:2). Because we are not given explicit instruction on how to practice these rituals, many variations of their practices emerged in the early churches. Of course, the early Church patterned much of its worship service after that of the Jewish synagogue service.