Friday, September 05, 2014

Reverence and Solemnity: Essential Aspects of Biblical Worship, part 4 of 8

IV. Reverent and Solemn Worship Befits the Character of the Church as God’s Earthly Temple and Befits the Access Saints Have Into Heaven Itself

            Reverence and solemnity are also essential aspects of Biblical worship because the church, the assembly of baptized believers,[1] is the very temple of the living God.  As God dwelt in the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, so does He dwell in each of His congregations now.[2]  Each true church is “an holy temple in the Lord” and “the house of God,” each church member being a living stone in the special dwelling place of the Triune God (Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 3:15; 1 Pet 2:5; 1 Cor 3:11-15).[3]  Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Ps 114:7);  “Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence[?] (Jer 5:22).  The Lord is a great King—He must be worshipped with reverence in His holy temple, the church.  Those who fail to do so should fear, because God will destroy them:  “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy” (1 Cor 3:17).  “Be wise now therefore . . . be instructed[.] . . . Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps 2:10-12).
            Not only is the church the earthly dwelling place and sacred temple of the living God, but also both the individual Christian and the corporate Christian assembly have access into heaven itself.[4]  Heaven is a place of infinite holiness and reverence, and so the worship of the saints on earth must be solemn and reverent, a worship that befits their union with the worship of the saints in heaven.  New Testament believers in their worship have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” that is, into “heaven itself” (Heb 10:19; 9:24).  They “draw near . . . the holiest” (Heb 10:19, 22; cf. 12:22-23) through Christ andhave access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph 2:18), entrance into the very heavenly presence of their holy and heavenly God and Father.  Consider carefully the description of worship in Revelation 4-5:
1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. 9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. 1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. 4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. 6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Is not this inspired description of heavenly worship ineffably and immeasurably solemn, reverent, and holy?  But the astonishing truth is that Revelation 4-5 depicts not the worship of heaven only, but that of earth also![5]  When the saints open their mouths in praise and prayer, they are uniting with this holy and heavenly chorus of worship before Jehovah’s throne!  How necessary, then, is the highest solemnity and reverence in the earthly worship of the people of God!

This entire study can be accessed here.

[1]           The texts that refer to the church as the Lord’s Temple do not refer to a universal, invisible “church” but to the visible congregation of the saints;  cf. “A Word Study Demonstrating the Meaning of the Word Church, Ekklesia, and Consequently the Nature of the New Testament Church” at
[2]           That is, each assembly is not just the hieron, but the naos of God:
Naos, naou, ho (naioœ to dwell), the Septuagint for he®kaœl, used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice (or sanctuary) itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of holies (in classical Greek used of the sanctuary or cell of a temple, where the image of the god was placed, called also domos, seœkos, which is to be distinguished from to hieron, the whole temple, the entire consecrated enclosure; this distinction is observed also in the Bible; see hieron, p. 299a) . . . used specifically of the Holy place, where the priests officiated: Luke 1:9,21f; of the Holy of holies . . . Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; in the visions of the Revelation used of the temple of the “New Jerusalem”: Rev. 3:12; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15,17; 15:5f,8; 16:1,17;  . . . metaphorically, of a company of Christians, a Christian church, as dwelt in by the Spirit of God: 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; for the same reason, of the bodies of Christians, 1 Cor. 6:19. [O]f the body of Christ . . . John 2:21, and according to the Evangelist’s interpretation in 19 also. . . . [T]o hieron and ho naos differ, in that the former designates the whole compass of the sacred enclosure, embracing the entire aggregate of buildings, balconies, porticos, courts (viz., that of the men or Israelites, that of the women, that of the priests), belonging to the temple; the latter designates the sacred edifice properly so called, consisting of two parts, the “sanctuary” or “Holy place” (which no one except the priests was allowed to enter), and the “Holy of holies” or “most holy place” . . . which was entered only on the great day of atonement by the high priest alone. (Thayer on nao/ß and i˚ero/n)
ÔIero/n  (=templum) is the whole compass of the sacred enclosure, the te÷menoß, including the outer courts, the porches, porticoes, and other buildings subordinated to the temple itself; ai˚oi˙kodomai« touv i˚erouv (Matt. xxiv. 1.) But nao/ß (=‘aedes’), from nai÷w, ‘habito,’ as the proper habitation of God (Acts vii. 48; xvii. 24; 1 Cor. vi. 19); the oi•koß touv qeouv (Matt. xii. 4; cf. Exod. xxiii. 19), the German “duom” or “domus,” is the temple itself, that by especial right so called, being the heart and centre of the whole; the Holy, and the Holy of Holies, called often aJgi÷asma (1 Macc. i. 37; 45). This distinction, one that existed and was acknowledged in profane Greek and with reference to heathen temples, quite as much as in sacred Greek and with relation to the temple of the true God (see Herodotus. i. 183; Thucydides, iv. 90 [ta¿fon me«n ku/klwˆ peri« to\ i˚ero\n kai« to\n new»n e¶skapton]; v.18; Acts xxix. 24, 27), is, I believe, always assumed in all passages relating to the temple at Jerusalem, alike by Josephus, by Philo, by the Septuagint translators, and in the N. T. (Trench on i˚ero/n, nao/ß)
[3]           The “house of God” is terminology for the special dwelling place of God in His place of corporate worship, and is overwhelmingly temple terminology (Gen 28:17; Jud 18:31; 20:18, 26, 31; 21:2; 1 Chr 6:48; 9:11, 13, 26–27; 22:2; 23:28; 24:5; 25:6; 26:20; 28:12, 21; 29:7; 2 Chr 3:3; 4:11, 19; 5:1, 14; 7:5; 15:18; 22:12; 23:3, 9; 24:7, 13, 27; 25:24; 28:24; 31:13, 21; 33:7; 34:9; 35:8; 36:18–19; Ezra 1:4; 2:68; 3:8–9; 4:24; 5:2, 13–17; 6:3, 5, 7–8, 12, 16–17, 22; 7:24; 8:36; 10:1, 6, 9; Neh 6:10; 8:16; 11:11, 16, 22; 12:40; 13:7, 9, 11; Ps 42:4; 52:8; 55:14; Eccl 5:1; Dan 1:2; 5:3; Zech 7:2; Matt 12:4; Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4; 1 Tim 3:15; Heb 10:21; 1 Pet 4:17).
[4]           Note the tremendous presentation of this Biblical truth by John Owen in “The Nature and Beauty of Gospel Worship,” elec. acc.
[5]           Without getting into a detailed exposition of Revelation 4-5, the unity of Old and New Testament saints pictured in the 24 elders, the specific references in the chapters to the unity of this heavenly worship with that on the earth (5:13-14), and the agreement of the rest of Scripture that the saints on earth enter into heaven itself in their worship (Eph 2:18; Heb 9-10) make the unity of heavenly and earthly worship indubitable.



Thanks for the posts.
I am interested in what folks do with small children in their assemblies.

KJB1611 said...

At our church, Mukwonago Baptist in Mukwonago WI, for children above the age of infants we have a children's church service Sunday morning, and keep everyone together Sunday night and Wednesday night. Sunday school has different age-appropriate classes also. That way the youth both get to hear preaching and teaching that is on their level and they also get to learn to listen to adult preaching.

Thanks for the question.

Michael Alford said...

John, if I can throw my two cents in here unbidden, we have 4 children under the age of 12, which means once upon a time we had 4 children under the age of 6. The climate at our church at the time was very much that the children were expected to sit still and quiet for the duration. If not it was expected that there would be an escalating disciplinary process. Coloring books were discouraged, as were toys. We had a family in our church that achieved great success in those areas, and was understandably lauded for it. We had less success and for literally years I let that play with my head. I developed a critical attitude towards my children and lived in the shadow of not only other people's accomplishments, but in the shadow of what I thought other people expected of me as a parent. I wanted people to know that my children were in subjection with all due gravity. I began to put unscriptural expectations on my family.
It took a few years and some maturity on my part to one day say to myself "none of that is in the Bible". So now, when some well-meaning person tells me that my children should do this or shouldn't do that, I look carefully at the scriptures, and if their opinion lines up then we make changes. If not, i thank them for their kind interest, and then I ignore them.


Thanks men.

Bro. Ross,
So do I understand correctly that children above a certain age (infant) and below a certain age (? yrs. old) are not in the meeting, and are watched by someone else?

If so, how does that work with the definition of assembly?

I just hesitate slightly when I see the word "essential" used with worship, etc. It seems convenient to write on the essentials of solemnity and reverence when the children and those watching them aren't in the meeting.

It seems Paul expected children to be in the meeting (Eph. 6:1).

We're in a meeting with 6 adults and 11 children. We meet in a living room and 6 of the children are 6 and under. It is challenging sometimes, but I'm certain God isn't taken by surprise. I've spanked, locked in rooms, put out coloring books, gave food, you name it. If you've had an 18mos -3 yr. old, you know what I'm talking about. I actually hear folks in rural S. America assemblies put their little ones in a potato sack and hang the sack on a nail on the wall!

I was just thinking that when my 2 yr. old grabs some of the bread and grape juice off the coffee table while we pray and remember the Lord, solemnity and reverence aren't the words jumping in my mind. But then again, God loves children and He understands.

Just some thoughts...

Bobby said...


Look at the passage concerning the great assembly in Nehemiah. The assembly that gathered was made up of those who had understanding. Could we infer that those without understanding were cared for somewhere else? I'm a father of 7 and we've taught ours, by Gods grace, to sit and listen without snacks, books, etc. first we utilized the nursery with the kind servants therein.

KJB1611 said...

Dear John,

Ephesians 6:1 is technically referring to children who were members of the assembly, that is, baptized believers. It doesn't tell us anything one way or the other about whether infants were meeting in the same room as everybody else. In the Sunday morning service where we have the children hear age-appropriate preaching, they actually stay with everybody else during most of the the song service. I think that it is going beyond Scripture to say that every single person must always be in the same room or a congregation is not truly assembled. If you take the infants when they are screaming and put them in another room then everyone already isn't together all the time. In a church the size of the congregation in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 2 I rather think that it would be difficult to hear preaching if there were hundreds of infants that were crying during the entire length of the message, but be that as it may, I do not think that the definition of the church requires that no separate classes can ever take place. Indeed, commands such as older women teaching younger women, (Titus 2), female prophets who had no authority to teach men, etc., rather suggest that there were times when separate teaching sessions were going on.

Thanks for the comment.


Hi Bro. Bobby,
If they were cared for by people with understanding then, no - because the text says "all that could hear with understanding" (8:2).

They "gathered themselves together as one man" (8:1).

They also read from the law for several hours and lived in booths for a week. Is that to be normative for the church of the NT?

7 kids, awesome! We're at 5 (7,5,3,3 & 8 weeks) (4 is gurlz)

All of ours attend the meeting - all sit pretty still & quiet witht the exception of the 2 yr old, but she is improving.