It seems to me that in all of the apostle Paul’s ministry – all the mission trips and efforts to convince people about the Messiah, and all the dangerous experiences those efforts entailed – Paul had a singular purpose. And that purpose was worship.
Paul wrote at length about unity within the church – unity between Jews and Gentiles, and between the “strong” and the “weak.” His desire was the people of the church live in harmony – not for harmony’s sake, but for the purpose of worship.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul advocated for harmony within the church, and togetherness, and the ability with one voice to glorify God. Worship of God was the goal.
Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles had that same purpose – worship. Jesus laid down his life, Paul said, so the “Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” That is, so we would worship God. Paul quoted a string of Old Testament texts that predicted the gospel would come to the Gentiles (15:9-12). In all of them, worship of God bubbles to the top.
And Paul wrote that his mission to the Gentiles – his preaching the good news to them – was designed so that “the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” What was the offering of the Gentiles? It is worship.
If worship of God ranked so highly in the mission of Paul, then it ought to rank highly in our lives. We are the recipients of the gospel he preached. We are designed to worship God. The proper and acceptable worship of God was what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were all about – and indeed what they displayed to the world.
A failure to worship God was the root of the problem within humanity, after all. Failure to worship God resulted in sin. Paul said as much at the start of the Book of Romans: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
What does your worship of God look like?
That is a big question, certainly. And it can produce a certain amount of guilt and feelings of inadequacy.
But if we take our cues from Paul, we might remember our worship of God is not merely an individual endeavor. It is corporate. We don’t do it all by ourselves. We worship in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ. A man by himself on a mountain can worship God, but let that man recognize he lives in a communion of saints who are doing the same thing across the globe. And let him come down off that mountain every once in a while to encourage his brothers and sisters.
And if we take our cues from Paul, we might remember the best worship emerges from unity. Divided congregations don’t worship well. Remember here what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24. We must constantly be on a quest for harmony within the church because harmony in Christ is the fertile soil for life-changing worship of God.
At the same time, it seems to me worship also must emerge from a unified and undistracted heart. Our anxieties and our preoccupations can make it hard for us to worship. Perhaps this is why prayer is so important (Philippians 4:6-7).
Finally, if we take our cues from Paul, we might remember the mission of the gospel is all about worship. Christians go on mission for God because they care about the worship of God, recognizing some day every knee will bow anyway (Philippians 2:10-11). The missionaries point the way for us, helping to bring us closer to the fulfillment of all things.
Today might be a day to consider your worship of God. Is anything getting in the way?