What should be apparent is that the essence of worship is itself the language of the gospel—a drawing near to God in relationship with him, made impossible because of sin that demands eternal judgment, yet restored through the substitutionary atonement of the God-man for those who place their faith in him. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes worship possible.
Many of the “worship wars” today are fueled by, I believe, differing views of the nature of worship itself. Clearly differences over what worship is and the function of various worship elements would lead to significant differences over how churches would approach corporate worship, and so I believe that a fundamental step toward resolving these debates is to seek to understand how the Bible itself defines worship.
At its most basic level, worship is drawing near to God in fellowship with him and obedience to him such that he is magnified and glorified.
Created to Worship
This idea of drawing near to God in worship permeates the storyline of Scripture. It is what Adam and Eve enjoyed as they walked with God in the cool the day (Gen 2:8). It is described in Exodus 19:17 when Moses “brought the people out of the camp to meet God” at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He had told Pharaoh to let the people go so that they might worship their God in the wilderness, and this is exactly what they intended to do at Sinai. It is what Psalm 100 commands of the Hebrews in temple worship when it says, “Come into his presence with singing and into his courts with praise.” It is what Isaiah experienced as he entered the heavenly throne room of God and saw him high and lifted up. To draw near to God is to enter his very presence in fellowship and obedience.
Ultimately, this is why God created people. God created the world to put on display the excellencies of his own glory, and he created people therein that they might witness that glory and praise him for it. In Isaiah 43:6–7 God proclaims, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Likewise, Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”
Worship—magnifying God’s worth and glory—is the reason God made us.
Sin Prevents Worship
Adam and Eve’s fall into sin—their disobedience of God’s commandments—was essentially failure to magnify the worthiness of God to be their master and bring him glory, and thus it was a failure to worship him acceptably.