Worship is of immense concern in the church and ironically the source of controversy and dispute. Can we get behind the question of what style of worship we should engage in to understand the bedrock foundation for God’s people—honoring him as he desires? Is the dissatisfaction with worship voiced by so many perhaps a result of our having wandered from biblical teaching on the subject?
Through careful exegesis in both Old and New Testaments, David Peterson unveils the total life-orientation of worship that is found in Scripture. Rather than determining for ourselves how we should worship, we, his people, are called to engage with God on the terms he proposes and in the way he alone makes possible.
This book calls for a radical rethinking of the meaning and practice of worship, especially by those responsible for leading congregations. Here is the starting place for recovering the richness of biblical worship.
“Israel expressed its relationship with God through sacrifice and ritual, using sacred enclosures, and depending upon the mediation of priests. In other words, it had what is technically called a cult. In general terms this means ‘the expression of religious experience in concrete external actions performed within the congregation or community, preferably by officially appointed exponents and in set forms’.14 Modern use of the word ‘cult’ to describe particular (usually extreme) religious groups should not be allowed to confuse this issue.” (Page 30)
“Paul’s principle here challenges the common assumption that church services should simply be designed to facilitate a private communion with God, either by spiritual exercises or ritual. He envisages that believers will come together for the benefit of one another, drawing on the resources of Christ for spiritual growth by the giving and receiving of Spirit-inspired ministries.” (Page 212)
“If a definition of worship is to be attempted, it cannot simply be based on the derivation or common application of the English word ‘worship’.” (Page 17)
“The idea that acceptable worship is a total-life orientation is not a new discovery by the writers of the New Testament!” (Page 29)
“From Romans 12–15 it is clear that acceptable worship involves effective ministry to one another within the body of Christ, maintaining love and forgiveness towards those outside the Christian community, expressing right relationships with ruling authorities, living expectantly in the light of Christ’s imminent return, and demonstrating love especially towards those with different opinions within the congregation of Christ’s people.” (Page 178)
The author cuts back through the undergrowth of our inherited traditions to the clarity and straightforwardness of the biblical teaching. . . . Despite the scholarship behind it, all this is done with a beautiful simplicity and clarity that makes the book readily available to a wide circle of readers.
—I. Howard Marshall
Peterson has researched 160 books in preparation for this project, which speaks to his thoroughness. My guess is that he found every instance of worship in the Bible. Recommend this book to your pastor, worship leaders, and Bible teachers; but warn them that it is deep reading. Each chapter concludes with a summary in laymen's terminology, which helps make it more readable.
—Cindy Grabill, Church Libraries, Summer 2010
David G. Peterson is an emeritus faculty member at Moore Theological College in Sydney, where he still teaches part-time. He served as principal of Oak Hill College, London, from 1996 to 2007. His books include The Acts of the Apostles (PNTC), Romans (EBTC), Engaging with God, Possessed by God, Transformed by God, and Hebrews and Perfection.