Why New Covenant Worship is Superior to Old Covenant Worship Part 2

Previously in Part 1 we got introduced to worship and how God has ordained that all of creation would worship Him. Especially humans who have been made uniquely in the image of God. Now let’s spend some time defining our terms. How was OC worship defined and how is NC worship defined.

Defining Worship

tabernacle17enlargementOld Covenant Worship Defined

A biblical definition is crucial for this study. Such a definition must take into account the revelation of both testaments. According to David Peterson in the NDBT, “Nowhere in Scripture is worship actually defined. But when key biblical terms for worship are examined in a variety of contexts it is clear that the central concepts are homage, service and reverence.”3 The OT focuses worship around a specific location designated by God. We see this in the Garden of Eden, the tabernacle and the temple. These are all places that were the special dwelling place of God in the midst of His people. However, none of the activity in these places was honoring to the Lord unless the end result was obedience and praise in every aspect of life.4 One of the key things to understand about defining OC worship is that it revolved around worship in a “place.” As we will see, this element of worship to God will change with the advent of the NC. The focus will shift from a “place” to a manner grounded in a “person.”

Ultimately faith, gratitude, and obedience are the essential requirements for acceptable worship. Solomons-TempleAnd the OT makes that clear. Worship activities of the nations outside of Israel in the OT are seen as offensive to God because they are man-made due to active ignorance about God’s true character and what pleases Him.5 To summarize, worship in the OT is an attitude of homage and adoration towards God as great King, expressed in silence, a simple gesture, and praise in offering and sacrifices. Ultimately, it has everything to do with the attitude of the heart.

New Covenant Worship Defined

As we saw previously, a proper response of worship towards God results in obedience and praise in all areas of life towards God. We also see this response of worship in the NT whereby the worshipper rightly responds to God, which demonstrates the working of Christ in them.6 In the modern sense of the word in the context of the church, “worship” typically refers to a “public gathering of people to perform religious activities. For Christians, this will mean the regular assembly of the church, day by day or week by week, meeting to engage directly with the triune God of Jesus Christ, and with each other in God’s name.”7 But it means more than that. Christian worship is defined by additional revelation that clarifies what was less clear in the OT. For example, there are places in the NT that give us greater revelation into themes and circumstances that occurred in the OT (cf. Gal 3, 4; Heb 1, 3, 4, 5; et al.), which helps us now to better interpret and apply these truths as we worship the Lord.

Referring to what Christian worship is chiefly concerned with Block says, “[Worship] in its orthodox forms is committedly monotheistic but also mysteriously trinitarian, acknowledging the one Triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”8 This helps us to see doctrinally what defines NC worship. _VoFd6Fdb70But what about how it is manifested in corporate and individual lives? Two main considerations regarding NC worship are how God works in His people individually, but also the corporate entity of the church, which we come to know as the “Body of Christ” (cf. Rom 7:4; 12:5; 1 Cor 6:15; 10:16; 12:12, 27; et al.).

Individually Defined

Individually there are significant things that occur with the coming of Christ and the ushering in of the NC, which was prophesied in the OT. The prophet of God, Jeremiah gives us a spectacular look into what God will do at a future point from when this prophesy was originally given approximately late 7th century B.C. to early 6th century B.C. So roughly 600 years had to pass before God would bring this to fulfillment; with the coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost following Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.9

Jeremiah tells us, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people”(Jer 31:31, 33). In chapter 32, referring to this new covenant described as being “everlasting” (v. 40), the LORD reiterates,

they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul (v. 38- 41).

These are amazing promises that some think mostly find fulfillment with national, ethnic Israel in an end of time (eschatological) scenario. I respectfully disagree with this assertion. The author of the book of Hebrews cites this passage in explaining the new and better covenant that has come in Christ (8:8-13). It is important additionally to recognize that this promise of God applies not only to the individual, but also to the corporate people of God in the NC – the church.

Corporately Defined

You can recall that we are all made in the image of God for the purposes of worshiping God. However, since the fall in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3) our now imputed sinful nature lures us away from pure worship and into idolatry. Living in this age, which many theologians will refer to as the “church age” allows us to experience something truly remarkable in how God is working with His people. As we discussed previously with the advent of the NC, the Holy Spirit works in an extraordinary way compared to before. Since He comes to indwell all people whom He has regenerated or quickened, worship now comes in-line with what God has planned. There is a definitive change in the disposition of the person whom the Holy Spirit is working in. R.C. Sproul observes, once the Spirit of God quickens people, imparting to them spiritual life, they have a new capacity for worship. UnknownDeep within all Christians have a hunger to find a way to express worship of God…It is not accident, therefore, that worship is one of the central purposes of the church. When the people of God gather in a common assembly, the purpose is to worship. People often go to church primarily for fellowship, Christian education, or edification, but the primary reason we should be there is to join with other believers in worshiping the Lord.10

This reformed way to worship in the NC as an individual not only connects the believer to a local body of believers, but also into the Body of Christ in a universal sense.

In part 3 we’ll look at the worship of God through the temple and high priest as ordained in the Old Covenant. This will point us towards greater worship of God through the perfect Temple and the perfect High Priest.

Grace and Peace!


Footnotes 3-10 of 32 (for entire article)

3 David G. Peterson, “Worship” in T. Desmond Alexander, ed. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 855-856.

4 Ibid., 856.

5 Ibid., 73-74.

6 Ibid., 856.

7 Jeremy Begbie, “Worship” in Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ed. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 856.

8 Block, 2.

9 This is also when a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 takes place as relayed by the apostle Peter in Acts 2 (see also Gal. 3:13). This is the time that the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the people of God and put the law of God within them, writing it on their hearts. The people of God in this covenant are known as the “church” and are the physical manifestation of “the body of Christ.” They will not turn away in unfaithfulness, because God resides within them. This is the New Covenant.

10 R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s A Theologian An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014), 274.


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Begbie, Jeremy. “Worship.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009.

Church, Chris. “High Priest” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Due, Noel. Created For Worship From Genesis to Revelation to You. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005.

Elwell, Walter, and Barry Beitzel “Lord of Hosts” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Volume Two. Edited by Walter Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Frame, John M. Worship in Spirit and Truth A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1996.

Hauser, Alan J. and Kellet, Earl. “History of the Temple” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by J.D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, and W. Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.

Lamey, Paul. “The Reading of Scripture” The Expositors Blog, April 12, 2016. Accessed April 12, 2016, http://www.expositors.org/blog/the-reading- of-scripture/.

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Patzia, Arthur G, and Petrotta, Anthony J. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Peterson, David G. “Worship.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

_____ Engaging With God A Biblical Theology of Worship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Rooker, Mark F., Merrill, Eugene H., and Grisanti, Michael A. The World and the Word An Introduction to the Old Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011.

Schnackenburg, Rudolph. The Epistle To The Ephesians. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark LTD, 1991.

Sproul, R.C. Everyone’s A Theologian An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2014.

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding A Child’s Heart: Second Edition. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2005.