Witherington: Worship focuses on God, not worshippers

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WACO—A narcissistic, consumer-oriented, entertainment-focused culture makes proper worship of God challenging, New Testament scholar Ben Witherington told the Winter Pastors’ School at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.

Three biblical visions of God—in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4—reveal the nature of heavenly worship—“not doing an end-zone dance drawing attention to ourselves but bowing before a holy God,” said Witherington, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary.

“Worship happens when the creature recognizes he is not the Creator,” he said.

Contrary to a “me-oriented” culture, worship makes it clear God is high and holy, while the worshipper becomes aware, “I am so not the holy one,” he said.

Fellowship exists among equals, but worship represents the communion between beings of a different order, he emphasized.

Danger of idolatry

“We worship the one who made us, not ourselves,” Witherington said. “God is the only one worthy of our absolute adoration and true worship. When we give unconditional adoration to anything less than God, it is idolatry.”

True worship focuses on God, not the worshipper, he emphasized.

“We are not in it for what we can get out of it,” he said, rejecting what he called a “consumer approach” to worship.

“Worship is not and never was intended to be a spectator sport or a performance by people on the platform for the benefit of the coach potatoes in the pews. … Worship is not about giving people what they want and crave. Worship is giving God what he deserves and requires.”

End and means

Churches need to understand the difference between ends and means, Witherington asserted.

“Salvation is not the chief aim of the church. The goal is for all creation to worship God,” he said. “Salvation is the means. Worship is the ends.

“Have you ever considered that worship is the thing that most prepares you for life in heaven? … Salvation is intended to lead to an everlasting relationship with God—and worship.”


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