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Reverent devotion and allegiance pledged to God; the rituals or ceremonies by which this reverence is expressed. The English word worship comes from the Old English word worthship,
a word which denotes the worthiness of the one receiving the special honor or devotion.
In Old Testament times Abraham built altars to the Lord and called on His name (Gen 12:8; 13:18). This worship of God required no elaborate priesthood or ritual.

After God's appearance to Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the foundations of Israelite ritual were laid. This worship took place in the light of history, especially the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt. Through Moses, God established the form and principles of Israelite worship (Ex 25-31; 35:1-40:38).

After the occupation of the Promised Land, Israel's exposure to Canaanite worship affected the nation's own worship. The Old Testament reveals clearly that Israel adopted some of the practices of the pagan people around them. At various times God's people lapsed into idolatry. Some idols were placed on pedestals and sometimes they were adorned or fastened with silver chains (Isa 40:19) or fastened with pegs lest they totter and fall (Isa 41:7). Shrines and altars were sometimes erected to these pagan gods. But such idolatry was condemned by God and His special spokesmen, the PROPHETS of the Old Testament.

New Testament worship was characterized by a joy and thanksgiving because of God's gracious redemption in Christ. This early Christian worship focused on God's saving work in Jesus Christ. True worship was that which occurred under the inspiration of God's Spirit (John 4:23-24; Phil 3:3).

The Jewish Sabbath was quickly replaced by the first day of the week as the time for weekly public worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2); it was called the Lord's Day (Rev 1:10). This was the occasion for celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, since He arose on the first day of the week (Mark 16:2).

At first worship services were conducted in private houses. Possibly for a time the first Christians worshiped in the synagogues as well as private homes. Some scholars believe the Jewish Christians would go to the synagogues on Saturday and to their own meeting on Sunday.
Many early Christians of Jewish background continued to follow the law and customs of their people. They observed the Sabbath and the Jewish holy days, such as the great annual festivals. However, the apostle Paul held himself free from any obligation to these and never laid an obligation to observe them on his converts (Col 2:16). The New Testament itself contains no references to any yearly Christian festivals. The KJV mention of Easter (Acts 12:4) is a mistranslation; the NKJV has Passover.

Although the New Testament does not instruct worshipers in a specific procedure to follow in their services, several elements appear regularly in the worship practices of the early church.
Prayer apparently had a leading place in Christian worship. The letters of Paul regularly open with references to prayer for fellow-Christians who are instructed to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). Praise, either by individuals or in hymns sung in common, reflects the frequent use of psalms in the synagogue. Also, possible fragments of Christian hymns appear scattered through the New Testament (Acts 4:24-30; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; Rev 4:8,11; 5:9-10,12-13).
Lessons from the Bible to be read and studied were another part of the worship procedure of the New Testament church. Emphasis was probably given to the messianic prophecies which had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. His teachings also received a primary place.

Prophecy, inspired preaching by one filled with the Holy Spirit, helped build up the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 12:6). Contributions were also collected on the first day of each week (1 Cor 16:2). Other details about the worship procedures of the early Christians in the New Testament times are spotty. But these elements must have been regularly included in the weekly worship service.


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