“God’s glory draws our worship, and God’s will directs our worship. God is a jealous God, i.e. he has burning zeal for the holiness of his name. He will not share worship with another.”[1] To adore the transcendent and holy God demands total devotion to him and the adoration of him above every competitor. “For our God is a consuming fire” is the reason given for why we should “worship acceptably with reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).  This exhortation is based off Deuteronomy 4:24 where Moses warned the people to worship God alone and to worship God appropriately saying, “for the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” The worship of God and the manner in which we worship God is vital to the relationship between God and man. Worship is the pinnacle of human existence. Worship is the way in which we ascribe the importance and glory and honor due to him. “Worship of the living God is the duty and privilege of every rational being.…if God exists, He must be worshipped.”[2]

When modern worship is surveyed, there is unfortunate lack of reverence displayed among the worshipers both inside the service and outside the service. Why is our culture captivated with irreverence? Why does everyone want to rebel? Why do we want to live as we want and expect everyone to accept all our choices? Wouldn’t it be better to live before God in a way that is acceptable to him? Shouldn’t we live with reverence and awe to prepare us for the sacred moments when we are able to worship with reverence and awe? 

Christian worship is to be done “with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Louw and Nida, in their lexicon stated that in the Greek word “εὐλαβείας” translated “reverence” “there is also a certain element of awe, which may be interpreted in some instances as implying even fear. The implication of such reverent fear or awe is, of course, obedience”[3] “Awe” was likewise described as, “profound respect and awe for deity.”[4]Calvin explained that

The meaning then would be, that we are to serve God under a deep consciousness of our own weakness, and under a fear or dread of the danger of apostasy, though that dread may arise in part from an apprehension of what God will be to apostates, according to what is said in the following verse. Without these two feelings it is indeed impossible for us in our present state to serve God acceptably; for without humility arising from a sense of unworthiness and weakness, we shall not be capable of appreciating his mercy; and without the dread of sin, and especially of apostasy, we shall never depend as we ought on God’s power to preserve us.[5]

Those who appropriately revere God and are in awe of him will find their lives blessed. God said, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings” (Mal 4:2). 

Even Jesus’ prayers are characterized by reverence. Hebrews 5:6 says Jesus offered up prayers and was “heard because of his reverence.” The display of Jesus’ true humanity exemplified how true prayers should be offered. “A true encounter with the Holy precipitates a sense of awe in which we experience our helplessness and littleness before an almighty God.”[6] We must prepare for worship with our lives lived with reverence and awe. “This is no other than the inward devotion of the mind, a fervency of spirit in serving the Lord; it is a holy disposition of the soul towards God.”[7] True worship must be preceded and characterized by reverence toward the perfectly righteous God. Petrus van Mastricht noted that since Christians are to walk in reverence before God

 (1) let us carefully take heed to ourselves that we might not at any time offend such a righteous God, even in the smallest matter (Job 37:23–24; Heb. 12:28–29). 

(2) Let us carefully take heed to ourselves against all opinion of our own righteousness, and all arrogance before God, the sort shown by the Pharisee (Luke 18:11–12), and the Laodicean church (Rev. 3:17), and the Jews (Rom. 10:3; cf. Ps. 130:3; Job 9:3). 

(3) Let us never rush into the presence of the most righteous Deity in the unrighteousness of our sins (Isa. 1:12–13), nor without any pious concern for offending him (Eccl. 5:1–2; Isa. 8:13; Gen. 28:17). Indeed, 

(4) let us not pour out our prayers before the most righteous Deity in the unrighteousness of our sins, because not only does he not hear sinners (John 9:31), but he also drives them from his sight and abhors them (Isa. 1:14–15; Prov. 15:8). Finally, 

(5) let us sinners not have any dealings with God without the Mediator between us (1 John 2:2), without the Advocate who appears before the Father for us (Heb. 9:24), who repairs the deficiency of our own righteousness by his abundance, that we might be complete in him (Col. 2:10), the one who for this reason is said to have been given by God for us as righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).[8]

Worship, then can be the pinnacle of our lives before God. The reverence and awe with which we live will be exemplified as we worship. While Christians can draw near to God with boldness, we must also remember that we are in God’s presence and that deserves a proper decorum in worship and life. 

[1] Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 120.

[2] Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (Ross-shire, UK: Mentor, 2005), 963.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic,531–532.

[4] Ibid., 540.

[5] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 404–405.

[6] Donald G. Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 119.

[7] John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity: Or A System of Evangelical Truths, Deduced from the Sacred Scriptures, New Edition., vol. 2 (Tegg & Company, 1839), 346.

[8] Petrus van Mastricht, Faith in the Triune God, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Todd M. Rester and Michael T. Spangler, vol. 2, Theoretical-Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 402.

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