A Divine Sequence Leading to Worship

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)

If you came across a group of people who were doing something that was very fascinating you would probably wonder, “What caused them to do what they are doing? What events or steps led up to this amazing event?”

Calling upon God in worship is one such fascinating behavior. And in the passage above from Romans 10 the Apostle Paul describes the steps that lead to calling upon God in worship.

Paul takes them in reverse order using rhetorical questions.

People worship or call upon God because they believe in him.

They believe in him because someone preached to them about him.

Someone preached to them about God because they were sent to do so.

Those are the basic steps that lead to the worship of God.

In this post will look at each of these step detail. Instead of going in reverse order as Paul does in Romans 10 we will go in forward order.

In order for people to call upon God in worship the first step is that someone has to be sent. No one, not even Jesus goes out on their own.

In John 12:49 Jesus says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.”

In John 17:3 Jesus is praying to his Father and says, “And this is eternal life, “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

On the day he rose from the dead he told his disciples, “As the Father sent me, I am sending you.” Some of the final words that Jesus said to his disciples were, “Go and make disciples of all nations. (John 20:21-23 and Matthew 28:19)

The Apostle Paul was sent out to be a missionary by a congregation in the town of Antioch. (By the way, the word apostle literally means “sent.”) According to Acts 11 and 13, Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch to help out at the church there. While the members of the church were worshiping and fasting the Holy Spirit told them to send Paul and Barnabas out to preach the Gospel. So they prayed over them and laid their hands on them and sent them off. Pretty much the rest of the book of Acts tells about the many adventures Paul had because he had been sent out to preach the Gospel.

Still today congregations send out preachers to preach about Jesus. Some are sent to foreign lands to preach. Others are sent to preach to a local congregation. But sending is where it all starts.

But it is not just pastors that are sent. Through Holy Baptism we are all sent into the world to witness. In Matthew 5 Jesus calls his disciples the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.

Then those who are sent, preach. Again, just as those who are sent do not go on their own authority, those who are sent are not free to preach about just anything. The content of the message is predetermined – it’s all about Jesus.

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”(I Corinthians 1:22-24)

Anyone who claims to be sent by God and does not speak of Jesus is not sent by God.

As it says in the passage above, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.” There is only one good news. It is the news about Jesus.

Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians because some people were trying to preach a different Gospel:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—[7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [8] But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [9] As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

As Paul notes, some people want to distort the gospel of Christ. They know if they come and tell us to get rid of Christ completely we wouldn’t go for that so they just find very creative ways to distort the Gospel through clever sounding words. And once the Gospel has been distorted it is no longer the Gospel.

The devil sends out his followers to distort the Gospel by preaching his lies. That is why we have Holy Scripture so we can test the teachings of all those who claim to be sent by the Lord.

And as those who are sent preach, faith happens. The Gospel can be written and read but primarily it is a message that is meant to be spoken. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by our own reason or strength, people believe in Jesus as they hear the Gospel.

Paul writes later in this chapter, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

When it comes to faith, the story of Jesus walking on water recorded in Matthew 14 is a good place to start. When the disciples got out on the sea and the storm came up and Jesus came walking to them on the water the disciples realized they had a problem with their faith. This is illustrated in two ways. First, they did not realize who Jesus was, the almighty Son of God, who could not only walk on water but also give Peter the ability to walk on water, and who could calm a storm.

The other problem, illustrated by Peter’s little escapade, is what happens when we take our eye off of Jesus and look instead at the storms around us. We sink faster than a rock. Even though he was a good swimmer, as soon as Peter took his eyes off of Jesus he started sinking like a rock.

The key thing about faith is who it’s in. Tell me who or what you are believing in and that tells me all I need to know about your faith. If you trust in Jesus your faith will sustain you through even the darkest storms because he is the almighty Son of God. If you trust in anyone or anything else you will surely sink.

And the final step is worship. Those who believe in Jesus will worship him. In the passage from Romans 10 Paul refers to worship as calling on the name of the Lord. It means calling on the name of the Lord as Peter did when he was sinking: “Lord, save me.”

There really are just two elements to Christian worship. First we poor sinners cry out to God, “Lord, save me.” Then, when God saves us for the sake of Christ, we respond with praise and thanksgiving. That pretty much sums up Christian worship.

Earlier in Romans 10 Paul says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. [13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (verses 10-13)

The earliest mention of worship in the Bible is after Adam and Eve’s third son Seth was born in Genesis 4:26: “At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” There has been continuous worship of the Lord ever since.

And it can happen anywhere. When Jesus walked on water and saved the disciples from the storm they didn’t wait to get back to shore to worship him. They worshiped him right there in the boat. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of people have had to worship in places other than churches, mostly their homes.

And the highest form of worship is when we speak back to God what he has already told us. It’s fine to come up with our own forms and words for worship but why would we? The Bible is full of passages where people are worshiping God. These passages have been collected and organized into our liturgy. When we worship using the very words God has already given us we can worship confidently, knowing God is pleased with what he is hearing.

Worship can happen anywhere and it can come in different forms but it cannot happen without faith. Those who do not truly believe in Christ may go through the motions of worship but true worship comes with faith.

So that is how it happens that people come to call on the Lord in worship. People are sent out to preach the Gospel. As people hear the Gospel they come to faith in Jesus. Then they realize that it is not enough just to believe in Jesus they must also worship him and keep worshiping him now and to eternity.

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