Physical excitement in public worship

The English word means “worthship,” denoting the worthiness of an individual to receive special honour in accordance with that worth.

It goes without saying, then, that in the worship of God all the faculties of man are to be legitimately involved and exercised. Nothing is to be kept back: God is to be accorded our all: our intelligence, our memory, our will, our emotions, all our humanity. For He is the Source, the Maintainer and End of our whole existence.

Physical excitement is not to be frowned upon when we come to consider the true worship of God. Even the seminal terms taken from the Bible, the Hebrew saha and the Greek proskuneo emphasize the act of prostration, the doing of obeisance. This may be done out of regard for the dignity of personality and influenced somewhat by custom (Genesis 18:2), or may be based on family relationship (Genesis 49:8) or on station in life (1 Kings 1:31). Bu the point here is that in worship the body is certainly involved: it is not passive or neglected.

On a higher plane the same terms are used of divine honours rendered especially to the one true and living God who reveals Himself in Scripture and climactically in His Son (Exodus 24:1).

We have instances in the history of redemption when the people of God celebrated their God-given victories. The women of Israel danced and sang after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 15). David also danced in joy and jubilation as the Ark of the Covenant was brought back from among the Philistines.

In New Testament worship, the soul and body of the worshipper are holistically involved in rendering to God what is due to Him, the praise and honour and thanksgiving for His great salvation through Christ His Son. For one thing, Paul insists that every individual in the church is to offer up his own body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1ff.). And if the members of our body are no longer to be used in the service of iniquity, how much more are they to be involved in the worship of God! Which Christian has not at one time or another felt at least some excitement as he heard the preached Word attentively, and God spoke to Him through the preacher, His earthen vessel?

The two men who walked with Christ confessed how their inward parts burned as they listened to the risen Christ explicating to them the prophecies concerning Himself. That happens to us too: we feel the excitement as we consider the riches of God’s grace. The apostle puts it this way: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory...” (1 Peter 1:8).

Yet all must be done decently and in order, for God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as Paul points out. All our worship is to reflect the character of God. There is a limit up to where we may go, and that limit is indicated to us in Scripture. The regulative principle is always to be guarded and kept in mind, for it is the safest rule to know that our worship really pleases God.

In quite a few circles today the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. The worship of these Christians is marked by extreme soberness and gravity, to such an extent that it is positively dull and uninspiring. The people look like statues; they might as well go to sleep, for they are expecting nothing and do receive nothing.

But what should concern us more is the triviality that have invaded the churches of Christ today, especially in Pentecostal circles. These tend to equate worship with the bodily excitement that is generated. Nothing else seem to matter except to drug their senses and work up their bodily members to a frenzy. They introduce dancing, clapping and rhythmic motions of the body that really denigrates God, for God has not commanded such things to be offered to Him. If David danced it does not necessarily mean that during our worship services today we are meant to dance. That is not commanded of us.

If physical excitement is not the by-product of the mind in receiving the truth of God, then we may safely conclude that it is carnal and unworthy of God. During revival periods, it was reported how many people, under conviction of sin, shook and trembled. If it is of the Spirit, it is not to be hindered (for the soul and the body exercise a mutual influence); but if it is imitative and fleshly, then it is to be restrained and prohibited, though it may be difficult to judge by appearance. Discernment is called for here.