Introduction to Biblical Worship

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The Names of God In Worship

The following five entries deal with the most important biblical names or titles for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Some of the concepts referring to God the Father in the Old Testament are applied also to God the Son in the New Testament, and this usage is dealt with in the most convenient place. The study does not attempt to describe every metaphor or simile used for God in the Scriptures, which contain a rich variety of such terms.

  1. Biblical Concept of “Name”
  2. Names of God the Father, Part 1
  3. Names of God the Father, Part 2
  4. Names of God the Son
  5. Names of God the Holy Spirit
  6. The Trinity

Symbolism In Biblical Worship

Symbols are tokens or signs (Hebrew 'ot, Greek smeion) that point beyond themselves to another, often abstract, reality that is difficult or impossible to represent any other way. As described in the next four entries, symbols can be a person, object, place, or act-anything that conveys meaning about the concept it represents. The ability of human beings to communicate symbolically is one characteristic that sets humankind apart from all other creatures.

  1. Introduction to Symbolism In Biblical Worship
  2. Symbolic Acts and Gestures In Biblical Worship
  3. Symbolic Structures In Biblical Worship
  4. Symbolic Objects In Biblical Worship, Part 1
  5. Symbolic Objects In Biblical Worship, Part 2

Sacrifice In Biblical Worship

From the dawn of history until the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in a. d. 70, human beings erected altars and offered sacrifice to the Lord in acts of worship. Since only descendants of Aaron were allowed to officiate at Jewish sacrifices, and genealogical records were destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem, even Judaism abandoned the sacrificial system at that time. Christians, of course, understood the death of Christ as the supreme sacrifice, rendering all others obsolete. The following two entries explore these themes.

  1. Sacrifice In Israelite Worship
  2. Sacrifice and Atonement In the New Testament

The Numinous Aspect of Biblical Worship

Worship may serve many purposes in the life of the worshiper. It may be spiritual development, the cultivation of Christian graces, and the deepening of understanding. It may be an emotional release or catharsis, the healing of hurts through the touch of the divine. It may be a communion with God, the mystic identification with the source of life. It may be thanksgiving to God for benefits received and rejoicing in his presence. It may be an individual act of commitment to serve God or the corporate celebration of the identity of the people of God, the covenant community. While worship may be all these things, biblical worship operates in an added dimension. For in all these things the focus is on the worshiper; in genuine biblical worship, the focus is always on the One who is worshiped. These four entries demonstrate that the biblical worshiper comes before the Creator with an overpowering sense of reverence, awe, even dread of the divine mystery. This aspect of worship is known as the numinous.

  1. The Sense of Awe In Worship
  2. The Numinous as the Holy One
  3. Images Associated with the Manifestation of the Holy
  4. Holy Places, Holy People

Biblical Worship as Response to Saving Events

Because it is God who always takes the initiative, Christian worship is best discussed in terms of response. In worship people are responding to God; this is true of the whole of the liturgy, whether it be praise, thanksgiving, supplication, repentance, Eucharist, baptism, liturgical prayer, or the celebration of the church's year. If this is so, as the next three entries explain, worship must be seen in the context of saving history, which is the record of the divine initiative.

  1. Israelite Worship as Response to Salvation History
  2. Christian Worship as Response to Salvation History
  3. Worship as the Response of a Community

Biblical Worship as Re-presentation of Saving Events

Encounter with God in worship creates life as the worshiper's relationship to God is continuously sustained and renewed. In biblical worship this takes place as the saving events of God's action in history are made real again and again, as explained in the following four entries.


  1. Israelite Worship as a Re-presentation
  2. Worship and Historical Recital
  3. Worship as Dramatic Re-presentation
  4. Israelite Worship's Relevance for Christian Worship