Jesus Christ as Worship Leader

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on June 2, 2010

In the New Testament, all the Old Testament roles of worship leadership are incorporated in Jesus Christ. Christ is "head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23), the new family of the kingdom of God, which by his death he has created "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). As Spirit-endowed preacher of the kingdom of God, he is also prophet, a new Moses, teaching the people "as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matthew 7:29). He is the great High Priest who offers the only efficacious sacrifice for the remission of sins and so removes the barrier to covenant with God (Hebrews 9:11–15). In his resurrection he is exalted to the right hand of the Father as both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32–36) and governs as "the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5). As head of the family and mediator of the covenant, he officiates as host of the new covenant meal, the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:23–25), which, in the history of the church, has been the fundamental and most distinctive act of Christian worship.

The preeminence of the living Christ in the worship of the early church explains why the New Testament says so little concerning the role of ecclesiastical functionaries in the conduct of worship. Christ himself directs the worship of the church through the Holy Spirit. Thus, New Testament worship appears to be free-flowing and spontaneous. Spirit-filled believers offer "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19). They come offering up "to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name" (Hebrews 13:15). In their assemblies, "everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation" (1 Corinthians 14:26); Paul’s strictures concerning decency and order in worship do not cancel its basic thrust of response to the Spirit of Christ. Elders, overseers, and other church functionaries have no clearly designated role as worship leaders, with the possible exception of the prophets. Nor do the New Testament writings provide any instruction concerning who is to administer the Lord’s Supper; even the Pastoral Epistles are silent on this subject. The specialized functions and liturgical offices found in the later church are not present in the New Testament but belong to the post-biblical period.

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