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From Rebel to Worshiper

The Gospel's Call to Worship

“Why did Christ come? Why was he conceived? Why was he born? Why was he crucified? Why did he rise again? Why is he now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, “in order that he might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that he might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”

A.W. Tozer, Worship: the Missing Jewel

After the fall, humankind refused to give to God the worship that God alone deserves and which we were created to give. In Paul’s words, “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks” (Rom. 1:21). In wanting some of God’s unique glory (after Satan insisted they could be “like God”—a lie), Adam and Eve robbed God of the exclusive worship (consisting precisely of honoring him as God and giving thanks) that was his due.

God sent Christ to undo the effects of sin outlined in Romans 1 so that we might begin to worship the Creator rather than the creature (Rom. 1:25); exchange images and idols for “the glory of the immortal God” (Rom. 1:23); and glorify him as God and give thanks (Rom. 1:21).

If the issue in the fall was robbing God of the worship he deserves, and if the work of Christ was intended to restore that worship, then the gospel is in fact a call to lay aside false gods and idols and worship the One who made us. Though we don’t often think of the gospel in those terms, that is in fact what we see in Revelation 14:6-7. John writes:

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

The “eternal gospel” that the angel preaches to those on earth involves three intersecting commands or calls: to fear God, to give God glory, and to worship him. How closely these relate to what Romans 1 says we have taken from God!

What we see here is a God-centered rather than a human-centered perspective on the gospel. Yes, God loves us and has sent his Son to save us from our sins and make us his children. But that is a means toward an even greater end, and not the ultimate goal. As we see from the perspective that Romans 1 gives us on biblical history and its basic conflict, the ultimate goal is for God to be honored and glorified in worship as he alone deserves to be. It is significant that in the very last chapter of the Bible we find a reminder of the Scripture’s central theme and focus: the angel replies firmly to John’s misdirected reverence with the clarion call “Worship God!” (Rev. 22:8-9)
—a call that reverberates through the entire Bible and all of history.

This perspective on the message of salvation is actually seen often in Scripture. In Psalm 67:1-3 we read:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on the earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.




The purpose of salvation going to the nations is that they might praise God. This purpose is seen also in Psalm 86:9:

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.

The message that we take to the nations is indeed a call to worship:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples. (Ps. 117:1)

Moving to the New Testament, in Ephesians 1 we find Paul grounding God’s gift of salvation, with all of its benefits (adoption, redemption, forgiveness, etc., vv. 3-14), in God’s desire to promote “the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6; cf. 1:12, 14). And in 2 Corinthians 4:15, Paul says of his gospel ministry: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” Similarly, in Romans 15:9 we read that Christ came in order that the Gentiles might “glorify God for his mercy.”

The work of Christ (his past redemptive work and also his present priestly ministry) has won for us the inestimable privilege of drawing near to God (Heb. 10:19-22) to enjoy his presence and to glorify him with our worship. That direct access to God is what we lost in the fall, and what Christ came to restore through the gospel. By the power of the gospel that brings salvation (Rom. 1:16) we take our proper place in the created order, even as we joyfully give God his: the highest place, the place of all honor and glory. Fanny Crosby expressed this in the refrain of her hymn “To God Be the Glory”:

O come to the Father [the blessing of the gospel: access to the Father]
through Jesus the Son. [the means of that access]
And give Him the glory [the ultimate goal of the gospel: God’s glory]
great things He hath done. [the basis for our praise]


Excerpts

Note on Revelation 14:6-7

“In line with other New Testament passages, Revelation 14:6-7 suggests that evangelism may be viewed as a call to worship God appropriately.”

—David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (InterVarsity Press, 1992), P. 266

Confession

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

—Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 1

For Discussion

In this article Ron Man suggests that the chief reason for our redemption is so that we may once again worship God as he deserves. Do you agree? If so, how might that perspective on redemption impact your weekly worship?