The Prepositions of Worship:
And the Centrality of Christ
By Ed Steele
Although we use them multiple times daily in speech and other forms of communication, we rarely take time to consider the importance of prepositions in our language. They function to show the relationship of one thing to another. We can take advantage of these little words to help us gain insight into our relationship to Christ in regards to worship. This is provided not as an exhaustive listing, nor as a theological treatise, but simply to help us refocus as we think and dialogue about worship.
1. To Him
Worship is directed to Christ. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20-1]
2. In Him
His Spirit lives in us and empowers us, the relationship that abides is that we are “in Him.”
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said,
For we are also his offspring.” [Acts 17:28] “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17] The fact that He is in us should continually lead us away from worshiping any other.
3. With Him
He is present with us in worship. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” [Matthew 18:20]. He not only lives in us, there should be an awareness of His Spirit and presence as we worship.
4. For Him
Worship is for Him. We exist for Him, as Paul stated, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” [1 Corinthians 8:6] Although worship has immense benefits for the worshipper, it is not for him, but for Christ. There is that sense that we are ministering to God as we worship. Our worship and ministry for Him is not because God needs it; He is self-sufficient. Our worship is that specific time in which we affirm His worthiness through obedience in recognizing that it is all for Him.
One might say, “I go worship because I have needs and I want those needs to be met.” I believe I understand what is meant, but we must be careful. The goal of worship is not that my needs are met, but that we worship Christ. If we focus on “our needs,” then we have redirected our attention away from the very One who is able to do anything about those needs. But, as we focus on Christ and His greatness, love, mercy, grace and forgiveness in worship, somehow He works to minister to our needs. Christ’s ministry to us then, is a byproduct of worship and not the central focus.
5. About Him
The subject of worship is Jesus. As Peter stood to deliver his sermon on the day of Pentecost found in Acts 2:14-36, the message from beginning to end was about Christ. Our message is to share how God from the beginning of history has moved to restore relationship with His creation through the death and resurrection of His Son. Even when threatened by the Council, Peter and John could only say, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have see and heard.” [Acts 4:20]
6. By Him
In worship we acknowledge that all things were made by Him. “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities all things have been created through Him and for Him.” [Colossians 1:16]
7. Through Him
We are powerless to worship without His help. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” [Hebrews 13:15]
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” [John 1:3] “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” [Romans 11:36] “He helps you want to obey Him and then help you do what He wants.” [Phil. 2:13 LB]
Our times of worship can be laden with distractions. Perhaps a simple review of some prepositions might help us see Jesus Christ as the central focus of our corporate worship. As we gather for worship let’s remember that it is To Him, and In Him; it is With Him and For Him; it is About Him, By Him and Through Him! Worship centers itself, has its central focus, all on Jesus Christ. Anything less is less than worship.
Ed Steele is an Associate Professor of Music at the Leavell College of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Music Missionary with the International Mission Board of the SBC for 20 years. Visit his blog here: Worship HeartCries.