Synthesizing a theology of worship in the New Testament has been a struggle for Christians since the early church. In particular, how Christ’s coming, life, death, and resurrection altered and in some cases revolutionized the worship of OT Judaism has been the subject of considerable debate, and missteps in this matter have led to various—sometimes serious—theological and practical errors. Yet this controversy is not something new. Believers from the earliest years of Christianity—especially those coming out of Judaism—struggled with how to reconcile the transition between Jewish worship and Christian worship. In fact, the confusion escalated to such a point that some apostatized from Christianity in favor of the worship of their Jewish heritage.
The book of Hebrews functions as the NT’s supreme answer to this challenging dilemma. As Peterson suggests,
Hebrews presents the most complete and fully integrated theology of worship in the New Testament. All the important categories of Old Testament thinking on this subject—sanctuary, sacrifice, altar, priesthood and covenant—are taken up and related to the person and work of Jesus Christ.1
Therefore, a careful study of the message of the book of Hebrews, including its well-developed theology of Christian worship, reveals that while NT worship has its roots in OT revelation, worship in and through Jesus Christ is superior to the worship of Judaism.
I hope you’ll join with me as we explore worship in the book of Hebrews over the next several weeks.
- David Peterson, Engaging with God: a Biblical Theology of Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 228. [↩]