Has God Commanded Public Worship?

While some assert that public worship is not necessary, yet others – including those who affirm it as a biblical requirement – take it very casually and join infrequently and even frivolously. Then there are also those who say that public worship is not as important as private worship.

But every sincere, careful student of the Scriptures knows that true believers, both in the Old Testament and New Testament periods, have been instructed to gather together and render worship to the LORD God Almighty. The very
purpose for which the LORD brought the Jews out of Egypt by the hand of Moses was that they might worship Him with sacrifices and service (Exodus 3:18; 4:22, 23; 5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 9). The Law that God gave them clearly instructed them on how they ought to gather together for public worship on divinely instituted days and feasts.

Consider the following examples of public worship in the Old Testament:

  • Leviticus 8:3 – “And gather thou all the congregation together unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
  • Numbers 8:9 – “And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together.”
  • Deuteronomy 4:10 – “Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:12 – “Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.”
  • Ezra 10:7 – “And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem.”

The Jewish practice of worshipping in synagogues seemed to have begun from at least the time of Ezra. Congregations of Jews meeting for worship and instruction of God’s Word in many parts of their land are mentioned in the Scriptures (2 Chronicles 17:9; Psalms 74:4, 8; 83:12). The authenticity and necessity of such public worship gatherings were endorsed by our Lord Jesus Christ by His participation and involvement in such gatherings of worship – whether it be in the temple or in the synagogues (Matthew 4:23; 12:9; 13:54; Mark 1:21, 39; 6:2; Luke 4:15, 44; 13:10; 19:47; 20:1; John 18:20). In the early part of the Christian ministry, the Apostles also attended the public worships in the synagogues and preached Christ there (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42; 13:14-15; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4). And when the temple in Jerusalem and the Jewish synagogues everywhere rejected the Apostles and the early Christians, God’s people started to meet in houses and other places for worship (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 20:20; 28:30; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19).

Our present obligation of public worship is founded upon both precept and pattern found in the Scriptures. No person who acknowledges the authority of the Scriptures can question the believers’ solemn duty to be committed to public worship of God in His providentially appointed places of gathering. Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23).