Next, consider our singing. When the New Testament commands us to sing, the Apostle tells us that we are not only to sing to God, but we are also to address one another intentionally in song. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16; see also Eph. 5:19). Again, the author of Hebrews urges us to think corporately as we praise God. “Through [Christ] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15).
As tithes and offerings are given, they are to be viewed as a joint collection by God’s people. As the psalmist urges families to ascribe to God the glory due His name, he calls them to bring an offering for that purpose (Ps. 96:7–8). These offerings were used for the work and ministry of the church, a true “collection for the saints” (1 Cor. 16:1). Our giving shows the church’s connectivity, as it is used for such things as caring for our minister, doing mercy work, and supporting missionaries.
Perhaps one place we need to renew our sense of the horizontal in worship is when the Bible is being read and preached. You are not there merely listening to it by yourself. You are to hear God’s Word not only for its personal benefit, but you are also to listen as a fellow member of the body of Christ. Each person is to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7, emphasis added). Understanding this corporate dynamic affects how we listen to God’s Word.
For example, recall that Paul asks the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). Both of the original languages of the Bible, Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New, make a distinction between the second-person singular and second-person plural, a distinction that is not immediately clear in our English translations. In this verse, the Greek makes it clear that each of the three uses of “you” is plural. Paul is telling the congregation at Corinth that it together constitutes the temple of God. In an article in Tabletalk, Gabe Fluhrer makes a similar point. In Jesus’ discourse on the Holy Spirit in the gospel of John, he states: “Interestingly, the personal pronoun ‘you’ is used almost thirty times in John 14:15–31 and not once is it in the singular form. It is always plural. Why? Because Jesus is promising the guidance of the Spirit not just to individuals but to His church.”
Seeing this important truth opens up the Bible to wider and deeper applications. As the above example shows, considering the church and not just my individual self as the temple of God (which many professing Christians do) emphasizes such things as the importance of being at worship, learning from others, and serving together in the church. Recognizing that many of the epistles were written to congregations or to ministers that served them can help us apply the Word more fully to the entire body of Christ.
Finally, even as we come to the end of the service at the time for the benediction, we should be thinking of everyone around us and not just ourselves as we receive God’s blessing. The familiar blessing of God taken from the end of 2 Corinthians could be heard merely as a personal blessing. Yet it is deliberately stated to conclude with a corporate sense of blessing. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14, emphasis added). From the beginning of the service to the end and beyond, the vertical blessing of our triune God flows down and spreads through the entire body of Christ. What a beautiful picture of the horizontal dimension of worship.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 29, 2020.