It should go without saying that Christian worship should be centered on Christ, but sadly many worship services are centered on the additives—and sometimes such additives are carnal attempts to please carnal people who care very little about the Jesus of holy Scripture.

Every church has a specific liturgy that it follows—from a more biblical background to a more contemporary and pragmatic order—every church follows a specific structure. In many cases, the worship service is centered around a pragmatic arrangement in order to guide the emotions of people. In such cases, the worship becomes man centered rather than Jesus centered. When was the last time you examined the worship service of your church and asked honest questions about why it’s ordered in that specific way? Is truth driving the order of your service or is emotion or other man centered pragmatic goals?

The Jesus centered worship service will have a goal of pointing people to their hope in Jesus from the opening Scripture reading and call to worship to the benediction. The Jesus centered worship service is not a rejection of Trinitarian worship. In fact, all Christian worship is Trinitarian, but true Trinitarian worship puts a priority on Jesus who is the true worship leader, the Prophet greater than Moses, the Priest greater than Melchizedek, and the King greater than David. 

The Father Emphasizes the Centrality of Jesus

Before the world was created, the decision was made among the Trinity to send Jesus into his own creation as the second Adam—the Messiah—the Christ of God. According to Scripture, Jesus was sent by the Father (Matt. 10:40; John 5:24, 30, 37; John 12:49). One of the greatest verses in the Bible teaches this very truth. In John 3:16, it says, “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son…” 

The Father places emphasis on the Son as one who provides eternal life to fallen sinners. This exclusive hope grounded in Jesus necessitates the centrality of Jesus as the focus of our Christian worship. Perhaps this could not be more clear than in John 6:40, when Jesus says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” When we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, our worship should be unacceptable in a Jewish synagogue because it’s Christian worship focused on our Triune God with a central emphasis upon Jesus—the Christ of God. 

The Spirit Points the Church to Jesus

Many Christian groups have erred throughout history by placing an unhealthy emphasis upon the Spirit of God which is not God’s intention for Christian worship. The Spirit’s goal is to point God’s people to truth (John 16:13-15) and emphasize the work of Jesus Christ for guilty and helpless sinners. We see this clearly taught in 1 Peter 1:2, as Peter describes that we are saved “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

The Spirit’s role among the Trinity is to point people to a saving knowledge of Jesus (John 15:26; 16:14). This purpose is clearly revealed in the pages of Scripture. In Romans 8:9, listen to the way Paul describes our assurance of salvation in Jesus. He writes, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” The Spirit leads us to Jesus and provides us with ongoing assurance as he indwells us—as the Spirit of Christ.

John Calvin, in the opening words of book three of his Institutes, observes, the “Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.” [1] As the Spirit unites us to Jesus through the gospel, he continues to keep us in union with Christ by his work of sanctification. The Holy Spirit is more than a soft white dove—He is the third person of our Triune God. He is omnipotent, eternal, and holy. Although we can and should worship the Spirit, it is the Spirit’s goal to point our attention and affections toward Jesus so that we will be conformed to his image rather than the image of this present evil world.

In John 16:7-11, Jesus said the following:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 

It is the Spirit’s role to convict guilty sinners of sin, because they have rejected the gospel of Jesus (John 16:9). Secondly, the Spirit convicts sinners of righteousness, specifically the righteousness of Jesus. In order to be saved, we must look away from ourselves to an alien righteousness of Jesus—the true and better Adam who kept the law in totality and never sinned in one point. Finally, the Spirit of God convicts sinners of the coming judgment that will consume Satan and anyone who is deceived by him into rejecting Jesus.

Jesus Receives the Worship of His People

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, we find people worshipping him. For instance, in John 9:38, the blind man who was healed by Jesus believed in him and worshipped him. We see a similar scene in Matthew 1:1-2 as a leper approached Jesus and worshipped him. In Matthew 21:15-16, as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowds worshipped him. Perhaps in one of the most striking scenes of worship, we find the apostle John falling on his face before Jesus in worship and awe as he sees a transcendent and glorious vision of Jesus.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17–18).

It’s clear that Jesus is the center of worship for the Christian Church. What better place to see this truth than when Jesus himself led in the final Passover meal and instituted the Lord’s Supper with his disciples just prior to his crucifixion. Paul describes this scene to the church at Corinth:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23–25).

Jesus was more than a good teacher or an influential rabbi—Jesus was God in human flesh and remains so to this very day. He did not reject the worship of people as we see the angel rebuking the apostle John in Revelation 19:10. The angel spoke to the confused apostle and said, “worship God.”  As people bowed down to worship Jesus he received the worship of his people. This includes the fulfillment of the Passover celebration and the institution of the Lord’s Supper which points directly to Jesus’ substitutionary death, atoning blood sacrifice, and triumphant return.

Needless to say, Christian worship places Jesus at the center. If your worship is focused on the personality of a preacher, the entertaining music of the band, or the programs of the church community—you’ve missed Jesus and he remains unworshipped. The Scriptures provide ample evidence as to why Jesus should be worshipped, but tragically Jesus remains unworshipped within the contexts of many churches from week-to-week.

Think about your worship service and ask an honest question. Is this service centered on Jesus and organized by truth or is it arranged in such a way that pleases carnal people who care very little about truth and worship a Jesus of their own imagination? Bryan Chapell in his book, Christ-Centered Worship made the following statement:

Worship cannot simply be a matter of arbitrary choice, church tradition, personal preference or cultural appeal. There are foundational truths in the gospel of Christ’s redeeming work that do not change if the gospel is to remain the gospel. So, if our worship structures are to tell this story consistently, then there must be certain aspects of our worship that remain consistent [2]…We cannot honor the gospel and, at the same time, worship in ways that distort it. [3]

  1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; 2 vols.; Philadelphia: Westminster 1960), Institutes, 3.1.1.
  2. Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 85.
  3. Ibid., 100.
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Author Jesus-Centered-Worship

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.