In 1992 my study of the theme of worship in Scripture was published as Engaging with God: a biblical theology of worship (Leicester: IVP; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans [now published in the USA by Inter-Varsity, Downers Grove]). I am grateful that this book is still in print and is recommended to students in many seminaries and theological colleges. It has subsequently been translated into Spanish (En la presencia de Dios [Barcelona: Publicaciones Andamio, 2003), French (En Esprit et en vérité [Charols: Éditions Excelsis, 2005), Russian (2005), Romanian (2006), and is due to be published in Korean.
I wrote Engaging with God because of the confusion that I perceived in many churches and Christian publications about the nature of God-pleasing worship. Serious differences continue to emerge in the way that relevant biblical teaching is understood and applied. ‘Text proofing’ is a popular way of confirming denominational traditions and personal preferences! In such a situation, the method of Biblical Theology is particularly helpful because it allows us to put texts into their proper context. In the unfolding story of God’s self-revelation and engagement with humanity, there has been a development of the way acceptable worship has been expressed. In particular, we need to understand the difference that emerges in biblical thinking about worship with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the completion of his saving work.
Engaging with God begins with a study of the way people engaged with God in Old Testament times. There is a focus in this chapter on the provisions for priesthood, sacrifice, and sanctuary in the Mosaic Covenant. Next, there is an examination of the terminology of worship, to show how this was used by Old Testament writers. Two chapters examine the practice and teaching of Jesus on this subject, with special attention to the evidence of the Gospels of Matthew and John. A chapter is devoted to the Acts of the Apostles, and two chapters to the writings of Paul. A chapter is devoted to the important teaching of Hebrews on worship and another to the perspective of the Revelation to John. A final chapter summarises the argument of the book and the Epilogue considers what it might mean to express this teaching appropriately within the context of Christian assembly.