1.3 In Spirit and In Truth by Dr Simon Chan

We’re looking at Dr Simon Chan’s overview of a Biblical Theology of Worship (as promised). Do see the previous posts: 1.1 & 1.2.


A Biblical Theology of Worship

According to Dr Chan, the foundation of worship is the revelation of the triune God – that is, throughout the bible, the only basis for worship is responding to the acts of God and revelations of Himself.

SO then, WORSHIP is the “spirit-inspired response to the revelation of the triune God”, defined by two “movements”:

  1. God’s approach to us via His revelation (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
  2. Our response to His revelation

God’s Revelation

Specifically, God reveals Himself as three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As such, God is predominantly described in human terms – His “characteristics”.

Note: It’s up for debate as to whether God possesses these characteristics as we understand them as human beings, or it is just our interpretation of Him.

The 2 MAIN characteristics of God are:

  1. Holiness
  2. Goodness

Dr Chan argues that they are often seemingly at odds with one another – a God that judges, yet forgives, a God that is set apart, yet approachable. Yet these inalienable characteristics of God must be accurately portrayed in our Christian worship.

God’s Holiness convicts us of our sinfulness and need for forgiveness. We then offer a sacrifice (OT – lamb, NT – Jesus), then God reveals His goodness through forgiveness, which redeems us as His people and we are able to commune with Him as His Church.

Dr. Chan argues that to portray either one without the other is incorrect, and I will agree that having either one without the other just doesn’t make sense – a Holy God who doesn’t redeem us condemns us all to die. A good God that isn’t almightily powerful is just a God that is doing us a favour (like He owes it to us or something).

Worship leaders have a duty to portray each one in the light of the other, balancing the two (no one said it was an easy job!).

Our Response

Here’s where things get a little tricky – Dr. Chan asserts that there are pre-determined responses to God’s revelation. In studying the OT and NT forms of worship, it seems that worship follows a certain pattern, and that pattern of worship is consistently repeated, as are the responses. What’s more, the responses are commanded by God in the OT.

The 5 Basic Responses in worship:

  1. Adoration (of God’s character)
  2. Confession (of our sins)
  3. Thankfulness (for God’s goodness in forgiving and redeeming us)
  4. Intercession (because now we are part of the “body”)
  5. Dedication (to a holy and good God)

Here’s a comparison of God’s revelations and the responses. The responses in Isaiah 6 are perhaps involuntarily, but have parallels to the sacrifices.

Revelation OT Response * Isaiah 6 Response
God’s holiness Exo 19: Enter into covenant ** v1-3 Adoration
God’s judgement Lev 4, 8: Sin Offering
Lev 6, 8: Burnt Offering
v5 Confession
God’s goodness Lev 3: Fellowship Offering
Lev 2: Grain Offering
v6 Thanksgiving
God’s communion *** Lev 3: Fellowship Offering   Intercession
God’s call Lev 6, 8: Burnt Offering
Lev 2: Grain Offering
v8 Dedication

* see OT Sacrificial System

** Israel’s response to God’s revelation of His might acts, and rescue for Egypt was to enter into a covenant with Him, by which He spelt out the requirements of worship.

*** God’s redemption is that of collective redeeming of His church – the “body of Christ”, hence the emphasis on the collective “body”.

Dr Chan (and most of liturgical church history) seems to argue that we must enact these revelations and responses in our weekly Sunday worship in order for us to accurately understand what holistic worship means (which extends to our daily living).

Phew! That’s taken me a while to digest and produce. But what do you think? Should Worship Leaders always strive to evoke these 5 Basic Responses in every worship ‘set’? How do you like to structure your worship services? Leave a comment!

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~ by jonhyz on May 28, 2009.

2 Responses to “1.3 In Spirit and In Truth by Dr Simon Chan”

  1. […] “spirit inspired-response to God’s revelation of Himself” […]

  2. […] A Biblical Theology of Worship by Dr. Simon Chan (TTC Lecturer) […]

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