Jesus our Lord set the precedent for the worship of the church in the narrative found in Matthew 26:17 and following.
Our Lord had directed his disciples to go into Jerusalem to the house of a certain man so that he would prepare the feast of the Passover for them. From the time of the celebration of the feast until He went out into the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus set the example that would mark the tenor of worship in the church for ages to come.
On this significant occasion, Jesus showed by his example the five simple acts of worship which He required from His followers.
We observe in this passage that the five acts of worship were: fellowship, teaching, prayer, communion of the Lord's supper and singing.
The fellowship of people of like minds was evident.
These disciples had a burning desire to share this time of fellowship with their loving friend. In the Passover feast the Jews had fellowship with one another and with their Maker.
The scriptural meaning fellowship is joint participation. In one sense all worship involves fellowship but in the New Testament the word is most frequently used to denote the giving of money or possessions to the Lord (11 Corinthians 8:4); Philippines 1:5; 4:15-16). The Christians of the New Testament were anxious to enjoy this fellowship together. They realized that they were joining hands with their brethren throughout the world, and with God, to accomplish His work. Jesus took every opportunity to teach his disciples and this occasion was no exception to the rule. Verse 24 states that Jesus said, "The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him." We notice here how he taught His disciples--from the scriptures. Unless we use a "thus saith the Lord" our teaching will be vain.
Preaching was a part of the Christians' worship as seen in the example of Paul at Troas (Acts 20:7). The Lord appointed evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the working of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11- 12).
The following narrative reveals that the Lord's supper was another significant act of the worship. Verses 26 and 27 tell us that Jesus took bread and the cup and gave them to His disciples to eat and drink.
This is an act of worship that has deep significance to the Christian because this simple ceremony in itself preaches the very heart of true worship to God--the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this memorial feast we proclaim the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ and acknowledge the blood of the new covenant between God and man. We remember God's grace to man and demonstrate our belief in the efficacy of Jesus' body and blood as we partake of the simple emblems of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.
The Lord commanded his followers to continue this act of worship in the church (Luke 22:19; Mark 14:25). Like church (Luke 22:19; Mark 14:25). Like the Corinthians, we need to be reminded to partake of the Lord's supper in the right form and spirit (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Prayer was another part of the worship which Jesus shared with His disciples. In spite of his sinless perfection, Jesus always felt a need to talk to His Father in heaven.
Prayer was important in the lives of the Christians of New Testament times (Acts 2:42; 4:24-30; 12:5). Prayer was a natural outlet for their gratitude to their Father and a natural avenue for the requests for their needs.
The scene closes with the simple statement, "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives." The very simplicity of the phrase catches our imagination. If there is one place I would like to have been, it would be there to have heard that beautiful hymn from the lips to my Lord and Saviour.
Christians are admonished to sing hymns as our wonderful Lord and His apostles did on that memorable occasion (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). It was during the singing of a hymn that God let down the bars of a dungeon and freed Paul and Silas and convicted a heathen jailer.
New Testament church worship stands supreme because of its simplicity. Jesus said to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The true Christian spirit of worship shows in a spirit that is poor, and cries out from the depths of a man's soul, "What wilt thou have me do, Lord?" To worship in truth is to follow the truth of God's word, worshipping in the ways which the New Testament directs.
The worship of Christ's church is an appointed worship, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19) and a prepared worship, "every one of you lay by him in store as God has prospered him" (1 Corinthians 16:2). Christ intended that worship should be of a regular nature when He said, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Like their New Testament brethren, faithful Christians today continue "steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).