Through our studies in the book of Hebrews we came across several warning passages. In chapter 12 verses 25-27 we find the final and perhaps most terrifying warning in the epistle alongside a magnificent promise. In this text the author warns about the One whose voice is so powerful that it shakes the earth. He admonishes his audience to see to it that they not refuse this voice, lest they find themselves helpless with no escape. We learn that the shaking is necessary for God’s people to inherit what remains after the shaking – an unshakable kingdom.
In light of this powerful voice that will once again shake heaven and earth, the author issues a series of exhortations, beginning in verse 28: let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. This is followed in the first half of chapter 13 with specific instructions that show us how to live a life of worship that pleases God. These instructions are summarized in our text for Sunday, Hebrews 13:15-16: let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. This reveals that the Christian’s worship is associated with both our words as well as our actions. Worship is the manner in which we live our lives day-by-day in the presence of a holy God and before others.
Our text is framed by the word acceptable in 12:28 and pleasing in 13:16 which are derived from the same verb εὐαρεστέω (euaresteó) – a word usually associated with worship in both the Old and New Testaments. The use of this word reveals that worship can be offered that is either acceptable and pleasing to God or unacceptable and displeasing to God. What is it that makes worship acceptable? Is it merely related with one’s sincerity or zeal? Is it purely the object of worship – God or idols – that makes worship acceptable? Is it possible for our worship of the One True God to be offered in vain? Does the form of worship matter at all? How important is our heart in worship? Is it safe to say that whatever we do that feels right in our heart is acceptable to God? Where can we learn what is and what is not pleasing to God in our expression of worship?
We will be examining the Scripture to answer these and other questions, with the goal that we might better understand how to please God with an acceptable offering of worship.