Paul and the writer of Hebrews both frame Christian discipleship in terms of worship.
Hebrews may address some sort of crisis whereby the community will be separated from the temple. How will they be able to maintain their relationship to God without participating in regular sacrifices?
Hebrews assures them that holistic lives of doing good and offering praise to God in Jesus constitute sacrifices that please God.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb. 13:15-16).
In Romans, Paul frames humanity’s fundamental problem in terms of a worship malfunction. Rather than being the image of the one true God, humanity has become the image of something within creation (Rom. 1:23).
God’s work of salvation reclaims this vital role, transforming humanity into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
Participating in God’s salvation, therefore, involves carrying out a transformed worship:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12:1-2).
Putting holistic discipleship to Jesus in worship terms resonates with deep impulses that run through the biblical narrative.
From the beginning, Adam and Eve are God’s “image,” which is worship or temple language (Gen. 1:27). Just as pagan temples have images of pagan gods in them, all of creation is the temple of God, and only humanity properly images the living God.
And God was to be worshiped as humanity pursued its tasks of filling the earth and overseeing the spread of creation’s flourishing.
Worship of the one true God, then, is the original responsibility of humanity. Biblical writers depict the sinful condition of humanity as a perversion of humanity’s worship. Humanity hasn’t merely refused to worship the one true God, they have become idolatrous, embodying the worship of a range of false gods through various behavioral perversions.
And biblical writers frame salvation as the restoration of humanity to its original intention. God restores humanity so that the whole of our lives once again become worship of the one true God.
This has loads of implications for reimagining faithful discipleship to Jesus, and I’ll mention just one tomorrow.