Book Review – “Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship”


What am I here for? Why am I walking around this planet? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose for being here? The way a person answers these questions has dramatic ramifications on the way they choose to live their lives. By the grace of God and the illumination provided by his Spirit, Christians have to understand that the reason we were created was to worship God and enjoy Him forever.

With that being said – the question that naturally arises is – HOW do I worship God and enjoy Him forever. The issue of how to worship God has been debated vigorously since the Church’s inception. Modern Christianity has associated worshipping God with meetings, buildings and styles of music. The question we must ask ourselves is – are we worshipping God as He wants to be worshipped? We are not in a position of authority to declare the correct way to approach God and give Him the worship that He alone deserves. We are in a position of humility and servitude, and that requires that we seek out how the One we are worshipping wants to be worshipped. How we desire to worship God is secondary to how He prescribes for us to worship Him.

As in every other aspect of life we must become biblically informed in how we worship God. God has revealed Himself to us in the scriptures and He has revealed how He is to be approached. It is our duty, then, to seek out what He says is the correct way to worship Him.

David Peterson does an excellent job of taking a snapshot of worship in the Bible from beginning to end and puts forth a well constructed biblical theology of worship in his book “Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship”. I would highly recommend this book to all believers as a way of truly understanding what it means to not only worship God corporately, but how our relationship with God effects change in every other area of our lives. This book is not for the light reader. Peterson digs deep into original texts and language and breaks down that language in the context and culture for which it was intended and then draws meaningful conclusions to the modern believer. Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 were the most useful to me and that is only because the first six chapters lay the foundation for understanding the content in those chapters. I came away convicted and challenged as God revealed areas in my life that I continue to struggle to bring Him glory. I came away inspired to pursue Him more passionately because of all He has done to provide a way for me to approach Him and to give Him worship in the first place.

Put this on your list of must reads if you are a pastor or corporate worship leader. Below are my “TOP 10” quotes from the book that served me well.

  • “The fact some worship in the Old Testament was regarded as offensive to God (e.g. Gn. 4:3-7; Ex. 32; Is. 1), is a reminder that what is impressive or seems appropriate to us may be offensive to him.” pg. 17
  • “Worship in the New Testament is a comprehensive category describing the Christian’s total existence. It is coextensive with the faith-response wherever and whenever that response is elicited. Consequently, our traditional understanding of worship as restricted to the cultic gathering of the congregation at a designated time and place for rite and proclamation will no longer do. This is not what the New Testament means by worship.” pg. 18-19
  • “Again and again, the Old Testament makes the point that the Holy One can be approached only in the way that he himself stipulates and makes possible.” – pg. 35
  • “With one eye on the past and what Jesus has done for us, we need to express our gratitude to God for his grace towards us and reach out together to experience afresh the forgiveness and restoration he has promised us. With another eye on the future and what it will mean for us to share with Christ in his coming kingdom, we need to encourage one another in this hope and to learn what it means to live as the redeemed community in the present.” pg. 130
  • “Preaching about Christ must be at the heart of a Christian theology of worship. As in the Old Testament, the word of the Lord is central to a genuine encounter with God. Those who are concerned about God-honouring worship will be concerned about the proclamation of the gospel, in the world and in the church, in public teaching and private dialogue. If worship is an engagement with God on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible, preaching Christ is a key to that engagement.” pg. 144
  • “Formality and informality are not theological categories. Yet sometimes people imply that formality in church services is somehow more conducive to acceptable worship than informality. Others argue that informality is preferable because it allows for greater expression of biblical teaching about the congregation as the body of Christ. Formality may be the expression of a very narrow and inadequate view of worship and informality may be an excuse for lack of preparation or any serious attempt to engage collectively with God. ” pg. 160
  • “When Christians become preoccupied with the notion of offering God acceptable worship in a congregational context and thus with the minutiae of church services, they need to be reminded that Paul’s focus was on the service of everyday life.” pg. 187
  • “Although the conversion of an unbeliever in the course of a church service is much to be desired, evangelism is not the primary purpose of the gathering, according to 1 Corinthians 14.” pg. 195
  • In Hebrews it is clear that the blood or death of Jesus is what actually removes sin and makes it possible for sinners to draw near to God. Yet is is because he offered himself as a perfectly obedient and unblemished sacrifice to God that His death has atoning significance. The perfection of his sacrifice makes it possible for him to enter heaven itself, ‘now to appear for us in God’s presence.’ ” pg. 229-230
  • “Fundamentally, then, worship in the New Testament means believing the gospel and responding with one’s whole life and being to the person and work of God’s son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” pg. 286
  • “…they must come to grips with the New Testament perspective that acceptable worship is an engagement with God, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit – a Christ-centered, gospel-serving, life-orientation.” pg. 293