A couple of months ago, I was sitting in a workshop for worship team vocalists and the presenter made some interesting statements. The big one was “the only thing that God can’t do is worship.” A second was that “if one part of us isn’t involved (heart, mind, body) then we aren’t really worshiping.” At the time I thought maybe he just hadn’t thought through some of the teaching in the New Testament. After all, for us to supply the one thing that God can’t do for himself is a tall order and a lot of pressure. Add on top of that that it must be done in the most complete and total way or it isn’t valid and we’ve got some serious issues. I found out later in the day that the speaker was from a church that doesn't believe in the Trinity and that really helped make sense of where he was coming from when he said those things.
Alone and Needy
According to their website, this church believes that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both manifestations of the Creator God (aka Father). So when Jesus prays to the Father, he is just talking out loud to himself for our benefit. When the Father sent his Spirit upon the believers at Pentecost, he was sending himself. The attraction to such a system is that it is simple. It makes it easy to understand God and his various appearances and descriptions found throughout Scripture. Of course, to hold to this belief we would have to throw out a good chunk of the New Testament. But instead of rehashing the biblical or historical evidence again, lets look at this belief as it is. God (as a concept) is generally agreed to be the supreme being, self-existent, without flaw or need. But, as the presenter in the workshop acknowledged, he believes that God can’t worship and is in need of worshipers. He can’t fulfill that need himself and that’s why he needs us – or something like us. In this understanding, the world was created so that God would not be alone, so that he might have worshipers. Things were great until his creation rebelled and then God had to go to the cross to repair the broken relationship. All in the hope of filling his own need. The only love that impelled God to create the world and seek a relationship with human beings was self-love, i.e. what he gets out of it. Without his creation (which is entirely contingent upon his will and being) this God is eternally alone and eternally needy. More god than God.
But it doesn’t stop there. If we must worship perfectly every time with our whole heart, mind, and body then I’m afraid this lonely god goes wanting much of the time. As sinful beings, albeit redeemed, it is a continual struggle to do anything righteous with our whole heart – and that’s before we take into account our minds and bodies! Even more amazing is that the worship here talked about is that which happens in the gathering of the church – singing, praying, reading, and preaching – and takes no account of other forms of worship. A god who creates a world capable of sin, death, and all of the accompanying wretchedness only to appease his need for someone to sing his praises in the most complete way possible is not a god worth serving. This is not a description of God from the Bible.
The Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and the context is clear that the love referred to is outward facing. It is not a self-indulgent love that manipulates others for its own ends. God created the world and all that is in it because of an overflowing abundance of love and a desire to share that love with something else. This is why we were created in his image – an image that can recognize and reciprocate the love that God has for us.
But if God’s love is outward facing, what did God do before the creation of the world? Did he need to create in order to have something to love? The Gospel of John tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (1:1-2). This Word that is both God and with God presents us with a conundrum that the non-Trinitarian believers would simply prefer to ignore. How can something be both God and with God at the same time? The answer is the Trinity. As Trinity, God exists in an eternal community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each one distinct from the others, yet all sharing the same essence - the same being. This divine community is defined by love. Each Person of the Triune God has an outward facing love towards each of the other Persons. There was never a need for God to create; his creation was a true labor of love.
This means that God doesn’t need us. He wants us. It was his desire to share the love that is within the Triune God with us. That’s why he gave us the ability to sin (note that he didn’t make us sin). A forced love is no love at all. That is why the Father sent the Son and the Son willingly took to himself flesh and paid the penalty for our rebellion on the cross. That’s why the invitation to come to Christ is exactly that, an invitation not a demand. He doesn’t need us. He wants us.
With that little bit of a framework, can God worship? Yes. When Jesus prays to God in the gospels, Jesus (God) is praying to the Father (also God). Yes, it is a bit confusing but there is something comforting about that. A God that is too easily explained is a God that can be controlled – even if it is only to put him in a cage. Moreover, the author of Hebrews calls Jesus our leitourgos or worship leader (Hebrews 8:2). Jesus is the one who leads and enacts our worship before the Father, and it is in Christ that we ourselves worship. And that leads us to the other issue. Worship, true worship, is not dependent upon you or me. We must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We must surrender our very lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). But those things are not worship simply because we are all in – heart, mind, and body. Those actions are worship because they are the results of the Holy Spirit leading us to conform more closely to the likeness of Christ, in whom our worship is made acceptable to God the Father. All of this is the result of love. Love that faces outward, loves the unlovable, and redeems – by its own suffering – the fallen. Not because it has to, but because it wants to.
To close out, God is not lonely. He doesn’t need us to supply something he lacks. Instead, he created us because he wanted to share the immense love that is the hallmark of the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit with us. A love freely given and received. Best of all, the invitation to experience his love is always open.