Volume. XXXVI, No. 46
Sunday, 15 May 2022

Why Worship “In-Person”? (Part 1)

Before the pandemic, we never heard of the terms “virtual or online worship.” There were churches who indeed only worshiped online, but it was so unusual that people thought of it as an anomaly that was fitting for just a small niche.


During the height of the pandemic this mode of worship became mainstream almost overnight. Virtual or on-line worship was utilized across the board of Christendom, breaking through the denominational segmentation. Fair enough, this revolutionary transformation was the only way believers could have a worship experience, since “in-person” worshipping was risky for the spread of the infection, and therefore highly discouraged.


This phenomenon however, became a problem, after the worst of the pandemic. Many still remain “online” instead of worshipping “in-person.” If the reason for choosing this mode of worship is physical illness or geographical limitations that make it impossible to be at church in-person, that is understandable. But if the reason is for convenience (and/or complacency), we need to re-examine our hearts. In the Old Testament, the Temple in Jerusalem was the central point of Israel’s religious life. King David wrote about the joy of pilgrimage, showing how eager people were to go to Jerusalem and to the house of the Lord (Psalm 122:1). In chapter 84, the psalmists express their yearning for the house of worship, reflecting the sentiment in chapters 42 and 43. So if there is something taking the joy out of our attending the house of the Lord on the Lord’s Day, something is amiss in our heart.


In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly expressed his desire to visit and be with the churches he wrote to Romans 1:9-15; 15:23-24; 1 Corinthians 16:7; Philippians 2:23-24; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:4.) Though he often could not visit them, he instructed the brethren to greet one another with “holy kiss,” (2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:25) which was “a symbolic expression of the love, forgiveness, and unity which should exist among Christians.”[1]


The decision to go to church to worship “in-person” should not even be an option when circumstances allow us to do so. There are believers in Christ in certain places where going to church on a Sunday means danger, and yet they still go. Most importantly, the Bible reminds us in Hebrews 10:25 to, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.


Reflecting the Image of God

Virtual or on-line worship provides us with all the same experiences as an “in-person” worship does, except for the personal fellowship. And without personal fellowship, we lose a foundational characteristic of the Christian life. As Christians, we are called to live a relational life because our God is a relational God. The very basic tenet of a relational God is actually a reflection of His Trinitarian nature: One God, Three Distinct Persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. There is ample of evidence of relationship amongst the three Persons of the Trinity:


In Genesis 1:26, there was communication. God says, “let us make…” Also, the original word “God” in Genesis is “Elohim,” which is a plural form. At Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16-17, the Father pronounced His love for the Son, while the Holy Spirit was also present. In John 14:31, Jesus proclaimed His love for the Father. In Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, Jesus’ cry on the cross “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” showed a sense of abandonment that was only possible because of a deep relationship between them. Tim Chester says, “The Father and the Son who mutually indwell one another are separated. The Father experiences the loss of his Son. The Son endures the judicial abandonment of his Father.”2 Wayne Grudem writes, “…If there is no Trinity, then there were no interpersonal relationships between the being of God before creation, and, without personal relationships, it is difficult to see how God could be genuinely personal or be without the need for a creation to relate to.”3 In other words, God cannot be relational towards us, if He Himself is not a relational God. Man as His creation is also a relational being. This is because we are created in His image.


Genesis 1: 26-28 says, “Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness:”. To be created “in the image of God” cannot be taken to mean a physical sense, for our God is a Spirit. It cannot mean that we have all the same attributes of God, because God has His incommunicable attributes. Theologians have argued that the “image of God” could be viewed relationally. One of the characters of God we can see is in terms of “relational.” This is the one we can really relate to, as we can really only grasp His nature from this perspective: man is also a relational being, just like God is a relational God.


The Way God Intended It to Be

In Moses’ account of creation, we see perfect relationships. First of all, Genesis 1:31 says that, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” So, His design was good. In Genesis 2: 15-16, we see man cared for creations, and ate of the trees in the field. We see relationship here between man and plants. In Genesis 2:19-20, presumably man were friends with the animals, for Adam named them all. In Genesis 2:25, after the woman was created, man and woman savoured community with each other: they were naked and felt no shame. There was no feelings of threat or exploitation. We see a relationship here between 2 human beings. In Genesis 3:8, after the Fall, it shows a God who walked regularly in the cool of the day, to fellowship with His creation man and woman. So we see evidence of relationships between man and other creations, between man and woman, and between man and God. The Garden of Eden was a perfect picture of perfect relationships. We see how the delights of Eden was not just in the beauty of the garden, but also because of those relationships


Wrecked by Sin

Sin destroyed that perfect picture. Amongst other deadly effects, relationships were wrecked to the core. But, man still longs for meaningful relationships, both vertical and horizontal, after the Fall. This is because we are fundamentally relational beings. The book of Psalms is full of examples of the psalmists’ longing for an intimacy with God. In Psalm 42:1, the psalmist’s soul longs for God, like the deer pants for the water. In Psalm 63:1, David expresses his thirst for God. In Psalms 119: 20, 131, 174, the writer expresses his longing for God’s Law. Michael Raiter writes, “One is not surprised, then, to find at the heart of the new spiritual hunger for relationship, both with God and with other people.”4               


To be continued…


1 - David K. Lowery, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 548.

2 - Chester, T 2005, Delighting in the Trinity, Oxford, UK: Monarch Books, p.61.

3 - Grudem, W 1994, Systematic Theology, Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, p. 247.

4 - Raiter, M 2003, Stirrings of the Soul, Kingsford, NSW: Matthias Media, p.78.




More Lively Hope



  • Deepest condolences
  • Helpers needed (Sparks preferred) for childcare on Church Anniversary weekend;
    28 May (Sat) 2-4pm & 29 May (Sun) after service. Please contact Bro Edy Lok to help.
  • Service Roster for July-Sept 2022: Please send your availability, by 1st June, to hopebpcrosterer@gmail.com.
  • New Basic Bible Knowledge class will start on Sun, 5 June. If interested, please register with Dn Kevin Low.
  • Batam Appeal: An amount of $19,052.80 still needed. Please designate offerings with ‘Batam Appeal’.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • 16th Anniversary Thanksgiving of Evangel BPC (Petaling Jaya) last week.



  • Comfort in grief
  • God’s guidance for Australia federal election next Saturday
  • Filadelfia Gracia School (Batam) Building extension to proceed smoothly.
  • Healing for those with COVID-19.
  • Missions: IBPFM Missionaries worldwide.
  • Healing: Rev Pong Sen Yiew; Pastor Ki & all others who are unwell.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041