Of Instruction Concerning Worship
Jesus said: "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth," (John 4:23, 24)
These words Jesus spoke in answer to a woman of Samaria who had sought to divert Jesus' attention from her sins by raising a continuing controversy which raged between the Jews and Samaritans over how and where God ought to be publicly worshipped. Jesus' answer is important because He teaches here that not only was the Old Testament form of worship to pass away, "the hour cometh and now is," but also teaches us the principles of true worship.
By His words, Jesus points us to the nature of the "true worshippers" of God and to the nature of true worship. True worship of God, no longer limited to one people in one place, is to be a reflection of communion with God. True worshippers then are those who worship God from the heart by faith, not in a mere outward performance or adherence to some ritual form, which characterized the worship of both the unbelieving Jews and Samaritans of Jesus' day. True worship is spiritual, that is, it springs from the heart in the fear of God and true faith by the work of the Spirit. True worship is in truth, that is, grounded in the truth of God in Christ, "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) True worship is God-centered in Christ, not man-centered.
Jesus makes two principles plain. First, the worship of God, also public worship, is never an outward show. It springs from the spiritual root of salvation in the heart. Condemning the hypocrisy and outward show of the wicked among the Jews, He says, "This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me," (Mark 7:6) Secondly, worship must be in truth. There is an objective standard: worship must be according to God's revealed will. Jesus says, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," (Mark 7:7). Applying these principles to our worship, we may not introduce into the worship of God that which is not taught in the Word of God. For that which is not done in obedience to the truth is not worship in spirit, nor is it pleasing to God. It is sin.
Positively, what has Christ commanded? He has commanded us to preach His Word (Matthew 28:19, 20), to baptize (Matthew 28:19), to keep the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:19). Further, the Word of God teaches us to pray (Matthew 6:9), to sing God's praises (Ephesians 5:19, 20), to confess our faith and hear His will (Matthew 28:20). These are the things which are to be done from the heart in worship.
Negatively, we may not introduce into the worship of God anything of our own invention or "commandments of men," whether belonging to the Old Testament ceremonial law, which form of worship has ceased (candles, vestments, altars, or the like), or to the worship of the heathen such as drama, athletic events, entertainment, or any other thing the mind of man may devise.
"The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." (John 4:23) Do you so worship from the heart? Is your worship pleasing to God, founded upon His Word? Do you serve this Lord Christ in obedience in worship? Is your worship God-centered or a false worship that finds its center in man? Is it an outward performance in artistry entertaining to man, or does it spring from the heart in the fear of God and obedience to His Word?
By Rev. Thomas Miersma, Missionary Pastor
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