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October 14, 2012

In this issue: Worship in Spirit and Truth by David Hersey

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By David Hersey

On one occasion during Jesus’ ministry on earth, He and His disciples passed through Samaria. On this occasion, Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well to get a drink of water while His disciples went to buy food. While there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water and she had a discussion with Jesus. During this discussion, she brought up the subject of worship. Jesus made a statement to her at that time regarding true worshipers which we are going to focus on for this lesson. Turning to John 4:23-24, we read, “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.“

This statement by Jesus is the main Biblical text we turn to when regarding Christian worship. In the context of this discussion, Jesus reveals that the time has come when true worshippers will no longer worship in Jerusalem. A change had come to the age old classic Levitical worship system and those who wish to be true worshippers will have to abide by a new set of guidelines. These guidelines are the basis for our worship today as Christians in the kingdom of God.

God seeks true worshippers, and He identifies them as those who “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Worshipping God in spirit and in truth is a serious matter which must not be taken lightly. If we have any regard for our own souls, we will want to make sure we are worshipping God in spirit and in truth.

An analysis of the text reveals 5 things that characterize the true worshipper which God is in search of:

1. The absolute of Christian worship – “must” God seeks true worshippers and they must worship.

2. The action of Christian worship – “worship“ Meaning to prostrate oneself, to render obeisance, respect and reverence, to kiss toward and to serve.

3. The aim of Christian worship – “God“

4. The attitude of Christian worship – “spirit“ Meaning from one’s heart.

5. The authority of Christian worship – “truth” Meaning according to God’s word which is truth (John 17:17).

Before we examine these five things, let’s look at some Biblical examples of some who were not true worshippers.

The Bible speaks of Ignorant Worship

In Acts 17, we read of Paul in the city of Athens on that occasion when he confronted some of the citizens of the city about their pagan worship. They had an idol set up to honor an unknown god in case they missed one somewhere. Paul made this statement recorded by inspiration in verse 23: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.“

Paul acknowledged that they were very religious but he warned them that their religious service was not pleasing to God for it was done in ignorance, without knowledge of what God wanted or even who God was. Paul went on to say in verse 30 that, “the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” The word “winked” means ‘overlooked.’ Paul told the Athenians on that occasion that God would not overlook their ignorant worship.

Ignorant worship is not pleasing to God for he is not glorified by accident, but by a conscious praise of His name. God is seeking true worshippers and those who worship God ignorantly are not worshiping in truth and are therefore excluded from those whom God is seeking to worship Him.

The Bible speaks of Vain Worship

In Matthew 15:7-9, we read the words of Jesus as He confronted a group of Pharisees, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

The word vain means ‘to no purpose.’ The Pharisees made their worship vain (useless) because they had added on the commandments of men to their practices. They were proclaiming praises and honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were corrupt because by adding their own traditions and requirements to the word of God, they were setting themselves as an authority higher than God. In other words, God says this, but you must do something more, or less or different than what God said. Such things were said by inspiration to render our worship of no worth, and is a demonstration that our attitudes about worship are not right. Those who exhibit the wrong attitude in their worship are not worshiping in spirit and are therefore excluded from those whom God is seeking to worship Him.

The Bible speaks of Will Worship

Colossians 2:23, “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” The NKJV translated “will worship” as “self imposed religion.” In this context, Paul was dealing with some of the very things that Jesus was talking about in regards to the Pharisees back in Matthew 15:7-9. Some people in Colossi were imposing manmade elements into Christianity which did not belong. Basically, this is an extension of what causes vain worship. Backing up to verse 23 of this context, we see Paul writing, “according to the commandments and doctrines of men“ Paul alluded to Jesus’ teaching while dealing with “will worship” or “self imposed religion” with the Colossian church. The consequences are the same. Their worship is vain, meaning useless and of no value.

So we can see from these three examples of incorrect worship that true worshippers have a standard they must adhere to if they want to be the worshippers that God is seeking. We understand from these three examples that our worship must not be done in ignorance and must come from God only and cannot include the commandments of men.

1. The absolute of Christian Worship

Those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth. The word ‘must’ is what we call an auxiliary verb. It means to be bound by an imperative requirement. The Bible teaches us that faith is a must (Heb. 11:6), and repentance is a must (Luke 13:3). When the word ‘must’ is used, the consequences for failure or refusal to comply are spiritual death. Those who fail to have faith will be condemned, likewise, those who fail to worship in spirit and in truth will suffer the same fate.

The word “must” modifies three elements which constitute Christian worship. The word ‘must’ modifies the object of worship – Him. We ‘must’ worship God. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:10, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.“

The word ‘must’ modifies the attitude of worship which is spirit and the standard of worship which is truth. Our worship therefore must be to God, it must be in spirit and it must be in truth. Thus, the object, the attitude, and the standard of Christian worship are vital – they are a must!

2. The action of Christian Worship

Webster defines “worship” as “courtesy or reverence to worth; hence honor and respect. An act of paying divine honors to deity; religious reverence or homage.” The word “worship” is translated from several different Greek words, three of which are used more than once:

This word occurs 60 times in the New Testament and is always rendered worship. This is the Greek word used in John 4:24 in regards to worshiping in spirit and in truth. Vines dictionary of NT words defines this word, “to make obeisance, do reverence to.” Thayer defines it, “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence”

This Greek word occurs 10 times in the New Testament. It means to “To stand in awe; to venerate, to reverence, to worship, to adore.” It is the Greek word Jesus used when He said in “vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” in Matthew 15:9.

This Greek word occurs 21 times in the New Testament. It means “to render religious service of homage; to worship God in the observance of rites instituted for worship.” It is translated as both worship and service in our English translations.

All three of these words are verbs. All three of these words are action words, meaning we are to be participants and not spectators. In true worship, we are not the audience, rather God is. Our aim in worship must be to please God which brings us to the next characteristic of true worship.

3. God — The aim of Christian worship

The Bible teaches us that Gods is to be the sole object of our worship. In Exodus 20:2-6, we read these very familiar words, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

That was one of the ten commandments given to Moses on Mt Sinai. Things have not changed since then. In Matthew 4:10, when speaking to Satan, Jesus said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” We must remember that in true worship, God seeks those who worship Him only. It is God that we are obligated to do reverence to. We do not approach God in worship to be entertained. The responsibility for true worship lies squarely on us as His children. Since God seeks true worshipers, He therefore seeks those who will worship Him and Him only. If our aim in worship is not God, then we are not worshiping in spirit and in truth and we are therefore excluded from those whom God seeks.

4. Spirit — The Attitude of Christian Worship

New Testament worship is spiritual, meaning from the heart. We learn that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices as a holy priesthood in 1 Peter 2:5. We are to draw nigh unto God with a true heart, in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22). Our worship is to be offered to God with grace in our heart unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 5:19).

New Testament worship must come from the heart; Ephesians 5:19-20, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Notice in both of these scriptures that we are commanded to be thankful and to demonstrate that in our worship.

In Hebrews 12:28, we read, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Part of the spirit of true worship is reverence and godly fear. Our worship in spirit must reflect a deeply reverent attitude, humble, submissive and respectful. God is all powerful, all knowing and everywhere present. He is absolutely fair and just. He is always right and never wrong. He is the creator of everything material that we can see. And He sacrificed of Himself freely for all mankind when He could have just left us to die. He deserves our respect, our honor, our reverence and our godly fear. He is worthy of our respect, our honor our reverence and our godly fear. The right attitude of true worship is from the heart, in genuine and devoted love and gratitude directed solely to our God in heaven. God seeks true worshipers and the attitude and the heart is one of the things He identifies one with. Let us be sure that our attitudes in worship reflect that which God seeks so that we can be assured of being among those true worshippers that God is searching for.

[to be continued]

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