If Approaches in Worship Don’t Matter, Why . . .? John 4:22-24
“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers 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 4:22-24). There are some who are saying that worship styles or how one expresses worship to God does not matter with God. It is averred that as long as the approach is meaningful to the worshiper and reverent in spirit, then there should be liberty and unity. This view of worship speaks more to a deeper situation than just styles of worship. The holiness of God and respect for divine authority are the reasons why understanding proper worship is essential. Ask Nadab and Abihu if approach to worship matters (cf. Lev. 10)? Ask Korah if the approach to divine authority in worship matters (cf. Num. 16; Jude 11)? Why would Jesus say what he said to the Samaritan woman if it does not matter (cf. John 4:20-24)? Consider three sections of the New Testament that address worship for further insight to the question “Does it matter?”
The Call to Repentance of Ignorant Worship? Paul stated to those in Athens, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 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. . . . And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-23, 30-31). Note that Paul stated they were worshiping God but through ignorance. All who fall into the approach of worship in ignorance are to repent; yea, it is commanded that they repent. If people build an icon or many icons to God for worship, does it matter? An inspired apostle said it did.
The Condemnation of the Doctrines of Men That Produce Vain Worship? Jesus said to religious people who believed in only one God, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth 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” (Matt. 15:8-9). The doctrines of men are clearly condemned here. Those doctrines produced a ritualistic and superficial approach to worship. Did it matter that the doctrines of men were the approach to worship? Jesus said that it did.
The Clear Disapproval of Will Worship? Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:23). Paul declared that being subject to the ordinances of men; i.e. the commandments and doctrines of men (cf. Col. 2:20, 22) produced a type of worship that was unacceptable. Being “dead with Christ” (cf. Col. 2:20) demands that one follow the “must” (John 4:24) of the “true worshipers” (John 4:23). Approaches to worship do matter. Be not lead astray by the sleight of men.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). These passages should be familiar to any strong Bible student. These words are fundamental to the blessing of unity with the Father and the Son as well as with all who believe. This prayer has some powerful thoughts for all who claim to believe. Consider three.
Unity Through the Apostles’ Words. Jesus specifically gives the means by which believers would be unified. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20). Jesus prayed for the apostles as his own believers and then for those who would come to believe through the apostles’ words. Those words that came from the apostles that would produce unity would be and are the inspired word of God, not their mere human points of view. This is seen in the context of this prayer in John 14:23-26, John 15:26-27 and John 16:12-13. The idea that religious people who claim to believe in Jesus can be united Biblically through different faiths is denied categorically in 1 Cor. 1:10, Eph. 4:4-6 and 2 John 9-10. What the apostles said (cf. 1 Cor. 2:12-13) and wrote (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:15-16) guided by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21) was and is of God, not men. There can be no unity among believers apart from “their word” (John 17:20).
Unity Tied to the Association with Deity. The word of God through the apostles is the message that brings unity with the Godhead. John wrote further, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). There is no doubt that the apostles were in the right relationship with God. Paul wrote of God’s divine economy, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles” (1 Cor. 12:28). Paul wrote to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). He would follow that with the words, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4). Unity with God demands unity with the teaching (cf. John 13:23-24).
Unity Turned toward Affecting the World. Jesus stated of this unity, “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). The unity of believers in the same truth makes a bold statement to the world. False teaching creates confusion (cf. James 3:15-16) and is not of God (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33). The world needs a clear message unmixed with the doctrines of men. It needs to be distinctive in its stand and wholeheartedly made a way of living by its adherents. The claim that one can believe whatever and still be right with God is scoffed at by the unbelieving world and condemned by the Bible (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; 15:9). Truth, by definition, is consistent with itself and not self-contradictory. Jimmy Clark
We began our Gospel Meeting this morning with Robert Taylor, Jr., of Ripley, Tennessee, as our speaker. At the morning service, he spoke on Keynotes from the books of the Old Testament. 160403-SA-RobertTaylorJr