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.