Does It Matter How We Worship?
Does It Matter How We Worship? January 22, 2023
Does it matter how we worship God? This is probably a question that many people seldom, if ever, contemplate. Jesus instructed a woman of Samaria, who had been practicing worship that was not in keeping with God’s teachings, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). One would think that such a straightforward statement from the Lord Himself ought to settle the matter forever.
Looking at what Jesus told the woman, from a mathematical perspective, there are two parts to the equation. Our worship is to be “in spirit” and it is to be “in truth.” Also, what Jesus said on the matter has the effect of law, in that our worship “must” meet these two requirements.
The statement “God is Spirit” speaks to God’s nature, His being, His reality. God is not flesh and blood. Thus “Spirit” is in caps in this statement. The requirement that our worship “must” be “in spirit” speaks of the nature of our worship. It is to be spiritual worship, from the heart, sincere, not just going through the motions. In this statement, “spirit” is in lower case; it refers to the character of our worship.
The further statement that our worship “must” be “in truth” indicates that our worship must conform to standards that would qualify it as being true worship. Those standards, of course, are taught in God’s word. Later in this same Gospel account, in a prayer to the Father, Jesus identified God’s word as being “truth”: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). When our worship is in agreement with the teachings of God’s word as to how God wants to be worshipped, then our worship is “in truth.”
Our personal feelings have to be subservient to God’s will. A great many people focus on their feelings – what they want, what pleases them, what makes them feel good – to the extent that their feelings take precedence over the teachings of God’s word. If what they want to do in worship contradicts what God’s word teaches them to do in worship, their feelings get priority. They excuse their actions by appealing to their sincerity. While what they do in worship may contradict God’s teachings, they believe it is justified because they’re doing it from the heart. They discount the second part of the equation; their worship must not only be sincere and from the heart, but it must also be “in truth!”
Jesus’ further words on this matter are recorded twice in New Testament scripture: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7). The idea of such worship being “in vain” identifies it as being empty, to no purpose, worthless. The reason for it being so labeled is because it conforms to men’s devising rather than to God’s instructions. This is a quotation from Isaiah 29:13, indicating that this principle was true in Old Testament times as well as being true today.
Our worship is to glorify God, to express our adoration to Him. He is the recipient, we are the participants. In order for our worship to properly fulfill its true purpose, it must conform to God’s will as to how He wants to be worshipped.
By Gary Hutchens