Simple Papers on the Church of God: Part 22, Worship

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To worship God is the duty of every intelligent creature. The angels worship Him His saints too worship Him. By-and-by all on earth will worship Him. (Zeph. 2:1111The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. (Zephaniah 2:11); Isa. 66:2323And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 66:23)) As God, He is the proper object of adoration for all His intelligent creatures, and men will be expected, in the terms of the everlasting gospel, to worship Him. (Rev. 14:77Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:7)) But whilst angels render Him homage in truth for what He is, unrenewed men will by-and-by worship Him, though only from having learned His power in judgment, or from a desire to enjoy life on earth under the sway of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such outward homage, however, is not all that God would receive from men, for He accepts the adoration of the heart; and hence worship of a different character, and springing from very different motives, God is willing to receive from His people on earth. Now about this He has instructed us, telling us in His word of the character, the power, and the true place of worship, as well as furnishing us therein with regulations for His saints when met in assembly for such a purpose.
But first, what is worship? It is the homage of the creature rendered to God. Hence the terms commonly used, both in Hebrew and Greek, to express it, have reference primarily to the action of the body as that by which worship is outwardly indicated; so that, although it may at times be but an external act of homage without the heart being really engaged in it (Zeph. 2:1111The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. (Zephaniah 2:11)), the idea conveyed by the terms in frequent use indicates the occupation for the time being of the worshipper with an object outside of himself. Where the homage of the heart is rendered to God, the worshipper is of course rightly occupied with Him Worship, then, differs from prayer in this. In prayer we are occupied with the wants which we thereby present to God. In worship we are occupied with God. Hence true worship of God may take the form of praise, or thanksgiving, or both. If we praise Him, we tell out what He has discovered to us of Himself. If we thank Him, we speak of what He has done for us, or of what we have received from Him. In a certain sense His works praise Him, for they set forth something of what He is. But His saints bless Him, or speak well of Him; for they have received from Him. (Psa. 145:1010All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. (Psalm 145:10)) For fallen creatures then to worship Him in truth they must be partakers of His grace. For one conscious of his sinfulness and sins, and what such deserve from God, cannot really worship Him till saved by faith in Christ. Till then such an one would be occupied with his condition and deserts, and not with God.
Now it was at the well side in Samaria that this subject was first opened up, and that by the Lord Himself, to a poor sinner, whose ways indicated that she had been far indeed in heart from God. And here we see how perfect in wisdom are God's ways. To Nicodemus, a man of reputation amongst the Jews, the Lord insisted on the necessity of the new birth. To the woman who had lost all character among men, He spoke of worship. The woman needed to be born again, and Nicodemus was to become a worshipper; but the teacher of Israel was taught his need, and the instrumentality by which it could be met, by water and the Spirit; the woman was instructed in the pouring out of the heart in adoration to God, even the Father. This surely would not have been man's way with these two; but it was God's, and it was as perfect as it was fitting. For man to become a true worshipper he must be taught his need of grace, and his condition by nature. The convicted sinner is to understand, that the band of true worshippers is only recruited and enlarged from those who are indebted to the saving mercy of God. On this subject let us now enter, taking it up in the order indicated above.
First, then, as to the character of true worship. Having discovered from the Lord's knowledge of her life that she was in the presence of a prophet, the woman thereupon brought up the question which had been raised by the Samaritans with the Jews, whether at Jerusalem or at Gerizim men ought to worship. With her, as with many in this day, it was the opinion of men that she thought of. "Ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Not a word, be it observed, does she speak of God's will in the matter. Not a thought does she indicate of any choice Jehovah might have made, or any preference that He had shown for one place over another. Yet He had distinctly made choice of Jerusalem, He had clearly marked out Mount Moriah as the mount of the Lord. David learned that when God accepted the offering on Araunah's threshingfloor, by which the plague was effectually stopped in Israel. (1 Chron. 22:11Then David said, This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. (1 Chronicles 22:1)) Solomon was aware of God's choice when he began to build the temple (2 Chron. 3:11Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. (2 Chronicles 3:1)), and God assured him, after its dedication, of the selection He had made of the place, having sanctified the house, that His name should be there forever. (2 Chron. 7:1616For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. (2 Chronicles 7:16)) From this purpose God never receded. In the songs of degrees we read of it. (Psa. 132:1414This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Psalm 132:14)) In Ezek. 43:77And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. (Ezekiel 43:7) we meet with Jehovah's settled purpose about it. In God's word, then, there was no uncertainty about it, though very likely the woman was in entire ignorance of the scriptures which speak of it. But whose fault was that? The position she was in, and that from her birth, and because of her birth, may have kept her from acquaintance with those portions of the divine revelation. This might and would explain how it was that she was ignorant; but it was no real excuse for that ignorance. She claimed to have relation with the God of Jacob, yet knew not, nor sought to learn, whether on this question He had revealed His mind in His word. And this is clear from her way of introducing the subject; for, prophet though the Jewish stranger was in her eyes, she neither attempted to appeal to Scripture in support of the selection of Gerizim, nor did she ask Him what scriptural authority the Jews had for going up to Jerusalem. "Ye say," was her language. How many since her day have taken up similar language, when the question of worship has been brought before them! Yet at no time has that been in God's eyes an open question, since He was first pleased to instruct people about it.
" Our fathers worshipped in this mountain." That was true. For centuries the rival temple at Gerizim had been the center of Samaritan worship. But that fact could add nothing in support of its claims to be the house of God. Granted that she was following in the footsteps of her fathers, worshipping as they had done before her, still the question remained, Was that place selected by God in which to rear up His sanctuary, and acceptable worship to be offered therein? One word from Scripture would outweigh all the claims of Gerizim, even if they had been enveloped in the prescriptive right of hoar antiquity. A "thus saith the Lord" would demolish, for subject minds, all arguments and reasoning of men.
Again. Assuming that she was in ignorance of the revelation about Jerusalem, was the worship offered at Gerizim, if done in ignorance, to be accepted of God? Granted too that many a Samaritan conscientiously resorted to that mountain, would worshipping God according to their conscience make it thereby acceptable in His eyes? Was man's conscience to override the plain direction of the Word? By no means. So the Lord distinctly repudiated the claims of Gerizim, and the worship there carried on. "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." The Samaritans were self-condemned, for out of Zion the Deliverer was to come (Psa. 14:77Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. (Psalm 14:7)); from the stem of Jesse the King would spring. (Isa. 11:11And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: (Isaiah 11:1)) Their position apart from the Jews practically denied this. But more, they worshipped what they knew not. The Jewish prophet, as she thought Him, had now spoken, and demolished in a moment all the supposed claims of Gerizim. Those words too had surely a deep meaning, " Ye worship ye know not what." But was He authorized to speak in such a manner? She little thought that the stranger was the prophet indeed (Deut. 18: 18), and the only-begotten Son of God as well. How God then viewed the Samaritan position, politically and ecclesiastically, that woman learned from Him whose house was the temple at Jerusalem. Now this interview distinctly settles three things for us. It is dangerous, as well as wrong, to make that a matter of man's opinion on which God has expressed His mind Worshipping God as our fathers have done before us is no guarantee that we are worshipping aright. And granting that what we do is done with a good conscience, that is no ground for God to accept it. What God has said about worship, is the one important question when that subject comes up. To conform to His mind in the matter is the simple duty of His people.
On the positive teaching on this subject the Lord at once enters. On the divine choice of Jerusalem He does not dilate, for the question in connection with worship was assuming a new aspect. It would not be a question merely of locality, but of the person worshipped, and of the character of worship. " Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." Jerusalem would indeed be overthrown; the house there erected, at the cost of great labor and wealth, would be thrown down. Yet the Samaritans would not be able to triumph over the Jews; for in neither place in the time coming were men to worship the Father. " The Father!" Surely this must have struck her as new language. Israel was God's son, His firstborn (Ex. 4:2222And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: (Exodus 4:22)), the children of the Lord their God. (Deut. 14:11Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. (Deuteronomy 14:1)) Jehovah was a Father to Israel, and Ephraim was His firstborn. (Jer. 31:99They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jeremiah 31:9)) Yet they never had worshipped Him as the Father; for none can know the Father, except those to whom the Son will reveal Him. (Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)) Now this is one essential feature of Christian worship. God known, in His relation to His people as their Father, and they worshipping Him as such; but this revelation is a matter for individuals-" he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Each one, then, who knows the Father, is indebted for it to the Son of God; and only those who know Him, it is manifest, can worship Him. National worship, as such, then at once disappears-; for if all in the nation could really worship God, it would be as His children, and not on the ground of nationality, since He stands in the relation of Father to all who on earth are now privileged to approach Him. How many a company of professing worshippers would be thinned at once, did all real Christians understand and maintain this simple truth.
But the Lord stopped not there. He proceeded to tell the woman the character of worship that would be acceptable to the Father. It must be in spirit and in truth. The nature of God, and the relation in which He stands to each true worshipper, must be understood, if we would worship Him aright. He is a Spirit, so we must worship Him in spirit and in. truth; for it is in the consciousness that He is our Father, and as the Father, that we are permitted to pour out the heart to Him. " In spirit." Then it must be spiritual in its character, and from that time no formal worship would God be willing to receive. The true worshippers must worship Him in spirit. What God is should teach us that. " In truth," too, must it be. Hence the revelation He has vouchsafed, whatever it be, the worshipper must be acquainted with, and conform to. No going back then to the revelation of a former time, and trying to worship Him on that ground, will be worship in truth. So now that the atoning work is accomplished, and that by one offering the Lord Jesus has perfected forever them that are sanctified, we cannot worship God aright, if we seek to draw nigh without forgiveness enjoyed, and acceptance in Christ known. For entrance into the heavenly sanctuary is only enjoined after we have been taught that believers are sanctified by the will of God, are perfected by the one offering of Christ, and their sins and iniquities are remembered by God no more.
(Heb. 10:10,14-2210By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:14‑22)
) Such then are the ones the Father seeks to worship Him. Who would have thought this? The Father is seeking worshippers, not men the Father. Men with hearts filled, free to empty themselves in His presence in the enjoyment of His grace, it is these the Father is seeking, and the Son assures us of it. It is joy to worship. What joy must it be to the Father to receive the worship of His children What joy to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as well as to God's children, when froth the fullness of the heart they worship the Father! What misery resulted from the fall! What abounding joy springs from the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ!
C. E. S.