Regarding worship, faithful members of the church have "driven a stake" at John 4:24, "God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." There are three emphases in this text that must be considered. The first is the word "must," which is translated from the Greek dei, meaning "it is necessary." Therefore, we see our expressions of worship are bound to some pattern or form. That to which our worship is bound is seen in the latter part of the verse, "in spirit and in truth." But what does this mean?
The phrase "in spirit" comes from the Greek pneuma. It appears nearly 400 times in the NT and is employed in a variety of ways. In this context it refers to our hearts or inward being, that which comes forth from the inside (cf Matt 26:41, Mark 8:11, Luke 1:47, John 13:21, etc). Thus, our worship must be done with the proper frame of mind and attitude of heart.
The phrase "in truth" comes from a Greek word that appears 110 times in the NT and is translated "truth" 107 times. It refers to that which is objectively right. But what is the "truth" by which man must worship? Psalms 119:160 says "the sum of Thy word is truth." Also, in praying for his disciples, Jesus said, "Sanctify them by Thy truth, Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Therefore, as "in spirit" regulates the inner man in worship, "in truth" regulates the outward man, that is, how he worships.
We would do well to remember that God has always regulated the expressions
of man’s worship. God respected Abel and his offering (worship), but rejected
Cain and his offering (worship). Why? Hebrews 11:4 explains, "By faith
Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness
that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead
yet speaketh." Romans 10:17 says "faith comes by hearing the word
of God." Therefore, Abel’s worship was accepted by God because it
was done according to the word of God. God will not accept "any ol’
thing" as worship, even if done with the best of intentions (Lev 10:1-3).
God seeks true worshipers to worship Him (John 4:23-24). True worship is directed only toward God, and is not done to please men. In true worship, God alone is the audience and worshipers are the participants. What appeals to men is of no consequence. Whatever one believes to be a personal gift or talent is irrelevant. Worship is not a stage for men to parade their talents or receive the accolades of men. By its very definition, worship is not designed to appeal to the "seekers" (a.k.a. the "unchurched"), but rather to honor, venerate, pay homage to, and bring glory to God alone.
By Todd Clippard
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