In Spirit and in Truth

How do we worship? Is it by actions or by attitudes? Do feeling count? Is there one right way, place, and time? As Jesus Christ confronted the Samaritan woman at the well with the truth of who He is, He said:

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24 English Standard Version (ESV)

Remarkably, in this statement lie answers for the questions with which we opened this post. Calvin comments on the passage:

But the hour cometh. …To show that God does not choose to be worshipped either in Jerusalem or in mount Gerizim, he takes a higher principle, that the true worship of Him consists in the spirit; …hence it follows that in all places He may be properly worshipped.

Why, and in what sense, is the worship of God called spiritual? The worship of God is said to consist in the spirit, because it is nothing else than that inward faith of the heart which produces prayer, and, next, purity of conscience and self-denial, that we may be dedicated to obedience to God as holy sacrifices.

But the Old Testament Church had elaborate ceremonies in their public worship. Did they worship in spirit and truth under the Law?

I reply, as God is always like himself, he did not from the beginning of the world approve of any other worship than that which is spiritual, and which agrees with his own nature. …Moses…declares in many passages that the Law has no other object than that the people may cleave to God with faith and a pure conscience.

…Thus we may justly say that the worship [described in] the Law was spiritual in its substance, but, in respect of its form, it was somewhat earthly and carnal; for the whole of that economy, the reality of which is now fully manifested, consisted of shadows.

…In all ages God wished to be worshipped by faith, prayer, thanksgiving, purity of heart, and innocence of life; and at no time did he delight in any other sacrifices.

But what about public worship in today’s visible Church?

…There are indeed among ourselves, in the present day, some outward exercises of godliness, which our weakness renders necessary, but such is the moderation and sobriety of them, that they do not obscure the plain truth of Christ. In short, what was exhibited to the fathers under figures and shadows is now openly displayed.

…Thus all who oppress the Church with an excessive multitude of ceremonies, do what is in their power to deprive the Church of the presence of Christ. I [dismiss] the vain excuses which they plead, that many persons in the present day have as much need of those aids as the Jews had in ancient times. It is always our duty to inquire by what order the Lord wished his Church to be governed, for He alone knows thoroughly what is expedient for us.

So why was there a difference between the Old and New Testament Churches?

The true worshippers. … Knowing that the world would never be entirely free from superstitions, [Christ] thus separates the devout and upright worshippers from those who were false and hypocritical.

…What it is to worship God in spirit and truth appears clearly from what has been already said. It is to lay aside the entanglements of ancient ceremonies, and to retain merely what is spiritual in the worship of God; for the truth of the worship of God consists in the spirit, and ceremonies are but a sort of appendage.

Finally, why is worship not elaborate ceremony but in spirit and truth?

God is a Spirit. …God is so far from being like us, that those things which please us most are the objects of his loathing and abhorrence…As we cannot ascend to the height of God, let us remember that we ought to seek from His word the rule by which we are governed. Christ simply declares here that his Father is of a spiritual nature, and, therefore, is not moved by frivolous matters, as men, through the lightness and unsteadiness of their character, are wont to be.

***

As Mark Dever preaches, our whole lives are acts of worship if they’re lived in obedience to God. Our public worship consists of: prayer, singing, hearing the Word read, hearing the Word preached, and participating in baptism and the Lord’s supper. Worship is hearing God’s word and responding to it in obedience.

Mark Dever: Worship in Spirit and Truth, Ligonier Ministries

Tolerance – Based on What Standard?

We all think we know what’s right and wrong. It’s in the air; self–evident. But we hold ourselves and others to lax standards. We say: do not kill. That’s all well and good. But when the living God visited us He said:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matt. 5:22 (ESV)

Check out the Greek if you doubt the translation.

He also spoke on lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies.

But, how does what He said line up with the Ten Commandments? Many today will grudgingly concede that these encompass much to which a progressive society should aspire.

We find He did not itemize how His statements lined up, but His intent was evident throughout the scriptures. Wiser folk than me searched these manuscripts. Highly analytic statesmen convened to discuss and codify the ramifications of the Ten Commandments and the Old and New Testaments. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.91-150, is a good place to start to investigate His standards.

Here’s a table that touches only a few of the seemingly minor offenses “worthy of hell fire.” The reference to the Catechism, above, is comprehensive. I must warn, however, I have a problem with summarization.

Commandment (abridged) Our Duties (abridged) Sins Forbidden (abridged)
Thou shall have no other gods before me. Honoring, adoring, loving, desiring, fearing, believing him Self-love, self-seeking, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, hardness of heart, pride, presumption
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image… Thou shalt not bow down   thyself to them, nor serve them… Reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; church government and discipline; opposing all false worship Devising, counselling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord   will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. The name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, …and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, …word, and writing Not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious …or any way perverting the Word, …or the maintaining of false doctrines
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. …Resting all the day, …and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship All omissions of the duties required… all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations.
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land   which the Lord thy God gives thee. Honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence…, prayer and   thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing   obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; …bearing with their   infirmities, and covering them in love… Sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them… commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; …correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath…
Thou shalt not kill. …Preserve the life of ourselves and others…patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; …mild and courteous   speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent. …Taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. Chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency…; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto. …Adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, and immodest apparel; …and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.
Thou shalt not steal. …Truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; …and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. …Theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving any thing that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, …injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts…, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, …and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor what belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; …envying the prosperity of others…
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocence;  a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report. All prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; …forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; …misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; …hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;  unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy…
Thou shalt not covet …anything that is thy neighbor’s. …Full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his. …Discontentment with our own estate; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Lest anyone think I, or those like me, are any better than anyone else, I like to recall this event:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]] John 8:3-11 (ESV)

Some say He was writing out the names of the guilty in the crowd. Others say He was writing out the Ten Commandments. Perhaps it was both, cross referenced. And, where was the man if the woman was caught in the act? I would have been one of the last to have walked away, I think, not because I measured up, but because I didn’t.

Some hold this passage in doubt, but it rings true and many quote excerpts of it often. Never–the–less, our toleration must be based on the fact that everyone, Christian and non-Christian, is guilty of violating the Ten Commandments daily, if not minute by minute.

And we need to realize we’re hurting one another and our nation when we pull away into our huddles, holy or secular. Of harmful words and deeds, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

…The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

And, as Mr. Taunton recently wrote:

Speaking on the issue of tolerance, mega-church pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren observed:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies.  The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them.  The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.  Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Tolerance is not the same thing as acceptance, and acceptance is not the same thing as an endorsement…We stand at a crossroads. The country must decide. Is the endgame here to be that orthodox Christians will henceforth have no voice within their own culture? If so, does this mean we have become a nation of bullies, forcing conformity while calling it tolerance? [early version (12-22-13, 10:55 pm) of Atlantic Magazine article]

If today’s target for intolerance is Christians, ask yourself, who’s next?