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.

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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

Nothing to See Here – Pearl Thanes

I conspired once with my son to cover-up an incident. I broke a treasured ship-in-a-bottle that my husband constructed as a gift to me for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. We blamed it on the dog, for years. My husband never much liked the dog after that. Poor dog died without knowing why he was on the outs. Sorry, hon, I should have told you; it was a good dog.

English: President of the United States Richar...

Nixon was purported to have said that without Martha Mitchell there wouldn’t even have been a Watergate scandal. Almost foolish in its goals: securing information from the Democratic National Committee in the effort to reelect the president; these events brought Nixon down. Conspiracy turned to cover-up and scandal. If no one spoke up, it would be a conspiracy today.

Many things go on every day in the world. Most of it results in nothing. Some leads to tragedy or triumph. These consequential events cause a few to wonder what lies behind the veil. Is there a secret cabal ruling the world, did someone stand to gain, or was it all planned to the last detail?

Why do we ascribe bad motives and devious planning to others? Well, first, we don’t know what they intended and we hate not knowing. And second, we know what we might do in their place and it is usually not good. We violate the golden rule in thought and deed.

Professor Emeritus M. Barkun says conspiracies can be grouped as: event, systemic, or super conspiracy. A mysterious assassination is an example of an event conspiracy. Infiltration of a group with broad goals into an organization is a systemic conspiracy. And multiple event and  systemic conspiracies linked in complex, hierarchical ways extending over time and distance is a super conspiracy.

Job, an Old Testament poet, was subjected to a conspiracy of sorts. God sought to prove Job’s goodness to the adversary, Satan. God allowed the adversary to destroy all but Job’s life and his wife. We witness the transactions in heaven, but Job doesn’t.

To him, his entire calamity seems without justice. If only he could argue his case. If only a mediator would step in between God and man to reconcile them. He knows his redeemer lives and that he will see Him in the flesh after his death. And Job displays this confidence without having beheld God at any time.

After God reveals Himself in the whirlwind, Job retracts his charge of God’s injustice and repents in dust and ashes. God thereby proves His claim about Job to the adversary through Job’s faithful obedience and repentance from sin.

It is never clear if Job finds out why he was tested. To him, it was a trial for endurance. And, yet, we are told that unseen powers and principalities were contending for his downfall and their supremacy over him and God.

Job’s trial presages another trial that happened at a more opportune time, the very fullness of time. Many kingdoms rose and fell through conspiracy and intrigue in the intervening period. These came to bitter ends; unremembered, except through equivocal stone monuments to greatness and squalor. All that is now hidden will be revealed at the Judgment throne. Dead men will tell tales. At that time, will you be like Job or his adversary?