Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spirit and Truth

When confronted with the question of where a person should worship God, Jesus said that the time was coming when these types of issues would be superseded and the issue would be whether we worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Why then is it that in the Christian church, on the other side of that transition, we plagued with issues regarding worship that are as petty as the one described here.  Now Jesus did state that there was an real Old Testament basis for Jerusalem being the the correct city (John 4:22,23), but He made it clear the method of evaluation was about to be changed (John 4:21).  Why then has this failed to take place?

Now the Old Testament does give a detailed set of laws as to exactly how worship was to be carried out.  But the significant thing is there is none in the New Testament.  Scripture teaches that God commands what He intends to command (Deuteronomy 12:32). So I conclude that God has prescribed certain principles, and the rest He has left free.  There are practices that are contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture, such as prayers to saints (Matthew 4:10).  There are other things that require some answer, such as whether to baptize infants. (I am convinced if God had wanted us to baptize infants He would have given us a clear commandment and not left us to deduce it, but I question whether this is an essential issue.)  But much of what we fight over is not clearly taught in Scripture.  Take, for instance, the question of whether Christ is physically, spiritually or symbolically present in the Lord's Supper.  There is nowhere is Scripture where it directly deals with this.  I would therefore conclude that the person who partakes in faith receives the benefit of communion, whatever that is.

Now we are told that things are to be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).  But if we look at the context, it describes something fairly informal (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).  What they were called to avoid was complete disorder (everyone speaking at once) and things that were meaningless to the other people present (speaking in tongues without an interpreter).  I am not saying no one violates this principle today, but the boundaries are quite broad.  There is also the example of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), but they disobeyed a definite and clear-cut commandment of God (Exodus 30:34-38).  This cannot be applied to things that are not clearly commanded in Scripture.  To worship in spirit (John 4:24) means we are not to simply go through the motions, but to be sincere in our worship (Malachi 1:10; Isaiah 66:3,4; Matthew 23:23-28).  To worship in truth means we are to worship God as He really is and not some distorted view of Him (Romans 1:23; Exodus 20:2-6; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4).  But to make an issue of details of worship that. God has not commanded is wrong.

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