Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On Worship

by Norman Buselmeier

"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24).
According to this statement of the Lord by John, God wants worshippers who shall worship him in spirit and in truth. That it is these only that shall be the true worshippers. The Lord says further of those who worship God — that in spirit and in truth it must be done.

There are some phrases so simple in construction and yet so specifically definitive in their meaning, that to fail in understanding would seem impossible; but which at the same time, upon meditation, open up a field for thought far beyond the horizon, which would seem to defy the human intellect to comprehend. This, to me, is one. And what I shall say here could be only a bare beginning.

Worship is essentially a spiritual business. It has to do with God on one hand, the spirit and soul of man on the other. Man acts — God receives. The Spirit acts — man receives. This is a realm in which God's word is the only authority, the law final! God has in every respect the right to say who shall worship Him, and how. This He does. True worshippers worship in spirit and truth.
In Spirit: This has to do with the feelings, the emotions, the sensibilities, and the ability to demonstrate them; which are endowed by our Creator only on his humankind. And it would seem, since God is "jealous," that these attributes were given us for the special purpose of directing them, demonstrating them, first and to the highest degree, toward Him who made us. To worship Him in spirit then, in the ideal, would be to exercise our feelings, our emotions and sensibilities exclusively toward God while we worship; to devote ourselves wholeheartedly, without thought for anything else; without reservation or purposeful distraction, entirely intent, to think, to feel, to show, by our attitude, that no extraneous thing engages our attention at the same time. Man's soul and intellect completely attuned to God in this spiritual exercise.
In Truth: Those deeds which God has let us know will please Him, as worship, and which He has made known that He will accept as worship, and only those — no others!

The word "worship," like the word talk, has at least two grammatical designations: as a verb, both transitive and intransitive; and as a noun. The transitive verb is meant here — with God as the direct object. As a verb, one would sing (songs); preach (the word); pray; give; eat and drink — proclaim by showing. As a noun — as the act itself, the deed. We have the command to worship (verb), with precepts and examples of worship (the noun). We would have to pluralize or compound the noun, since there is more than one noun included in the noun worship. In other words, we would sing spiritual songs; pray prayers; preach the word; give money and service; eat and drink bread and wine, (memorial of body and blood) (proclaim by showing the Lord's death).

Each of these five acts for which there is precept and example is subject to certain elements to make them classify as acceptable worship to God. They must show reverence and devotion from an honest contrite heart. They must glorify and exalt God, etc. If these are present, the doing of the acts then becomes worship by faith, in truth, by the true worshippers.

The latter act being mentioned last by no means indicates a lesser significance; rather, if all the implications of this act of worship were generally appreciated, it could well be the most important, which is probably why Luke ascribes the chief purpose of the disciples coming together to be the "breaking of bread."

In addition to worship in "truth" one must be sincere, earnest, and honest, with God and oneself. Merely a pious mien, merely a show of reverence, going through the motions of doing the acts, even showing emotion without feeling it, would hardly do. That would be like the hypocrites whom Jesus castigated (Matt. 6), and like the "whited sepulchers," appearing beautiful outside, but inside "full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27) To worship in truth by true worshippers implies integrity, complete honesty and purpose.

One more thought it seems necessary to include here that has to do with preaching as worship. Preaching is the one act in worship done by one person. Is preaching any the less worship on the part of all who hear, for this? Is "hearing" not implicit in preaching? What good is there in preaching — if there are none to hear? For we who hear are having our thoughts directed into godly channels. We are taught spiritual things. In our thought we become separated from the worldly; we consider holy, divine, uplifting, and edifying to ourselves, and in so doing, do we not exalt God? Do we not revere and praise Him the more, and by our attention show that we do? That preaching and hearing is desirable to God as worship should be unquestioned, since every necessary element is present. The one factor which would delete "hearing" from worship classification would be to have the ears open and mind closed. And by the same principle, any other item of worship could be struck off.

I cannot leave this short discussion on worship without emphasizing briefly one more point, concerning the benefits derived from "mass" action; the mass influence of all doing the same thing together at the same time. The primary definition of the word mass in my dictionary reads: "an assemblage of things that collectively make one quantity." Is the idea of assembling to collectively make one quantity not included in the Lord's prayer "that they all may be one, I in them, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17), or in Paul's fervent expressions "if there be any fellowship of the spirit — be ye likeminded — having the same love — of one accord — of one mind — let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2)? It may seem puerile for one to suggest that there is a reason for this idea, a very special reason; but since some seem to deny, I would urge that there is, and I believe the reason is apparent in the mass influence of all doing the same thing — together. Further, to do anything else in worship, I believe would defeat the whole purpose of God. Thus it is, in part, for true worshippers to worship God in spirit and in truth.

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