by Paul George
In order for our worship to be pleasing to God, it must be according to the principles set down in the Bible. In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, the principles of worship are clearly established. First, the woman believed that the central place where God was to be worshiped was on Mount Gerizim (John 4:20). Although she, as a Samaritan, looked for the coming Messiah, she worshiped in considerable ignorance for the Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament books save those books of Moses, called the Pentateuch. Even these Scriptures were altered to conform to the Samaritan preoccupation with Mount Gerizim. Second, in the conversation with the woman Jesus reveals the essential principles of worship.
God Is the Initiatory of True Worship
The words of our Lord to the Samaritan woman indicate that it is the Father who actively seeks true worshipers (John 4:23). God has initiated our worship of Himself in several ways. First, He has revealed Himself to us in human flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ. When men recognized Him as God’s Messiah, they worshiped Him (John 9:35-38). Secondly, He has accomplished redemption through the work of Jesus Christ. The sin that alienated us from God, Jesus paid the penalty for sin by His death on the cross. Third, He has given us the written word that instructs us in true worship.
God Is the Enabler of Acceptable Worship
Just as God has initiated worship, He enables us to worship Him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; Philippians 3:3).
God Is the Object of Acceptable Worship
All acceptable worship is God-centered. Worship is God-centered when we focus our worship on God, His perfection, and His desire for praise and adoration. All too often, we try to modernize worship, to update it and make it more meaningful and relevant to us. Our worship should be relevant and meaningful to us, but we must see that worship is first for God’s sake rather than our own. When we place the emphasis of our worship on what God will do for us rather than upon our duty of devotion to God our worship is not God-centered.
Acceptable Worship Is Worship in Spirit
The Samaritan woman, as did many Jews, thought that worship was essentially a matter of externals. She was preoccupied with a central place of worship: “this mountain” (verse 20). The Jews thought of worship in terms of sacrifices, rituals, observances and holy days. The essence of true worship is internal, in spirit, not external. God is a spirit being; thus, we must worship consistent with His nature.
Israel’s worship under the Law consisted of many ceremonies and rituals, but even then, God was concerned with what went on in the spirit of those who worshiped. Repeatedly the outward forms and motions of worship were condemned by the prophets (Isaiah 1:10-17; 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7). This is why an unbeliever can never worship God; his spirit has never been quickened. He is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
Even today there is a great emphasis on externals, stained-glass windows and magnificent cathedrals, massive choirs and expensive organs, the eloquent oratory, the dignity of liturgy and so on, rather than communion with God in our spirits, as the Holy Spirit works to communicate between our spirit and God’s (1 Corinthians 2:10ff.).
Acceptable Worship is Worship in Truth
As countless others, the Samaritan woman worshiped in ignorance; she worshiped “what she knew not” (vs. 22). Acceptable worship can never be that which we deem best; it must be a response to the divine self-disclosure of God. Our Lord Jesus personified God’s truth (John 14:6) and so men could worship Him in truth. If our worship of God is not firmly based on the truth of God revealed in the Scriptures, it is unacceptable to God.
There Is Freedom in Worship in Our Age
One of the contrasts between the worship of our age and that under the Law is the freedom that we are given.
The perfect church service would be one were our attention would have been on God and not the service. The perfect church service would be one were the focus would be on God and not entertainment. The perfect service would be one where the charge to Peter would be fulfilled, “Feed my sheep.”
Worship Is Our Highest Calling
“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully enjoy Him forever.” Worship is the occupation of eternity.
May God help us to worship Him in spirit and truth.