Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1961
NUMBER 14, PAGE 4,12b-13a

The Kind Of Worshiper God Seeks

Cecil B. Douthitt

Are you the kind of worshipper God is seeking? In John 4:23, 24, Jesus said: "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such doth the Father seek to be his Worshippers. God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

God is seeking only one particular kind of worshippers: the kind that will worship him in spirit and truth. If you are not willing to worship him in spirit and truth, he is not seeking you to be one of his worshippers. If God were seeking all kinds of worshippers, then all human beings would be acceptable to him; for man is a worshiping creature; all men worship something. Man worships because he has a soul which is so constructed that it needs and calls for worship as the body needs and calls for food. Man will eat without being told to do so. God created within him a desire for food and he will eat when he gets hungry. He does not know always what to eat or how much, but he will eat, if he can obtain food. Man cannot know whom or how to worship unless he is taught how; but he will worship something; God made him that way.

The lower animals are incapable of worshiping anything or anybody. They can do many things by instinct, and some of them can be trained to do many other things. The beaver can build a dam, the spider can weave a web, a bird can build a nest the first time they try; dogs, horses, seals and other animals can be trained to perform some marvelous feats; a dog's loyalty and devotion to his master may cause him to turn upon his own kind and fight till he falls wounded and bleeding; but none of these creatures was ever known to worship anything. They do not have immortal souls and therefore, cannot be trained to worship.

Human beings must and can be taught whom and how to worship. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23) in the way he must worship the Creator. Some have never been taught, and others have been improperly taught, and as a result the worship of a great many people is a mixture of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity.

I. A False Theory

The theory is advocated widely that all worship of God is acceptable, provided that the worshippers are sincere. This opinion is wrong. God has always been strict and undeviating regarding the kind of worship he commanded. Since he is the one to be worshiped, he alone must determine the way his children shall worship him Cain's worship was not acceptable to God; it was not according to the commandment, it was not of faith. (Gen. 4:4-5) "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb. 11:4), and God was pleased with Abel and his worship. (Gen. 4:4) Faith comes by hearing God's word (Rom. 10.17), and since Abel's sacrifice was "by faith," we know he worshiped as God had commanded. Thus we see that, even in the beginning of human existence, it did make a difference with God as to how people worshiped him.

"There came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured" both Nadab and Abihu, because they worshiped before Jehovah in a way "which he had not commanded them." (Lev. 10:1-2) This should impress all with the necessity of worshiping just as God has commanded us. It reveals the danger of worshiping in any way God has not commanded.

When Jeroboam undertook to deviate from God's order of worship under the law of Moses, a prophet was sent from Judea to cry against the altar of Jeroboam's worship. The altar was rent, and the ashes were poured from the altar, and Jeroboam's hand was "dried up"; all of which shows that God was displeased with Jeroboam's unauthorized procedure of worship; (1 Kings 12:26 - 13:6)

Referring to the worship of certain Jews, Jesus said, "But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matt. 15:9) Men may refuse to recognize the existence of any such thing as "vain worship," but these terms remain in the vocabulary of Jesus.

Paul accused the philosophers of Athens of worshiping the true God in ignorance (Acts 17:23); he commanded them to repent of such (v. 30); he pointed to the coming judgment as a reason for their repenting. (v. 31) Then the way people worship is of sufficient importance as to be dealt with in the judgment of the last day.

II. Three Elements Of True And Acceptable Worship

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus set forth all the elements of Christian worship when he said, "God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24) It must be offered to God, not to idols; it must be spiritual in its nature; it must be performed according to the word of truth.

1. The Right Object. When any object, except God, is worshiped, it is idolatry, and is strictly forbidden. Jesus said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thy serve." (Matt. 4:10) When John fell down to worship before the feet of an angel, he was told to do it not, but to "worship God." (Rev. 22: 8-9) Cornelius fell down at Peter's feet, and worshiped him; but Peter would not permit that; he said, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." (Acts 10:25-28) Paul and Barnabas did everything within their power to prevent the people of Lystra from worshiping them. (Acts 14:8-18) Since the angels, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas refused to become objects of worship, how can any man, who knows the will of God, exalt "himself against all that is called God or that is worshiped." and permit people to bow down and crawl before him and kiss his toe? There is nothing in all the Bible to indicate that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is pleased when people worship her or pray to her. Her Son commanded his disciples to pray to the Father, in his name. (John 18:23-27) Paul reasoned that there is enough proof, even in the material things God has created, to teach men that it is exceedingly sinful to change "the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man," and to worship the creature rather than the Creator. (Rom. 1:22-25) God cannot be truly worshiped by images graven by art and devices of man (Acts 17:24-29), and the guilty are commanded to repent of the sin of bowing down to the images that have been placed in some church houses. (Acts 17:29-30)

2. The Worship Must Be "in Spirit." It must be a hearty, spiritual service. Paul said, " I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Cor. 14:15); that is, he would put his heart and soul in the service. Referring to the Lord's Supper, he said, "Far he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he discern not the body." (1 Cor. 11:29) This discerning is an act of the heart. When the service becomes a mere external form, it is not "in spirit."

Actors, musicians, athletes, public speakers and others sometimes fail in their performances because they are in the wrong frame of mind, and their hearts and souls are not in the thing they are doing. In like manner a worshiper may fail in his service to God by being in the wrong frame of mind. All anger, jealousy, worry, and everything of a worldly nature must be driven out of the heart in order for one to worship "In spirit."

3. The Worship Must Be "in Truth." Every act of worship must be authorized by the truth which is the word of the Lord. (John 17:17) The New Testament presents five things to be done in church worship on the Lord's Day. They are: Teaching, reading and studying the word of God (1 Cor.14:6. 19); praying (Eph. 8:18; 1 Tim. 2:8); singing spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3: 16); eating the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 10;16; 11:17-34); contributing for the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 16:1-2). When these things are done as a hearty, spiritual service to God, by the church on Lord's Day, we know God is pleased; all he has commanded for the worship has been done. Then why not perform all these acts of worship? Why go "beyond the things which are written"? This is the most sublime plane that any, man can reach in worship. Have you reached it? Are you content to worship the Father in spirit and according to this system set forth in the New Testament? Or is your spiritual condition such as to require something of Judaism or Paganism to gratify adequately the desire of your soul in worship?

Some things, not morally wrong within themselves but not authorized by the word of God, have been added to the worship. How do these things affect the worship? They make it vain, and unacceptable to the Lord. Washing of hands is not inherently sinful; but when it is done as an act of worship or as a religious ceremony, it is wrong and definitely condemned by the Lord. Some of the Jews had adopted this very thing as a religious rite or an act of worship and service to God. Referring to this practice and to another precept of man which also made void the word of God, Jesus said, "But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrine the precepts of men." (Matt. 15:9)

There is no more scriptural authority for the counting of beads or sprinkling water on an infant, as a religious rite, than there is for the washing of hands. And if hand-washing is vain worship because it is a precept of man and not of God, then infant sprinkling and counting beads certainly are vain ceremonies; for they too, are precepts of men.

Some things were done under the law of Moses which are not included in the worship and service set forth in the New Covenant, and which are not acceptable to God in Christian worship; "for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought." (Gal. 2:21)

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the law of Moses was abolished (Eph. 2:15), blotted out, taken out of the way. (Col. 2:14) "For if the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." (Heb. 7:12) The New Covenant, not the Old, is the revelation of God's will for the church of Christ, and we must abide by it alone in all our worship.

From the days of Abraham till the death of Jesus, the ordinance of circumcision was binding on the people of God. But after the law containing circumcision had been removed, Paul said, "If ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing....Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." (Gal. 5:2-4) Though circumcision was commanded in the Old Testament, if Christians make it a religious rite or an act of worship today, they transgress the law of God.

As further proof that things commanded in the Old Testament, but not included in the gospel of Christ, are not to be practiced in church worship today, we have the eating of mutton as ay part of the Passover service, which began the night that the Israelites departed from Egypt (Exod. 12:1-14) and continued as an act of worship till the night before the crucifixion of Christ. (Matt. 26:17-20) When the eating of mutton is added to the Lord's Supper, or to any other part of the worship of God by the church, it is no more acceptable to God than circumcision.

Instrumental music and burning incense were practiced in the worship during the Mosaic dispensation. But both are left out of the worship under the Christian dispensation, and they, like circumcision and eating mutton, cannot be introduced without provoking the displeasure of God.

How can anyone accept mechanical music in the worship of God and consistently object to burning incense and eating mutton? No more can be said in favor of instrumental music than can be said in favor of eating mutton and burning incense. Every objection that can be presented against eating mutton and burning incense can be presented against mechanical instruments of music in the worship of God.

As already shown, God has stated clearly what he wants Christians to do in worshiping him. They must not go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6); they must abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 9-1D; they must not add to the word of God. (Rev. 22:18) Why not always worship in a way that you know will be acceptable to God? Why not be the kind of worshiper God seeks?