Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 17, 1952
NUMBER 49, PAGE 10,11b

Is God Being Pleased?

Gene R. Fox, Wichita, Kansas

"Our fathers worshipped in the mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 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 Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:20-24)

These are the words that Jesus had with the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well. The woman was no doubt thinking of the Old Law when she made the statement that the fathers worshipped in the mountain; she probably meant Mount Gerizim, for that was where the patriarchs had worshipped. Jacob had built an altar there. (Gen. 20:2) But as the conversation continued between Christ and the woman, Jesus began to make clear to her the distinction between the law of Moses and the gospel. He revealed to her that the hour was at hand when worship of God would not be identified with a particular mountain or city, but when men of every nation and of every race could worship him "in spirit and in truth."

Jesus said to her, "Ye worship ye know not what." The Samaritans believed in the same God as did the Jews; but they accepted as inspired only the pentateuch, rejecting the prophetical writings. Theirs was an imperfect, corrupted, and inadequate knowledge of God. Too, their worship had become corrupted by certain forms of idolatry. Christ assessed the situation truly when he said, "ye worship ye know not what." These people were ignorant of God — ignorant in such a way as to be without excuse, the inspired writings were known to them. Ignorance can be no excuse when we have access to the Bible. Some in our day complain that "we can not all understand the Bible alike"! But that plea cannot be made by any man who understands the Bible; any man who makes the statement reveals clearly that he does not understand the Book.

God must not only be worshipped in spirit, but "in truth" as well. This is characteristic of all true worship. If one tries to worship God not "in truth," he is certain to fall into the error of man-made traditions and human precepts. Following human ideas rather than being guided by the Divine standard is characteristic of all man-made precepts and practices in worship. The divine pattern is ignored.

John wrote, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9) The doctrines of men always cause one to "go onward" and abandon the teachings of Christ.

Two things must be considered in worship: First of all, is it according to the divine precept? Is it an act authorized by God, commanded by him? The Bible is the only criterion we have to go by here. It alone sets out God's plan and God's desire. Many men want to follow in worship whatever may be appealing or inviting to them, and are willing to ignore or set aside God's word. But both the Old Testament and the New are replete with examples that show God's wrath upon those who turn aside from the divine pattern of worship. Every act, every item, must be such as is authorized by "thus saith the Lord."

The second thing necessary is that the worship shall be "in spirit." And here we have a real test of man's sincerity; we have a chance to measure the depth of a man's earnestness in his desire to please God. Take, for example, the matter of singing. Now God has specified clearly what kind of music he desires (Eph. 5:19; Col 3:18), and God's desire is that men shall "sing." But suppose someone begins to use an instrument of some kind? Is he truly sincere? Is his heart right before God? Is he in earnest in trying to please God? When God has specified "singing," can any man be worshipping God "in spirit" when he does something other than that and in addition to it?

The same observation can be made in reference to the Lord's Supper. This is a part of the worship instituted by the Lord. It was given on the night of the betrayal. Jesus himself took bread, blessed it, and gave to his disciples; in like manner also the cup. The early disciples of the Lord came together "upon the first day of the week" to break bread. They were following the divine pattern; they were accepting the authority of Christ. They were seeking to please God, and their worship was surely "in spirit and in truth."

But men today ignore that pattern. They partake of the supper on any day of the week that suits their fancy; they have set aside and ignored God's plan; they are following their own. They have devised their own scheme, and are going through with certain ceremonies and rituals of their own making, and calling it "worship" of God. God cannot be pleased when men thus set aside his ways, and follow their own.

Then there is the item of the contribution. God had said how he wants the contribution to be made — "every man as God has prospered him." But human religions work out every kind of scheme on earth to try to wheedle money out of people. They use chicken suppers, box suppers, church fairs, rummage sales, pew rentals, bazaars, and a host of other plans to raise money. They may make a bare token payment "on the first day of the week," but that is just a gesture; it does not fulfill either God's law or their own need for money.

The Christian, however, is seeking to please God. He will give as God has prospered him, and he will do it on the first day of each week.

There is one other thing that should be mentioned — prayer. It may truly be said that without prayer life becomes dark and void. But when we pray, it is to be with a full realization that we are praying "in faith" and according to the will of God. Many today try to utter the so-called "Lord's prayer" and have no conception at all of the meaning of the words. They pray "thy kingdom come" just as fervently as they pray "forgive us our trespasses." They do not realize that the kingdom has been here lo, these many years. Prayer is the Christian's strong protector from temptation — but the prayer must be such as will be according to God's truth. Men must not ask for that which God has not promised; they must not seek to obtain by prayer that which can come only by obedience to his word. Prayer is no substitute for obedience. In this, as in all things else, let our desire and determination be to please God, not to please men.