In Spirit and in Truth

The public worship of God under the Old Covenant was centered around animal sacrifices, according to specific commands and instructions of God to Moses. Specific words of instruction controlled all the solemn assembly of the Old Covenant, when the people gathered in holy convocation. Blood was "sprinkled. . . on the people. . . the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words" (Exod. 24:8). There has never been a time when the public worship of God was not set forth according to the specific words of God. Christian, when you gather for public worship, is that worship ordered according to the specific words of God? If not, then your solemn assembly is of human origin and your worship is man made. How can we today remove from all such idolatrous worship of God, and restore worship "in spirit and in truth," when we gather together during the times God has prescribed in His word for corporate public worship?

by Jerry Gentry

"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" (John 4:23).

Blood sacrifices of animals offered up by the Levitical priesthood culminated and were fulfilled with the ultimate human sacrifice, when Jesus, that "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8) "offered himself without spot to God, [to] purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebr. 9:14). With this perfect sacrifice offered up, "when he had by himself purged our sins" (Hebr. 1:3), "Jesus, [was] made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebr. 6:20). Jesus is not a Levite. He is "not. . . called after the order of Aaron" (Hebr. 7:11). His ultimate sacrifice superceded all sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood. Jesus humbled himself and, in his humanity, fulfilled all His former covenants and promises made by His Divinity, as the mighty LORD JEHOVAH, the Holy One of Israel, the ancient YHWH of the Hebrew tongue.

Today Jesus Christ is cleansing his bride, the church, "with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:26-27). A future wedding feast is planned, wherein Jesus will remarry the woman whom the LORD JEHOVAH in His Divinity once divorced, due to her unfaithfulness. By the time of that great future "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:9), she will then have found a new heart, no longer having a faithless, independent spirit, but then with a "poor and. . . a contrite spirit, and [one that] trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).

Until that wedding feast occurs, "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23). What does it mean, "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth?" If it is true of genuine Christians, that "your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you" (1Cor. 6:19), then our worship will not be from any will of our own. It will not be "in a voluntary humility" (Col. 2:18), sometimes called "will worship." We will have no will at all in the matter of our corporate worship of God. As with Jesus, it will be according to "the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). When we gather in corporate worship, we will bring only the sacrifices prescribed in His word.

And what exactly is "the will of my Father," when defining what is acceptable for public worship? Will we find His will in the books of men? Will Nashville and Branson teach us how to rightly worship God? Will we find acceptable worship among popular television ministries? From Billy Graham? From Hollywood? Will Christian radio and a multitude of "recording artists" instruct us in acceptable public worship? No, these sources have motives outside the pure "will of my Father," which is found in his written Word, and nowhere else.

His written Word gives quite specific instructions. No acceptable worship is offered until we have discovered and ordered our hearts and our words aright. And just how might that be done? From whence must we choose and order first our hearts aright with God, that we may worship him "in spirit," then our words, "in truth?"

The Psalmist instructs our hearts plainly in acceptable corporate worship: "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psa 51:16-17). This is our first New Covenant lesson in bringing acceptable worship. Any worship of God, without "a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart" is iniquity, idolatry. All acts of worship, sincere as these may be, which fail to proceed from "a broken and a contrite heart" are idolatry. Such acts are an effort to approach unto God, in our intellect and emotion, according to "the will of man" (2Pet. 1:21). In place of such human efforts, good as they may seem to us at the time, good as they may make us feel, we must approach God "Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Eph. 6:6). And what kind of a heart must that be? God prescribes that it be "a broken and a contrite heart." Brokenness is required, that our worship be "in spirit," but we are also required that our public worship be "in truth." This is where the big rub comes for most Christian worshippers, who have inherited patterns of man made worship from previous generations. These worshippers, cry against worship "in truth," saying, how could my parents and grandparents have been wrong? And how could I have been wrong all these years? Answer: "Satan. . . deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9), which includes deception concerning worship in the very church of God, until we come out of that deception.

The prophet tells us: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). Under the New Covenant, our worship of God is accepted by Him, when we "bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD" (Jer. 33:11), according to the Word of God. Any sacrifice of praise, not ordered by the Word of God, is false worship, man made and defined in the Bible as idolatry.

Churches today are filled with such man made worship, offered in a good spirit but not "in truth," when we measure their practices according to Holy Scripture. Worship must be ordered both "in spirit and in truth." "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). When we approach unto God on the holy Sabbath day in public worship, the prophet instructs us that it is to "honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words" (Isa. 58:13), a specific reference to the Sabbath Day of Atonement. Christian, are you guilty of "speaking thine own words" on the holy Sabbath day? What does this mean? It was on this very Sabbath Day of Atonement, under the Old Covenant, that Aaron was instructed to "lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness" (Lev. 16:21).

Christian worshippers under the New Covenant must learn this same lesson. "Speaking thine own words" in public worship is iniquity, which must be confessed as sin and purged, to be sent away much further than Aaron's goat could possibly travel, removed "as far as the east is from the west" (Psa. 103:12 ) from the presence of the Lord. But who will dare believe and practice such worship "in truth?" Who will yield his words to God, "in truth," and have no will of his own in the matter of public worship? Only the "true worshippers" will turn to the Lord, and pray "take away all iniquity" (Hos. 14:2). Jesus tells us, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

"Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his [God's] will, him he heareth" (John 9:31). Typical worship services in churches of our land offer up man made worship, not according to the will of God. "God heareth not" such man made worship. No wonder such churches are void of the Spirit of God. Their worship is iniquity, and God cannot hear it! Of such worship, He says: "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting" (Isa. 1:13). Public worship is a travesty of iniquity and idolatry, in the church of God of our time. Which church will be an exception?

Of the men of these churches, God says: "their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 16). This is a message to the church first, and to the taverns second. This is a message to the ministers first, the politicians second. This is a message for the pulpits of our land. This is a message to the "true worshippers" who are commanded to worship God "in spirit and in truth." For "he that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1John 2:4).

The prophet commands us: "Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:2). And what are the "the calves of our lips?" These are words, specific offerings, found in the Holy Bible. We must learn to take up the very words of God upon our lips, and speak them in public worship. Does this mean we cannot offer a prayer extemporaneously? Absolutely not, for the Bible prescribes for such "manner" of extemporaneous prayer. Specific prayers were made for Peter when he was in prison (Acts 12:5). When Paul bid farewell to the Ephesian elders, "he kneeled down, and prayed with them all" (Acts 20:36).

Does this mean that public preaching must be only a string of scriptures, with no commentary? Absolutely not, because the Bible prescribes for preachers to read and expound the Scriptures. "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (Neh. 8:8). God "hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour" (Titus 1:3). Jesus told his disciples: "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:7). Most preachers have abandoned the gospel of the kingdom, in favor of a different gospel, unknown to the early church.

Is it possible to worship God "in spirit," but not "in truth?" If so, just how might that be? It is through the act of bringing into public worship anything not specifically authorized by the Word of God. For example, we are commanded: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). We find another command quite similar: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16).

From these two verses alone some seek to find authority for singing hymns, in the modern sense of that word. On the contrary, these verses agree with each other. These verses focus our public song service on "the word of Christ" dwelling in is. Now Isaac Watts and Martin Luther both wrote many wonderful hymns, but did these Godly men write "the word of Christ?" Fannie Crosby wrote many wonderful hymns, but did this Godly woman compose "the word of Christ?" Do these man made hymns meet God's standard for public worship, since they are not part of the "the word of Christ?" The answer is no. Their hymns are not among the "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" spoken of by the apostle Paul, in the above mentioned verses.

The apostle Paul was "an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee" (Phil. 3:5). This religious sect controlled the temple worship. The only song book known in temple worship was the Book of Psalms, from which Jesus sang. In the Book of Psalms, the words "psalm/s" appear 86 times and the words "song/s" appear 47 times. The word "hymn/s" appear in the bible only 4 times, all in the New Testament. These "hymns" are from the Greek "humos," defined by Strong as "a 'hymn' or religious ode (one of the Psalms). The references to "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," in the context of New Covenant praise worship, includes the Book of Psalms alone, the only song book known to the early church.

Jesus taught us "After this manner therefore pray ye. . . " (Matt. 6:9), then he gave us the words of what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. No where does he or any writer of the New Testament give us such a command or example to "sing after this manner." On the contrary, Jesus set us a different example to regulate our singing: "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). This "hymn" is widely acknowledged among Bible scholars to have been from the great Hallel, or office of Praise, from Psalm 113-118.

There is not one shred of evidence of existence of any man made hymns, in or out of Holy Scripture, that were sung by the Christian church for the first two-three centuries. Man made hymns were originated by heretical groups, such as the Arians, and modern historians who merely assert this idea, without benefit of historical evidence. Yet there are a multitude of ancient Psalters which have been found throughout the early Christian world. The Book of Psalms alone became the Divinely sanctioned song book for Israel, once that it was completed by the Holy Spirit, through David and the other psalmists. Once complete, it was used exclusively in public worship, from that day forward in all Israelite worship, straight through and into the New Covenant. It is the only Biblically sanctioned song book of the early church. No other song book has any Biblical warrant whatsoever.

The great reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries restored Psalm singing to Public Worship, in the reformed churches, and in the Anglican church to some degree. The Lutheran branch of the reformation sang both Psalms and other man made hymns. John Calvin restored exclusive Psalm singing to the church of Geneva. John Knox restored exclusive Psalm singing to the Kirk of Scotland. The protestant Huguenots of France restored exclusive Psalm singing, one hundred years after Calvin and Knox, at a time when singing Psalms in public was punishable by death. Tens of thousands of these Huguenot Christians had their tongues cut out, on their way to execution. Their crime? Singing from the Book of Psalms in public. Now if Satan hates Psalm singing enough to punish such singers with martyrdom, it must be a form of public worship most pleasing to God!

Christians, "true worshippers," will you worship God in spirit and in truth? He seeks such worshippers. Will you find your public worship accepted in His eyes? If so, then you will order your public worship both in spirit and in truth.

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