True worship is in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Truth means we need to know what God says about Himself; His character revealed in the Word and the gospel (Hebrews 11:6). At this point, MacArthur lays out the merits of ‘Sola Scriptura’ in his book. The importance of the scriptures places the strongest emphasis on the preaching of God’s Word (Colossians 1:25). The church, a body of believers whom worship together, should organize its service in order to prepare people for and in response to God’s Word. That is why the church is described as a ‘pillar and buttress of the truth’ (2 Timothy 3:15). Notwithstanding, church is also not optional. Gathering with believers on a consistent basis is apportioned by the scriptures (Hebrews 10:24-25). Church is not about what you can ‘get out of it,’ it is divinely designed for us to give to Him and to each other in community.
Churches that are seeker-friendly or more ‘relevant to the culture’ are designing their services on the tastes and preferences of unbelievers. MacArthur describes some churches as ‘big on ministry, small on adoration, and disastrously pragmatic.’ That is the opposite of being a pillar and buttress of the truth. “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,” Philippians 3:3. We are to put no confidence in the flesh but reflect God’s image to the world. Believers must join to glory in Jesus Christ, worshipping in the Spirit of God.
Worship in the Spirit of God?
‘In spirit’ is more of an abstraction for me, but I want to be faithful to place the same amount of emphasis on truth and spirit that God does. We have all experienced those who err towards legalism, promoting doctrine to a cultish level. They are very religious but also exclusive, self-righteous, and lifeless. Jesus referred to these types of people as white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27).
Truth correlates to knowledge. Get the facts straight and then your actions will follow. Spirit is often equated with the heart or emotions; however, the scriptures infer it is more to it than that (John 3:6; Isaiah 40:18-26). Worship in spirit is a way of life (1 Corinthians 3:16) through humility, proskuneo, and service, latreou. Proskuneo – to bow down or to revere – and latreuo – to pay homage, serve or minister to – are two of the most prominent words for worship in the New Testament. We worship when we praise Him; proskuneo, revering who He is and being humbled by His glory. We also worship when we do ‘good and share, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16),’ latreuo, to pay homage or to serve. Our soul is designed as a spiritual place of worship, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 emphasis mine, see also Romans 12:1).
Worship is the gospel transforming sinners into worshippers (John 4:23).
Our sole purpose in heaven is to worship (Revelation 19:1-5) and only worshippers will be there (Psalm 24:3-6). The message of the ‘eternal gospel’ is to “Fear God, and give Him glory… and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth (Revelation 14:6-7).” Thus, our primary intention for evangelism is not for the sinner’s sake, but for His name’s sake (3 John 7, Romans 1:5).
Imagine a world in which we are motivated by worship to proclaim His name to the ends of the earth (Ephesians 3:21). Service and humility would be expressed through our heart and emotions. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is manifested in our relationships. We would not see the divisions of race, culture, and status that poison our church, community, and our world today. Our need to glorify God would pierce through our fear of the unfamiliar, it would overwhelm our insecurities to engage the unknown, and would compel us to suppress our bias because God is bigger than our sinfulness.
Worship in the spirit is a way of life, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). We have a mission field right where we are.
If you missed Part 1, it is here.