Chapter 5 The Place Of The Holy Spirit In Worship

They that worship Him [the Father] must worship Him in spirit (John 4:24).

Worship by the Spirit (Philippians 3:3 RV).

The true objects of worship are the Father and the Son. In His conversation with the woman of Samaria, the Lord made clear what spiritual worship was. It was no longer a symbolic rite, a ceremonial performance, but the worship of the Father. All symbolism was done away with the coming of God’s beloved Son.

The hour had come for true worship. And the honor due the Father was also to be given the Son—“That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). The Lord Jesus was given worship and received worship from men (John 9:38); from angels (Hebrews 1:6); and from all the vast multitude of those in Heaven (Revelation 5:13-14). But where does the Holy Spirit come in true worship? Is there no place for Him, who is God the Spirit?

Worship in the Spirit

In talking with the woman at the well of Sychar about worship, the Lord set true worship over against what was done as worship in Samaria and at Jerusalem. It is important to notice the words, “neither…nor… but” in John 4:21-23. There was to be a change of location. No longer was it to be a Samaritan worship in Samaria, or a Jewish worship at Jerusalem, but the hour had come when worship would be an utterly spiritual exercise. True worship would rise from the spirits of redeemed men and women—and from them only, because the Holy Spirit had given them new birth, a new life in which was the faculty of, and ability for, worship.

The Jews were never true worshipers. They had a form of worship and, with that form, dreamed life was safe—that life was pleasing to God and that theirs was no polluted walk as with the heathen; that God looked on them with no angry frown; that death would land them on the shores of bliss; that Heaven would be their home at last. But the prophets cut through this delusion, and cried that God had no pleasure in their sacrifices and worship. The Word of God through the prophets cut down that carnal confidence, and showed them that mere ceremonial worship still left them unclean, and still without access to God’s holy presence.

But “the hour cometh,” said our Lord—that is, the hour of His passion and, with His death, redemption work would be finished. After His resurrection and ascension, the Lord spread His hands, and poured down the promised Spirit. Cloven tongues of fire fell and blazed on the heads of the assembled company. They were all baptized in the Spirit, and now all things were wrought in the Spirit. The location of spiritual worship was now neither in Samaria, nor yet at Jerusalem, but in the spirits of redeemed men and women.

The reason given by our Lord is that “God is a Spirit,” and the worship of men’s hearts must answer to the nature of God. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” and the exercises of the spirit do not belong to the material part of man. That is why there is no emphasis in the New Testament on bodily postures or special dress. We are not to imitate the symbolism of the Old Testament. It is what takes place in men’s spirits which satisfies the heart of God. The more beautiful and ornate the buildings—the more lavish the pews—the the more pleasing the music—the more colorful the decorations—the more hindrance there is to pure, spiritual worship. We are in an era when all the things of God are true and real, and therefore in the spirit.

Worship by the Spirit

This means the energy and power for such can only be by the Spirit of God. We worship by the Spirit of God. Thus we have our Lord speaking of this very thing in John 7:37-38: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

He follows this with an exposition of His own words: “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” Real, inward, spiritual exercise needs the prompting, the presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus the worship of God in the Spirit and by the Spirit would, in an altogether new way, begin on the day of Pentecost.

We seem to recognize this in the matter of spiritual works—that only the presence and power of the Holy Spirit can seal the Word of God—cause blind eyes to open and frozen feelings to melt—lay pride in the dust—disperse strong prejudice—and open hearts for the Lord to enter. But this is also so in the matter of true worship. Without the Holy Spirit’s aid, we cannot worship. Without His energy, our worship will not rise. Without His power, we are flesh-bound.

How different, then, is worship by the Spirit! The Lord said of the life of the indwelling Spirit: “[It] shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). The tendency is to bypass this and emphasize the outflow of John 7:38: “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The emphasis in our day has changed the order of things so that service comes first, and worship is tacked on where a few moments can be found for it. But the springing up of the living water comes before the flowing out. In God’s order, worship is first; service follows. Surely, surely, our garners would swell with the plenteous produce of immortal souls if we were first a worshiping people.

For the blessed Holy Spirit,
Sent by Thee from Heav’n above;
We would join to praise Thee, Father,
For this matchless Gift of love.

O, forbid that we should grieve Him
By neglect or willful sin;
Grant that we may know the fullness
Of this heav’nly Guest within!

For the Holy Spirit’s presence,
Comforter and Guide divine;
From our hearts we join to praise
Thee For this gracious Gift of Thine.