Chapter 9 The Where, When, And How, Of True Worship

True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

The first meeting place between God and man, after man’s ruin by sin, was at an altar of sacrifice. Later on came God’s desire for a sanctuary that He might dwell among His people, so the Tabernacle was built. Still later, God gave instructions for the more permanent Temple which Solomon built. In the New Testament, and with the Lord’s coming into our humanity, our Lord spoke of His own body as the true temple. Then, later, believers were “builded together” into a holy, spiritual temple, that from their redeemed hearts there would arise worship. God has lost the worship of men through the ruin of sin, and the whole plan of redemption was to restore men to be true worshipers.

God asks and seeks for the worship of His creatures. It was about worship that the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria. Since she was such a profligate person, we would have thought it more appropriate to have spoken to her about the new birth. Why speak of worship to such a one? Because it was in the matter of worship that the Samaritans had gone far astray, and because the first inquiry of the woman had to do with it. So to this poor sinful woman our Lord spoke of the Father, that the hour was come to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He then added these remarkable words: “The Father seeketh such to worship Him.”

What our Lord was emphasizing to this woman was the difference between the outward and the inward exercise-between the unreal and the real—between the unacceptable and the acceptable. Samaria and Jerusalem, with their mounts Gerizim and Moriah, were external places where Samaritans and Jews worshiped. But God is not the God of the outward—not the God of places, but of living beings; not the God of cities and mountains, but of the hearts and souls of men. No sites or buildings, however ornate and beautiful, can substitute for the worship of the spirit. The matter of worship is neither intellectual nor aesthetic, but something essentially spiritual. Worship is not what gratifies the senses or what is tasteful to the ear and eye, but what is acceptable to God.

Where Am I to Worship?

Man asks that question, and answers it in his own way. So often men have chosen a certain sacred spot where a godly man has lived, or where the footsteps of a godly man have trod, and consecrated such places by sacred rites. But God’s answer to “Where?” is “everywhere”—on sea or land, in vale or hill, in desert or garden, on moor or fen—anywhere and everywhere.

Where Am I to Worship?

Man asks that question and again answers it in his own way. His answer is—at certain times, certain hours, certain days, and these often arranged by priestly authority, or by ecclesiastical law, or by traditional rule. But God’s answer is— at all times and in all seasons. The naming of days and hours is indeed necessary for public gatherings for worship, as in our own assemblies, but worship itself is to be perpetual, without the restraints of time. All hours are holy. All days are holy. One day may be set aside for corporate gathering, but only because of order and not for restriction.

How Am I to Worship?

Man asks the question and again answers in his own way. He may say—in certain ornate buildings, a pillared cathedral, with forms, ceremonies, vestments, processions, and postures. But all such performances are the will-worship of man’s self-righteousness. By these performances man distorts worship. He misrepresents God. He indulges His own sensuous taste. But God’s answer is clearly given by His beloved Son to the woman at the well: “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” They may be in very poor garments. It matters not a thing. There may be no accompanying music; knees may not be bent; there may be no consecrated building. These things are nothing to God. True worship is in and from the inner man. All else is of little consequence.

Father! Thy sov’reign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee:
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought
Has brought us back, in peace, and free!
And now, as sons before Thy Face,
With joyful steps the path we tread
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ, our Head!

Thou gav’st us in eternal love
To Christ, to bring us home to Thee,
Suited to Thine own thoughts above—
As sons, like Him, with Him to be!
O glorious grace! that fills with joy,
Unmingled, all that enter there—
God’s Nature, Love without alloy—
Our hearts are giv’n e’en now to share!

God’s righteousness with glory bright,
Which fills with radiance all that sphere
E’en Christ—of God, the Power and Light—
Our title is that Light to share!
O Mind Divine! so must it be:
That glory all belongs to God!
O Love Divine! that did decree
Our part with Thee, through Jesu’s blood.

J. N. Darby