In Vain they do Worship
Jesus had a conversation with a woman at Jacob’s well where He told her, “in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Paul told Titus not to heed the “commandments of men who turn from the truth” (Titus 1:14) and he taught the Colossians to “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men (Colossians 2:8). Later in that same context, Paul went on to add that those who subject themselves to the ordinances of men will perish and to not even touch or handle them even though they may look appealing. Paul referred to this kind of worship as “will worship” which is of man’s devising and not according to God (V 20-23).
The scriptures teach that God does not accept just any old form of worship that man decides he wants to offer. Concerning worship, Jesus taught in John 4:24 that those who worship God “must worship him in spirit and in truth”. Worship in spirit means from the heart. We are to offer God worship from a desire within ourselves to honor and glorify Him. Those who show up to worship God at the assembly and do not have the right heart are not worshipping Him in the right spirit.
But worshipping in spirit only is not good enough. Paul wrote in Romans 10:2-4, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Paul says all the zeal, heart and spirit in the world is no good if we have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
Therefore our worship must not only be “in spirit”, it must also be “in truth”. God’s word is truth (John 17:17) therefore worship in truth must be according to His word and not according to the devices and innovations of man.
So given the importance of true worship, how then does one be sure their worship is according to God’s righteousness and not according to man’s idea of righteousness? We look to the scriptures and we find the commands and approved examples of worship given to the Christians who lived at the time when the scriptures were written and the church was newly established. We offer those things as worship to God which they did in theirs nearly 2000 years ago. We diligently search His word and we find and practice those things they did which were approved or commanded and we reject anything for which there is no authority or command for in God’s word. We do not want to risk offending God by offering Him a form of worship which He did not ask for.
Christians offered acceptable worship to God in the first century and we have within the sacred pages of God’s word how they did it. If we will learn what they learned, do what they did, live how they lived and worship how they worshipped, we can be absolutely assured of being what they were then. Christians only, glorifying God in Heaven by offering Him the worship we know will please Him. We must always remember that God is the audience and our worship is a spiritual sacrifice offered up to Him from our hearts (1 Peter 2:5).