In the levitical system of Judaism the worshiper was one who brought an offering (such as a bullock, sheep or turtle dove) for the priest to offer on his behalf. In that system, such a person was called a worshiper by virtue of this act. When the woman at Jacob’s well spoke to the Lord about worship, she said, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain” (Jn. 4:20 KJV). She was clearly indicating a concept of worship that consisted of certain rituals such as one would find in Judaism. It was here that the Lord elected to unveil His purpose to introduce a new order of worship.
In response to this woman’s boast the Lord said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (Jn. 4:23). Significantly, the Lord introduces the thought of true worshipers in the face of this woman’s remarks, thereby clearly indicating that what had been recognized as worship in the levitical order was but a shadow of the true. What we hear the Lord saying here is that the rituals of the levitical system never met God’s requirement for true worship. Now He will raise up men whom He will endow with attributes that will make them true worshipers. These, He said, will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Moreover, He adds, “The Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
Just as the Lord announced in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my Church,” here He announces a concomitant of the Church (then still future). What was it? Worship in spirit and truth! The writer of Hebrews, referring to that old order, tells us, “There are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things” (Heb 8:4-5). So Scripture explicitly teaches that the rituals of the now obsolete tabernacle service have become obsolete with the tabernacle itself. They were only a shadow of the true. At the same time, Peter teaches us that a new order of priests has been ushered in. Speaking of the individuals who make up the Church, he says, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
Worship, therefore, consists no longer of the offering of bulls and goats, made by priests of the levitical order. Rather, it consists of spiritual sacrifices offered up by priests of the new order. Thus worship is no longer a mechanically executed process; it is, as the Lord Jesus says in John 4, a function that is carried out in the Spirit. That is to say, the Spirit of God generates in the heart of the believer notes of worship – “worthship” if you please, of the Lord Jesus Christ and of God the Father.
It is very important to observe that Christian worship does not, unlike Judaism’s levitical worship, require that the worshiper go to any particular geographic location, or perform any particular liturgy. The levitical system tied worship to an earthly tabernacle in Jerusalem; so much so that the exiles in Babylon asked rhetorically, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4). In addition, the ritual of that service was fixed by the laws governing the levitical order. Not so in Christianity, for the sons of God have been brought into the sphere of the liberty of the Spirit. This is what makes the efforts of some, to enforce uniform practice in the order of events when we meet to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, so incongruous if not ludicrous.
In Christianity worship is offered up through the Spirit, in any location at any time, because the way into the holiest has now been made manifest (Heb 9:4). This became effective with the Lord’s triumphant shout on the cross, “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30). Then and there, the veil separating the holiest from the outer chamber of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mk. 15:38). The believer, therefore, does not have to wait for a so-called “worship meeting” to be bowed in worship and adoration, for the Spirit, by whom the Christian worships, is not limited by geography, occasion or liturgical constraints. The Spirit is always with the believer, dwelling in him. The Christian is perpetually in the sanctuary, equipped to worship anywhere, anytime – and he should be doing so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Humphrey Duncanson teaches God’s Word in North America, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. This article is taken from his recent book entitled, Prayer and Worship In The Holy Spirit, published by Overcomer Press, Box 248, Owosso, MI, 48867.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.