It will raise howls of protest from the politically correct, but it is nevertheless true that God says there is only one way to worship Him. All religions do not lead to God. Indeed, they are likely to delude the unwary and lead them into darkness. The Bible uses strong language to warn of the dangers of religion which is not according to God’s Word: “Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods ... and ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them” (Dt. 12:2-3 KJV).
The passage then goes on to tell how and where the worship of God is to be conducted: “But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: and there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee” (Dt. 12:4-7). Succeeding verses go on to state that there is no allowance for anyone to imagine idiosyncratic ways of worship. All is to be according to God’s Word, and all else is forbidden.
The Old Testament priest was washed, anointed and sanctified; then his hands were filled with the pieces of the sacrifice which were offered upon the altar (Lev. 8:6-24; 1 Jn. 2:20,27, 1 Cor. 6:11). We are washed, anointed and sanctified. We are priests – a holy and a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:4-9.) Where humanly prescribed rituals and ceremonies intrude into our worship, where prescribed words replace our words of love for our Savior God, we rob God of what is rightfully His.
This is not a contradiction. The Old Testament worship associated with tabernacle and temple were patterns of the things in the heavenlies. This is explained in Hebrews: “For if He (Jesus) were on earth, He should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the Law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, ‘See,’ saith He, ‘that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount’” (Heb. 8:4-5.)
The whole of Hebrews was written to show that the Jewish religion – though it was of God from the time the Law was given in Exodus until its fulfillment by the Lord Jesus – has now been replaced. It merely served to show us a pattern and to point to the One who has fulfilled everything. If they had an earthly pattern of things in the heavenlies, we have the heavenly itself. It is tragic that many Christians do not understand the immense privilege we have in living in this age when all things pertaining to sacrifice and salvation have been fulfilled, and when we may “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23).
John 4 is important for understanding our Christian position. It is masterful how Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman at a well. The woman was not tricked nor forced into agreeing with anything He asserted. He only put forth things which she was able to question, but did not have to. Here’s a lesson in personal evangelism. The woman insisted: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Ever clear with the truth, the Lord answered, “Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:20-24).
It is very clear from this passage that the present age is one of true worship. It is also clear that this worship ought not to be modeled on the old religion of Judaism, and certainly ought not to incorporate elements of paganism. All Christians are priests. The priests of old were born descendants of Aaron. We are born into the priesthood by the new birth. We are washed, and we are sanctified, anointed and clothed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit. We approach God directly needing no intermediary; no one to present our offerings, except our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Himself. But where is the place where we should gather to worship? In what building, in what sacred spot do we present our “sacrifice of praise … the fruit of our lips” (Heb. 13:15)?
“Let us go forth therefore unto Him, without the camp bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13). It is truly strange that we should not worship in some great building decorated with silver, gold and precious stones, nor in some ancient shrine hallowed by centuries of use and mystery. However, it is also very clear from the New Testament epistles that each local church is a temple, since those gathered there are indwelt by the Spirit of God and are temples of God themselves (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 3:19-21). All this is confirmed by the words of the Lord when He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20).
Here is the real place of the Name, corresponding to the words of the Lord to Moses in Deuteronomy 12. Where God’s people meet simply unto His Name, that is where He is – outside the camp, rejected by men, by the religious world, by human reasoning and by the wisdom of the world. That’s where He is, and that’s where we worship.
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org