Q. 18 What is our duty in light of God’s spirituality?
A. Because God is a Spirit, we are obligated to worship Him in spirit and truth, and are forbidden to give worship to images.
The naked fact that God is, and that He necessarily is, obligates us to worship Him. All peoples of all nations for all times are obligated to seek after God, and adore Him and order their lives in pursuit of His pleasure. Because we exist, as contingencies, we are compelled by the very order of nature to offer Him worship. Psalm 100:3 “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;” 1 Cor. 8:6 “...there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” We were created for worship. It is the greatest treason to refuse Father the very end for which He made us.
The first part of our catechism shows us what God requires. Because God is a Spirit, we are obligated to worship Him in spirit and truth. These are the words of Jesus in His conversation with the Samaritan woman. [The Samaritans had forsaken Jerusalem back when Jeroboam took Israel from Solomon’s son (approx. 971 b.c). He established his own altars and recruited his own priests and made the people to worship on Mt. Gerizim as opposed to the mount in Jerusalem. cf. 1 Kings 12:25-33 ] When the Samaritan woman figured Jesus to be a prophet, she asked Him to settle the dispute between the two places of worship. John 4:20-22 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Here Jesus made two important points. He said that the Samaritans had forsaken the true worship “You worship what you do not know.” They had long abandoned the true worship of Yahweh and so they worshiped falsely. But he also said that “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” The religious Jews had also long forsaken the spiritual worship of Yahweh supposing that the essence of worship was contained in ceremonies. Isaiah 29:13 “...this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” The Samaritans failed to worship in truth, and the Jews failed to worship in spirit.
Jesus rejects both of these types of fractional “worship.” If our worship is fractional, it is not worship. He continues in v.23-24 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Let’s take those components one at a time.
This is not a generic truth that Jesus speaks of, but the evangelical gospel truth. No one can be said to worship Father unless they have been created a new by the gospel. Stephen Charnock has said “We must find healing in Christ’s wings, before God can find spirituality in our services. All worship issuing from a dead nature is but a dead service.”
Approaching God on any ground other than the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ is to approach God in falsity. Christians are very often guilty of this. I have been guilty of this. Of approaching God in prayer or song, or sermon listening, or going to work with an attitude of entitlement. Entitlement springs from a heart that is convinced of it’s own merit. This can be buried deep into our subconsciousness. The flesh will want to call this confidence. If we approach God with a confidence of how we performed this week, we are not approaching God in truth. Our best performances have enough corruption in them to condemn the entire world. When Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” He was not limiting truth to initial salvation. As if, after we are saved, we can approach the Father through how well we measured up this week. If we don’t approach Father through blood and righteousness every time, we don’t approach Him.
“Those who worship him must worship in spirit...” No doubt this has a reference to the posture of our spirit, however the primary understanding must be the Holy Spirit. Again Charnock says “God tastes sweetness in no service, but as it...hath the air of His own Spirit in it; they are but natural acts, without a supernatural assistance; without an...influence [of the Spirit], we cannot act from spiritual motives, nor for spiritual ends, nor in a spiritual manner...the choicest acts of worship are but infirmities without His...help.”
We should be people who are constantly beseeching the Lord for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit. Recognizing that in every act, secular or religious, if the Spirit is not breathing into it, we are committing idolatry. All of life is either worship or idolatry. That’s the meaning of 1 Cor. 10:31 “...whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If something is not done for the glory of God, it is idolatry. Oh the desperate need for the Spirit to superintend every action that we put our hand to!
Is it any wonder that what Jesus is really teaching us here is that worship must be a Trinitarian enterprise? The truth being gospel truth rooted in the Son; the spirit being the Holy Spirit that animates our offerings making them acceptable to God. Nobody can approach God without a dependency on the sprinkled blood of Jesus, and the pure cleansing water of the Spirit.
The engagement of our souls
Worshiping God in spirit in truth also demands that our whole soul be engaged in the task. God is not honored when we hold back parts of ourselves in the offering. Our whole soul: the understanding, the affections, and the will are required to give God the Spirit His proper due. 1) We must engage our understanding. If we offer God our senses, but hold back our reasoning, we offer to God nothing better than what the animals offer God. If our mind is not engaged with God the Spirit, “...we offer Him a dead sacrifice.”
2) We must engage our affections. If we offer God worship that is absent of adoration, or that is dead to delight, we do no better than the demons. Without our heart being engaged, all our worship is but mere motions of our bodies. Pure carnality. 3) We must engage our wills. “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26 Without the fruit of good works springing forth from our soul, we show that there is no root. True spiritual worship combines all of the soul: the understanding, the affections and the will.
What God forbids
The second part of the catechism shows us that because God is Spirit He forbids that we would give worship to images. This is the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). From everything that has been said under our doctrine question, it is should be obvious why giving worship to images is to reduce God to our level. How could we possibly take that which is contingent and full of corruption—an image—and pay devotion to it? I love what Thomas Watson says here “If an one should make images of snakes or spiders, saying he did it to represent his prince, would not the prince take it in disdain? What greater disparagement to the infinite God than to represent him by that which is finite; the living God, by that which is without life; and the Maker of all by a thing which is made?”
Oh how easy this commandment is for us ‘modern civilized people’ who aren’t given over to the superstitions of more ancient times. Right? Wrong. We live in the most affluent country in history, and materialism is the reigning worldview. There is no greater idol factory than the soil we walk on and the air we breathe. To the degree that our devotion or happiness resides in our material possessions is to the degree that we worship images. Every created thing is an image. That title is not reserved for statues and totem poles. Our jobs are images. Do we worship them? Our family is an image. Do we worship it? How would we know? Ask yourselves, if I lost any of these things would I be devastated? That question uncovers our idols. God forbids that we answer yes to anything other than Him.