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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Keynotes for Worship in John 4

A keynote for starting to think about worship in the New Testament is taken from John 4. Here we read of Christ speaking about worship to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus says to her that God is seeking worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth. He also says that worship will not be limited to any locality, but be worldwide. And He says that He, Jesus, is the Christ. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus this question,

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. (John 4:19-20)

The Bible gives Jesus’ answer,

Jesus saith unto her, 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 worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21-24)

When we look at Jesus’ answer several things should be noted:

Jesus said, “… the hour cometh, when …”. By this we understand that the hour or time was still in the future. At that time true worship was still done in Jerusalem This suggests that worship was not yet in spirit and in truth. This comports with the idea that Old Testament patterns of earthly, fleshly worship still prevailed. With hindsight we know that things changed after Christ died on the cross, and rose again, ascended into heaven, and then sent the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, to the new Church on the day of Pentecost. This is in the Book of Acts Chapter Two. That hour arrived when the Church, in Acts Chapter Two, received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But when Jesus repeats that the hour is coming, He adds, “… and now is …” to indicate change was already beginning with Him and His disciples, as He revealed Himself more and more to them. What Jesus is saying is that something new is here, but the full revelation of it is yet to come. The new hour of worship is like the hour of dawn, but the light of the sun lightens the eastern sky before the hour of dawn. Just so with Jesus. Worship will somehow be different. Refer to Malachi,

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)

The offering of incense indicates worship. The phrase from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same indicates worldwide worship, or as reiterated, in every place.

This is a prophecy of the Gentile Church. This is the hour Jesus referred to. Since His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, and the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the Church has, from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, or, from the east to the west, worldwide, worshiped the Lord Jesus Christ. We see elements of the prophecy of Malachi being fulfilled. And we see the prophecy of the Lord to the Samaritan woman fulfilled in the Church. We are living in the days of the fulfillment of these things. Think about it. We are in the times of the Gentiles, some call it the Church age, it is also called the New Covenant, the New Testament of His blood, and the dispensation of grace. Whatever we call these times we are in, the hour has come two millenia ago and it is time to worship in spirit and in truth.

Second, Jesus said, “… ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem …”. This means that worship will not be localized in any particular place. The only legitimate place of worship at that time was the Temple in Jerusalem. There was no other temple in the world commanded, or approved of by God. All other temples were places of idolatry and false worship. They were places of abomination to the Lord. Today, in the Church age we worship anywhere in the world, in a spiritual temple, our bodies. Refer again to the prophecy in Malachi about how worship would become (and now is) worldwide, from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same: even in every place, from the east to the west.

In the Old Covenant of the Law, worship, if it were to be acceptable was limited by the Law to the place God commanded, which was first the Tabernacle, and then later the Temple when it had been built. In the New Testament that has changed, our proper understanding of where we can worship is that wherever two or three are gathered together unto the name of Jesus, there is where He is in their midst. That describes where we can worship as the Church. But where is it that we as individuals can worship? We are born again by the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are indwelt by God, we are His temple. The Church is called His body also, and it is called His Temple, and it is pictured as His Bride. But our own individual body is also a Temple of God. We worship in that Temple in spirit and in truth. Paul tells us quite plainly that our lives are to be lives of worship, in Romans 12.1 he says,

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

The third thing to notice in Jesus’ answer is that the true knowledge of God is held by the Jews. Jesus plainly said the Samaritans (and by implication, all Gentiles) knew not what they worshiped. They worshiped ignorantly and therefore wrongly. In those days only the Jews knew who God is and how to worship Him. He goes further and says this: “… for salvation is of the Jews.

How is it that salvation is of the Jews?

  1. It was to the father of the Jews, Abraham, that God revealed Himself and made the promise of salvation fulfilled in Christ (Genesis 15).
  2. It was to the Jews that the Law was given. The Law was given as a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Therefore God was revealing Himself to the Jews in the Law even though the Law was a shadow and kept Christ hidden (Hebrews 8:5).
  3. To the Jews came the prophets and promises. The prophets were preparing the way for Christ,

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:3-5)

  1. The Jews held the revelation and knowledge given from God, these oracles were written down in what we call the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the oracles of God: the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom were kept in written form. The Jews had the oracles of God, and nobody else did.
  2. It was the Jews who had the Temple, the Priests, the Sacrifices, and the Altar, and the Holy place where God’s presence was manifested. It was only in Jerusalem where men could worship the only true and living God.
  3. And most importantly, Chirst Himself came to His own, who are the Jews, and He came as a Jew (John 1). It was to the Jews, and from the Jews, that Christ came, and from thence the Church unto the whole world. Remember salvation is to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16b).

This is why Jesus said that, “… salvation is of the Jews …” We have here an indirect statement that the Scriptures, or God’s revelation is the source of knowledge for correct worship. Just as Paul said in I Corinthians 15 about the Gospel he preached, that it was: according to the Scriptures, so Jesus points us to the Scriptures, or God’s revelation.

… even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11).

This point bears enlarging upon. When Jesus had said the things in John 4:21-24 to the woman at the well, she said that the Christ was coming and would tell everyone about these things. Jesus plainly said to her that He was the Christ,

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. (John 4:25-26)

What would we know of worship except by revelation? This kind of worship is not of human invention. We cannot know these things on our own, they must be revealed to us.

Fourth, here is the heart of the matter, Jesus said, “… true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth …” (John 4:23). Jesus has set the grounds for worship. Worship would no longer be fleshly, tied to the earth, accepted only in a certain location. These dual aspects of spirit and truth have at least two parts apiece.

Worship in spirit has at least two meanings: it isn’t just an outward physical thing; and it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, spiritual worship is not done by means of the flesh. Jewish worship was essentially earthly. Israel had a temple where God once made His presence manifest, an altar, a curtain, animal sacrifices, men who were the priests: all these things are earthly, fleshly. Though it has spiritual meanings and aspects, Jewish worship was an earthly thing (Hebrews Chapter 9, especially verse 24). Spiritual worship on the other hand is that which arises in our spirits and is not merely bodily activities. We do have bodies, and worship must therefore express itself bodily, but it is the spiritual aspect that leads. The Church is now the spiritual temple of God, our bodies are a temple. God is in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19)

Second, worship in spirit also means worship in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Spiritual not fleshly, not by the power of our spirits alone but done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 2). The Holy Spirit must be leading our spirits in worship. (one manifestation of this was the gift of speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.)

In Acts 2 believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and being born again so are we. Think about what Paul had to say in 1 Corinthians,

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

Our faith stands in the power of God. In the same way our worship should be done in the power of God. Paul continued,

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)

In Romans, Paul makes the direct statement that we cannot please God on our own,

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

We understand by these things that worship in the spirit is not fleshly, but must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Worship in truth means two things also. First, for it to be in truth it must not be false. That is to say worship must be real and sincere and not hypocritical. It is entirely possible to give an outward show of worship but on the inside not worship at all. This idea comports with spiritual versus fleshly worship. The outward doesn’t always show the truth of the inward. Worship in truth means we are actually worshiping in our spirits and not with our bodies only. It means we aren’t being deceitful to others or self deceived, or hypocritical. It means our worship is sincere.

Second, worship in truth means worship that is according to the truth of the revelation of God recorded in the Bible, which is also called the Scriptures, not worship that is done ignorantly according to our own ideas. This is tied to the spiritual, which is worship in the power of the Holy Spirit, informed by and conforming to what the Bible reveals. Remember, salvation is of the Jews according to what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman. That means the Jews had been given the revelations of God, kept in the Scriptures. It speaks to the importance of Scriptures. We lean not unto our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Worship is done according to the Scriptures. Paul emphasized the importance of the Scriptures when he summarized the Gospel that he preached,

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

The Scriptures are the record of God’s revelation of Himself to us. We do not lean on our own understanding of how to worship, in fact, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman, the gentiles didn’t know what they worshiped,

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (John 4:22)

Again, salvation is of the Jews in part in that they have the Scriptures. It is significant that the oracles of God are called Scriptures, or Writings, referring to a written record as opposed to an oral tradition. We today have both the written record called the Old Testament, which are the Scriptures spoken of by Jesus and other New Testament figures, and we have the New Testament, or written record of the Apostles and Evangelists (It is evident that the Apostles considered New Testament writings to be the oracles of God put in writing, or Scriptures, also). So if we are to worship in truth, we must do so in accordance to the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. In practice that means we worship Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, God in the flesh, as He is according to the Scriptures and not how we may imagine Him to be.

Therefore, because worship in truth means that it must be sincere and it must be according to God’s word, not our own ideas of things, this is why spiritual worship must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. It must be true according to the Scriptures (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 — “… according to the Scriptures …”) which we can only understand in the power of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 2, a short chapter; in particular note verses 11-14) .

So then, worship is to be in the spirit as opposed to the flesh. And it is to be in the power of the Holy Spirit. Worship is also to be sincere as opposed to hypocritical. And it is to be done according to the Scriptures. These things are complimentary to each other. We rely upon the Holy Spirit and the word of God. We don’t rely upon our own spiritual power or our own understanding.

The idea of worship in spirit stands opposed to worship in the flesh but doesn’t exclude it. After all we have bodies. We confess Christ with our lips (Romans 10.9). We sing spiritual songs. We eat the bread and drink from the cup. We raise holy hands. We greet the brethren with a holy kiss. We gather together in fellowship and prayer and the apostles’ doctrine and for the breaking of bread. We are also warned that our bodies are God’s temple. So in many ways the flesh matters. The concept of worship in the flesh however must be understood to refer to things like bowing down, animal sacrifices, incense, altars, special places whether mountains or buildings, and men acting as intermediaries between us and God. Will worship, as Paul called it, is also worship in the flesh, actually a form of self worship. But though we don’t worship in the flesh, we worship in spirit, it must necessarily be manifest through or by our bodies as well.

The last thing I want to note about what Jesus said in this passage from John’s Gospel, Chapter Four, is that, “… the Father seeketh such to worship him.” The Father seeks worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth. That bears repeating, the Father seeks worshipers. This compliments the very idea that Christ is building His Church. That God the Father, through Christ the Only Begotten Son, is calling out a people to Himself. God, the Father, and His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, seeks worshipers. Imagine that! God is seeking worshipers. This is a very good thing, it shows that God intends only good to us, after all Jesus said,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Jesus said He would build His Church,

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 6:18)

Here is a great mystery, why does God love us so? Why does He call us to Himself? What He does is for the good pleasure of His will,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-12)

It is the “… good pleasure of His will …” that He should seek worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth. We must come away from this with the idea that we shouldn’t invent our own worship, but rather follow God’s lead. The clear teaching is that there is a true worship according to knowledge revealed by God. As we go on to look at aspects of the Lord’s Supper we will see how God has disposed various details of worship for us.

©FH 2012

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