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Sun, Jan 24, 1999

35 - Prerequisites for Worship

John 4:20-26 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:58 mins 15 secs

Prerequisites for Worship
John 4:20–26
John Lesson #035
January 24, 1999

John 4:18 NASB "for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. [19] The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet'." It is possible that at about this time the woman trusted Christ. The reason for saying that, or an evidence that that might be the case, is in verse 21, where Jesus says: "Woman, believe Me," and then He starts a discourse on worship. And in that discourse He says that worship must be by means of the Spirit and truth. What He says about worship may not be fully understandable to an unbeliever. Furthermore, His emphasis on saying "Believe Me," might be what He would say to an unbeliever. This is just to say this is possible.

John 4:20 NASB "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you {people} say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." In the Old Testament Jeroboam engaged in some historical revisionism and rewrote the history of Israel, and in the process he recreated Scripture. So the ten-tribe northern confederation was founded on heresy, rewriting the Bible and creating a false history of the origins of the nation. In rewriting the Bible they took everything out except the Pentateuch and they changed the location of the central sanctuary so that it was no longer down south in Jerusalem but was to be built on Mount Gerizim. And where is Jesus sitting when He is talking with the woman at the well? He is on the edge of Mount Gerizim. Where else would it be more likely for Him to discuss and to teach on the whole issue of worship than at the location of controversy? The woman raises the question about true worship.

John 4:21 NASB "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father'." The point is that up to this time historically the issue has been Jerusalem as the central sanctuary in the temple, but it will not be long before that is no longer valid. So this really isn't an important question to be asking right now.

John 4:22 NASB "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews." Jesus knows that in 70 AD, in approximately 40 years, the temple in Jerusalem would be wiped out by the Romans, but He also knows that in a few minutes there is going to be a true major spiritual revival in the village of Sychar. So He is going to lay out a few things here relative to spiritual truth and to worship in order to make sure the people will understand that the physical worship site is no longer an issue because of the first advent. The reason they worshiped what they did not know is because they have had the Old Testament abridged for them historically and all they have is the first five books of the Old Testament, and they have been mutilated—cut and paste theology, the same thing we run into with every cult, with modern liberal Protestant theology. This has been a historical conflict. In the second century AD there was a man by the name of Marcion. He had an anti-Semitic streak that was a mile wide down his back. He believed that anything that was written by a Jew or that promoted a positive view of Israel couldn't really be inspired by God. So he said that the New Testament canon consisted of about eleven books—most of Paul and Luke, and that was it. On the other side of the second century there was another man by the name of Montanus who had been a priest in a cult in Asia Minor for a few years before he was saved, and he believed that he was the incarnation of the Holy Spirit. He had a couple of women who were his assistants and he began to emphasize this cult of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit was still giving new revelation to people—words of wisdom, words of knowledge. What he wanted to do was add to Scripture. So there has always been this tug of war throughout history of those who want to take out the razor blade and say this isn't really the Word of God, and this is, and others who want to add something that they think God missed. So the Samaritans took out their razor blade and they tried a little cut-and-paste theology. Jesus accuses them by saying they worship what they do not know, that they were basically ignorant because they had truncated Scripture and taken most of it out. On the other hand the Jews worshipped that which they knew because they had the completed canon of the Old Testament and they knew the truth.

John 4:23 NASB "But an hour is coming, and now is [beginning with the incarnation], when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers." The incarnation is the beginning of a transition period. The period of the incarnation is not seen as a dispensation, the reason being is because whenever there is a dispensational shift there is always a covenant associated with it, and there is new revelation given which defines responsibility for every single believer on earth. There is going to be a shift in how God is administering history. But with Jesus there is no shift given yet for all men. There is a distinction in His spiritual life and what He is teaching the disciples because He is preparing them and setting the precedent for the church age, but life for the average Old Testament believer living in Rome, living in Athens, in Alexandria, he doesn't even have a clue that Jesus has been born in Bethlehem, that Jesus is ministering in Jerusalem, or that new revelation is being given that the Messiah has come. So he was still operating on the revelation that was given to Moses and is still operational as an Old Testament saint under the Mosaic Law. Jesus sets a precedent, and that is what is taking place here.

The key phrase is "will worship the Father in spirit and truth." In the Greek there is the preposition en [e)n] plus two objects of that preposition which define it. They are the instrumental dative of pneuma [pneuma] and the instrumental dative of aletheia [a)lhqeia]—spirit [pneuma refers here to the Holy Spirit] and truth [Bible doctrine]. John 17:17 NASB "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." So truth is defined as the Word of God, and by extrapolation Bible doctrine which is all of the principles which are extrapolated from the Word of God from the original languages and related in terms of principles and precepts to the Christian for living the spiritual life. What Jesus is saying here is that worship is by means of the Holy Spirit and by means of truth/doctrine. This means that there are objective criteria for worship—emphasis on objective criteria, not subjective. We live in an era when people want to define worship subjectively: How do you know you worship? "I worship because I fell like I do! Wasn't it good to have been there!" People want to worship today in terms of certain moods, in terms of certain emotions, in terms of certain pious attitudes. The bottom line is, that is all very superficial and has nothing to do with what Jesus is saying here in this chapter.

The word "worship" translates the Greek verb for worship, proskuneo [proskunew]. Initially it meant to prostrate one's self, to show obeisance to a ruler, so it came to be a word related to the worship of the gods. It has to do with an attitude of subservience, of authority orientation, of adoration. But this must be built upon certain knowledge about whom one is worshipping. That is why Jesus says it must be done by means of doctrine. There is content underlying worship. But the first thing he says is that it is done by means of the Holy Spirit—e)n plus the instrumental dative. In other words, it is possible to engage in what appears to be worship, what looks like worship, what might feel like worship, and not be worship because it is done in the power, the energy of the flesh. Jesus said that true worship is directed to God the Father, and that is important because there are certain segments who want to focus on either Jesus or the Holy Spirit in their worship. It is not that we would not worship Jesus, because he is our Lord and Saviour, or the Holy Spirit, but the question is: where in Scripture, outside of salvation, is it stated that our faith is to be directed toward the Holy Spirit? This is another idea that is dominating contemporary worship: that we need to put a lot of faith in the Holy Spirit. Yet we don't see that in Scripture. In fact, the Holy Spirit's goal is to bring glory to Christ and the Father. We are to worship the Father by means of the Holy Spirit and by means of doctrine.

Notice the next phrase: "for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers." The Father is seeking those who are willing to worship Him by means of the Holy Spirit and by means of doctrine, not people who are just willing to have some sort of religious experience, who get the rosy glow and have an emotional high because they have engaged in ecstatics. He is talking about people who are willing to learn doctrine under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit and then apply it in their life. Then just to make sure nobody misses the point, it is repeated. When the Holy Spirit repeats things we really need to pay attention. John 4:24 NASB "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in [by means of] spirit and truth." So here it is very clear that worship is based on objective truth and has objective criteria.

Another thing we must understand here is that there is a purpose to worship. Worship expresses adoration to God but ultimately it culminates in personal obedience and application to truth. When we talk about worship, often there is a distinction made between individual worship and corporate worship, but corporate worship doesn't work unless the individuals are filled by means of the Holy Spirit. We are told here that worship is based on objective doctrine but the emphasis on the filling of the Holy Spirit also tells us that the end result is personal application. It is not just an exercise in academic intellectualism. Ultimately, if worship is adoration and is related to authority orientation and submitting ourselves to God, then it implies learning everything that God has for us so that we can learn to think as God would have us think, that our thinking would be dominated by the mind of Christ which is the Word of God, and the result of that is renovated thinking and renovated character and renovated lives, so that our lives reflect the character of Jesus Christ and thus God is glorified. That is the end result of worship.

John 4:25 NASB "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us'. [26] Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am {He.}'" This is going to generate quite a response in the woman, but right now we will stop and focus on …

The doctrine of music and worship

1)  A threefold warning:  a) What this says about music is not a matter of personal taste. When it comes to evaluating the kind of music we use in the worship of God it must never be a matter of personal taste. It is not a matter of what kind of music makes me feel good or what kind of music I like; b) When we decide what kind of music we use in the worship of God it must be the product of sheer objective thinking; c) The issue is not always contemporary music versus traditional music. There are a few contemporary writers of Christian hymns that are good. The music they use is fine and the words they use are solid and reveal some profound theological thought and doctrinal content. That is rare today. On the other hand there are some traditional hymns that are pretty inappropriate, fairly superficial, and the tunes aren't very sophisticated at all. 

2)  The issue is twofold. We have to focus on two different subjects, music on the one hand and lyrics on the other hand.

3)  Three points about lyrics. a) The standard for lyrics should be the Psalms. In a psalm there is a gradual development of thought based upon doctrinal perception and reflection upon what God has done in a human life and in human history. It is not just the repetition of two or three phrases; b) The development of a theme with substantial theological content and reflection upon God and how He works in creation and in individual lives; c) That the poetry is not silly, superficial or repetitive. When we come to look at what is called today "Praise and Worship"—that is the catch phrase—what has happened historically over the past twenty years is that worship has been suddenly redefined as the singing portion of the service, so that the guy who leads the singing is the worship leader and the other guy is the pastor. Churches out there are hiring "worship leaders" and it is not somebody who teaches doctrine. But it is somebody who is supposed to have the skills to pick the right kind of songs and put them together so that by the time the singing is finished after 30-40 minutes it has produced a certain mood, a certain emotional set of the mind so that people feel like they have worshiped, they have a pious mindset and they have worshipped God. Then it is time to hear the teaching and, well, let's go home. So this is called Praise and Worship or Contemporary Choruses. It is characterized by continuous repetition and short phrases which usually doctrinally inaccurate. They might be correct but they are shallow and superficial. So Praise and Worship reflects the cultural orientation of our day. They use these choruses like Hindu mantras to generate a certain mindset, a mood, an emotion.

4)  Music can promote an environment wherein you can think and concentrate. Music that we use should be thematic, sophisticated, and it should reflect a style and structure that is consistent with a scriptural worldview.

5)  Praise and Worship always emphasizes something new and innovative, anything that is new is good and innovative; tradition is inherently bad because somehow it didn't quite do the job. Well, what about world missions in the last two centuries? What about all of the great seminaries that were founded in the last century that taught the Word of God? Praise and Worship is now used as a tool for evangelism! Unchurched Harry and unchurched Mary have been surveyed. They don't like traditional songs because that is not what they listen to on the radio. One reason they don't come to church is because we are not singing songs they are used to. So they don't want to come. So if we want them to come we must sing songs that sound like the songs they sing so that they will feel comfortable. Unchurched Harry and unchurched Mary don't like to sing either, so they want entertainment. That is the other trend. All this Praise and Worship music reflects a very narrow range of musical and lyrical styles that is really more appealing to the taste of an adolescent than a mature, sophisticated adult. We are dumbing down the church because we are dumbing down the music and dumbing down the lyrics. We are going for the lowest common denominator. It reflects the values of pop culture, not the timeless absolutes of doctrine. Praise and Worship music is driven by the emotional mood they create which is then equated to worship. It is designed to attract the masses. But those who come to church for music don't necessarily, and usually don't, want doctrine and teaching. They want to fell good and they want entertainment, so it immediately creates a conflict in the congregation. It reflects the values of the 60s generation and not the values of the Word of God.