In Spirit and in Truth.
The true liturgy
S. de Marie

Edited speech given at opening of the General Synod at Hasselt on June 9 2012
From DE BAZUIN, Volume 6, Number 30

John 4: 23, 24
  “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit
  and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him
  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”

Living water
            The words that the Lord Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman in John 4 have much to say to us concerning the honouring of our God and the nature of our worship services. On one of His journeys the Lord sought out this woman who still found herself outside the covenant. He came to tell her that He is the living water and giver of the eternal life that is in Him. He pointed to the well of Jacob as an example to make clear to her the importance of His Person. Just as your body cannot do without the healthy living water from the well so you also cannot do without the gift of Christ and His eternal salvation. He pours out his Spirit that makes alive. Everyone who accepts Christ in faith receives not only living water to drink but will through His Spirit become a fountain of living water that springs up to eternal life (John 4: 14).
            Only later did the woman understand who Jesus really was. That happened when he let her see that He knew her totally (verse 16-19). She saw Him as a prophet who could tell the truth of God.

The ceremonies abolished
            From John 4: 21 on the Lord Jesus made clear that with His coming there would be a fundamental change in the worship and in the position of the Samaritans and heathens in respect to the people of Israel who then still knew a privileged status. The Samaritans being of heathen origin did not serve God at the proper place nor in the proper manner. The Jews in principal did. But it will happen now that I have come, Jesus said, that God the Father in Heaven shall be worshipped in a different place and in a different manner. It was because the Messiah had to come from the Jews that for centuries the ceremonial worship had been established only for them.
            The Old Testament worship was to pass away to make room for the New Testament worship service, then the worship service is freed from all its shadowy characteristics, freed from forms and ritual. This worship will no longer be confined to the one place, Jerusalem, but will be found where ever the Lord will gather His own that is the true believers. True worshippers will be the true believers who will honour the Father uprightly and in the right manner all over the world.
            Those true worshippers will do it differently from now on. That is not according to the temple rules given by Moses but ‘in spirit and truth’.

            From now on it will be about the Word of God that has been revealed, unveiled and brought to light by Christ. He is the truth Himself, the reality that the centuries old ceremonial service pointed to. Only through Him can God be known now. The Spirit of Christ will ensure that the Father will be known and served in spirit and truth through the Word of truth.

            So communion will be possible with Christ and He will be proclaimed in the worship service. Every true service can only find place now in the name of this Jesus Christ, the mediator of the covenant, the high priest who is head of the church. The proclamation of Him as the content of the Word of truth forms the basis of every true worship service from now on.  There Christ Himself must stand in full light as the reality.

            All ceremonial proceedings meant as sincere worship by sinful man will easily develop into mere form worship. Also in the Old Testament human falsification and manipulation was seen. By this sinful influence the worship service received already then a human and therefore often an idolatrous character. Then too it was already deprived of real spirituality. We can see this for example by the swearing by the temple (Matthew 23: 22), by the superstitious handling of the ark by the sons of Eli (1 Sam. 4: 3), with the worship of the bronze serpent (2 Kings 18: 4), by the behaviour of the money changers (Matthew 21: 12, John 2: 15), by bringing hypocritical sacrifices (Isaiah 1: 10-14). How often didn’t the prophets have to fight against form worship?
            The danger is great that those forms turn into idols. The images used in the instruction of God by use of shadows were revered in an idolatrous manner. Man seeks to find himself in these and so takes away from the truth.

Think of the things that are above
            With Christ the purpose of the shadowy form worship has ceased. Christ the great prophet, our chief prophet and teacher, will now speak. As Moses said: (Deut. 18: 15)
            “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet from your midst, -- him you shall hear.”
Compare that with; “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet”. John 4: 19
            “Hear him”,
the Father says to the disciples from heaven. Matt. 17: 5

            We read about this worship in spirit and in truth further on in John 4: 24:
            “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
            So another reason is stated here why the worship service has to undergo change now that Christ has come. The ceremonial disappears but along with that Christ Himself as truth will not always remain bodily present either. He will not remain on earth. He will be in heaven with His Father. He will be with His church always in His Spirit after Pentecost. Therefore it says in Colossians 3: 1:
            “Seek those things which are above where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God”.
            In our true worship we should not be directed by earthly forms, on the precepts and writings of men.
           Think those things that are from above not those from the earth”.
We can only worship the Lord spiritually. Christ as man is in Heaven.That means we can only worship in faith, with a heart that looks up to our Saviour in heaven, who as our Priestly King is seated on the right hand of God the Father.

            In our service and worship we will not direct our thoughts to earthly, cultural, thought provoking human things or human talk even if they should have the appearance of all wisdom (Colossians 2: 23), even if you come under the influence of the wit or the impressive knowledge. These things will perish through the using according to Colossians 2 verse 22 as it is with the commandments and doctrines of men. In fact they are without any value and serve only to the satisfaction of the flesh. You could even be impaled by them. It can all feel good, it might sweep you up into a higher sphere but they remain earthly things. The worship service can even turn into a form of self satisfaction without any value. Without eternal worth!

God is Spirit!
            How is this to be accomplished? Only if we let ourselves be led by the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit works by means of the Word of Christ that is the Word of the Father. John 4 verse 24 says:   ”But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in         spirit and truth”.
The word ‘worship’ means literally: to reverently bring homage by kneeling. It concerns a reverent honouring of the Lord God, of God the Father, with veneration. This honouring has to be true and therefore faithful to God’s Word. This worship may not happen according to ones own arbitrary will.

            That is because God is spirit says verse 24. In the previous verses God is addressed with the name Father, very trustworthy and familiar, but it has to become clear now that this Father is God. God who establishes His own Godly demands. Therefore it continues in verse 24: “those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
            Must worship, it is an order! The Lord wants a worship service according to His will. A service not designated for the outsider or the religious person. A service that is on the high level of God the Father, that answers to His essence. God is spirit and therefore the service for Him must be in spirit and in truth that is in a manner pleasing to Him. Therefore away with all fleshly and idolatrous elements, they are not pleasing to the LORD God.

            On the contrary God wants us to direct ourselves to His Godly being, to praise Him for His majesty and almighty power, for His merciful good pleasure and grace, His faithfulness and steadfastness. To worship Him for whom He is, as our God, as He has revealed Himself in His Word, in the Word of truth.
            The Lord wants to be served in spirit and truth. The worship service must be established for that purpose, so that God’s truth comes into full light. That the holy majesty of God is acknowledged and through Christ He can be approached in all humility. The way to the Father will be unlocked in the worship service and we may go to Him in one Spirit and gain real communion (Ephesians 2: 18). Eternal life is poured out this way(Ps. 133: 3).

            How this contradicts with the direction in some church federations such as the GKv to give churches room to allow their own ideas into the worship service introducing all types of man centered things: art, new songs with untruths, bands and choirs, dance and mime and cabaret and films. The worship service received a character of entertainment more and more there. At the same time in many places the pulpit was put aside, sermons were tailored hearers with little knowledge. Services with lowered thresholds had to drag outsiders over the threshold while fashionable youth services had to hold the youth. For many it was a thorn in the eye, a well of frustration.

True worshippers
            What is really on hand here? What did we truly have to be frustrated about in the worship services before our liberation? Was it that these things were new, that we were not used to them?
That they were not traditional? That we as church members had no say in these things? No, not in the first place.
            The real vexation against such practices must come from the fact that the right and the honour of the Lord God are diminished, from God the Father and from Christ. God wants to see true worship services where homage, prayer and praise are brought to Him in a reverent way. He gave His Son to unlock the way to Him, for the benefit of that meeting and for the cause of His glorification.
            Real worshippers, true believers will worship the Father on the command of Christ in spirit and truth (23, 24), without human rituals, ceremonies, dance, buoyant cult or artful entertainment. Without wanting to put the religious person and his experience as central.
            True worshippers want nothing but to listen to the Gospel of preservation, the genuine and unabridged Word of Truth, praying for the working of the Spirit. Also in responding to the Lord in prayer and song the congregation shall speak words as from God (1 Peter 4: 11). All human input that does not fit there impedes the working of Word and Spirit. It troubles the Truth, exalts the flesh and brings the Spirit down.

            The worship service puts God the Father near to the heart. It is His meeting with His covenant children. The meeting where His Spirit wants to be present, but only at that high level that He prescribes. He only wants to meet us in a manner pleasing to Him, with reverence and awe, because our God is a devouring fire (Heb. 12: 28, 29).
            “Be holy for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1: 16).

            In verse 23 it says that the Father ‘is seeking’ such worshippers. God will only accept those in His house who want to serve Him in true faith. Those who will establish worship services according to His will. He searches in love but also in holiness. Doesn’t He have the right to do so?
            With that who would not keep remembering: “God of salvation is His name / this glorious Name shall we proclaim,” (Ps. 68: 8 - rhymed version)?


Translated by John Van laar