Monday, October 30, 2017

Man made religious traditions have been around for a long time.  They existed before Jesus was born.  The synagogue practice began while the Jews were in Babylonian captivity.  Jesus taught in the synagogue without condemning it as a human innovation.  When Jesus engaged in the Passover meal, he practiced a man made addition.  Four cups of wine were added to that scriptural feast.  Jesus used the last cup to institute his memorial supper (Luke 22:15-20).  He did not believe this addition was sinful.  Yet, he was negative about other traditions (Matthew 15:9).  What is the difference between an acceptable tradition and one that isn’t?

Do we make a tradition into a “thus saith the Lord”?  Do we believe our tradition makes us spiritually superior to those who do not engage in it?  Does it lead us away from a biblical truth into a false concept?  Is it less than, or more than what first century saints engaged in?  If so, does it make any difference?

Most are familiar with Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman and can quote John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  However, in attempting to explain that worship, some get lost!  Here is an example, “We are going to worship.”

The phrase is not in scripture.  It is closer in describing Old Testament worship which Jesus said would no longer be confined to, “this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem.” (John 4:21).  Some believe they “go” to a certain place to worship, because they will be in God’s presence.  Since they believe God meets them there, the place takes on a “holy” atmosphere!  Due to this perceived “holiness,” the attendees believe they must present themselves before Him in a respectful and reverent manner.  The outward appearance becomes just as important as the inward man!  Rules that categorize that appearance materialize.  Scripture tells us which “man” God notice?  Do we?

Some also entertain the idea that worship is a Sunday, 11 to noon activity.   This categorizes the Christian life.  We give God one, two, or three hours each week in worship, and the rest belongs to us.  One style of life at the church building while in God presence, a different one when we are on our own!

What is “worship”?  Some will quote John 4:24.  That doesn’t detail for us the “acts” related to being in “spirit” and in “truth.”  Some point out that it is singing, praying, preaching, giving, and communion.”  Ephesians 5:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 2 Timothy 4:2, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, and Matthew 26:26-29 are cited as proof.  They may be, but the fact remains that God never describes them with the word “worship” in those citations nor in others.

What some describe as worship is what they practice.  How many preachers question the contributors about their giving?  Do these givers lay their gift at his feet (Acts 5:1-11)?   Is our first day of the week collection for only one purpose and that purpose is not for local expenses (1 Corinthians 16:1-3)?  We assume first century men and women sang soprano, alto, tenor and bass, but they didn’t.  We don’t have a person to come before the Sunday assembly with a brand-new song and sing it for us so we will learn the words and melody.  We don’t have nine speakers in an assembly: 3 prophets, 3 tongue speakers, and 3 interpreters.  We certainly don’t have unbelievers coming in to worship by falling on the floor and telling us that God is with us!  Our prayers are different from the Jerusalem church in that we end ours, “In the name of Jesus.”  We don’t meet at night to partake of the Lord supper and continue until daybreak.  Most do not meet in houses all over town.  Neither did they use a lot of the religious vocabulary that we do.  Does one sin by using these expressions?  Are they biblical?

Worship is not a one to three-hour weekly activity.  Didn’t that idea have its roots in Catholicism, with Protestantism adopting it?  Paul told the Romans,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship(Romans 12:1).

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks(John 4:23, Emphasis mine, RH).

If we limit biblical worship, are we not guilty of practicing a devotion that is less than what Paul outlined?  If we practice more than what they did, isn’t that going beyond what was engaged in by first century saints?  If either direction is scripturally permitted, then subtracting nor adding are sinful!  Are we at fault by making “worship” a part time “living sacrifice”?  Is Christianity a part time faith?

Wouldn’t the answer depend upon whether our practice is the type Jesus commended rather than condemned?