“Remember And Worship: The Mandate And The Means -- By: Tim Ralston
RAR 9:3 (Summer 2000) p. 77
“Remember And Worship:
The Mandate And The Means
The Bible paints vivid images of a universe wholly involved in divine worship. So God’s people throughout history have valued corporate worship as their crowning work, believing that “The heart of the Christian life is to be found in the act of public worship.”1
By the mid-twentieth century the crown had so tarnished that A. W. Tozer spoke of it as the “missing jewel.”2 His prophetic voice inspired many to pursue the gem. Worship became a priority as books, conferences, and programs sprang up offering recovery strategies. Many of these new stones lacked the symmetry and purity of the original. Sometimes they were only a paste imitation that appealed to the senses but lacked enduring value. Much was made of Jesus’ words that true worship must be offered “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24). Populist teachers said Jesus disdained formal structure and gave us freedom to worship in whatever ways were culturally convenient and personally meaningful. With no prescription and only Acts’ descriptions, it became fashionable to argue that there is no authoritative biblical pattern for the corporate worship of the church.
Today, however, a consensus is growing among evangelical scholars that Jesus did give his disciples a basic paradigm for their formal gatherings. Because the model assumed an understanding of Old Testament theology, was practiced by all the churches, and rarely experienced problems
RAR 9:3 (Summer 2000) p. 78
demanding formal correction, explicit prescriptions in the New Testament Epistles were unnecessary. The form was practiced universally to the sixteenth century, at which time all the Protestant Reformers affirmed it. Its demise resulted from theological reaction, pious neglect, and the pragmatic spirit characteristic of American Christianity.
In Spirit And Truth
If we look more closely at Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman, it becomes clear that he was not eliminating issues of form in worship. In the first century, the culture had given the Greek verb, “worship” (proskuneo), the connotation of taking a religious pilgrimage to a place.3 When the Samaritan women asked where she must go, Jesus corrected her misperception that “place” alone fulfilled God’s concerns.
“Spirit and truth” was an affirmation of Old Testament worship priorities. “Truth” denotes worship that conforms to a true knowled...
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