Category Archives: Worship

True Worship (C)

• Supposed self-justification: In the context of worship we have led ourselves to believe that we can be justified through our meritorious law-keeping of “the truth” in reference to a systematic performance of worship rules. Therefore, we have difficulty understanding the following statement: “For sin will not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14). Those who have constructed a legal system of “true worship” will have difficulty understanding that in this statement Paul wanted to bring the Roman disciples back under grace, and out of their efforts to self-justify themselves through perfect law-keeping. The books of Romans and Galatians are dictionaries on this matter. These two letters were written in order to remind all of us that we are saved by grace, not by the perfect law-keeping of a five point outline on acts of worship. Therefore, our worship is inspired by grace, not by law. Maybe Romans 11:6 will help: “And if by grace [we are saved and worship], then it is no more by works [of law], otherwise grace is no more grace.” True worshipers worship God out of their heart response to the grace of God, not according to some legal system of law whereby they can affirm that they have meritoriously performed legally and correctly certain acts of worship between an opening and closing prayer.

An older disciple can sit quietly in a rocking chair, with a tear slowly flowing down from a closed eye, and be worshiping God in spirit and truth. A younger, more energetic person might be somewhat more animated and expressive with bodily movements in his or her worship. But the worship of both is true and from the heart, and we have no right to be “worship judges” in reference to either.

As one sits quietly in a chair at home during the pandemic restrictions of the Covid lockdown, he or she can be assured that his or her heartfelt worship is pleasing to God. We can be assured without all the presumed concert performances of a theatrical assembly and supposed ritualistic ceremonies that we have convinced ourselves constitute “true worship.” One of the great advantages of the Covid pandemic is that people of God around the world have been forced into isolated situations wherein they must take another look at the subject of what is considered true worship.

• Worship out of gratitude: Christians are motivated in true worship by their gratitude for the grace of God. This can take place both publicly and in the privacy of one’s own home. Worship is not defined by a public performance of a number of legal statutes that we have orchestrated from a series of proof texts on an outline. Worship is spontaneous from the heart. This is true worship that is motivated by the gospel. This is exactly what Paul meant when he urged the Romans to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, which thing “is your reasonable service” (Rm 12:1). Some translations read, “spiritual worship.”

If we satisfy ourselves with our perfect keeping of some legal system of worship that we have formulated as a systematic theology of public worship, and which we refer to as “true worship,” then we have marginalized the motivating power of the grace of God. Paul said that we are not under such a system of law-keeping, which system we would assume to include our worship. On the contrary, we are under grace that generates worship from a heart that has responded to the gospel journey of the incarnate Son of God. We thus worship out of our gratitude for His love to make such a journey on our behalf.

Grateful hearts need no systematic set of rules to worship. They need no “place of worship.” Temples, churches houses and cathedrals are not necessary. This means that we do not need some ceremonial system of law that prescribes how we are to worship at some location.

Obedience to rules of law stimulates limited worship. We are motivated only in the fact that we have obeyed law. But response to the revelation of the Son of God moves us in worship beyond the calculated measures of keeping some legal acts of worship in some designated “place of worship.” In contrast to being subject to a legal system of worship laws, we are subject to the true fact of Jesus’ incarnational journey on our behalf. It is our understanding of this truth that causes thanksgiving in our hearts (See 2 Co 4:15). The more we understand the grace of God that was revealed through His Son, the more intense our worship becomes. If we would increase the sincerity of our worship, therefore, then we must “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18).

Again, one of the advantages of the Covid pandemic was that the lockdowns forced believers not to depend on the crutches of meeting houses in order to worship God. We were all forced into digging deep into our own hearts in order to worship God without all the surrounding stimuli that we thought was so necessary in order to generate worship. And the beautiful thing about it all is that we have learned that we can worship, even in the confines of our own closets.

• Meritorious law-keeping severs one from Christ: The Holy Spirit was serious about this matter. Through Paul He warned the Christians in Galatia, “You have been severed from Christ, you who seek to be justified by law. You have fallen from grace” (Gl 5:4). If one feels self-righteous because he has performed a certain system of acts in worship, then he has convinced himself that no grace is needed. After all, when one has satisfied himself with his legal performance of his legalized “true worship,” then he can feel confident in his supposed self-justification through the performance of a ceremony of worship acts. If one feels self-sanctified in his worship after the “closing prayer,” then he needs no sanctification from the cross.

We have found it most interesting that in our worship alone in the lockdowns of the Covid pandemic, the opening and closing prayers have all vanished away. We can now better understand what the Holy Spirit meant when He instructed that we “pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17). When we are not locked into an institutional performance of worship on Sunday morning, we now better understand that worship is a daily offering of our lives to the Father, with occasional moments throughout the day when we offer prayer to Him in reference to something in which we are immediately engaged.

We must translate our understanding of worship into the context of the theme of both Romans and Galatians. In order to be clear, what the Spirit said in the statement of Galatians 5:4 is that those of us who would seek to be justified by our laws of worship (“acts of worship”) have actually endangered our relationship with King Jesus because we have convinced ourselves that we no longer need His grace that was revealed through the cross. We have caused ourselves to have fallen from grace because we have convinced ourselves that it is possible to be justified before God on the basis of our meritorious obedience to “the truth” in reference to our orchestrated performances of worship. Therefore, if we would assume that “the truth” in reference to worship is some system of meritorious law, then we are in trouble. We have denied “the truth of the gospel” by relegating the gospel of the Son of God to a legal system of worship and behavior. But this is not the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1-4). This is another gospel (Gl 1:6-9).

We must not forget that whenever we discuss worship, we are talking about ourselves. Whenever we are establishing law, we are talking about ourselves in reference to our obedience to the law. But when we talk about gospel, we are talking about Jesus Christ. It is simply for this reason that “the truth” can never be a reference to a system of law. It is always in the New Testament stated to be, “the truth of the gospel.” The focus is on the truth of King Jesus, not on ourselves.

If we are honest with ourselves, then we know that we cannot keep any law perfectly in order to demand our salvation, or to certify our worship as true before God. Therefore, if “the truth” is a code of law, then we are doomed, for we would have to obey “the truth” perfectly in order to be saved. But we know that we cannot do this. We know this while we are sitting there in an assembly with our minds wandering here and there about the things of this world. We then realize that we have sinned according to our definition of “true worship.” Therefore, we need to take another look at what the New Testament states in reference to “the truth,” especially “the truth of the gospel.” If we do not, then we will as some in Galatia be teaching “another gospel,” and thus reap what the Holy Spirit declared in Galatians 1:9: “As we said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

[Next in series: Jan. 10]

True Worship (B)

• “The truth” in reference to worship: A good example of our misunderstanding of “the truth” is when this phrase is used in reference to worship. Throughout the years we have heard the common and misleading use of “the truth” in order to lay a foundation for a self-righteous system of law-keeping in reference to worship. This system of truth is often based on a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in John 4:23,24:

“But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”

We sincerely want to be “true worshipers.” However, in our zeal to worship God “in truth” we have established a meritorious system of worship that is contrary to the entire theme of both Romans and Galatians, and thus, contrary to the gospel. For example, in order to identify ourselves as “true worshipers,” we often establish a legal system of “true worship” that can be identified by the performance of certain “acts of worship.” In other words, if the acts of this true worship are meritoriously performed every Sunday, then we assure ourselves that we have worshiped God in “truth.” We are even so arrogant to say that those who do not worship according to our legally defined “truth” of systematic acts of worship are not true worshipers.

As the Holy Spirit previously pronounced through Paul that no one can be justified before God through law-keeping, the same principle applies to our worship. But on this matter we have contradicted the Spirit by establishing what we consider to be “the truth” (a system of law) in reference to true worship. If any of the points of this “true worship” are violated or omitted, then it is supposed that one’s worship is not true. We are also quick to judge those who would be so presumptuous as to add to our legally defined system of “true worship.” In believing and behaving in this manner, we have established our own self-righteous worship, and thus have unknowingly denied the grace of God. We forgot that Christians are under grace, not meritorious law-keeping (Rm 6:14).

We have also forgotten that worship pours forth from a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude (2 Co 4:15). When we worship around the Lord’s Supper, remembering God’s love for us spurs us on to love: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge that if one died for all, then all died” (2 Co 5:14). John was so strikingly clear on this matter that he proclaimed, “And by this [our love for one another] we will know that we are of the truth [of the gospel], and will assure our heart before Him” (1 Jn 3:19).

When we speak of true worship, it is not a matter of how, but why. We must focus on why we worship before we ask how. If we feel that we have sorted out the “how,” but ignored the “why,” then our worship is empty, void, and often vain. We find ourselves going through worship rituals, and thus feel empty after the “closing prayer.”

• The rise of judges: Unfortunately, our systematic theology on what is considered a legal system of “true worship” has encouraged us to be judges of others in reference to their worship. If others do not worship according to our legally-defined “true worship,” then they are worshiping God in vain. Even on the surface, with a novice study of the grace of God, we can perceive that there is something very wrong with this reasoning.

If one worships God from the heart, then what gives us the right to judge the hearts of others in reference to their worship? The problem is that we have established a systematic legal performance of supposed actions of worship that are fabricated from an arrangement of selected scriptures. Our “true worship” is thus according to our formulated legal statutes of law, and not according to a heart of gratitude in response to the grace of God. In other words, the fact that we have become judges of the worship of others is evidence that we have establish a self-righteous legal system of worship by which we judge the worship of others. We judge the worship of others according to our improvised standard of laws that we have outlined as a definition of “the truth” in reference to worship. We have forgotten that true worship can never be the performance of a set of rules. Cults do this, but not Christians who live in gratitude of the grace of God.

Our legal systematic acts of worship, therefore, encourage us to be judges of the worship of others. But James would shock us into some reality on this matter. He asks every “worship judge,” “There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Js 4:12). If our legal system of “truth” in reference to worship inspires us to be judges of others in their worship, then our “truth” has made us lawgivers by which we would judge others. If we are honest with ourselves, we will conclude that there is no standard of law that we can use to judge the hearts of people in reference to worship. We can be only fruit inspectors, for by their fruits we will know them (See Mt 7:16,17).

This does not mean, however, that we should not allow the word of God to guard us from following after the doctrines of demons in reference to worship. The word of God is our guard against vain worship. True worship is governed by the word of God. We know God only through His word, and thus we know how He would be worshiped according to His word. Those who have no knowledge of the word of God will fabricate man-made systems of worship. What we are trying to do is to guard ourselves from using the word of God to fabricate a legal system of law that we presume to be the identity of a system of worship that is considered true. But it is simply true that worship cannot be legislated by law.

[Next in series: Jan. 8]

True Worship (A)

We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

• An inherent denial of grace: In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship. We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God]” (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship(B)

• “The truth” in reference to worship: A good example of our misunderstanding of “the truth” is when this phrase is used in reference to worship. Throughout the years we have heard the common and misleading use of “the truth” in order to lay a foundation for a self-righteous system of law-keeping in reference to worship. This system of truth is often based on a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in John 4:23,24:

“But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”

We sincerely want to be “true worshipers.” However, in our zeal to worship God “in truth” we have established a meritorious system of worship that is contrary to the entire theme of both Romans and Galatians, and thus, contrary to the gospel. For example, in order to identify ourselves as “true worshipers,” we often establish a legal system of “true worship” that can be identified by the performance of certain “acts of worship.” In other words, if the acts of this true worship are meritoriously performed every Sunday, then we assure ourselves that we have worshiped God in “truth.” We are even so arrogant to say that those who do not worship according to our legally defined “truth” of systematic acts of worship are not true worshipers.

As the Holy Spirit previously pronounced through Paul that no one can be justified before God through law-keeping, the same principle applies to our worship. But on this matter we have contradicted the Spirit by establishing what we consider to be “the truth” (a system of law) in reference to true worship. If any of the points of this “true worship” are violated or omitted, then it is supposed that one’s worship is not true. We are also quick to judge those who would be so presumptuous as to add to our legally defined system of “true worship.” In believing and behaving in this manner, we have established our own self-righteous worship, and thus have unknowingly denied the grace of God. We forgot that Christians are under grace, not meritorious law-keeping (Rm 6:14).

We have also forgotten that worship pours forth from a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude (2 Co 4:15). When we worship around the Lord’s Supper, remembering God’s love for us spurs us on to love: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge that if one died for all, then all died” (2 Co 5:14). John was so strikingly clear on this matter that he proclaimed, “And by this [our love for one another] we will know that we are of the truth [of the gospel], and will assure our heart before Him” (1 Jn 3:19).

When we speak of true worship, it is not a matter of how, but why. We must focus on why we worship before we ask how. If we feel that we have sorted out the “how,” but ignored the “why,” then our worship is empty, void, and often vain. We find ourselves going through worship rituals, and thus feel empty after the “closing prayer.”

• The rise of judges: Unfortunately, our systematic theology on what is considered a legal system of “true worship” has encouraged us to be judges of others in reference to their worship. If others do not worship according to our legally-defined “true worship,” then they are worshiping God in vain. Even on the surface, with a novice study of the grace of God, we can perceive that there is something very wrong with this reasoning.

If one worships God from the heart, then what gives us the right to judge the hearts of others in reference to their worship? The problem is that we have established a systematic legal performance of supposed actions of worship that are fabricated from an arrangement of selected scriptures. Our “true worship” is thus according to our formulated legal statutes of law, and not according to a heart of gratitude in response to the grace of God. In other words, the fact that we have become judges of the worship of others is evidence that we have establish a self-righteous legal system of worship by which we judge the worship of others. We judge the worship of others according to our improvised standard of laws that we have outlined as a definition of “the truth” in reference to worship. We have forgotten that true worship can never be the performance of a set of rules. Cults do this, but not Christians who live in gratitude of the grace of God.

Our legal systematic acts of worship, therefore, encourage us to be judges of the worship of others. But James would shock us into some reality on this matter. He asks every “worship judge,” “There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Js 4:12). If our legal system of “truth” in reference to worship inspires us to be judges of others in their worship, then our “truth” has made us lawgivers by which we would judge others. If we are honest with ourselves, we will conclude that there is no standard of law that we can use to judge the hearts of people in reference to worship. We can be only fruit inspectors, for by their fruits we will know them (See Mt 7:16,17).

This does not mean, however, that we should not allow the word of God to guard us from following after the doctrines of demons in reference to worship. The word of God is our guard against vain worship. True worship is governed by the word of God. We know God only through His word, and thus we know how He would be worshiped according to His word. Those who have no knowledge of the word of God will fabricate man-made systems of worship. What we are trying to do is to guard ourselves from using the word of God to fabricate a legal system of law that we presume to be the identity of a system of worship that is considered true. But it is simply true that worship cannot be legislated by law.

[Next in series: Jan. 10]

True Worship

We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

• An inherent denial of grace: In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship. We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God]” (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship (A)

We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

• An inherent denial of grace: In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship. We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God]” (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship

TRUE WORSHIP
We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

• An inherent denial of grace: In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship. We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God]” (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship

We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

• An inherent denial of grace: In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship. We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God] (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship (A)

We must not believe that we are guarded from teaching another gospel simply because we teach the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and kingdom reign. The problem is that we tag on to these gospel truths our own traditional teachings, methods, or heritage that we confuse with the simplicity of the gospel. In doing this we lead ourselves to believe that our add-ons are also necessary to believe and obey in order to be justified before God. This is particularly true in reference to a legalized ceremony of worship.

What we must keep in mind is that any obsession about obedience to our add-ons in an effort to self-justify or self-sanctify ourselves is an attack against the grace of God that was revealed at the cross. Because most religious people today understand little about the gospel, or at least focus little on the complete gospel, their worship of God has moved into a self-sanctifying experience of emotional experientialism. In other words, the more emotional one becomes during an assigned period of worship, the more sincere the worship is surely to be. This is particularly true in reference to the obsession with “speaking in tongues.” As we explained in Book 44, Experiential Religion vs Word-Based Faith, the modern-day phenomenon is real, but it is not the work of the Holy Spirit (See Biblical Research library, africainternational.org). It is the work of our own spirit when in a state of emotional upheaval. And in some cases, it is a self-sanctifying exercise on the part of the speaker.

Others, on the other hand, have gone to the extreme to create a legalized ceremonial assembly during which prescribed performances are carried out as “acts of worship.” It is believed that when the performances of these acts are all completed, then the supposed worshipers of “true worship” after a “closing prayer,” and then can go on their way, satisfied that they have worshiped God “in spirit and truth.” They have supposedly sanctified themselves for the week, and thus, will return next Sunday in order to renew their to perform another series of self-sanctifying ceremonies before God. Both of the preceding extremes, whether experiential emotionalism or legal orthodoxy, are attacks against the grace of God. Each focuses on the individual “worshiper,” and less on God.

•  An inherent denial of grace:  In his confrontation with Peter in Antioch, who along with some Jewish Christians who were also not walking straightforward according to the truth of the gospel (Gl 2:14), Paul embedded a principle that must always be kept in mind in reference to our salvation, and particularly our worship.  We must remember the following lest we too bring into the body of Christ the law of sin and death, even in the manner by which we worship God: 

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of Christ Jesus, even we [Paul and Peter] have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law, for by works of law no flesh will be justified” (Gl 2:16).

There are two very important points in the above statement that reveal our relationship with God. First, the King James Version reads, “Knowing that a man is … justified … by the faith of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word that is translated “by” is dia. This Greek word is commonly translated “through.” This is the translation that is brought out in the American Standard Version: “… through faith in Jesus Christ.” The New King James Version gives a similar rendition, the meaning of which is found in Acts 13:39: “By Him [Jesus Christ] all who believe are justified from all things.” The meaning of all these readings is that the incarnate Son of God, through His commitment (faith) to go to the cross, was the means by which all will be saved who believe in His sacrificial offering. In other words, the measure of His justification through the cross is not determined by our measure of faith in His work of redemption. On the contrary, in reference to our justification all our faith must be placed in Him, not in our own faith. We must believe that the gospel of His atoning sacrifice was true and sincere on His part. Our faith must not be meritorious, and thus cancel His faith to do the will of the Father for us in going to the cross (Lk 22:42).

Second, Paul was abundantly clear as he pressed hard with his feather-pen to paper in order to write, “For by works of law no flesh will be justified.” He made this statement twice in this one verse as if he knew we would have a difficult time understanding the concept. And we do. Nevertheless, taken at face value, no one can be meritoriously justified by perfect law-keeping simply because of what the Holy Spirit stated in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We kept on sinning against law even after we have been baptized into Christ.

Galatians 2:16 is thus clear. Jesus performed perfectly on the cross in order to justify our lack of performance. We must have absolute faith in His performance in order not to try adding our own performance of either good works, or a supposed perfect keeping of law, in order to subsidize His total and complete performance for our redemption. We must not even be so presumptuous as to offer legal worship to God in order to “please Him.” In doing so, we will actually displease Him because we are marginalizing the offering of His Son whom He gave for our justification. If we seek to justify ourselves through worship law-keeping, then are trying to either add to or subsidize His justification through the performance of our legal acts of worship.

Lest we make the mistake of interpreting Paul’s use of the word “law” in Galatians 2:16 to refer to the Sinai law, he purposely did not use the definite article “the” with the word “law.” It was not “the Sinai law.” It was any law that we might establish as a meritorious system of obedience in order to justify ourselves before God. We could even make the “law of Christ” to be “another gospel” if we construct a systematic doctrine of “the truth” (acts of worship) we must perform meritoriously and perfectly in order to save ourselves. We must keep this in mind when we try to construct some system of “true worship” that is supposedly based on a ceremonial performance of our fabrication of “acts of worship.”

If we deceive ourselves into believing that we can obey perfectly any law we consider to be “the truth,” then we have introduced among ourselves the law of sin and death. We have forgotten that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2). The point is that we cannot keep perfectly any law, whether the law of Christ, or our own fabrications of law, in order to justify ourselves before God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit had some hard words for those who would introduce sin and death into the church: “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9).

Thankfully, however, our sins in Christ are cleansed by the washing of Jesus’ blood that continues to flow from Calvary (1 Jn 1:7). This is the continuation of grace in our lives. As with Peter, we must walk by faith in this grace and trust that God will save us from ourselves. Our faith is in the grace of God, not in our presumptuous claim that we can keep any system of law perfectly by which we can save ourselves.

Though we would quote Galatians 2:16 to affirm that one cannot establish any legal system of law by which he would justify himself before God, we have done just that in making “the truth” a legal system of law. We have establish a legal system of law that we call “the truth,” and then we are so arrogant as to claim that we have justified ourselves before God because we have obeyed perfectly our legal system of “the truth.” In this way we have inadvertently switch around the phrase “the truth of the gospel.” We now consider it to read “the gospel of the truth.” We have assumed that “the truth” is the good news of a new set of laws that we suppose God would bind on us in order that we justify ourselves before Him. So we have forgotten what the Holy Spirit said: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death” (Rm 8:2).

We sometimes assume that we are justified by our own meritorious performance of what we have fabricated to be “the truth.” We then assume that we can self-justify ourselves when we are satisfied that we have correctly performed our fabrication. This problem leads us to becoming somewhat self-righteous religionists by throwing away everyone who does not measure up to our fabricated religion of “true worship.”

In our zeal to please God, we become as the Jews who established their own systematic theology of “the truth,” “but not according to knowledge [of the word of God] (Rm 10:2). The problem with the Jews’ system of religiosity was explained by the Holy Spirit: “For they [the Jews] being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rm 10:3). In our own zeal, we also do as the Jews by establishing a system of “the truth” in order to affirm that we are righteousness before God when we meritoriously perform all the statutes of our improvised system of worship laws. We are often so zealous to keep our legal system of our “truth” that we will, as the Jews, lay aside the commandments of God (Mk 7:8).

[Next in series: Jan. 5]

True Worship (B)

• “The truth” in reference to worship: A good example of our misunderstanding of “the truth” is when this phrase is used in reference to worship. Throughout the years we have heard the common and misleading use of “the truth” in order to lay a foundation for a self-righteous system of law-keeping in reference to worship. This system of truth is often based on a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in John 4:23,24:

“But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”

We sincerely want to be “true worshipers.” However, in our zeal to worship God “in truth” we have established a meritorious system of worship that is contrary to the entire theme of both Romans and Galatians, and thus, contrary to the gospel. For example, in order to identify ourselves as “true worshipers,” we often establish a legal system of “true worship” that can be identified by the performance of certain “acts of worship.” In other words, if the acts of this true worship are meritoriously performed every Sunday, then we assure ourselves that we have worshiped God in “truth.” We are even so arrogant to say that those who do not worship according to our legally defined “truth” of systematic acts of worship are not true worshipers.

As the Holy Spirit previously pronounced through Paul that no one can be justified before God through law-keeping, the same principle applies to our worship. But on this matter we have contradicted the Spirit by establishing what we consider to be “the truth” (a system of law) in reference to true worship. If any of the points of this “true worship” are violated or omitted, then it is supposed that one’s worship is not true. We are also quick to judge those who would be so presumptuous as to add to our legally defined system of “true worship.” In believing and behaving in this manner, we have established our own self-righteous worship, and thus have unknowingly denied the grace of God. We forgot that Christians are under grace, not meritorious law-keeping (Rm 6:14).

We have also forgotten that worship pours forth from a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude (2 Co 4:15). When we worship around the Lord’s Supper, remembering God’s love for us spurs us on to love: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge that if one died for all, then all died” (2 Co 5:14). John was so strikingly clear on this matter that he proclaimed, “And by this [our love for one another] we will know that we are of the truth [of the gospel], and will assure our heart before Him” (1 Jn 3:19).

When we speak of true worship, it is not a matter of how, but why. We must focus on why we worship before we ask how. If we feel that we have sorted out the “how,” but ignored the “why,” then our worship is empty, void, and often vain. We find ourselves going through worship rituals, and thus feel empty after the “closing prayer.”

• The rise of judges: Unfortunately, our systematic theology on what is considered a legal system of “true worship” has encouraged us to be judges of others in reference to their worship. If others do not worship according to our legally-defined “true worship,” then they are worshiping God in vain. Even on the surface, with a novice study of the grace of God, we can perceive that there is something very wrong with this reasoning.

If one worships God from the heart, then what gives us the right to judge the hearts of others in reference to their worship? The problem is that we have established a systematic legal performance of supposed actions of worship that are fabricated from an arrangement of selected scriptures. Our “true worship” is thus according to our formulated legal statutes of law, and not according to a heart of gratitude in response to the grace of God. In other words, the fact that we have become judges of the worship of others is evidence that we have establish a self-righteous legal system of worship by which we judge the worship of others. We judge the worship of others according to our improvised standard of laws that we have outlined as a definition of “the truth” in reference to worship. We have forgotten that true worship can never be the performance of a set of rules. Cults do this, but not Christians who live in gratitude of the grace of God.

Our legal systematic acts of worship, therefore, encourage us to be judges of the worship of others. But James would shock us into some reality on this matter. He asks every “worship judge,” “There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (Js 4:12). If our legal system of “truth” in reference to worship inspires us to be judges of others in their worship, then our “truth” has made us lawgivers by which we would judge others. If we are honest with ourselves, we will conclude that there is no standard of law that we can use to judge the hearts of people in reference to worship. We can be only fruit inspectors, for by their fruits we will know them (See Mt 7:16,17).

This does not mean, however, that we should not allow the word of God to guard us from following after the doctrines of demons in reference to worship. The word of God is our guard against vain worship. True worship is governed by the word of God. We know God only through His word, and thus we know how He would be worshiped according to His word. Those who have no knowledge of the word of God will fabricate man-made systems of worship. What we are trying to do is to guard ourselves from using the word of God to fabricate a legal system of law that we presume to be the identity of a system of worship that is considered true. But it is simply true that worship cannot be legislated by law.

[Next in series: Jan. 8]