“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
We have distinguished between religion and worship. Likewise we, may distinguish between true and false religion and true and false worship. All men are religious by virtue of the fact that they have been created in the image of God, but all men do not practice true religion. Likewise do all men worship, but it would be gross prevarication to day that all men worship God in Spirit and in truth. It is simply a fact that every human being has contact with his creator and with the witness of his creator in and through the things He has made. Furthermore, man cannot avoid responding to this witness in all of his experiences. Every activity in which man engages is an ethical response to something God has said to him, either in His providence or revelation. This response constitutes man’s religion and in the broad sense of the word, his worship. Religion and worship are not matters of choice, but they are constitutionally and universally matters of necessity.
Our readers understand that the depravity of man’s nature makes him totally unable to favorably respond religiously and it renders man’s external acts of worship an abomination in the sight of God. Obviously this is true with respect to the heathen of whom Paul writes in Romans 1:21-25,
“. . .but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of. God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen.”
It may be well to remember, however, that what is said here concerning the religious practices of the heathen is essentially also true with respect to those who externally belong to the church but whose worship proceeds from and is governed by that same depraved flesh. Although the form of religious activity is visibly different from those things the pagans do, the essence of it is the same: Out of the flesh proceeds nothing but corruption, and the form that this corruption assumes is really quite irrelevant. Scripture does, however, remind us that, due to other considerations which we cannot enter into now, it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the religious zealots that inhabited Capernaum, where many mighty works of Jesus had been performed.
True worship, as the core of religious activity, can only proceed from the regenerated heart. Out of the heart are the issues of life and when that heart, through the wonder of God’s grace, is born from above, the whole life of the child of God is principally centered in worship, praise and service. Although that particular form of worship in which the child of God engages on the Sabbath in God’s house is extremely important, its significance is never that it constitutes the extent or limitation of his worship. In the house of God he receives instruction out of the Word, and this he intelligently and willingly applies to every sphere of his life in the world. Six days he labors in the fear of God, only to return again to appear before His Face to receive more instruction and direction in the way that he must go. His worship is not spasmodic but perpetual. His service of God is not periodic but continuous.
From all this it is evident that one’s conception of God determines his worship. The philosophy to which men stand committed, either unconsciously or wittingly, of necessity affects the actualization of the religious potentialities of the human soul. The Biblical statement is fitting here: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Although then there are many religions in the world, there are but three fundamentally distinct views of God which are, viz. Theism, Deism and Pantheism.
We must acknowledge at least the possibility that, unwittingly so perhaps, our practical life is more religiously motivated by Deistic and Pantheistic considerations than we are willing to admit. This is an ever present danger. It is not altogether removed either by subscription to Theistic Creeds, for all too often we fail to apply the truths we confess to our lives and thereby manifest a horrible inconsistency in practice and confession. God is very near when we gather in worship in His house but in our daily practices we often give indication that we really think that He is pretty far away. It is easy to confessionally acknowledge that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein,” but so often, in fleshly greed, we live as though that earth and its substance IS God. Too numerous to mention are the applications of this that can be made to the lives of the people of God. Let us remember, as with Israel in the Old Dispensation, such inconsistencies spoil our worship and make it displeasing unto the Lord. God does not want, and neither will He receive, a mixture of true and false worship, for He is a God of Truth.
Prof. S. Volbeda describes these three views of God in the following quotation:
Pantheism, in whatever form it is presented, negates the Scriptural and traditional distinction of the Creator and the creature, cf. Ram 1:25, and resolves them into a simple, indivisible Being, however modally diversified. It makes no difference whether Pantheism strikes out into an idealistic, materialistic, or spiritualistic direction. In all and every instance God and the world are identical essentially. If the metaphysical, ontological, distinction of God and the world is denied, the basis of worship is so far forth destroyed. Man, then, is no more distinct from the world in which he lives than is God from the world which he made. Then the Kultur (work) and Cultus (worship) must be identified. Again if man be identical with God, worship, other than the bestowal of God’s attention upon Himself, is plainly out of the question. The decoy of worship, both private and public, is the inevitable consequence of the pantheistic bias of the modern mind as expressed not only in the current philosophy, but also in the waxing Liberalism or Modernism of our times.
Deism, too, has no logical room for worship, because it throws God and His world, man included, so far apart that though each retains his own identity wholly unimpaired, the distance virtually becomes an impassable chasm. Access of man to God is impossible because God, instead of coming out of His unapproachable light,
and His eternity,
to man in His condescending goodness,
persistently remains in His lofty isolation. Man can serve Him, in a measure, and glorify Him, in a sense, but worship is out of the question. God’s Temple is perfectly inaccessible. Pantheism and Deism alike rob God of His due and deprive man of the greatest privilege his Maker has beneficently bestowed upon him. Both theories are diabolically calculated to cut the very root of religion. For without Cultus (worship) Kultur (work) degenerates into an anti-Christian crusade against God and His Kingdom.
Theism holds to God’s transcendence against Pantheism, and to His immanence, against Deism. It honors the modicum of truth in each of the other philosophies, but sets both transcendence and immanence free from their deistic and pantheistic implications, by construing each with reference to the other on the basis of the revelation of Scripture. Accordingly, theistic immanence does not preclude the disparateness of God and man on whose assumption worship moves; and theistic transcendence does not negate the communion of God and man that is fundamental to worship. (Liturgies, pg. 24)
Concluding this description, the professor then says: “It is not implied that false philosophy will ever cheat life out of its dues altogether.” Pantheists and Deists, too, are not consistent as a rule, because the facts of life, i.e., man’s ineradicable religious nature, overrule the errors infecting the mind, to an extent. The strength of pantheism is its mystic glow and the virtue of deism is its emphasis on morals. But neither mysticism nor moralism can acceptably serve as the surrogate of worship. The soul needs what Jacob experienced at the ford of Jabbok: I have seen God face to face,
We are inclined to ask whether the professor thinks that a “theory diabolically calculated” can have virtue and whether he realizes that the nature of man, though “eradically religious,” is so thoroughly saturated with the pantheistic and deistic lie that it exactly “cheats life of its due?” Man-exactly makes his own god out of the things he can see and touch or he removes his imaginary god so far out of the world of his experience that he has nothing to do with him in his daily life. Thus life is cheated of the highest good: fellowship with the living God.
However, be this as it may, the point that the soul needs what Jacob experienced at the ford of Jabbok: I have seen God face to face, is a worthy one. It brings us once again to the very heart of religion, the essence of worship—the meeting of God with His people.
In speaking of worship, the meeting of God with His people, we cannot escape the problem of bridging the infinite chasm that separates God and man. Reference here is not to that proximity of God to man which is expressed by His omnipresence but, understandably, we have in mind His intimate fellowship relation in which He dwells with man in covenant union. That relationship was violated by sin, which introduced a distance, a separation, of a new kind, viz. spiritual estrangement. This estrangement resulted on man’s part from his aversion to God, and on God’s part from His holy abhorrence of sin and His righteous indignation against it. Owing to this estrangement, God, though still manifesting His presence in the world, withdrew from spiritual fellowship with man. By going over to the side of Satan, God’s arch-enemy, man put himself at the service of the evil one and could only abuse God’s world and prostitute it to a use directly contradictory to God’s purpose with it. On this account man is neither able nor willing to come into God’s presence to worship and God will not receive him because all the labor of his hand is corrupt and unacceptable as a sacrifice of worship upon His holy altar.
The bridge is gapped in Christ Who is Emmanuel, God with us. Apart from Him there is no worship but only an empty and, what is even worse, a corrupt form. In Christ the everlasting covenant of God with His people is established and a people is formed that is “zealous unto good works.” This people God forms unto Himself and through His grace that bringeth salvation they are able to worship Him “in Spirit and in truth.” That people inquires diligently in His temple into the form, manner and content of worship, for there is nothing in all the world of their experience that is comparable in importance to the worship of God. Christians, that is, those who are partakers of the anointing of Christ, are the only ones who are able to truly worship and because their worship is still so much tainted with sin, it is necessary to be continually reminded of the things that pertain to the service of God.