23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
8 “‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8–9, NKJV)
The heart we bring before God in worship must be pure, holy, and pious. Our worship must be “in spirit” (Jno. 4:24). The actions we bring before God in worship must accord with His word. Worship must also be in “truth” (Jno. 4:24). Today’s text teaches the value of doctrine (truth) in worship by contrasting it with the vain worship produced by men’s commandments. Many people and churches say doctrine is not essential as long as your heart is sincere. By doing so, they have forgotten what Jesus taught in today’s passage. By applying Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said hearts are corrupted (“far from Me”) when people try to worship God while following the commands of men. Vain worship results. Our attitude in worship is to be reverent and humble (Psa. 5:7; 89:7). Worship is not a casual affair that honors people; it is a time of holiness before the Lord (Lev. 10:3). Our actions in worship are to follow God’s truth, not men’s traditions bound upon worshipers (Mk. 7:6-9). Worship is accepted by God when worshipers respect Him and bring before Him the worship His word approves (Rev. 5:13-14). God seeks true worshipers, not vain worshipers (Jno. 4:23). Therefore, let us scrutinize our hearts (spirit) and our hands (conduct) and worship Him “in spirit and truth.”
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1–2, NKJV)
Peter’s warning makes it clear that what we believe and teach matters to God. Therefore, what Bible teachers teach us should matter. To think it does not matter to God what we believe “as long as we are sincere” flies in the face Peter’s admonition. The instruction of a false teacher is erroneous. His message is destructive and heretical and often is brought in secretly (cf. Jude 4). False teaching denies the Lord, who is the Truth, and in whose word we must abide (Jno. 14:6; 8:31-32). Peter emphasizes the danger of following error in verse 2. We cannot follow a destructive way without also being destroyed. False teaching is against “the way of truth.” When Christians follow it, others blaspheme (speak against) the truth. Peter did not teach unity in doctrinal diversity. Peter did not say a teacher is false only if his heart is insincere or deceptive. It is the false teaching that identifies the teacher as false (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jno. 9-11). Minimizing false teaching minimizes Peter’s warning and endangers souls. Truth sets us free, but error enslaves (Jno. 8:32).
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. 6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” 7 And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Revelation 16:5–7, NKJV)
The righteous judgment of God proceed from the righteous character of God. When the angel pours out God’s God bowl of wrath in this vision, he says God is righteous because He judges evil with His wrath (v. 5). God does not leave evil unpunished. Just as God poured out His wrath against nations in the Old Testament, He did so against Rome for persecuting and killing His saints and prophets. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7, where the principle of God’s righteous judgment is applied to those who trouble Christians.) Punishment is due the wicked, and God executes justice against it (Romans 12:19). His judgments are “true and righteous,” unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. The angel’s words are reminiscent of Psalm 19:9, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Thanks be to God that He has revealed His judgments in His holy word! We can learn God’s judgments and live to receive glory instead of wrath on His day of judgment. “I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:7). Are you ready for the Judgment Day?
13 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” 14 And the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jeremiah 14:13–14, NKJV)
Many prophets were telling Judah, “Peace, peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah was telling them destruction was on the way (Jeremiah 6:22-30). How was Israel to know the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet? “If the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Jeremiah was the true prophet; the others were false because their prophecies failed. False prophets are deceived and speak from hearts of deception, not from divine revelation. Even today some claim to be prophets of God. But, like the lying prophets of old, their words are false because they do not conform to the Scriptures (the revealed mind of God, 1 Corinthians 2:6-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Revelation is now complete (John 16:13). Today, we know whether a message is from God or from the heart of man by comparing it to the words of Christ’s apostles (1 John 4:1, 6). They wrote the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.'” (Isaiah 44:6)
You might as well choose the God of your choice as to choose the church of your choice. There is only one true God who redeems and rules. Similarly, there is only one true church, built by Jesus, it’s head. Since Jesus said, “I will build my church” (not churches), why are folks so eager to encourage people to join the church of their choice (Matt. 16:18)? Should we not want to be added by the Lord to His church (the church He built)? His church is composed of the saved (not churches) according to Acts 2:47: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Are you among that number?