All-Sufficiency In Worship

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

Previously we have presented one article on "Jesus Christ: An All-Sufficient Savior," and 1cles

two articles on "The Bible: An All-Sufficient Book." Presently we wish to have you study with us the topic, "All-Sufficiency in Worship." Already we have learned that Jesus Christ is perfectly adequate for every intention God had for his book of revelation. In like manner, the items that God specified to be done as acts of worship comprise an all-sufficient order of worship.

Man has never respected the holy things enough. When Jericho was destroyed, God pronounced the contents of the city as being holy unto the Lord, or stated that the things in the city belonged to the Lord. But Achan did not respect these holy things, and took for himself a "goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight." The Bible reveals that this lack of respect for holy things cost Achan his life. Many men have followed in the pattern set by Achan, and have trespassed by tampering with the holy things of God. Man has added to the Bible, added to the worship, and added to the church.

God has prescribed how He would be worshiped. (1) God is the object of acceptable worship. The angel told John "worship God" (Rev. 22:9). We are to glorify God (I Pet. 4:16; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:20). (2) The church is the divine place that acceptable worship is to be rendered. "Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever" (Eph. 3:21). (3) The Lord's supper and the contribution are to be done at a divinely specified time, namely, upon the Lord's day (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2). (4) The divinely commanded acts are to be done in a divinely specified manner, i.e., "in spirit" (Jno. 4:24). Had not God specified how He would be worshipped, then the worship of the Pantheist, the Polytheist and the Jew would be acceptable. God's instruction as to how He would have us to worship is summarized in Jno. 4:24. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD PRESUMPTION - Presumption is the sin of arrogance on the part of man that causes him to act without divine permission. Many passages in the scriptures manifest to us God's disapproval of presumption. Had God been content for man to act according to his own will, no divine revelation would have been given. Instead, God condemns presumption.

"But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord' and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him" (Numbers 15:30, 31).

King David prayed:

"Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." (Psalms 19:13).

The apostle Peter describes false teachers as being presumptuous:

"But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10).

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF PRESUMPTION - The Old Testament abounds in instances in which men acted without proper respect for divine authority.

(1) Genesis 4:1-8. Cain offered a sacrifice that was not "by faith." This simply means that he offered a sacrifice that God had not commanded him to offer (Compare Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7). Cain's sin lay in the fact that he presumed to sacrifice to God in a manner that God had not commanded. Therefore, God had neither respect for the sacrifice nor for Cain (Gen. 4:5).

(2) Leviticus 10:1-7. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, "offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them." Their sin also was in acting without divine authority. God's attitude toward this sin is exemplified in the inspired statement: "And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah."

(3) 1 Samuel 21:1-6. David presumed to eat the showbread, which was intended to be eaten only by the priests. Of this event Jesus says, "Have Ye not read what David did, when he was hungry, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and ate the showbread, which it was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him, but only for the priests?" (Matt. 12:3, 4).

(4) 1 Samuel 13:8-15. Saul presumed that Samuel was not there at the moment, it would be alright for him to go ahead and offer a sacrifice, though he was not a priest. But Samuel told Saul "Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of Jehovah thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would Jehovah have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever."

(5) 1 Samuel 1.5. King Saul also assumed that it was better to sacrifice the spared animals of the Amalekites than it was to obey God and utterly destroy the Amalekites and their properties. Samuel then told Saul "Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king."

(6) 2 Samuel 6. Uzzah presumed that since the oxen had stumbled, and the ark was about to fall, it would be alright for him to touch the ark to stay it. His presumption was his fatal mistake. His action without God's permission cost him his life.

These passages and examples indicate to us that God will not tolerate presumption. He will not permit man to act without divine approval. When man does act with a "high hand" (presumptuously), he inevitably has to pay the penalty for disobedience.

GOD HAS SPECIFIED - In the Old Testament God never just told the people to offer a sacrifice without giving them specific instructions about what to offer and how to offer it. In Numbers 6:12-14, we learn that the Nazirite was to go to the door of the tent of meeting, and there offer a he-lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering. After God specified what was to be offered, and how it was to be done, man was left but two alternatives: either to obey, or to disobey.

In the New Testament God has given exact instruction as to how He would have us worship Him. Paul condemns "will-worship," or worshiping according to our own will (Col. 2:20-23). In Amos 4:4, 5, the prophet states that God rejected the worship of Israel because it was tendered to please themselves rather than to please God. When man worships on his own terms, he shows no reverence for God. In this age, God has commanded (1) Teaching, reading, exhortation (Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13; Heb. 3:13; (2) Prayer (Acts 2:42; 1 Thess. 5:17; I Tim. 2:8); (3) The Lord's supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-34); (4) Giving (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) ; (5) Singing (Matt. 26:30; Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:18, 19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; James 5:13).

The testimony of history indicates that New Testament Christians observed these instructions of the Lord. "The Christian worship consisted in hymns, prayers, the reading of the scriptures, a discourse addressed to the people, and concluded with the celebration of the Lord's supper" (Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1, pg. 303).

WALKING BY FAITH - God has given us in all-sufficient order of worship. Every item that He wants done in worship He has commanded to he done. We must "walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and without the authority of the word of God, no act can be done "by faith."

In Matt. 15:1-9, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and the scribes for binding the washing of hands as a religious rite. The Pharisees worshiped God, but not according to divine instruction only. They also added items of worship by their own authority. The washing of hands was one of these humanly imposed actions. Washing of hands is alright, except when done as a religious ordinance. Then it becomes a tradition of man, and therefore is sinful. An all-sufficient order of worship will not permit the imposition of a single itein without divine authority for it.

The eating or not eating of meat, counting of beads, burning incense, and circumcision are all acts that have been given religious significance in this era by the tradition of man, and not by the authority of God. None of these things is wrong if it is not done as a religious act. But when any of them becomes a religious act, it becomes sinful, because it is presumptuously done. It is done without sanction, without authority from God. An all-sufficient order of worship will not permit the addition or subtraction of a single. item.

Mechanical instrumental music is not authorized by God in the New Testament. Yet it is often made a part of religious services. By whose authority? By the authority of man. It is an act presumptuously done in New Testament worship. The playing of an instrument is another act that is not sinful when not done religiously. But when man presumes to speak for God to introduce into worship of Jehovah an act that God has not authorized, he commits sin. If because the playing upon a piano is pleasing to man, it is therefore permissible in worship, then God just as well have said nothing about a prescribed order of worship. He may just as well have given man free course to do anything he likes as an act of worship.

But this God did not do! He gave us an all-sufficient order of worship. To do more or less than what God commands is to disobey God. This is precisely what is implied when we speak of "All-Sufficiency in Worship."

Next month, the Lord willing, we will begin to speak of "An All-Sufficient Church."

Truth Magazine IV:6, pp. 16-18
March 1960