Whose Worship Does God Accept?
1. What did a Samaritan woman want to know about worship?
HAVE you ever wondered, ‘Whose worship does God accept?’ A certain woman may have had such a question come to her mind when she spoke with Jesus Christ near Mount Gerizim in Samaria. Calling attention to a difference between the worship of the Samaritans and that of the Jews, she said: “Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.” (John 4:20) Did Jesus tell the Samaritan woman that God accepts all worship? Or did he say that specific things are required to please God?
2. In answering the Samaritan woman, what did Jesus say?
2 Jesus’ startling reply was: “The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father.” (John 4:21) The Samaritans had long feared Jehovah and had worshiped other gods on Mount Gerizim. (2 Kings 17:33) Now Jesus Christ said that neither that place nor Jerusalem would be important in true worship.
WORSHIP WITH SPIRIT AND TRUTH
3. (a) Why did the Samaritans not really know God? (b) How could faithful Jews and others come to know God?
3 Jesus went on to tell the Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews.” (John 4:22) The Samaritans had false religious ideas and accepted only the first five books of the Bible as inspired—and these solely in their own recension known as the Samaritan Pentateuch. Therefore, they did not really know God. However, the Jews had been entrusted with Scriptural knowledge. (Romans 3:1, 2) The Scriptures gave faithful Jews and any others who would listen what they needed in order to know God.
4. According to Jesus, what would both Jews and Samaritans need to do if their worship was to be acceptable to God?
4 Actually, Jesus showed that both Jews and Samaritans would have to adjust their way of worship so as to please God. He said: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) To worship God “with spirit,” we must have his spirit and be guided by that spirit. It is possible to worship God ‘with truth’ by studying his Word, the Bible, and by worshiping him according to his revealed truth. Are you eager to do that?
5. (a) What does “worship” mean? (b) What must we do if we want God to accept our worship?
5 Jesus emphasized that God wants true worship. This shows that there are forms of worship unacceptable to Jehovah. To worship God means to give him reverent honor and to render sacred service to him. If you wanted to show honor to a powerful ruler, likely you would be eager to serve him and do what would please him. Surely, then, we want to please God. Rather than merely say, ‘My religion suits me,’ we therefore need to make sure that our worship meets God’s requirements.
DOING THE WILL OF THE FATHER
6, 7. Why does Jesus not acknowledge some who claim to be his disciples?
6 Let us read Matthew 7:21-23 and see if we can isolate a crucial factor that determines whether all worship is acceptable to God. Jesus said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons [wicked spirit creatures] in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
7 Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord is essential in true worship. But something would be missing in the worship of many of those claiming to be Jesus’ disciples. He said that some would perform “powerful works,” such as supposed miraculous healings. However, they would fail to do what Jesus said is vital. They would not be “doing the will of [his] Father.” If we want to please God, we must learn what the will of the Father is and then do it.
ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE—A PROTECTION
8. If we are to do God’s will, what is required, and what mistaken views must we avoid?
8 Doing God’s will requires an accurate knowledge of both Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. Such knowledge leads to everlasting life. Surely, then, all of us will want to take seriously the matter of gaining accurate knowledge from God’s Word, the Bible. Some say that there is no need for concern as long as we are sincere and zealous in our worship. Others claim, ‘The less you know, the less is expected of you.’ Yet, the Bible encourages us to increase in the knowledge of God and his purposes.—Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9.
9. How does accurate knowledge protect us, and why do we need such protection?
9 Such knowledge is a protection against contamination of our worship. The apostle Paul spoke of a certain spirit creature who pretends to be “an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) Thus disguised, this spirit creature—Satan—tries to mislead us into doing things contrary to God’s will. Other spirit creatures associated with Satan have also been polluting people’s worship, for Paul said: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God.” (1 Corinthians 10:20) Likely, many have thought they were worshiping in the right way, although they were not doing what God wanted. They were being misled into unclean false worship. We will learn more about Satan and the demons later, but these enemies of God have definitely been polluting mankind’s worship.
10. What would you do if someone deliberately poisoned your water supply, and what does accurate knowledge of God’s Word equip us to do?
10 If you knew that someone had deliberately poisoned your water supply, would you go on drinking from it? Surely, you would take immediate action to find a source of safe, pure water. Well, an accurate knowledge of God’s Word equips us to identify true religion and to reject impurities that make worship unacceptable to God.
COMMANDS OF MEN AS DOCTRINES
11. What was wrong with the worship of many Jews?
11 When Jesus was on earth, many Jews did not act in accord with accurate knowledge of God. They therefore lost the opportunity to have a clean standing before Jehovah. Concerning them, Paul wrote: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) They decided for themselves how to worship God instead of listening to what he said.
12. What contaminated Israel’s worship, and with what result?
12 The Israelites originally practiced God-given pure religion, but it became contaminated with teachings and philosophies of men. (Jeremiah 8:8, 9; Malachi 2:8, 9; Luke 11:52) Although the Jewish religious leaders known as Pharisees thought their worship was acceptable to God, Jesus told them: “Isaiah aptly prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men.’”—Mark 7:6, 7.
13. How might we do as the Pharisees did?
13 Is it possible that we might do as the Pharisees did? This could happen if we followed religious traditions handed down to us instead of examining what God has said about worship. Warning of this very real danger, Paul wrote: “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) So it is not enough merely to assume that our worship pleases God. Like the Samaritan woman who met Jesus, we may have inherited our way of worship from our parents. But we need to be certain that we are doing things that meet with God’s approval.
GUARD AGAINST OFFENDING GOD
14, 15. Even if we have some knowledge of God’s will, why do we need to be careful?
14 Unless we are careful, we may do something unacceptable to God. For example, the apostle John fell at the feet of an angel “to worship him.” But the angel warned: “Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who have the work of witnessing to Jesus. Worship God.” (Revelation 19:10) Do you therefore see the need to make sure that your worship is not contaminated by any kind of idolatry?—1 Corinthians 10:14.
15 When some Christians began to practice religious customs that did not please God, Paul asked: “How is it that you are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.” (Galatians 4:8-11) Those individuals had gained a knowledge of God but later erred by observing religious customs and holy days that were unacceptable to Jehovah. As Paul said, we need to “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Ephesians 5:10.
16 We must make sure that we avoid religious holidays and other customs that violate God’s principles. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) For instance, Jesus said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Is your religion involved in ceremonies and holidays that violate the principle of neutrality toward this world’s affairs? Or do adherents of your religion sometimes share in customs and festivals that may involve conduct matching that described by the apostle Peter? He wrote: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.”—1 Peter 4:3.
17. Why should we avoid anything that reflects the spirit of the world?
17 The apostle John emphasized the need to avoid any practices that reflect the spirit of the ungodly world around us. John wrote: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) Did you notice that those who ‘do the will of God’ will remain forever? Yes, if we do God’s will and avoid activities that reflect this world’s spirit, we can have the hope of everlasting life!
KEEP GOD’S HIGH STANDARDS
18. How were some Corinthians mistaken about conduct, and what should we learn from this?
18 God wants as his worshipers those who comply with his high moral standards. Some in ancient Corinth mistakenly thought that God would tolerate immoral behavior. We can see how wrong they were by reading 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10. If we are to worship God acceptably, we must please him in word and deed. Is your form of worship enabling you to do that?—Matthew 15:8; 23:1-3.
19. How does true worship affect our treatment of others?
19 Our dealings with other people should also reflect God’s standards. Jesus Christ encouraged us to treat others as we would like to have them treat us, for this is part of true worship. (Matthew 7:12) Note what he also said about displaying brotherly love: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Jesus’ disciples must love one another and do what is good toward fellow worshipers and others.—Galatians 6:10.
20, 21. (a) What kind of worship does God require? (b) Why did Jehovah reject Israel’s worship in Malachi’s day?
20 In your heart, you may want to worship God acceptably. If so, you must have Jehovah’s view of worship. The disciple James emphasized that it is God’s viewpoint that is important, not ours. James said: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (James 1:27) With a desire to please God, each of us needs to examine our worship to make sure that it is not contaminated by ungodly practices or that we are not omitting something that he considers vital.—James 1:26.
21 Only clean, whole-souled worship pleases Jehovah. (Matthew 22:37; Colossians 3:23) When the nation of Israel gave God less than that, he said: “A son, for his part, honors a father; and a servant, his grand master. So if I am a father, where is the honor to me? And if I am a grand master, where is the fear of me?” They were offending God by offering him blind, lame, and sick animals in sacrifice, and he rejected such acts of worship. (Malachi 1:6-8) Jehovah is worthy of the purest form of worship and accepts nothing less than exclusive devotion.—Exodus 20:5; Proverbs 3:9; Revelation 4:11.
22. If we want God to accept our worship, what will we avoid, and what will we do?
22 The Samaritan woman who spoke with Jesus was seemingly interested in worshiping God in the divinely approved way. If that is our desire, we will avoid all contaminating teachings and practices. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Instead, we will exert ourselves to get an accurate knowledge of God and do his will. We will adhere closely to his requirements for acceptable worship. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Jehovah’s Witnesses are striving to do just that, and they warmly urge you to share with them in worshiping God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Jesus said: “The Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) It is hoped that you are such a person. Like that Samaritan woman, undoubtedly you would like to have everlasting life. (John 4:13-15) But you see people grow old and die. The next chapter explains why.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
As shown at John 4:23, 24, what worship does God accept?
How can we determine whether God is pleased with certain customs and festivals?
What are some requirements for acceptable worship?
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