Do You Worship as Jesus Did?
What did his worship involve? Who are worshiping in his way today?
IF YOU think of yourself as a Christian, you no doubt respect the teachings of Jesus Christ and look to him as the example for all Christians. His way of worship is of special interest to you, and you want to worship as he did.
You may have observed, however, that, even though the various churches of Christendom profess to be Christian, they worship in different ways. You may have wondered how these churches can be so different and still be following Jesus’ example, or why the way of worship in your church differs from that of other religious organizations.
Since Jesus Christ set the example for Christians, let us look to his way of worship as a standard by which we can measure these various ways of worship and different teachings. As we examine Jesus’ way of worship, we do well to keep in mind these questions: How does my way of worship compare with that of Jesus? If necessary, do I have the courage to make corrections so as to follow him as the model for all Christians?—1 Pet. 2:21.
“WORSHIP WITH SPIRIT AND TRUTH”
Perhaps you remember that the Bible account at John chapter 4 tells us about a conversation Jesus had with a woman of Samaria who believed that true worship of God involved worship at the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim. Speaking at Jacob’s Well, at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, Jesus Christ uttered these momentous words:
“Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. . . . 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 4:21-24.
In their form of worship the Samaritans and Jews were principally concerned with the outward things of time and place and manner of observance. But now Jesus was saying that true worship went deeper than the things that are seen—that it must be “with spirit and truth.” The worship of God was not to be confined to one people or centered at one place, whether at Jerusalem or any other “holy city.” Instead, the way was being opened for men of all kinds to worship Jehovah God “with spirit and truth,” anywhere and everywhere.
DO YOU WORSHIP “WITH SPIRIT”?
Since Jesus said that his Father wants to be worshiped “with spirit,” sincere Christians ought to examine their way of worship to make certain that they are living up to this requirement. For example, what are we to think of the idea of painting a picture or sculpturing an image of anything in heaven or on earth and then performing acts of worship toward it? God himself says that it would displease him, for he once told his ancient people: “You must take good care of your souls . . .that you may not act ruinously and may not really make for yourselves a carved image.” “You must not bow down to them or be led to serve them.”—Deut. 4:15, 16; 5:8, 9.
Further, is it not reasonable to believe that if God wanted to be worshiped through images Jesus would have used them? But never in the Scriptures do we read of Jesus’ using them. When he prayed to his Father he did not use any carved images or rosary-like aids to worship. No, but he prayed directly to his “Father in the heavens,” as we see from the Lord’s Prayer. (Matt. 6:9) Neither did he feel that he had to go to any particular sacred place to worship his Father. He prayed everywhere—on mountains, in homes or wherever he happened to be. (Luke 6:12; Matt. 26:18, 26) This was the example he set for his followers. Do you follow his example in prayer? Or do you pray only at a shrine or in some other spot regarded as being sacred?
It is highly important to understand as clearly as possible the full significance of worshiping by means of that which is unseen to the eye, that is, “with spirit.” One of the important reasons for doing so is that God’s Word says Christians “are walking by faith, not by sight.” Another is that “the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.” (2 Cor. 5:7; 4:18) In order to obtain that which is of everlasting value, the Christian must think about his own way of worship, asking such questions as: Does my worship in any respect involve the use of images, so-called “holy pictures,” rosaries or crosses?
Many sincere people have used such objects in their worship, but when they learn about the way God really wants to be worshiped—“with spirit and truth”—they have made changes. Those who became Christians in the days of the apostles got rid of things God does not view with approval. (Acts 19:18, 19) And when young King Josiah started to search for the true God, he cleaned the graven images out of Judah, breaking them to pieces. (2 Chron. 34:3, 4) What a fine example for you if you wish to please God!
DO YOU WORSHIP ‘WITH TRUTH’?
Now, what did Jesus mean by ‘worshiping with truth’? Certainly he meant that truth, not falsehood, must be the basis for our worship. Otherwise our worship would be all in vain. Because they were not worshiping ‘with truth,’ Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders of that time: “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.
So if one worships according to human theories, personal opinions or philosophies that contradict the Word of truth, the Bible, how can one be worshiping ‘with truth’?
Jesus always worshiped with truth. On one occasion when praying to his heavenly Father he said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Might it not be expected that the true followers of Christ would view the written Word of God as Jesus did—as truth?
Many clergymen today, however, do not view the Bible as Jesus did; they claim that it is filled with myth. A Time magazine article tells of a Methodist theologian who teaches college students that “the Bible is the greatest collection of mythology in the history of Western civilization.” And the leading branch of the Presbyterian Church in the United States announced that it does not consider the Bible as “inerrant” or free from error. Perhaps you have noted that the clergy are becoming more open in revealing their disbelief in the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
How unlike Jesus and his apostles such clergymen are! One of Jesus’ apostles wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching.”—2 Tim. 3:16.
So whom will you imitate—Jesus and his apostles, or the many faithless clergymen? What if such ministers continue in good standing in the religious organization of which you are a member? Then is it not time to face the fact that the religion itself has deviated from the example Jesus set and so is disapproved by God? If you choose to stay with an organization whose ministers downgrade the Bible, then do you not turn your back on Jesus? It is that serious.
ARE THE CHURCHES REALLY IMITATING JESUS?
Perhaps you have read statements by various clergymen to the effect that the churches in general differ from Jesus’ way of worship. For example, Episcopal bishop Daniel Corrigan stated: “Broadly speaking most people do not find much in the average church that reminds them of Christ.” You may feel the same way. In fact, The Protestant Dictionary states: “Jesus would, of course, recognize few traces of his philosophy in the churches named after him anywhere in the world.” And New York city clergyman Ralph W. Sockman has said that not even Jesus would “feel at home in many of the churches erected in His name, because they have allowed ecclesiasticism and worldliness to destroy the simplicity and sincerity of His original gospel.”
Judge the matter for yourself. Did Jesus put on special religious garments when he met with his disciples? Did he require his followers to build ornate buildings for worship, to set up an altar, to engage in elaborate religious rites and to have a clergy class? If you have read the Bible you know that he did not do those things. Nor did he do as many clergymen of today who are more and more “turning to secular sources as an inspiration for sermons.” (Time, March 10, 1967) Jesus concentrated on the Word of God and encouraged his listeners to obey God’s commandments: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. . . . all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”—John 15:14, 15.
Jesus taught the Word of God, never adulterating it with the speculations of men. But what do we find with regard to the churches? In his book The Outline of History, H. G. Wells states that the churches over the centuries adopted methods and teachings from pagan religions so that Jesus’ “revolutionary teaching was buried under these customary acquisitions.”
Did you know, for instance, that the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, taught in virtually every church, is an acquisition from ancient false worshipers? You can verify this by consulting reference works. Even some clergymen admit its unchristian origin. Here is how a prominent clergyman states it in the book The Evolution of Immortality:
“Those who were Greeks [among the converts to “Christianity”] brought in the new religion the Platonic idea that the individual soul is indestructible . . . Then the masterful Augustine . . . TOOK PLATO’S DOCTRINE OF THE INHERENT IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL . . . and gained for it that general acceptance which it has held to this day . . . A pagan speculation has masqueraded so long as an elemental Christian truth that now . . . Plato stands across the path and is commonly mistaken for Christ.”
It is not difficult to determine the Bible truth of the matter, so that you can ‘worship with truth.’ At Ezekiel 18:4, God’s Word of truth says:“The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” In view of this and numerous other Bible expressions, it is evident that the churches are not teaching the truth as Jesus did. Their hope is based on something that does not exist. The truth that Jesus taught was the hope of the resurrection, not immortality of the human soul. (John 5:28, 29) Can those who prefer a hope founded on pagan speculation rather than on what Jesus taught expect him to reward them with eternal life? That is surely something to think about. If you wish to worship ‘with truth’ and so please God, can you remain part of a religious organization that does not teach as Jesus did?
IMITATE JESUS IN YOUR WORSHIP
Even though the churches have failed to imitate Jesus, you do not need to go along with worship that is in vain. You can turn to the Bible and learn what Jesus did and imitate him. What did Jesus encourage his followers to do? In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus emphasized “doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens.”—Matt. 7:21.
We can learn what the will of God is by studying Jesus’ work. In prayer to his Father, Jesus spoke of “having finished the work” he had been given and said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” So making known God’s name Jehovah was part of his work.—John 17:4-6; Ps. 83:18.
Further, as we study the Gospel accounts we see repeatedly emphasized the preaching work that Jesus did. He not only went to the homes of the people to preach God’s kingdom himself but trained others to do it. (Luke 4:43; Matt. 10:7; Acts 20:20) And after his resurrection he commanded his followers: “Go . . . make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) In his great prophecy that involves our day, Jesus indicated that his true followers would be engaged in a worldwide preaching work. He foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
Has your church trained you and equipped you to share in this work that is part of true worship? Has your church helped you to make God’s name “Jehovah” known to others? If your religious organization is not training you to do the public preaching work that Jesus gave his followers, can you say it is helping you to worship as Jesus did?
If you sincerely desire to imitate Jesus and worship as he did, you can receive help. Many persons throughout the earth recognize that there is a worldwide group that is worshiping as Jesus did. For example, Leo Pfeffer in his book Church, State and Freedom states that the preaching methods of Jehovah’s witnesses “are reminiscent of those employed by the early Christians.” These Christian witnesses are proclaiming God’s kingdom as Jesus commanded, and they are making known the Father’s name, Jehovah.
You are welcome to come to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in your locality. Here you will find meetings designed to strengthen your faith and to provide practical training to share in the work that Jesus gave his followers to do.
Further, to help you worship as Jesus did, one of Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to hold a free Bible study with you in your own home. It will help you to gain an accurate understanding of the Bible and thus to learn the truth that Jesus said would “set you free”—free from traditions, philosophies and non-Christian practices. (John 8:32) May you courageously choose to worship as Jesus did, worshiping “with spirit and truth.”