In Spirit and In Truth

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24[1]

choir worshipI attend a large Southern Baptist church. Yesterday morning, its 100-voice choir sang “Unto the Lamb,” a powerful song based on Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4-5. When I first heard it at a Pentecostal church across town six years ago, the congregation’s response was overwhelming. Most people stood, hands raised in worship. They loved to hear their Lord and Savior magnified.

“Unto the Lamb” is a favorite song in Evangelical Christian churches, especially in the South and Midwest. It’s a favorite with me too. “All praise unto the Lamb who sits on the throne / Honor and power, dominion and praise” always sends chills down my spine. But it didn’t do anything to this Southern Baptist congregation yesterday. A few people raised their hands; near the end of the song, one woman I particularly admire stood up with both arms raised high. But these few were rare. The rest sat in silence, as though they were watching a musical performance. The kingship and coming revelation of Jesus Christ couldn’t stir them out of their seats. I shut my eyes in despair, ready to cry at the pathetic scene I’d just witnessed: a non-worshipping church.

In all ages and places, the true mark of a Christian is worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). In other words, authentic worship consists of adoring the person and work of Jesus Christ and obeying his Word. We must “make melody in our hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Yet many Baptists – American, Southern, etc – shun adoration and holiness. They rarely worship Christ on Sunday and wrongly believe that salvation gives them a license to sin. These people don’t know the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit and don’t want to know.

baptism holy-spirit crossWhen John the Baptist began his ministry at the Jordan River, he baptized people “with water unto repentance” (Matthew 3:11). Water baptism is a biblical command for new believers, but this is where most Baptists stop (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Yet John said that Jesus would baptize believers “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11; cf Acts 1:5). Therefore, each believer must be baptized twice. Jesus himself had two baptisms: first physical water in the Jordan, then spiritual fire on the cross (Matthew 3:13-17, 20:22-23; Luke 12:50). When Paul first arrived in Ephesus, he found believers who had heard and received only John’s baptism, so he told them to believe in Jesus (Acts 19:1-4). After Paul laid his hands on them, “the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (19:6). Why don’t Baptists preach and receive two baptisms? Why do they “resist the Holy Spirit” instead (7:51)?

We were created to worship God the Father “in spirit and in truth.” Those who don’t are worshipping someone or something else – false gods, materialism, self, etc. The time is coming when the anti-Christ will force all people to worship him; religious apathy won’t be tolerated (Revelation 13:8-15). I fear that most churchgoers are ripe for Satan’s deception (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Today’s pew-warmers just might be tomorrow’s persecutors.

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[1] New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted

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