Transition to Worship in Christ
Samuel Lesson #158
January 1, 2019
“Father, we are thankful that You have given us another year to serve You, another day to serve You, another opportunity to mature and learn to enjoy our ongoing fellowship with You.
“We pray that our relationship with You may deepen and strengthen in the coming year. And that to do so we will be mindful of the importance of spending time in Your Word. Spending time in prayer, spending time studying Your Word and being fed the Word through the teaching from this pulpit.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us in the areas where we need to grow, that we might be responsive to what the Spirit teaches us in Your Word.
“We pray that as we continue to live our life that we might realize that all of our life is to be a part of our worship to You, that we are not to be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
“And Father, we pray that we might recognize that all of the glitter, and all of the things that entrance us and give us opportunities to go and do, that these things are often distractions from our walk with You.
“Help us to discern the difference between the good and the great, that we might make wise decisions. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are continuing our study, and depending on how things go, we may actually wrap up our study in worship this evening.
Last time we went through the corruption of worship that happened during the end of the age of Israel, the discipline God brought against Israel from 586 until 536 BC, and then the restoration of His people.
We are making a little bit of review from that as we transition into the Church Age and what we have in terms of New Testament teaching.
Last time we looked at the corruption of worship and the rise of physical idolatry. We need to make that distinction between physical idolatry, which is the worship of gods and goddesses, who Scripture says are simply the masks of demons—that all religion other than biblical Christianity is the production of demons and Satan.
As believers that tells us that whether we are talking about those who are involved in Islam, those involved in false gospels, or cults, or Buddhism, or Hinduism, or any of the other religions we’re supposed to be so tolerant of, that God is not tolerant of these things.
We can love people, but we are not to succumb to the kind of thinking that is present in the world today. There is one and only one truth. There is one and only one way—and that is the Lord Jesus Christ and the truth of Scripture.
That doesn’t mean that we act in a wrong or sinfully arrogant way about Christianity. But that we recognize the need to tell people about God’s love for them, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and His work on the Cross.
But all of these abominations, all of the corruption, are just different forms of idolatry—whether it’s a physical idol or whether it is a mental, philosophical, ideological idol.
We studied some of the reformations that took place in the Old Testament with Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah. We looked at how God brought discipline on corrupt worship in the Old Testament, ultimately leading to Israel being taken out of the land.
And then we briefly looked at the restoration and return, seeing that there’s an incredible focus on Scripture in Ezra and Nehemiah. As the people came out of captivity, they confessed the sins of the nation.
Then thousands of people gathered together and stood for hours as the Scripture was read, as priests within the crowd would explain and further teach the Scripture and bring it home to those who were there.
It is always that return to Scripture that changes people, that changes a culture.
When we look at how things are going in our world today there is hope. That hope is the same hope it’s always been, and that is the hope of Jesus Christ.
Then we saw that with the close of the Canon, around 450 BC, in the intertestamental period, there is a rise of the synagogue. I’ll say a couple more things about that tonight, but again we see an idolatry that takes place that is related to the worship of tradition, the worship of legalism, and the worship of ritual for ritual’s sake.
What develops in the intertestamental period is the synagogue, which is basically a local place for teaching, for passing on to the next generation the traditions of the Scripture.
It started out good, and then it became corrupted down through the centuries.
Actually, we don’t really have what we refer to today as a full-blown synagogue until probably seventy-five to one hundred years before Jesus.
It is generally believed that the roots of the synagogue go back to the time of the Exile, when the Jews are in Babylon.
There is a lot of debate over this, but there’s evidence in passages such as Ezekiel 11:16, Ezekiel 8:1, Ezekiel 14:1, and Ezekiel 33:30–33, that the Jews in Exile met in the home of Ezekiel, and maybe others.
And that this is how the traditions were passed on, the teaching of the truth of God’s Word from generation to generation.
In Ezekiel 11:16 God is addressing Ezekiel, “Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.” ’ ”
Some have gone to that passage and the phrase “little sanctuary” as a basis for the debate. There is not a lot of strength there, but there are other passages like Ezekiel 8:1 where Ezekiel talks about the elders of Judah sitting before him in his house.
Ezekiel 14:1, the elders of Israel coming to him.
Ezekiel 33:30–33 emphasizes even more that they came to his house. And they would speak to one another, even away from his house.
It was in the development of those communities during their exile in Babylon that they continued to pass on the traditions. I’m using the term “traditions” here in a positive sense.
They would pass on what was in the Scripture. They would teach about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, so the people understood their history, their background, and their identity.
They understood what their sin was, and why they were no longer in the land. There were those during that time, such as Ezekiel, who lived for a while into the Exile.
There were other leaders we know about—Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and others, that lived and taught the people. We just have glimpses of these few things—someone teaches.
When they get back into the land the temple is in ruin, so they have to rebuild it. The people are scattered, there are not a lot of Jews who come back in the first return, and there are about forty to forty-five thousand.
In the next return there are maybe fifteen or twenty thousand. It takes time to reestablish who they are. The beliefs and the Scriptures have to be passed down to the children, and to the children’s children.
They began to set up structures for doing that so they would continue to not sin, as they had sinned before in physical idolatry. Over the centuries they began to establish, shall we say, extra-canonical, that is nonbiblical, ways to protect them from disobeying the commandments of the Torah.
In the Mosaic Law there are six-hundred thirteen commandments. Many of these are rather general commandments that were the foundation for case law.
Questions would come up such as, “We aren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath. What does that mean, to work on the Sabbath?” And they would then begin to debate that—what is allowable, what is not allowable.
Before long they were coming up with ten or fifteen rules about different things you could and could not do on a Sabbath.
As time went by, they would then build a second fence around the first fence. And this is what became known as the oral law, or the traditions of the elders, as we will see.
By the time you get to the first century, the time of Christ, before the destruction of the temple, there is evidence that there were at least four hundred eighty synagogues in Jerusalem.
A synagogue did not need to be a large place. The tradition they built up was that there needed to be at least ten men.
Where do you think they got the idea of ten men? That’s called a minion. So, you have to have a minion in a community, ten men, before you can organize a synagogue.
A synagogue is referred to as a congregation. And where do you find the first use of the word congregation in the Old Testament? Basically, the word that’s used just refers to an assembly.
The first time it’s used by God is in reference to the ten spies that went into the land. When they came back, they said, “Well, we can’t conquer it.”
So, God refers to them as an assembly. That means—this is rabbinical reasoning—that you needed to have at least ten to have a congregation. That’s how they came up with the number ten.
A synagogue didn’t need to be a very large place. It was an educational center, and traditions developed around that as time went by.
It was a place for the community to meet, for them to worship, to pray together, and study Torah together. A place to learn, and to educate the adults, as well as to educate their children in Torah.
As time progressed, especially after the temple was destroyed, the synagogue took on a much more significant meaning.
But what is emphasized is that there are two sources of authority. There’s the written Law, what we refer to as the Torah or the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Then the idea grew, in the intertestamental period, that God had not only given the written Law to Moses, He gave an oral law to Moses. And that this was passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.
This becomes known as the tradition of the elders. There is no biblical support for that. This was just something that was generated during the intertestamental period.
This oral law is what is referred to several times in the New Testament. For example, the Pharisees are challenging Jesus about the practices of His disciples, and they ask Him, Matthew 15:2, “Why do Your disciples transgress the traditions of the elders?”
That’s the oral law, that’s not the written Torah. Because His disciples wouldn’t go along with the pharisaical interpretation, the oral law, the Pharisees were in conflict with Jesus about these principles for washing hands; how to do it, how often to do it, and that kind of a thing. Also, the particular blessing you had to say over the bread, and all those things, got involved with it.
In Galatians 1:14 Paul refers to that as well. He says, “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
The oral tradition was eventually written down and organized as the Mishnah by the end of the second century, early third century, about two hundred years after Christ, by a rabbi called Judah ha-Nasi, or Judah the Prince.
The Mishnah then became as authoritative as the Scripture. Later, commentaries were written on the Mishnah that became known as the Talmud. The Talmud became finalized several centuries later.
So, if you’re studying Judaism you don’t study the Old Testament, you study the Mishnah and the Talmud, because the Mishnah and the Talmud will tell you what the Old Testament meant.
This is the same pattern we see with religious Christianity as opposed to biblical Christianity, religious Judaism as opposed to biblical Old Testament Judaism.
What you see is people emphasizing another layer of tradition. For example, in the Eastern Orthodox Church they believe they have an oral tradition that has been passed down from the time of the apostles. The oral tradition is given equal authority with the Scripture.
What always happens is that the word of man eats up the Word of God. The word of the oral tradition always supplants the written tradition. It’s always an attack on the written Word of God.
You see the same thing in Roman Catholicism where the decisions of the bishops, popes, and scholars of the church down through the centuries become the oral tradition.
When you go to Catholic seminary, to Catholic school, for example, I went to University of St. Thomas here in Houston for a Masters in Philosophy, they don’t study the Bible. They study the church traditions.
In fact, I was in one class and there was a nun who sat next to me. I made some comment about, “Well, don’t you have this from the Bible?” She nudged me and said, “We’re Catholics, we don’t read the Bible.”
I’ve heard the same thing many times from my Jewish friends. They read, maybe something from the Torah, whatever the reading is for the service on Shabbat, but if they don’t go, they don’t read it.
They are like a lot of Christians, they may know what’s coming up on Sunday, but they don’t read it either. They just listen to what the rabbinical interpretations have been, and they never read the original.
So the synagogue is developed. One of the oldest archaeological finds we have of the synagogue is at Magdala, which is where Mary of Magdala, Mary Magdalene, was from.
It’s just north of Tiberias, about halfway between Tiberias and Capernaum, which is where Jesus lived during much of His three plus years of ministry.
This is a picture of what it looked like when it was first excavated. We see a temple stone or table. This is what the Torah would have been laid on. It’s quite magnificent.
I’ve been there on a couple of different occasions. In fact, we took the Israel group there last June.
A service in the synagogue would typically emphasize the reading of Scripture, which was still central.
That’s one thing that we must understand—no matter what aberrations there might be, when it comes to worshiping God, what is at the center is the Word of God. It is studying the written Word of God.
So, there would be the reading of Scripture from the Law as well as from the Prophets, along with exhortations and prayers, and they developed various blessings.
These synagogues were not nearly as glorious as the temple. It wasn’t to replace what was going on at the temple. It was basically a community center, and a study center, for the learning of Torah.
This was important in the different communities because if you had some defect—you were lame, or crippled, or blind, or something that rendered you ceremonially unclean—then you couldn’t go to the temple.
You could go to the synagogue because the restrictions weren’t in place there. You could study the Torah and learn about God and learn God’s Word.
At every synagogue you would find a mikveh, we’ve studied these before, the ritual baths.
There would be a reservoir for holding water with a way to walk down, and a different path to walk back up. So that once you came out of the water and you were clean, you’re not going to walk where you had walked when you were unclean and be defiled.
They would have a reservoir at the synagogue or maybe nearby.
Slide 7 (returned to slide)
Inside of the synagogue there would be, and I don’t see evidence of it here, but this area up here [pointed to left on the slide] would’ve been the bema. That’s the raised area, and that was the area from which a homily, or sermon, might have been preached.
There would be a few benches, but you were supposed to stand. The benches were for the elderly. Everybody else stood for the whole service. And they didn’t last fifteen or twenty minutes.
You would have to stand for the whole service and focus and concentrate. There would be a lot of recitation, including all of those that were there reciting Torah from memory, reading Torah from memory.
There were some seats for the chief elders where they would sit.
There was a place that we’ll look at in a minute called the seat of Moses. That was very special, and that is where the rabbi would sit.
I don’t know why we’ve got it backwards. If we did it the way they did in the synagogue, the rabbi would sit and teach and everybody else stands up.
I like that. I don’t think that would be very popular, though. So, the focus again was on teaching.
At the Magdala Synagogue they have uncovered this table. It’s interesting that on the front, in the center, you can see the carving of the menorah.
This is the oldest known carving of the great candlestick, the great menorah that was in the temple in Jerusalem. It was designed to remind people of the temple in Jerusalem.
For example, on this side, you see various columns. This pictures the colonnade outside, on the entryway, around the edges of the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem.
This is quite an intricate thing, and it is really neat to look at this. It’s the only thing of this nature that has been have discovered.
I also have a picture, I didn’t get it, of the stone seat of Moses that was discovered at Chorazin, in a synagogue there.
That is where the rabbi would sit and talk about the written Law, not the oral law. This is the seat of Moses, so he is speaking about what Moses gave.
When he gave the homily, or talked about application or other things, then they are going into something beyond the Scripture, and they would be elsewhere—on the bema—in order to communicate that.
But corruption developed then, just as it does now, because man is corrupt and we don’t like the truth. There are always attempts to introduce human works, and human morality, into spirituality.
What happened during the intertestamental period is that the priests failed to teach the Scripture. The ritual was not explained.
What happens is that people go through the motions, and they have no idea what the significance is for what they are doing. It is just the ritual itself that becomes important.
Worship becomes just formalized and is rather empty. Also, it is centered on legalism rather than a relationship with God.
It was more important to get specific details right, than, shall we say, the spirit of the law. We will talk about that in a couple of examples with Jesus in a minute.
Also, they have added human traditions. Legalism becomes the main problem now.
Legalism is just another form of idolatry where you are setting up human ideas, human thoughts, and human traditions to have the same authority as God’s revelation.
Basically, you’re worshiping man’s ideas rather than God’s ideas.
With the coming of Jesus there is a transformation of worship. What happens that we see first of all is that Jesus is the personification of the dwelling of God among His people.
That’s the first point. Jesus now, in the incarnation, is God in flesh dwelling among us.
John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
A second thing that happens is that, as Jesus enters into this culture, we need to understand something about the nature of this culture.
It’s not that different from the culture around us, or the culture into which Christians have gone at any time in human history. It’s a culture that has distinguished, on its own terms, a religious elite. There are certain people who are the ones who speak for the religion and others that don’t.
We have the same thing today. If you’ve ever noticed, when you go to the Houston Chronicle every now and then, and there is some issue that relates to Christianity, they always go to the liberal groups.
Maybe it’s the professors at University of St. Thomas, or maybe it’s the professor of religion at the University of Houston. Or, it’s the pastor of some liberal church here in town that doesn’t believe in the authority of Scripture, doesn’t believe in inerrancy or infallibility.
Recently there was a statement made by Ed Young at Second Baptist about the nature of the Democrat Party, that they were a godless party, because they had basically removed God from their platform.
They did that in 2012. I did a search, found their platform and copied it into a Word document. Then I searched that document and found God’s name three times. So, it’s not out of the Democrat platform.
But he basically made a very accurate statement, that the Democrat party is the party of the devil, and all of their positions are anti-biblical.
He was right and he did this as he was giving closing prayer at a political rally, he inserted some remarks.
So, rather than going to the Houston Area Pastors Council, which is the organization of conservative evangelical pastors in the city, The Houston Chronicle went to people who don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, don’t believe in miracles,
They don’t believe in the authority of the Bible in any way, shape, or form. They don’t believe in sin the way the Bible teaches it. And they asked these fools, and they are fools, biblically speaking, they asked these fools what they think about Ed Young.
Of course, they all said very nasty things and some guy said, “Well, we just have to love him and God will fix it.” You know, just the pious garbage that you hear from liberals.
This is typical of any pagan culture. We have those who are legalists, we have those who are ritualists.
Among churches we have those who are liberals, who reject the authority of Scripture and substitute their own authority. And we have a large number, a vast number, who are just secular and pagan, and think all religion is horrible.
They blame religion for all the wars in human history. It’s always interesting how they conveniently ignore all of the wars since the middle of the nineteenth century, which were not fought for religious reasons.
Those wars were fought mostly by socialists and communists who were seeking to exert totalitarian control over and enslave other people.
But they ignore that. More people were killed, enslaved, and harmed by the wars since the mid-nineteenth century than all of the religious wars in history.
Once again, the left lies about history, because they choose to rewrite history and their fantasy about life.
So, Jesus enters into a culture at that time that is not unlike ours. They were legalists, they were ritualists, they were liberals. The Sadducees were very liberal.
There were those who were just secular, and they wanted to cozy up to Rome. And Jesus is going to present the truth in the midst of this mix of different beliefs.
The third thing I want say here is that not much is said about worship in the New Testament.
We spent a lot of time talking about the Old Testament and there’s a reason for that. The New Testament doesn’t say much about worship at all. So, there’s not much we can go to.
The verb PROSKUNEO is the primary word for worship. It’s used some 60 times in the New Testament. It means to bow down, to do obeisance, to worship.
That’s how it’s usually translated. It’s used 33 times in the Gospels and Acts. That’s narrative, and mostly it’s talking about worship of God at the temple.
Sometimes it’s personal, but it’s in that narrative function.
It’s used three times in the epistles. That’s important because the Gospels were not written to teach Church Age believers how to live the spiritual life of the Church Age. The epistles were. And yet worship is used only three times. What does that mean? It means, essentially, that worship has to be understood from that Old Testament framework, that the essence of what makes worship biblical worship hasn’t changed from the patterns we studied as we’ve gone through the Old Testament.
PROSKUNEO is used three times in the epistles and twenty-four times in Revelation. We see the angels, the twenty-four elders, we see various other groups bowing down and worshiping God in Heaven.
The English word worship is used some seventy-seven times, forty-five in the Gospels and Acts, twenty-four times in Revelation, and eight times in the Epistles.
It doesn’t always translate PROSKUNEO. Sometimes the English word worship translates SEBAZOMAI, which is used for reverence, or devoutness, or piety. ASEBEIA is ungodliness, that “a” prefix means “not” or “un”, so that word is used.
There are also other words—LEITOURGOS, which has to do with spiritual service, and sometimes it’s translated worship.
The English word worship uses some other words, but basically little is said. Now, why is that? I think part of it is because to understand worship we have all the pictures we need in the Old Testament.
Number two, it’s living out our spiritual life. And that’s what we are going to see, it’s living out our spiritual life.
But we’re not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the writer of Hebrews says.
We are to come together on a regular basis and not stay home. This is why you can’t have a church with just sitting at home on the Internet.
Now, that’s not saying that it’s wrong for people to sit at home and live stream. Thankfully, people can, and do, because there are a lot of folks who don’t get home from work in time to get to Bible class.
But they need to be here regularly, for example, at least on Sunday morning, worshiping together.
Here are a couple of examples of worship in Revelation.
Revelation 4:10, “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne …”
Revelation 5:14, “Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders—elders represent the church— fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.”
That gives us some background. Very little is said about worship in the epistles. But aspects of worship are mentioned as we will see, such as giving, reading of Scripture, prayer—all of those are part of worship.
The next thing I want to look at is Jesus in the setting of worship. He spends a lot of time in worship settings. He’s in the synagogue. He’s doing healing in the synagogue, healing on Shabbat. He goes to the temple. He doesn’t miss any of the feast days when every Jewish male is required to go to the temple. He is always there.
I often run into this when you see some uptight, self-righteous legalist who is so proud of his grace orientation, and his understanding of truth, that he can’t see his own flaws.
They’ll say, “Well, I’m not going to go to XYZ’s church because they don’t dot that ‘i’ the way I think it ought to be dotted. Or this ‘t’ isn’t crossed the way I think it ought to be crossed.”
There are reasons for not going to most churches that are around today that have to do with significant doctrinal error. But, too often what you find is people who just think, well because they don’t do it all right I can’t show up at that church.
But Jesus showed up in synagogues that weren’t doing it right. He was there. Jesus showed up in a temple that was run by apostate priests that He’s always in constant conflict with. They are going to be some of the major movers and shakers in getting Him arrested and crucified. Just because the people that were there were wrong and were apostate, although He did confront them on a couple of occasions, it didn’t keep Him from going to the temple.
He continued to call the temple His Father’s house in John 2:16, even though it’s as apostate as it can be. When He was twelve years old, in Luke 2:41–50, He goes with His parents, who every year, the text says, they went to observe Passover in Jerusalem.
He goes with them and He gets separated from them in the crowds. They get on the caravan to go back to Nazareth, and it’s a day or so before they realize He’s not with them.
So, they turn around and go back, and they find Him sitting in the courtyard of the temple having a discussion about the Law with the chief priests and elders. They are confounded by His questions.
When they [His parents] ask Him “Why are you here? What are you doing?” He says, “I have to be about My Father’s business.”
That was the place of His Father’s business. And so, because that was the temple, and other times the synagogues, even though they didn’t get it right, Jesus is there because He is the One Who is standing for the truth and can have an impact.
I have told people for many years that sometimes you have to put up with some things that aren’t the way you would like them, simply so you can have an impact in ministry and serve the Lord there.
I had an example years ago when a man wrote to me and said, “I understand what you’re getting at. I understand the importance of being involved in a local fellowship, but I live in a small town in Vermont. There are four churches, and the best one doesn’t believe in the literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus.
“That’s the best one. I just can’t imagine that I should be taking my son there so that he can have anything positive.”
I said, “Of course not.”
That’s not the idea, but there are too many people who, because of one aspect or another, won’t go to a particular church.
I’ve had people who have heard what I’ve said, and they’ve gone to local churches they could accept for the most part, even though it wasn’t the ideal. And they’ve been able to have wonderful ministries in those churches.
I know of one lady in Australia who goes to a very liberal church. She’s been able to get involved with a group that is ministering to Moslem refugees, and she has a ministry for Scripture to that group.
There are a lot of ways in which we can get involved. If you go to a church that’s less than good, it’s a “C-minus church”, that’s why we have the Internet. You can get good solid teaching, and you can understand the truth.
But, you never know how many other genuine believers might be at this mostly apostate congregation. And they’re just hoping that somebody else who believes the Bible might show up and cross their path.
This is what we see going on with Jesus. He’s constantly in the setting. I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 4. We are going to look at one of His visits to synagogue. Many times Jesus goes to synagogue.
We are going to look at Luke 4 and learn a little bit about what happens. Luke 4:16, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”
This tells us that His habit pattern in life was to go to synagogue every Shabbat. On that day He is asked to read from the reading for the day.
I’m pretty sure Jesus knew that was what was going to be read. And He knew exactly what He was going to read, and what He wasn’t going to read. And He set this whole thing up because He’s making an important point.
Luke 4:17-18, “And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: …”
Rather than read just the part there, I’m going to skip over to Isaiah 61:1-2, which is the passage He’s reading.
It starts off, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”
That’s talking about those who are reaping the consequences of sin, the brokenhearted, captives to sin, bound to sin.
He says His purpose was “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” which was understood to be a reference to the coming of Messiah, but He stopped there. He doesn’t go into the next part. All of this was one prophecy, but it’s talking about two different times of fulfillment.
The rest of it talks about His return when He comes to rule and to reign. That is the day of vengeance at the end of the Tribulation period.
When we read this in Luke 4:19-25, we see their response that comes up after this.
After He reads, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” He closes the book, “and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ ”
Luke 4:23, “Then He said to them, ‘You will surely say this proverb to Me, “Physician heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.” ’ ”
They’ve heard about the healing.
Here are some things we learned—that in the previous verses leading up to this, we learned that Jesus, back in Luke 4:14, “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.”
Luke 4:15, “And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”
He’s led by the Spirit. He goes to these various synagogues, being led by the Spirit to minister to those in those synagogues.
He is healing them of various diseases and there are various miracles that are taking place.
He goes to this specific synagogue, on this specific day, to read this specific parashah, that’s the portion of Scripture that they are reading.
We learned that there is an attendant, which fits the pattern—someone who is in charge who brings Him the scroll.
He is handed the book, He opens it, and He reads from it. When He finishes, He closes the book of the scroll, gives it back to the attendant, and He sits down.
At that point He would sit down in the seat of Moses, because He’s going to talk about the Scripture, and interpret the Scripture.
This is what He did. That’s the centerpiece of the worship service in the synagogue.
He answers their point, He explains it, He interprets it, and then He tells them that, Luke 4:21, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Then they began to interact with Him, and they rejected Him. As a result of that He is going to leave.
Luke 4:28, “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.”
This is a hometown crowd, and they have rejected Him. As Jesus comes, He doesn’t come to destroy the Law, He came to fulfill the Law.
It’s interesting, as we go into the next section, which I just called Jesus in the temple, we read that Jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning and at the end of His ministry.
John talks about a cleansing at the beginning of His ministry. The synoptic Gospels talk about a cleansing at the end of His ministry. Liberals say, “Well, they just got it confused, there was only one cleansing.”
But, the reality is that at the outset, and at the conclusion, Jesus comes to Jerusalem and He cleanses the temple. He cleanses the temple because it is the house of God. He is going to cleanse it because of His role. It is His Father’s house.
There were other times when Jesus shows His support for the temple and for the Mosaic Law, for written Torah.
He heals a leper early on and He instructs the leper, “Don’t tell anybody, but go to a priest” all in obedience to the Law.
If the leper were healed, he would have to go and report it to the priest. The priest would take note of that so that he could then be admitted to the temple, that that he’d been cleansed of the leprosy.
Among the rabbis they believed that this was a unique sign, that only the Messiah could heal someone of leprosy. So, Jesus sends him to the priest for two reasons, one—that’s fulfilling the Law, that’s doing what the Law said to do.
Second, it’s going to force the priest to open up an investigation to see if this is true. He is giving evidence to the priests of who He is.
He’s also teaching something, and that is that He is the One Who cleanses people of sin. He is the One Who makes it possible for people to come into the presence of God. This is taught in several of the other episodes.
We think of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. They are cleansed, and more evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be. He’s able to heal them.
But He is taking those who are outcasts, those who are unacceptable, unclean, can’t get into the temple, and He the one who makes them clean so that they can then worship God.
You have the example of the woman with the hemorrhage, with the blood flow in Luke 8:43-48. This had gone on for twelve years. She can’t go to the temple to worship. She can’t praise God. She can’t give thanks to God in the temple as she should.
But now she is cleansed. Jesus is the One Who opens the way to God. All of this teaches that grace is at the center of worship, and that worship is a response to grace.
It illustrates for us again, that those who have not been cleansed cannot worship. God writes the rules. There has to be a cleansing from sin before people can worship God.
In Matthew 5:17 we learn that Jesus said He did not come to break the Law but to fulfill it.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.”
That describes the whole of the Old Testament. There are three portions to the Old Testament— the Law, which is the first five Books, the Writings, and the Prophets.
In Hebrew, the Prophets are made up of the former prophets, who we would call Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. And then there are the latter prophets, which are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and then the twelve. Daniel was part of the Writings.
So, the term Law and the Prophets refers to the whole Old Testament, the thirty-nine books that we have of the Old Testament.
He said, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
There are two senses to how they use the phrase “to fulfill.” One is that He comes to fulfill the Law by obeying the Law as no person has been able to do. He is going to completely and totally obey the Law.
But, there’s another way in which that idiom was used, which I recently discovered. Among the rabbis, fulfilling the Law meant to interpret the Law.
That really sets up as a significant meaning in the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus is explaining and interpreting the Law from God’s perspective, in contrast to the interpretation of the Pharisees.
So, He said, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
Matthew 5:18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one yod or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled.”
A yod is the Hebrew letter “y” that looks like an apostrophe. It is very, very small.
A tittle is like the difference between the capital letter “P” and a capital letter “R”. That little leg on the “R” is like a tittle, it’s just a small part.
You can look at the lower-case letter “c”, and the lower case letter “o”, and that little bit of ink that closes the “c” completely—that’s a tittle.
The phrase “not one yod—not jot— or tittle” is a term that the most microscopic minutia of the Law is going to be fulfilled. That’s what Jesus is saying, that everything is going to be fulfilled.
Notice Matthew 5:19, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, …”
What are they doing? They are reinterpreting. They are the ones who were not fulfilling the Law because they taught their own interpretation of the Law.
Jesus is straightening out their interpretation of the Law. They were teaching a false interpretation.
And He says, they “shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them—accurately— he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus recognized the importance of worship together, going to synagogue, going to the temple, and worshiping there, and where the Word, the Torah, was at the very center.
But Jesus critiqued their worship in many ways. First of all, He warned against performing acts of worship for the sake of approbation or recognition from others.
Every one of these examples I’m going to mention I’ve seen done in just amazing ways in conservative evangelical churches.
Jesus talks about these. Men always want to corrupt worship and make it about themselves.
First of all, just in the area of giving, Jesus said that giving was to be private. It was to be done in secret, and inconspicuous.
It’s hypocritical to draw attention to oneself in worship because worship isn’t about me, it’s not about you, it’s not about a singer. It is not about a musician. It is about Jesus.
There are some church traditions where the choir and everybody is in the back, behind the congregation. They are, as it were, giving strength to the congregation in their singing.
But you don’t see who they are, and there’s no recognition of them because it’s not about them, it’s about the Lord. It is Theocentric.
Matthew 6:2, Jesus said, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
It’s interesting how Jesus says this several times, that if you do it for the approbation of men, you will get your reward—but here, not in Heaven.
Matthew 6:3, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.”
Matthew 6:4, “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
Trust me, it is much better to get God’s reward in Heaven than any recognition from anybody here on earth.
But I have seen churches in which, when they take up the collection, everybody files to the front of the church. You know who’s giving what, and all kinds of things. It’s just terrible.
Prayer: pray in secret. Don’t pray so everybody will know that you’re praying.
Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites.”
He’s talking about the Pharisees. They would make a big show of going through the prayer and fingering their tallit, their prayer shawl.
Jesus said, “When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
Matthew 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.”
That’s an interesting word. Every one of us has idiosyncrasies when we pray. You’ll notice this when people pray in public, or they pray in prayer meeting.
Sometimes they repeat certain phrases over and over again. I remember when I was a camp counselor there was a really good high school kid there. He came from a good family—I knew the whole family. He later became a counselor.
He would say “O Lord” about every fourth word. It’s like saying “you know” every fourth or fifth word. You know everything, you know. It just drove me nuts. I never said anything, but it would drive me nuts.
That’s not what this is talking about. The word in the Greek is BATTALOGEO, which sounds like saying badabadabada. It was gibberish. It’s speaking in tongues.
Nobody goes to this passage to argue against tongues speech, and that’s what this is talking about. The word BATTOLOGEO refers to words that are meaningless, that are just gibberish.
That’s what it’s talking about. Also, the heathen had glossolalia in their esoteric and mystical worship, and they thought they would be heard for their many words.
This isn’t talking about public prayer. This isn’t even talking about lengthy public prayer. All of that can be very legitimate.
This is about doing it for the sake of being known and seen for what you’re saying and what you’re doing. So, giving should be in secret. Prayer should be in secret, other than in a worship service.
Another example of the negative on prayer is the parable that He tells of the righteous man, the Pharisee, and a tax collector. Two men go to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector
Luke 18:11, “The Pharisee stood—he wanted everyone to see him—and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.’ ”
“I’m not like everybody else. Aren’t I great!”
Luke 18:12, “ ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ ”
So he’s going to get his reward right then and there, not in Heaven.
The tax collector who is exhibiting true humility and understands grace, Luke 18:13, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ ”
“I’ve got nothing worthwhile.” That’s the contrast. It’s not based on self-righteousness.
Then you had fasting. We have talked about fasting before, and I’m going to correct myself. There is no general mandate for fasting in the Scripture.
Fasting is mandated for Yom Kippur and for a couple of other feast times. It’s very restricted to a specific time, but you don’t have any general commands for fasting anywhere in the Scriptures.
I’ve heard of and knew pastors who would say, “We’re fasting this week.”
“Really? How are you doing that?”
“Well, we’re not going to have coffee, and we aren’t going to eat sugar, and we’re not going to do this. We’re going to keep this out of our diet and that out of our diet.”
No, a fast means you aren’t going to eat. And a biblical fast means you aren’t eating because you’re so consumed and concerned with some issue that you’re taking all of your time in food preparation to pray to God.
That’s what biblical fasting is. You are consumed with taking these prayers to God and you don’t have time to prepare food.
Back in those days you couldn’t grab a microwave dinner, stick in the microwave for five minutes, and sit down to eat in a total of six or seven minutes.
It took half a day to get and prepare your food. Fasting meant that you weren’t going to take up five or six hours with food preparation. You were going to spend that time in prayer. Very few people think it through like that.
Fasting was done out in the open and Jesus says, Matthew 6:16, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like hypocrites, with a sad countenance.”
They would walk around looking like, “Oh, I’m starving to death, I’m weak.” They wanted everybody to think they were so great because they were fasting.
And again, Jesus says they have their reward, but the implication, like everything else, they won’t have it from God.
The other problem was legalism. This particularly showed up when Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.
For example, we have the episode here from Matthew12:9–11 talking about His healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.
So He is challenged, is this lawful? Actually, He asked the question before He healed him. [Luke 14:3] Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? He wanted to set them up. He’s baiting the trap.
Matthew 12:11, “Then He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?’ ”
He is using an a fortiori argument. Sure, if you have a sheep that falls into a pit, you’re going to rescue that sheep. Isn’t a man worth more? Of course he is.
It is better to have a man who is whole and healthy, who can go worship in the temple, than one who is crippled and has a withered hand.
His conclusion is in Matthew 12:12, “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” He then healed the man.
There’s another great example in John 7:22–24 where He says if it’s lawful to circumcise a man on the Sabbath, then it’s a much greater thing to make a man whole, and to heal him on the Sabbath, than to simply have a circumcision.
In fact, there’s some debate in the Mishna about this very issue. And so again, He sort of hoists them on their own petard in terms of their logic.
The last thing I want to point out is the necessary spiritual preparation. That is not just making sure that you are cleansed of sin through confession, but if somebody has something against you, you need to make it right.
This is what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23–24, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
The application today is if you’re going to pray, you are going to confess sin, and you are thinking about committing the sin, you are not really getting cleansed from that sin.
You have to deal with the issue. Some people might say, “Well, wait a minute, you’re going to appear before the Cross under the Law to deal with that.
Well, in 1 Peter 3:7 Peter says the same basic thing. He says, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them —that is your wives—with understanding, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel. And as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
In other words, husbands, if you’re not treating your wife with honor and grace, your prayers are not going to get answered.
You may confess sin, but unless you deal with the issue, it’s not going to change anything, because you’re just staying out of fellowship the whole time as you continue your wrong behavior.
As Jesus told the woman at the well, she’s asking Him about “where are we going to worship when the Messiah comes here like the Samaritans do at Mount Gerizim, or Mount Ebal, or down in Jerusalem? And Jesus’ answer is that that’s not going to be an issue much longer.
John 4:21, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know, we—meaning Jews—know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.’ ”
John 4:23, “ ‘But the hour is coming, and now is,—this is about to change—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
John 4:24, “ ‘God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.’ ”
There are two interpretive issues here. There’s no capitalization in the original
I think it’s uppercase for two reasons. The mandate throughout the Church Age is for Christians to walk by means of the Spirit.
That’s the sense of the grammar, walk by means of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the means to live the spiritual life in the Church Age. Worship must be by means of the Spirit. We have the command to walk by means of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16.
Romans 8:4 says, “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
For not walking according to the Spirit we don’t fulfill experiential righteousness.
Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh—that is the sin nature—set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
And in Romans 8:8 Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh—that is walking by the sin nature—cannot please God.”
It’s pretty simple—that which we do under the control of the sin nature has no eternal value, only when we’re walking by the Spirit.
Slide 27 (returned to slide)
When Jesus says, John 4:24, you “must worship by means of the Spirit and truth,” it’s interesting.
It’s the Granville Sharp rule. They are not synonyms. That is not what the Granville Sharp rule means.
You have one article that governs two nouns. It means they are closely, tightly, linked together. It is God the Holy Spirit that reveals His Word. God the Holy Spirit that helps us to understand and apply His Word, and that is at the very core of worship.
Jesus says in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by—means of—Your truth. Your word is truth.”
If that’s the means, the Word, of sanctification, then that’s at the very core of our spiritual growth, to be sanctified by the Word.
What Jesus is saying is that worship in the future would be by means of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s Word as they work together in the life of a believer.
Let’s wrap this up. What have we learned?
We’ve learned from the end of Genesis 3, Genesis 4, that at the heart of worship is sacrifice. In the Old Testament that sacrifice is looking forward.
We remember that sacrifice at the Lord’s Table when we proclaim His death until He comes.
The second aspect we’ve seen is that worship is a proclamation of Who God is and what He has done. That comes from teaching through the Bible, teaching through the Scripture.
Third, we’ve seen that throughout the Old Testament, and into the New Testament, there is a necessity of cleansing from sin in terms of justification.
When we first trust in Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, Ephesians 1:7 says.
But when we are growing and maturing experientially we sin, and so we have to have confession of sin for cleansing.
The fifth thing we’ve seen is that Scripture is always at the heart, the focus, of worship. And so we have to study what the Word says, because that is how we are transformed—by the renewing of our mind.
We also worship in singing, Ephesians 5:19. Singing in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs is the first result of being filled by means of the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18.
We have so many Christians who think that singing is just some sort of secondary thing we do because we always did that on Sunday morning.
It’s part of worship. It is expressing our joy. It reminds us of Who God is and what He has done. It is integral to worship.
It’s not the centerpiece, but it’s not just something that’s a pure elective. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t, it’s not that important. Let’s get to the really important stuff, which is the Word.
That is a totally bogus, carnal, attitude.
Seventh, we worship in prayer. In 1 Timothy 2:1–3 Paul tells Timothy, “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.”
That has application contextually within the congregation and with worship.
1 Timothy 2:2, “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Timothy 2:3, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”
Eighth, we worship in giving, 2 Corinthians 9:5–8, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:2.
In 2 Corinthians 9:5 Paul says, “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time,—that is to make the collection ahead of time, it’s planned beforehand, it’s not just spur of the moment—and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised.”
In other words, he asked them to make a commitment ahead of time to give a certain amount of money. Now he is coming back and he says, “You made a commitment before and we’re going to come and collect that. You need to fulfill your pledge.”
A lot of churches do that. We don’t. But I think this passage indicates that, at least in this situation, Paul seems to have done that.
Then he reminds them of the principle of generosity and graciousness.
He says in 2 Corinthians 9:6–8. “he who sows sparingly also reaps sparingly. And he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a generous giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
Ninth, we worship by reading Scripture. 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul said, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
As I close, in terms of reading those passages on giving. I thought I would tell you that we have a real matter of prayer. As you know we can to go through this roller coaster in terms of giving and the annual budget. Over the last five or six years we have this pattern of being somewhere around $25–40,000 in the in the red when it comes to the middle of the summer, but by the end of the year, God supplies our needs. I was just talking to our treasurer before class and it looks as if the Lord has not only given us to the penny provision, but He has provided abundantly beyond that, more than sufficient. God has answered our prayers and richly supplied for our financial need. So, we can all be very thankful to that in God’s faithfulness in taking care of this congregation, so that we can continue to teach the Word.
“Father, thank You for this time we have to study Your Word, to be challenged in this whole study, to worship, to focus on You, to learn all that You have for us.
“And to recognize that our lives need to be completely centered upon You, and not upon us. Give us an awareness of our self-absorption. How often we think about us, and talk about us, and our problems, rather than talking about You and Your solutions.
“And Father, we pray that You would use all of this study on worship to press, push us a little more forward in our spiritual life and spiritual growth, worshiping You biblically.
“We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”