In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, she said to Him:
“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” In response, Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24, NASB)
Jesus’ statements to the woman at the well were meant not only to address a controversial issue among the people of that day, but to set forth the truth that all such discussions with regard to when, where, and just how to go about worshipping God would soon be coming to an end; at least for those “true worshipers”—the “ekklesia.” In these statements, Jesus takes “worship” out of the realm and jurisdiction of earthly, physical, liturgical forms and elevates it to that spiritual realm where it has always belonged. Under the new covenant in Christ, worship will no longer have anything specifically to do with “Jerusalem” or “this mountain” because it will be centered in that “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11, NASB).
Back in Old Testament days, worship, indeed, was very physical, liturgical, and ceremonial. Worship was to be carried out in specific ways prescribed by the Law of Moses. Hence, Jesus told the woman at the well, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22, NASB).
For an example, the Law of Moses prescribed that, once a year, the high priest, and only the high priest, was allowed to enter behind the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place within the temple and come into the very presence of God. He was allowed to do this in order to make atonement—procure forgiveness of sin—for the people of Israel by sprinkling the blood of a bull upon the mercy seat that was positioned above the Ark of the Covenant. Only the high priest was permitted to enter into the very presence of God and do this work because, as the inscription on the golden plate that was attached to the front of his turban stated, he was “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36, NASB).
But the New Testament informs us that the Law of Moses was “only a shadow [prophecy] of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1, NASB); and when Jesus died on the cross, “behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51, NASB). Now, as a result of His sacrifice, “we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20, NASB).
Jesus, our high priest, has gone ahead of us into the holy presence of God and made atonement for us with His own blood. But, unlike the Old Testament high priest who went in alone, leaving the rest of the people behind, Jesus invites us to follow Him right into the dwelling place of God to experience our own personal, intimate relationship with Him; and “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20, NASB). This makes each one of us, every single new covenant child of God, like the high priest — “Holy to the Lord.” It also makes everything that we do, every day that we live, “worship”; if we choose to do it to God’s glory!
However, despite Jesus’ words about how we “must worship in spirit and truth,” people today continue to err from truth and try to make “worship” some kind of physical, sanctimonious display, or liturgical ceremony, that must be practiced at a specific time, in a specific place, and in a specific manner; similar to how it was back in Old Testament days. Have you ever heard people debate back and forth over whether the “church” should meet together for “worship” on Saturday, or Sunday? Those who are of the Sabbatarian persuasion speak of the “sanctity of the Sabbath,” while other would-be scholars debate them and herald “the sanctity of Sunday.” These folks just don’t “get it” do they? They don’t understand that the cross makes the whole argument a moot point. People who use such terms are entirely ignorant of the fact that, for the “ekklesia,” there is no particular “holy day” or time. Every day we exist as a “living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1, NASB) becomes a “holy” day because WE are “Holy to the Lord.” And we who are “Holy to the Lord” have entered into that “Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NASB); which consists of the new covenant in Christ, itself, and all its provisions. So, for us, the Sabbath is a perpetual, continual existence.
This is why the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17, NASB).
In similar fashion, for the new covenant child of God, there is no particular “holy place” because every place we stand becomes “holy ground.” Why? Because WE are “Holy to the Lord.” Furthermore, for the new covenant child of God, there are no particular words or actions that are any more holy than others, because everything we say and do can be, should be, said and done in a way that is “acceptable to God” and that “proves what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB). This is why we are told, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NASB). It is ALL “holy,” it is ALL “worship,” because WE are “living and holy sacrifices” to the Lord.
Climbing up on the altar,
~ Philip ~