|Volume 19 Number 1 January 2017||
May Worship Be
Directed to the Holy Spirit?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
All we can know about acceptable worship is what is revealed upon the pages of inspiration—the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6). For those living today, the New Testament is the portion of the Bible to which one must turn for instruction regarding Christianity (2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9), including to Whom and what worship is authorized. There are five activities of worship about which we can read in the New Testament: praying and singing (1 Corinthians 14:15), breaking the bread of the Lord’s Supper and preaching (Acts 20:7), and giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)—in no particular order. Specifically, the fuller question is whether it is proper or permissible to offer worship through prayers or singing to the Holy Spirit. Theoretically and technically, one could endeavor to worship the Holy Spirit through the other three acts of worship, too.
If it were conceded that preaching, the Lord’s Supper and giving are inappropriate activities of worship to offer to the Holy Spirit, then it would be logical that neither are prayers and singing suitable activities of worship to offer to the Holy Spirit. Where in the New Testament does it instruct its readers to worship the Holy Spirit in one or more of the acts of Christian worship?
Certainly, as a member of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20) the Holy Spirit possesses all of the qualities, characteristics, traits and the essence of being Deity or God as also do the Father and the Son (Colossians 2:9). Whether the Holy Spirit is worthy of worship is not the question. The question under consideration is, “Where in the New Testament does it instruct its readers to worship the Holy Spirit in one or more of the acts of Christian worship?”
Although the three persons of the Godhead participated in some activities, such as creation (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 3:9), nevertheless, each of the members of the Godhead also have differing roles. Scripture portrays the Heavenly Father as the one to whom worship ought to be directed. Jesus Christ is man’s Redeemer (1 Peter 1:18), and He is mankind’s Mediator to the Father (1 Timothy 2:5). The chief role of the Holy Spirit was to deliver inspired revelation to humankind (1 Peter 1:21) and to confirm or validate it with miracles (Mark 16:20).
During His ministry, Jesus Christ affirmed that worship was to be directed to the Heavenly Father. According to Jesus, worship under Judaism and under Christianity is properly directed to the Father in heaven. That is what our Lord told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24 NKJV)
On another occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, and He proceeded to do so (Luke 11:1-4). The account in the Gospel According to Matthew reads, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). The Gospel According to Luke records, “So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven…” (Luke 11:2). Just prior to that when talking about prayer, the Christ instructed, “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 6:6 NKJV).
Our Lord later taught, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). A singular person of the Godhead was designated by Jesus Christ as the recipient of prayers by mortals. Furthermore, our Lord Himself prayed to the Father—as opposed to praying to the Holy Spirit, for instance. “Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done’” (Matthew 26:42).
The apostles Peter and Paul, likewise, wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the designated recipient of our prayers is the Heavenly Father. “’For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out,’ Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” (1 Peter 1:17).
Without doubt, the New Testament authorizes Christians to worship the Heavenly Father through such means as prayer—and by extension through the four additional acts of Christian worship, too. Admittedly, contemporary Christians—perhaps mimicking other religionists around them comparable to the Israelites desiring a king like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8:5)—desire to worship Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through prayers and hymns. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit possess all of the same Divine qualities of the Father, but (1) the designated roles of the three Persons in the Godhead differ, (2) New Testament instruction teaches Christians to worship the Father and (3) nothing since the completion of the New Testament has amended or changed biblical instruction regarding Christian worship (or any other biblical teaching either, Galatians 1:6-10; Jude 3).
So-called poetic license may be the justification offered for apparent variance in the lyrics of some of our spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) from the text of Scripture. However, we must exercise caution, because at some point, certainly, we must realize that significant deviation from biblical teaching amounts to no more than singing false doctrine.
One Church or Many Churches?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone inquired as to how many churches Jesus Christ has in view of the biblical statement in Romans 16:16, “…The churches of Christ salute you” (KJV). Does our Lord have one church, or do many churches belong to Him?
The English word “church” is translated from the New Testament Greek word “ekklesia.” The Greek word appears 114 times and is uniformly translated as “church,” except in Acts 19:39 where it is translated as “assembly.” “Ekklesia” is a compound Greek word meaning “out of” and “a calling”—the called out. Depending on the context in which it appears, it refers in the Bible to Israel in the wilderness following the Exodus (Acts 7:38), to a lawful assembly of citizens (Acts 19:39), to a mob (Acts 19:32, 41), to the whole of Christianity (Matthew 16:18), to a particular Christian congregation (1 Corinthians 1:2) or to the worship assembly of a congregation (1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 12, 19, 23, 34).
Historically and biblically, there was only one church, and there were no denominations yet, when Romans 16:16 was penned by the inspired apostle Paul. There were, though, several congregations of the one church, and that is how “churches” (congregations) is used in Romans 16:16, as well as in Romans 9:31.
Furthermore, the apostle Paul wrote that the words “church” and “body” refer to the same thing. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23 NKJV). Later, in Ephesians 4:4, the same apostle wrote, “There is one body…” Hence, there is one church in the sense of there being one spiritual organization over which Jesus Christ is the Head, and yet, several congregations or churches comprise the one church.