We need to look at, learn and understand some very basic principles of Biblical interpretation. Then these principles need to be applied consistently to the subject at hand. In the passage we have been studying (John 4), Christ makes mention and uses these principles. Because of that context, this is a good time to either refresh our memory, and/or learn these principles. These are self-evident truths upon which the teaching of God’s Plan of the Ages is built. Therefore, our clear understanding of God’s Plan will be dependent upon our understanding and use of these and others principles. Even though these are self-evident truths, and are relatively simple in structure, you will need to be alert, and prepared to follow a course of Biblical logic.

In church circles, we have a tendency to adopt certain phrases and concepts as Biblical, and as God’s perspective. When in reality, these terms and concepts are manmade and do not convey the real or complete truth of God. Such as, our terminologies and concepts of missions. For our convenience we have developed categories of missions:

These are good terms, and they help us when we are thinking of how we relate to the world wide mission of God. Hold on a minute! Where is foreign and where is home? To those in another country, we are the foreign mission field, and they are home base. These terms, as beneficial as they are, are dependent upon some human or physical location as the center of operations. From God’s perspective, there is no such thing as home or foreign missions. It is simply, “For God so loved the world that He gave...”. Please understand, there is nothing wrong with these terms, unless we are trying to see the perspective of:

When we are trying to understand God’s perspective, these terms can divert us from our purpose.

In a similar manner, as we try to understand God’s concept of this act of worship, and its mode and method in relation to the progressive plan of God, we must be sure that we are viewing worship from God’s perspective. If we do not see worship from God’s perspective, we are making some human and/or a certain period of time the central factor in the act of worship.

This is a very important fact if we are to clearly understand the Word of God. It is equally important to remember that:

These two seemingly divergent Biblical truths are fix points or bench marks that make it possible for a mere human, like any of us, to understand the Word and Plan of God. On the other hand, if these things are not kept in mind and consistently applied to the information of Scripture, we will find ourselves face to face with what looks like contradictions.

John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

God in His person has always been spirit, and His purpose in worship has always been that of spirit and truth. This was clearly stated by Christ in His conversation with the woman at the well in John 4:24. Anyone who wishes to worship God must worship Him in “spirit and truth”. That was true in the Garden of Eden, it was true as Christ talked to the woman by the well, it is true today and it will be true in the future. Tuck this information away in your mind for future use.

John 4:21-23 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 "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.

Christ confirms that the mode of worship changes with the progression of God’s Plan of the Ages. However, the method of worship never changes. If the method of worship is not correct, it is false worship! That is true even if the mode is proper.

I’m using a couple of words which are very closely related in definition. I’m going to use them not because of their exact definition, but as handles so we can grasp these very important truths. To use these words as handles, I will impose a version of my definition on them for this study. Therefore, it is important to see how I am using these terms. Please don’t fall in love with the terms. I’m only using them as teaching tools. It’s the truth that’s important, not the tools. If this truth is not clearly understood and used carefully, our comprehension of the church can only be spotty at best, nor will we be able to decipher the progression of worship within God’s Plan of the Ages.

I am using mode of worship as the ritual, or the form and fashion of worship. The physical action on the part of a human such as the sacrifices, washings, special days, etc. would fall into the category of the mode of worship. Mode of worship in this case would be the physical means or activity used by mankind to bridge the gap, (from a human perspective only), between the physical and the spiritual. God is so gracious! He knows our frame that it is dust, and that natural man cannot comprehend spiritual things. Because of that, God gives or allows physical symbols and actions to be involved in the act of worship and fellowship. These symbols and actions aid our humanity in thinking spiritually, and they help teach us, by illustration, spiritual reality. The symbol or the action is never to become the object or the means of our worship. If the symbol or action becomes the object or means of worship, it is an idol, and then is a detriment to spirituality and worship. It is not that the symbol itself is wrong, for Paul tells us that the idol, itself, is nothing. The problem comes when we substitute the symbol or activity (the mode) for the real experience (the method).

The method of worship would be the actual interface by which a human can have personal fellowship with divinity. Physical and sinful mankind cannot be in the presence of God, and still have human life.

1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
Exodus 33:20 But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

Divinity and sinful humanity are not compatible. Therefore, God provided a means by which these two totally different spheres of existence could unite in fellowship without destroying either. Mankind is incapable of providing or even comprehending such a means.

God provided a go-between, a mediator or in our terms an interface between mankind and deity. The first stage of this interfacing was the incarnation of Jesus. God became man without losing any of His Godness. This God/man paid the price for human sin, and offered, as a gift, Eternal Life to all who will accept, by faith, the work and person of Christ as their Savior. Having the gift of God, Eternal Life, assures the Believer that once this physical life goes through the death process, they will be in the very presence of God having a life that is perfectly compatible with God’s life. Between the time of receiving this gift of Eternal Life from God, and our physical death, there needs to be a means whereby Believers can fellowship with and worship the God Who provided this Eternal Life. God provided just such a method. Through this method, these two divergent existences of the Divine and the human can enter into far more than simple adoration, and/or conversation.

To allow these two, divine and human, to interface, God provided the method of "spirit and truth". God provided the Holy Spirit to indwell the Believer, and to witness with the Believer’s own spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

God also provided Truth through His written Word. It is through this Truth as taught by the Holy Spirit to our spirit that we can actively participate in the divine nature even while still in this body of human life. This is God’s method of worship and fellowship.

2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
partaker = (Greek) a sharer i.e. associate; to have in common

As we gain the knowledge of Christ through the Word of God (the truth through the teaching of the Holy Spirit), we actually become a sharer, or have in common with God the divine nature. This is not a reference to salvation, but to living in Christ or walking in the Spirit. This is about as close a fellowship as one can get. As we share or have in common God’s nature, we have the power to properly worship Him. That is God’s method of fellowship and worship. As with any other grace of God, God supplies all that is needed. We must, by faith, make use of what God has provided. God has provided the “spirit and truth” for us to properly worship. His Holy Spirit “bears witness to our spirit”. The Word of God is God’s truth. Through these two, spirit and truth, God has provided all we need for fellowship, growth, worship, etc. Not only are these two, “of spirit and truth”, all we need, it is all that God has provided for us. There is no other way. If we use any other method for fellowship and worship, we are engaged in a false religion. It doesn’t matter what name we call it, it is still false.

Most generally our focus is on the mode or the human activity within worship, instead of the method or the real intertwining of a human being with the Person of God. Our mode of worship, of course, is the best? Some want to sing with their hands in the air. Others want to sing with their hands hanging at their side. Some want organ music for the worship time. Others want guitars. The mode makes little difference, unless we substitute the mode for the real thing. No physical action can bring about worship, and no physical activity is worship. Clapping your hands is not worship. Neither is sitting in silence. The physical action, or mode, is only a means to the proper end of spirit and truth. If we try to make either the clapping or sitting in silence the fact of worship, we are worshipping idols.

The study of these two, spirit and truth in harmony within the life of the Believer, is a massive study. For right now, I want to direct our thinking to just a few of the more than a hundred+ passages that deal with this neglected subject.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,
John 16:13 "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
John 17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

We cannot take the time to study even these few passages. Instead, I want to establish in our minds the fact and importance of this method of worship and fellowship with God.

The mode or physical activity has changed over the course of God’s Plan of the Ages, and will continue to change until this Plan is completed. The method of worship or the intertwining of humanity with divinity in true fellowship has never changed and will not change. Let me give you a Biblical illustration of this truth. There are examples in almost every book of the Old Testament. The classic is that of the message of Isaiah to the people of Israel. There is no question that the mode of worship for Israelites as given by God was: sacrifices, burnt offerings, sabbaths, etc. These actions and activities were spelled out in great detail by God, Himself, to Moses. At the time of Isaiah, the nation of Israel as a whole was not using the proper method of worship. As a result, God said the mode was of no value. In this case, the using of the prescribed mode made God sick, because the method was not correct.

Isaiah 1:11-14 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices(mode) to Me?" says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings(mode) of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats(mode). 12 "When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile sacrifices(mode); incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons(mode), the Sabbaths(mode), and the calling of assemblies (mode) I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts(mode) my soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.

This fact is presented over and over again throughout the Old Testament. However, here in Isaiah these facts are presented very, very clearly. So we will turn to Isaiah for our illustration. Notice in our passage, the Lord asks that all important question, “What is the purpose of this mode of worship”. Then God goes on to describe the mode of worship to which He was referring. All of these things described by God in this passage are part of a proper mode of worship for that time period within God’s Plan of the Ages. If you don’t have a fair concept of the different time periods making up God’s plan of the ages, you’ll have a tough time with the many seemingly different structures within the Word of God. As a general rule, the mode of worship is important because through the activities of the mode we are taught, in picture form, the truths of how it is possible for sinful humanity to fellowship with perfect Divinity.

That is certainly true of the Mosaic Law. The Bible tells us that the Law was a schoolteacher to bring us to Christ, and to point out our own sinfulness. The mode was also a demonstration of obedience on the part of the person participating in worship. However, going through the motions of the mode without the proper method is a form of self-idolatry. Paul brought out that fact over and over again. In his introduction to the book of Romans, he clearly presents this fact.

Romans 2:13-15 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

Remember the purpose of the Law -- To bring us to Christ, and to reveal our sin. So the doer of the Law was one who was doing the purpose of the Law. The doer of the Law was coming to Christ knowing full well the condition of their sinful heart, therefore, coming by the grace of God only.

Paul points out that those who know the Law, and do not come to Christ wholly by His grace are not doing what the Law was designed to accomplish. Therefore, instead of the Law being a mode of worship for such a person., it became a means of judgment. On the other hand, those who do not know the Law, and do what the Law was designed to accomplish, which was to bring them to Christ, drawing on His grace because of their sinful condition, those people are really the doers of the Law. The same essence found in the Mosaic Law, is found in the law of conscience or the image of God that is a integral part of every soul because of creation. In this case, the mode or the Law was perfectly good. However, if the method was not right, the mode was of no value, except as a means of condemnation.

This was exactly what was happening in Isaiah’s time, also. They were following the mode to the letter, but the method of truth and spirit was missing. Isaiah points out the absence of the method of spirit and truth over and over again. In Isaiah 29 God summarizes the reasons there was no real fellowship with or worship of God by these people through all this activity.

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

As we saw in chapter 1, these people had all the right actions, sacrifices, high days, feast days, etc. They were following the mode of worship prescribed by God. However, they were ignoring and had turned their backs on the real method which was the only way the soul of man and the Person of God could be engaged in fellowship. They had removed their hearts (spirits) from God, and had accepted the teaching of man as the commandments (truth) of God.

Paul writes of this same type of situation, only from a little different perspective.

2 Timothy 3:2-7 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 [turned away from the spirit] having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, [lacked the truth] 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Don’t forget what we’re looking for:


That fact is brought out in many passages. We looked at the Gentiles of Romans 2.

Romans 2:14-15 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them

They did not have the law, the proper mode. Because they came to God in obedience and faith, not with a false sham, but through spirit and truth, God honored their worship.

Just the opposite is seen in our passage in 2 Timothy 3:2-7. These people were in love with themselves and with all those other non-spiritual things listed in vv.2-4. This love, referred to here, is not having a proper respect for one’s self, but these people were totally taken with self, and were only living to gratify self through these other things. Please understand, these were not the bad guys. These people would have been considered fine respectable citizens. It is possible for any one of us to slip or fit into this sad category of 2 Timothy 3. Why, they even had a form (mode) of godliness, but they turned away from the real power. The real power of any worship and fellowship with God is God’s Spirit and God’s truth, His Word. Not only did they deny or turn away from the real power, they did not come to God in His truth. Instead, they kept trying to learn from the natural how to be spiritual. Through this method they were never able to come to the truth.

I hope I have been able to demonstrate, in this hurried manner that God allows man to have certain physical activities and symbols (the mode of worship) to help the inability of humanity to clearly understand the spiritual. The mode of worship has changed as the Eternal Plan of God progressed, and the mode of worship will change again in the future as we will see in a little while. In times past, because of the lack of information concerning fellowship and worship, God overlooked many of the details of the mode. God could not overlook the improper use of the method.

Acts 17:29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.

The mode, the activity and symbols of worship, is for the benefit of mankind as to understanding and as a demonstration of obedience. The mode changes as God’s plan progresses. Plus, there have been a number of acceptable modes. However, the method by which we can fellowship with deity is exacting and cannot have any variance. That method is one and one only. It is by “spirit and truth”. I have used these words of mode and method not so you will remember the words, but so you can understand the truth. You can forget the words and the pseudo definition I place on them, but please don’t forget the truth I was teaching by the use of those words.

John 4:19-24 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." 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. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 "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. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Christ tells this woman, and us that there was a mode of worship that was proper for the time v.2, but the mode would change. As a matter of fact, it was in the process of changing at that very time as per v.1 “is coming” and v.23 “is coming, and now is”. The proper mode of worship at that particular time, within the progression of God’s Plan of the Ages, had been through the Law and the ultimate location was in Jerusalem. However, even though the place and mode as prescribed in the Law was proper, it was a passing thing within the Eternal Plan of God.

God, in His word of truth, not only gives us information about past modes and places of worship, He also gives us information about the future mode and place of worship. John, by direction of the Holy Spirit, gives us a view of the temple in Heaven.

Revelation 11:19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
Revelation 16:17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!"

There is no way we could study these passages to their full. Plus, if we were to give much more information than is found here, it would be pure speculation. Notice a couple of things about this temple in Heaven during the Tribulation period:

Between the Temple of the Law, and His Temple of the Tribulation there is another temple of God.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

We are commanded to take proper care of our temple of God.

Revelation 3:12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

This future temple is more than just brick and mortar, it is made up of the saints. Our place in this temple and the adornment that we will add to this temple depends on how and what we do during our present life.

Revelation 21:21-22 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

What a Temple that will be! Where God is there will be the place of perfect and complete Worship. Of course, we know our doctrine. So we know that God is everywhere. So anywhere we might be in the New Heaven and New Earth will be the place of perfect fellowship and worship. In the mean time, anywhere you might be on this earth is also the temple of God. You are the temple of God! So don’t wait for your morning devotions to fellowship with and worship God. By all means, don't wait until you come to church to spend time with God in the temple. After all, this place is not the temple of God. However, several times a week there are a good number of God’s temples who gather in this place for one mode of worship or another.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998