Worship: Bridging the Gap between God and Man

prostrationIf one of God’s purposes is to bridge the gap between God and man, bringing heaven and earth closer together, and if the Kingdom in its fullness will be earth and heaven joined into one, then worship is anything that helps that to happen — anything that narrows the gulf between God and man.

How does that happen? When does that happen? Well, when and where is God most near to man?

In New Testament times, one answer is surely in the possession of the Holy Spirit by Christians. God the Spirit indwells the individual Christian — language that plainly harkens back to God dwelling among the Israelites in the form of the column of fire and smoke and in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle.

(Rom 8:9-11 ESV) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

This dwelling of the Spirit within the individual Christian is also spoken of in terms of indwelling the congregation.

(Eph 2:19-22 ESV) 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 

(1Pe 2:4-5 ESV)  As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 

Just as the Creation itself was built to be a temple of God, the church is pictured as God’s temple — indwelt by the Spirit. There is something about the church that is more than just people. God himself lives within the church just as he once lived within the Temple in Jerusalem.

Now, “church” is not just the assembly. The church is the church whether or it’s gathered. And the Spirit is active all the time, not just Sunday morning.

So what does the Spirit do? What did God do when he indwelt the tabernacle and the Temple? Well, he —

* Spoke. Moses would go to the tabernacle to speak with God. Israelites went to pray because God had a special presence there (Exo 29:42-43).

* Accepted sacrifice. OT worship seems to have been centered on the sacrifice of food to God, and once the tabernacle was built, sacrifice was not allowed just anywhere. It had to be at the tabernacle — or later, at the Temple.

* Taught. The priests at the Temple were charged with instructing the people in Torah (Lev 10:11; Deu 33:10; Mal 2:7).

* Declared the formerly leprous clean.

* Led Israel through the desert.

And so what does the Spirit do today? Well, it leads the church.

(Rom 8:14 ESV) 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

And the presence of the Spirit shows us to be forgiven, that is, clean.

(Gal 4:6-7 ESV) 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. 

The Spirit instructs —

(Rom 8:6 NIV)  6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

(Heb 8:10 NIV)  10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 

The Spirit accepts sacrifice —

(Rom 12:1 ESV)  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

(Rom 15:15-16 ESV)  15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God  16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 

And so we begin to see that the church, as temple of the Spirit, somehow acts in the place of the Jerusalem Temple of the Mosaic law. In fact, early Christians — who were mostly Jews — would have seen the connection very plainly. Paul seems to have been very intentionally making this point. To refer to a congregation of the church as a “temple” was a powerful  metaphor among a people whose religious life centered on the Temple. The metaphor was all the more powerful given that Jesus had predicted the destruction of the Temple within the same generation as his ministry (Luk 21:32).

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to Worship: Bridging the Gap between God and Man

  1. John says:

    “If one of God’s purposes is to bridge the gap between God and man, bringing heaven and earth closer together, and if the Kingdom in its fullness will be earth and heaven joined into one, then worship is anything that helps that to happen ”

    Seems to be a rather strained syllogism. The remainder of the post is VERY good. God has always made the avenue to Him known — the fathers of the families, law, tabernacle, temple, church — the body of HIM WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL.

    Perhaps if you could “flesh out” … anything that helps that to happen.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    John,

    Think about it this way. What was going on in those places and times when heaven and earth were joined? What happened at the tabernacle and the Temple? What happened when someone met and Jesus and realized who he actually is? What happens when heaven and earth are finally joined at the end of time?

    These are all times and places of worship. For example,

    (Rev 22:3 ESV) 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

    The temple and priesthood imagery of Gen 1-2 also speak to worship in the Garden — as does the fact that time is racing toward an age when God lives on the earth joined with heaven and he is continuously worshiped by his people — in a restored Eden —

    (Rev 22:1-2 ESV) Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    And then there’s Hebrews, where we’re told that the true Holy of Holies is in heaven, where Jesus has offered his blood as a sacrifice for sins once for all. If heaven is a place of constant God worship, as pictured in Revelation, and if the center of worship — the Holy of Holies — is now in heaven, in the New Jerusalem, then anyone drawn into heaven will find himself in a place of worship. Merge heaven and earth and bring God to dwell among his people, and then the place of worship moves to wherever God is.

    So the parallels all argue strongly for worship to coincide with the joining of heaven and earth.

    Of course, we are individually “new creations” in Jesus, temples of the Spirit, joined together to be, as a church, The Temple, where worship takes place but also where the Spirit dwells. The church is a place where God and man are joined, heaven and earth meet — meaning the church, as temple, is a place of worship. What other conclusion might we draw from the church being a temple?

  3. John says:

    “worship is anything that helps that to happen”

    I guess my point is this: God establishes the parameters not man. We approach Him in a holiness NOT OUR OWN. A post modern world decrees that “sin” (Biblically defined) in no longer sin, and God will basically accept what ever we choose to give him. God should have accepted Cain’s offering in this view. If God was not so “narrow” Abel would not have died. The “deeds of the flesh” are no longer a barrier to fellowship — with a church [temple of God] (or many churches). Is there any longer a clarion call to Biblical morality — or even a discussion of the basis of morality. The antinomians begin to reign. I do not suggest Phinehas sharpen his spear, but surely the call to morality in the life if the believer is sadly lacking.

    I eagerly anticipate the new heavens and earth — the Eden restoration. Lord, come quickly.

  4. John, the major difference, the only difference the NT names, between Cain & Able’s offerings was the spirit and attitude with which they offered. Nowhere does Scripture say God directed them to offer a blood sacrifice. It does say that Able offered in faith – and please do not drag out ROMANS 10:17 and 14:23 to “prove” that God MUST have told them what to offer because faith comes from hearing the word of God, and whatever is not of faith is sin.

    Contextually, Romans 10:17 is not speaking of specific instructions from God about what to do, but of coming to know the Lord that we might call upon him – and in Romans 14:23, “faith” is used as a contrast to doing something while doubting. There ‘faith’ is virtuously synonymous with ‘confidence.’

    Those two passages simply will not carry the weight we place on them as we try to establish a principle that everything we do must be in response to a direct command of God.

    Cain’s actions show his evil heart. Hebrews 11 names Able as the first in a line of heroes of faith. The difference in their hearts is what separated Cain and Able, not the fact that the farmer offered fruit of the soil and the shepherd offered fruit of the flock. After all didn’t Paul say that our gifts are acceptable according to what we have, and not according to what we don’t have?

  5. John says:

    Gen 4:5-8 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
    NASB

    My point with regard to Cain was God had told them (sometime) what to do. Blood sacrifice comes well before to codification of Sinai. Cain chose not comply. God said If you “do well” your face will be “lifted up”, If not, sin is crouching at the door — you must master it. Yes, it was a lack of faith on Cain’s part that led to “improper action” (not doing well).

    There is a principle seen here that “DOING WELL” leading to FEELING WELL. I make no argument from Romans in this. The modern /post modern world largely chooses to approach God in their own terms, not His. That is my point.

  6. Dwight says:

    John, Cain offered the yield of the soil and Able the yield of his flock. Was this the issue, even though God commanded both grain and animal sacrifice later, even though animal sacrifice was the most costly and most requested by God.
    God told Cain, ““If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
    It is strange God didn’t say, “You are offering the wrong thing to me. I want meat.”

    “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.”
    “in the process of time” not “by the command of the Lord”. They gave of what they had as they had it, but only one of them did it the right way or in the right spirit or by faith. If God did want just animal or the sacrifices prepared a certain way, we are not privy to it, but we are of Cain’s heart.

  7. John says:

    It was Cain’s heart that led him not to “do well” whether grain or meat offered. True worship always begins in the heart, of course. The principle seen from Noah (he offered animal sacrifice before the covenant — from where did that understanding come) thru Abram thru Moses thru Christ is “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” Heb 9:22. Somewhere along the time line God had made His desire known.

    But my primary point is that God has pointed the path to fellowship with him. We do not make the rules / regulations / means / decisions. HE has provided the means to the Holy Place. Amos asked, With what shall I come to God? — my firstborn in sacrifice? No. But love mercy, do justice, walk humbly. It is the reliance on the flesh / rules / regulations that causes Jesus to find fault with the Pharisees —

    Matt 23:23
    Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. NASB

  8. Dwight says:

    Of course it is always possible that that the path was there, before we destroyed it. Adam and Eve talked straight to God. Cain and Able also talked straight to God. Sacrifice might have been a natural progression of man towards God and if accepted, then done again. Abraham sacrificed to God. If Abraham would have sacrificed to another god, then God would not have accepted the sacrifice. God’s desire was for worship, but at least there is no record of God commanding what type in the beginning, but later on as a nation formed. And yet people still could pray and sing to God without being told where and when, even as they followed commands in regards to sacrifice and the Temple. But it is true, we must know God and seek God’s desire and yet God desires is for us to worship Him and only Him with all our heart and soul and mind in full obedience in spirit and in truth. Beyond that God has given us NT saints much freedom and liberty in doing this.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I assume that as you communicate about heaven and earth being assembled upon earth, the earth will which is new will be made of totally difference substance than this earth. The new earth will be like God’s realm, he is a spirit not confined by time or space, which is totally opposite of the physical which we are, before being made alive as a spirit. When we are separated from this physical body we will have the same qualities as God just not the same powers. God has given us some clue about the superiority of his world above where we now live but no man can comprehend what the spirit world is like except through faith as we read about God, his world containing Angels and servants where time is meaningless, distance doesn’t exist, lack of knowledge is non-existent. We are told we will be like him, not that he will become as one of us. I find no reason to believe that we will all be living in our own apartments or rooms in heaven, separated by walls or any other substance from each other. We will have no need to separate from any one else for the purpose of dealing with the routine body functions that we now are required to perform. Of course, there will be no marrying, there will be no reproduction, there will be no sleeping, no death, no doctors, no lawyers, no cooks, no pilots, no farmers, no shepherds, teachers, preachers, policemen, firemen. No mechanical devices, no computers, no money, no heat or cold, temperature will be irrelevant, no darkness, no maps, and on and on. How can we comprehend the lack of need of these objects and services? I also cannot imagine that all the spirits or beings if that is how we will be known will be the same age and contain the same knowledge, babies who died at birth will be fully like those who lived a full life. No individual will be honored above others because they worked harder, preached more sermons, brought more to Christ than so and so. How do we know, the Parable of the Labor’s.

    I also would be very interested as to what or where exactly in scriptures has led you to this statement.
    “The church is a place where God and man are joined, heaven and earth meet — meaning the church, as temple, is a place of worship.”
    The concept that I see within this statement is that the church is something different than Christians. Each individual Christian is a Temple and a place of worship. Church is nothing more than an assembly of Christian Temples. Each individual Christian is fully empowered to all worship. There is nothing that is performed within an assembly that is greater or higher worship than any individual is capable to perform. We can easily see how in the OT there was a definite place with specific duties to be performed by designated individuals, and all God’s people were commanded to attend, but there was no hierarchy placed into structure in Christs instructions for his followers. To call what is done as Christians assemble together (worship) is to distort the concept from being performed in our individual lives to a designated place and time, that was never displayed in NT. But, someone will bring attention to The Lords Supper, calling that a worship. But, that was not instituted to be a worship to God or Christ, it was instituted for a memory exercise for Christians. Church is only on a pedestal because Christians are the nucleolus. Most of our world including non-Christians hold a greater value upon the idea or organization church than they do upon mankind being followers of Christ called Christians.

    I believe that humanism is blinding many so as to not be able to have a vision into the future.

  10. Monty says:

    Hebrews says Abel offered a “better” sacrifice. The scripture plays up the difference in the sacrifices. There was something in the offering of the sacrifice from Cain that God didn’t approve. God didn’t say you are wicked, that’s why I rejected your sacrifice. He told Cain, “If you do what is right,will you not be accepted?” Now that certainly has a double meaning. Living wrong plus the wrong sacrifice won’t get you anywhere with God, neither will living wrong and offering a pleasing sacrifice, and neither will disobeying a direct command (if because of being jealous of a brother) as it shows a condition of the heart. In other words, if Cain had offered a lamb it appears to me his sacrifice would have been equally accepted.

    Lest we believe God is capricious, then God had said explicitly what he required. Cain chose instead( it would seem) because he was a farmer to offer up the fruit of the land. Pride. An animal sacrifice would have meant that Cain would have to go to his brother to get a sacrifice. Nothing to brag about. I believe Cain’s jealousy towards his brother shows this. Cain was already jealous of Abel and the fact that he (because he didn’t have one) had to go to Abel and get his sacrifice from his brother would exacerbate his jealousy. Don’t we all want God to brag on our individual efforts? 1John says that Cain hated his brother because his actions were righteous while Cain’s were evil.

    God told Cain that sin was crouching at the door and that he must rule over it. There was still hope for Cain at this point. Rule over your jealousy IMO. God is stepping in and trying to preempt a murder. I believe God was referring to his animosity toward his brother. The very next sentence says that Cain lured Abel out into the field and murdered him. So much for heeding God’s correction. Was the sacrifice the only thing wrong with Cain? Obviously not. But it was still wrong. And it became the bone of contention between the two brothers, escalating to Abel’s murder. And the worship wars continue.

  11. Monty, would Cain’s offering of a lamb have been accepted if his heart was just as he demonstrates it to be in the rest of Genesis 4 and as New Testament references to him declare it to have been?

  12. Dwight says:

    Jerry, I think your point is a good one. Considering that God commanded both grain and animal sacrifice later it is hard to imagine that God disapproved of grain sacrifice. If Abel offered a sacrifice to God by faith, then that would be a “better” sacrifice, as opposed to the wrong faith or no faith. Unfortunately we don’t have a command by God, but we do have “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.”
    The pivot point of acceptance was most likely faith and heart.

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