God is deserving of our worship. Jesus taught that God desires that we worship Him. (John 4:23) Has God instructed us as to how we should worship Him? Or are we free to worship God in any way we choose, as long as we are sincere in what we do?
In Matthew chapter fifteen, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their vain worship. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9) The word “vain” means folly, or of no purpose. We learn from this passage that worship consisting of manmade traditions while ignoring the commandments of God is useless. Surely, God will not accept this kind of worship.
Another kind of worship mentioned in the scriptures is ignorant worship. Ignorant worship is worship offered to God without a knowledge of God’s will concerning who He is and how He is to be worshipped. (Acts 17:22-23) Those people at Mars Hill in Athens were guilty of this type of worship. This type of worship is also unacceptable to God.
The apostle Paul spoke of those who were guilty of “will worship.” “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23) While the King James Version refers to “will worship,” the English Standard Version refers to it as “self-made religion.”
Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines will worship as “worship which one devises and prescribes for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of the faith which ought to be directed to Christ.” Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines will worship as “voluntarily adopted worship, whether unbidden or forbidden.” In simple terms, we can think of will worship as “doing what we like and what we think is good, but not taught by God in the scriptures.” Examples of this type of worship can be seen in solos, choirs, and mechanical instruments of music in worship, such as pianos, organs, etc. These are things that men desire, but are not taught in the scriptures.
Jesus spoke of the need for us to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) This is the only type of worship that God accepts. To worship in spirit means that our worship is spiritual in nature, in contrast to worship that is physical in nature. Old Testament worship consisted of a physical structure (the tabernacle), special clothing for priests, lampstands in the tabernacle, burning of incense, instruments of music and animal sacrifices. Worship under the New Testament is spiritual in nature. Today, God’s temple is not physical, but is made up of Christians (I Peter 2:5), all Christians are priests offering spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5, 9), our prayers are described as sweet incense before God (Revelation 5:8) and our music consists of making melody IN THE HEART (Ephesians 5:19). Today, we worship in truth, meaning the real, or substance, of which those things in the Old Testament were merely a foreshadowing, or figure, of things to come. (Hebrews 10:1) When we worship in spirit and in truth, we worship according to the teachings of the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3:11).
It does make a difference how we worship!