Worship and the Word

Bible Reading: John 4:23-24; Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-21

To say that it was not your typical worship service would be an understatement.  From a human perspective, there was little that would work to incline or motivate a person to worship.  The Sanctuary was plain to the point of austere, with no luxuries at all.  There were no song leaders or musical instruments or song books to sing from. There were only two in attendance, and they were not adorned in their Sunday best.  They were, instead, wearing the cuts and bruises indicative of a recent beating.  But there they were in the inner prison of a Philippian jail, with their feet fastened in stocks, “praying and singing hymns to God.”  It was the first and last worship service held in that place, as a great earthquake suddenly brought an end to the service and to the prison itself.  We read in the account that “the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).  No kidding!  Those prisoners had seen nothing like that before!

Worship is acknowledging God for who He is and what He does in what we say and what we do.  Acceptable worship is worship that is in Spirit and truth (John 4:24).  As Jesus made clear, God is seeking true worshipers that will worship Him that way (John 4:23).  He has saved you unto that glorious purpose, having worked through Jesus to cleanse you of your sins and make a true worshiper out of you (Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 2:9).

For our worship to be acceptable to God, it must be on His terms.  What are His terms?  “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  To worship God in an acceptable manner, one must first be born of the Spirit and then subsequently led by Him (Ephesians 5:18-20; Philippians 3:3).  Paul and Silas may have been locked up in a jail cell, but being filled with the Spirit, their hearts were perfectly free to pray and sing praises to God.  Note in Ephesians 5:18-20 that when a person is filled with the Spirit, the worship of God is the result.  That kind of Spirit-borne worship is possible wherever, whenever, and in whatever circumstances.  Indeed, we are exhorted to worship God at all times and in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31)!

Colossians 3:16-17 is clearly a parallel to Ephesians 5:18-20, with each passage speaking to a cause-and-effect relationship.  The effect is similar in both passages, but the cause differs.  Note that in Ephesians 5:18 the exhortation is to “be filled with the Spirit” whereas in Colossians 3:16 it is to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  As we see in Colossians 3:16-17, when the word of Christ richly dwells within the believer, the worship of God is the result.  It is an inside-out work of the Spirit.  Worship flows from the heart of the believer in that manner–from his heart and out his lips and life–as his heart is led by the Spirit and through the Word.  It is therefore necessary that we make use of every means that the word of Christ might richly indwell our hearts. As Charles Spurgeon once said of John Bunyan: “Prick him anywhere, and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.”

Nice facilities, song-leaders, and truth-filled songs to sing are a blessing from God.  But having the very best of those is still no substitute for the work the Spirit can do in our hearts in leading us to worship!  Peter and Silas worshiped God from a prison cell because they were filled with the Spirit and with the truth.  What was available to them is available to any of us.  Worship is more than something we do on Sundays at church. We can worship anywhere, at any time, and in any circumstances.  But for that to happen, we must depend on the Spirit and devote ourselves to the Word!

Paul and Silas worshiped God in a jail cell, “and the prisoners were listening to them!”  These are difficult days in which we live.  And so many are struggling to find their way.  People are watching. Do they see you worshiping God (1 Peter 3:15)?  If we are Spirit-led and richly indwelt by the truth, they will!  And God will be glorified in that!

When the word of Christ richly dwells within us, the worship of God is the result!

Jerry Conklin


When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will,
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss,
not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey. [Refrain]

But we never can prove
the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favor he shows,
for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey. [Refrain]

Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey. [Refrain]

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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