True or false: God only cares that we worship him, not how we worship him.

Answer: false.

Some Christians think that as long as we’re sincere, we can worship God however we want. But throughout the Bible God shows us that he cares deeply about how he is worshiped, not only that he is worshiped.

  • Exodus 20:2-6: The second commandment forbids not only worshiping anything other than the true God, but also worshiping God in a way he has not commanded, such as making an image.
  • Leviticus 10:1-3: Nadab and Abihu offered “strange fire” to God and he killed them. Why? For worshiping him in a way he had not prescribed.
  • 1 Samuel 15:22: God rejected Saul’s sacrifice because God had not authorized him to offer it.
  • Matthew 15:1-14: Jesus charged the Pharisees with ignoring and attacking God’s law because they added to it. He then described their actions as false, unacceptable worship.
  • John 4:20-26: In his encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus asserted that worship must be according to God’s revelation.
  • 1 Corinthians 14: Throughout the chapter, Paul regulates the expression of Holy Spirit-inspired tongues and prophecy. It’s tough to imagine a clearer example of God caring not only that he is worshiped, but how he is worshiped (see esp. 14:27-33).

(Some of this material has been adapted from Ligon Duncan’s chapter, “Does God Care How We Worship?”, in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship, ed. Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W.H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan, III [Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Co., 2003], pages 20-50)

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