In this sermon, David Capoccia teaches on God’s design for the church as revealed by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:7-16. Specifically, David Capoccia explains why all believers should obey the call of Christ to use their gifts to minister to His church:
1. Christ conquered to give believers their gifts
2. Christ gave teachers to train believers in their gifts
3. Christ designed believers’ gifts to help the church reach maturity
Let’s go to the Lord in a word of prayer as we begin our time today. Father, we come to church to worship You and as we sang that we want to know You more, we look forward to the day when we get to Heaven and we have all eternity to get to know You more. As we open Your Word this morning, help us to comprehend it and be attentive to the things You have for us. I pray that You would change our lives so that they would be more pleasing to You. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
Well as a church we have been going through a series on the purpose of the church for the last few weeks. Today since it is my turn to open the Bible with you and being that I am up here most weeks leading you in worship, we thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about worship. Every week as a congregation, we sing four or five praise songs so that we worship God. Let me ask you, have you ever considered whether God accepts your worship? Here is the thing, when you look at the Bible you see that it is littered with examples of God rejecting worship. It is sobering to realize that.
A few examples include Cain in Genesis 4, and Israel in Isaiah 1:13, where God says:
Bring your worthless offerings no longer.
In Jeremiah 6:20 it says:
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.
In Malachi 1:10 it says:
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you.
Amos 5:21, 23 says:
I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from Me the noise of your songs.
This is a consistent theme throughout Scripture and Biblical history that people have been getting this worship thing wrong. It turns out that it is actually pretty hard to get it right. No one thinks as they are worshipping that they are getting it wrong; no one sets out to offer unacceptable worship before God. Everybody thinks they are doing the right thing and today it is the same thing. Modern Christians in America seem to completely take for granted that God will accept whatever is thrown up at Him. It is true that because of the cross, some things about worship have changed. But it doesn’t meant that God’s standards for worship are lower.
In fact, I think God’s standards for us in worship are higher because we have more information and less excuses. Now this morning I want to turn the mirror on ourselves and I want us to think about what makes us so sure that our worship is acceptable before God.
To begin to answer this question, we need to start with a Biblical understanding of worship. In the Bible, there are few words actually that are even used to describe worship. Most of these words mean to fall down before, or bow down. One word means to kiss towards. All of these words are painting this picture of you appearing in the throne room of a king and the first thing you have to do is bow towards the king and kiss his ring. This shows loyalty to the king, and if you don’t do this it’s an immediate death sentence.
That’s a pretty Biblical image of worship to have in our minds. Falling down before something declares that that thing is more worthy than you. Therefore, you will give it your admiration, honor, and respect. The word worship comes from the worthship. That talks about ascribing worth to something, and declaring worth for it. Honor and respect is given to something of supreme with in worship.
It’s possible then, when looking at this definition of worship, to worship things other than God. What’s one thing people worship other than God? Self, money, prestige. That looks like all of your thoughts, deeds, and service goes toward the acquisition of more wealth. For other people it could be a political cause, and it could even be your kids that you put in a place of worth above God.
When we worship something other than God, the Bible calls that idolatry. It is possible to be idolator without ever seeing or touching a carved image. Let me show you this in Colossians 3:5, which says:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
In this case the idol in question that Paul is addressing is sex or sensuality. Paul is talking to believers in this passage. It is possible for believers to be engaged in idolatry as well as nonbelievers. The way you do that is by putting something in your life in that place of worth above God. When we talk about worship, it is really important for us to understand that worship encompasses your whole life. It is the way you think, speak, spend your time, what you pursue and value. You are always assigning worth to something.
When we talk about worship, we are not talking about what we do for 20 minutes on Sunday mornings. What we do for those 20 minutes better be an overflow of the worship that’s already going on in your life. That 20 minutes should be an overflow of the 10,060 minutes that you have in the week. Musical worship is just the tip of the iceberg that you can see, where as the rest of the iceberg below is a mountain of worship propping that up. If not, then this here doesn’t mean anything. It’s just empty words.
Here’s an analogy. Imagine that your husband or wife ignores you for seven days a week, and does not acknowledge your wants, needs, or acknowledging your presence, and even runs around with other people behind your back. But for ten minutes a week when all of your family is over and he or she wants to look good in front of them, your spouse comes to you and tells you that they love you. Would you appreciate that? No! That would be offensive to you; what are they doing for you the rest of the week?
How would you expect God to accept your worship if the other 98% of the week you are prayer-less, don’t care about the Bible, entertaining idolatry in your heart, not loving or serving the people we are called to, we’re not concerned with God’s Kingdom and we don’t restrain our fleshly impulses. If we do that for 10,060 minutes a week, then when we come and worship for 20 minutes a week, it just doesn’t make sense.
We sing about wanting to know Jesus and God’s probably up there saying that we could have used 10,000 minutes getting to know Him. So why don’t we stop singing that song and just go get to know Him? We have to be careful. Acceptable worship must be whole life worship. You may think that that might be all God requires. It is a pretty big requirement, but it’s not all for your worship to be acceptable.
You can say that you are not one of these people, because you serve God throughout the week, you pray, and you share the gospel, etc. But guess what, that alone is still not enough to be acceptable worship. If we just left there, you might think that all that matters is a lack of hypocrisy. Yet there are a lot of sincere people within the Bible and today whose worship God rejects. That’s not all God is looking for. Let’s meet one of those people right now in John 4. Pretty much any discussion of worship should start with this passage. This is what Pastor was quoting while He was praying in the pastoral prayer. This is what Jesus was saying about true worship.
In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well. Samaritans are a mixed race people, part Jew and part Gentile. That means that they are between two worlds. To those Jews, they were Gentiles and to the Gentiles, they were Jews. They had no where to go and were rejected by both sides.
Historians tell us that there was a lot of bad blood between the Samaritans and the Jews, so severe that it often descended into real violence. The historian Josephus actually records that the fighting because so severe at one point that Roman soldiers had to go in to stop the fighting. The way they stopped the fighting is by beginning to crucify the leaders on both sides. Because of this bad blood, the Samaritans were not welcome to worship with the Jews on the temple mountain. So they set up their own worship mountain on Gerizim.
Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and makes quite an impression on her because He reveals that He knows things about her that no one else knows. He knows the secret sins of her heart and the woman is convinced that Jesus has a special connection to God. She doesn’t know yet that He is the Son of God, but she does ask Him one question. If you had one question to ask Jesus, what would you ask?
On the spot, I don’t think I would come up with anything that deep. I think I would probably come up with a hundred things to ask him ten minutes too late. Maybe I would waste my question on something like, “Lord would you say that cereal is a type of soup?” That’s something I was thinking about this week.
But this woman is clearly quicker on her feet than I am. She asks the one question that has been on her mind since she was a child. To her credit, the reason she picked this question is because she is sincere in wanting to worship God the right way. This is her question in John 4:19-20:
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
The question is, “Lord, where is the acceptable place to worship You? The mountain of the Jews or the mountain of the Samaritans? I want to make sure I get this right.” Jesus answers her in John 4:21-:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
Jesus doesn’t dodge her question. He tells her that she got it wrong because salvation is from the Jews. The right location at that time to worship God was in Jerusalem. That’s what God had prescribed at the time in history. People had to go to the temple multiple times a year because God said so. He’s the One being worshipped so He makes the rules. But look what it says in John 4:23:
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
Jesus is saying that something is coming that is going to change everything and He is talking about the cross. The barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles will be shared and the location where true worship can take place is decentralized from Jerusalem to now any place in the world. The cross is what changed that.
I want you to notice something subtle in the text. Jesus calls the worshipers true. Think about what that means, that just as there was true and false worship in that time, there is also going to be true and false worship in this time. The distinguishing characteristic for true worshipers is that they will worship in spirit and in truth. This wasn’t happening in either Jerusalem or Samaria.
The Israelites worshipped what they knew, they worshipped in truth; but not in spirit. Multiple times Jesus calls them out for their hypocrisy and their desire to be seen before men. But on the other side are the Samaritans, who are compassionate, emotional, and sincere. But they didn’t have the truth. Jesus says that God is seeking worshippers who are worshipping in both spirit and in truth.
God’s expectations weren’t lowered because of the cross, they were raised. You and I must get right what the Jews and Samaritans got wrong; we need to worship in spirit and in truth. For the rest of our sermon, we’re going to unpack what that means a little bit more. Let’s take on truth first and then we’ll talk about spirit.
To worship in truth means to worship God with accurate doctrine. Imagine your friend comes up to you and says that the other day he ran into Pastor Babij in the supermarket and had this awesome conversation. You tell him that is great, and he identifies him as a short bald Chinese guy. You are taken aback because that is clearly not your pastor. By the way, I’m pretty sure Pastor Babij hasn’t gone to the supermarket for thirty years, so that would have been your first clue.
But your friend might then go on excitedly about the conversation he had with your pastor, but by then you’ve tuned him out because that’s not the pastor you know. He was talking about someone else. In the same way, we must get our facts straight about God. Being excited about God when you have the wrong facts about Him is just empty emotionalism. It’s not acceptable worship. The fact is that you are not worshipping God, but instead a god of your own imagination. If you look around you, we see that so much of worship culture in our day is this kind of worship. This is the god of popular Christian media: soft, fuzzy, nonjudgmental, positive, encouraging, basically a life-coach in the sky. It doesn’t matter what your doctrine is because “God is here to help you live a better life.”
In that kind of worship, where is the mention of sin, holiness, wrath, judgment, hell, or repentance? You would be far pressed to hear any of that. If you take all of those things away from God, then you worship a different god and have a different gospel. If you are to worship God, you must know who He is as He is revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture. He is the Triune God, self-sufficient, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, holy, just, righteous, and whose justice requires that He meets sin with eternal punishment for each and every one of us who is a sinner. We’re all guilty of sin.
But this is the same God who sent His Son Jesus to come to earth, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man. His Son who lived a righteous life, died on the cross, and paid the penalty that God requires of us. Only because of His death is it possible for us who believe in Jesus to worship God. He broke down that barrier that sin had erected between man and God. Whoever believes in this Jesus, He becomes Jesus’ disciple, friend and brother, and will inherit eternal life.
If you don’t agree with any element of that, the Trinity, the eternality of God, the sovereignty of God, the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement, and the propitiation of sin, then you are not worshipping the God of the Bible no matter how much energy you are singing with. It doesn’t matter how much passion you have, you are just worshiping a God of your own imagination. Doctrine matters. The philosophers of our age are telling us that truth is fluid and relative, and it depends on your background and experiences. Everyone can have the same truth, and the church to a large degree has bought into a large part of that.
Truth has become a bad word. It’s rare today to see a church take a strong stance on creation, eschatology, reformed theology, or even the depravity of man and the perseverance of the saints. It would be unusual to walk into a church and happen upon a sermon on the trinity, or the holiness of God. In fact, in many churches it is frowned upon to bring up doctrine because it is divisive. I’ve been personally told when I was at a sound church, that talking about these doctrines get in the way of loving Jesus because that’s all we want to do, right? But my question would be, which Jesus are you loving?
There’s an amazing verse in Hosea 6:6, which says:
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
The knowledge of God is what delights God. You knowing about Him delights Him. That’s worship! You can’t acceptably worship without truth. Truth is the engine that drives your worship, and the more truth you know the richer your worship will be. This is how John MacArthur puts it:
“The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the deeper your understanding of God Himself, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more full your grasp of Biblical truth and the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. A low, superficial and shallow understanding of God leads to shallow, content-less hysteria. You can create that kind of frenzy but it has nothing to do with worship. It’s sheer hysteria in a mindless expression.”
Do you see how good intentions are not enough. You must worship God with accurate doctrine. There’s a second thing that it means to worship God in truth. You must worship using His prescribed methods. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the pages of Scripture are filled with corpses of people who presented God with an unprescribed method of worship. To see this, let’s look first at Leviticus 9, where there is a worship service going on. Leviticus 9:22-24 says:
Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.
Wow that’s incredible. How would you like to be in a worship service like this? The glory of God is visible, fire coming out from Heaven and people shouting and falling on their faces in worship. It’s joyful, emotional, and heartfelt. Things are going great in this worship service. Now let’s turn to Leviticus 10:1-2 and look at what happens next:
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.
Wow talk about a buzzkill right? The worship service was going great and these sons of Aaron just wanted to worship without meaning to offend God. In their zeal to worship, they did something that God did not prescribe. Their father is the high priest of Israel! But it doesn’t matter who your father is, it matters who your God is. We see this pattern again in 2 Samuel 6 during another time of celebration featuring King David. David is being obedient to the Lord and God just gave him a great victory when they got the Ark of the Covenant back from the Philistines. Let’s pick up in 2 Samuel 6:3-5:
They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.
Just stop there for a second. Imagine the level of this celebration with all the instruments. There is great, transcendent music that is fit for a king! They even put the ark on a new cart because of their love and respect for God. But look now at 2 Samuel 6:3-5:
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.
Here they are walking along a road and they come across a bump which makes the ark start to slide off the cart. Uzzah in his respect and love for God reaches out to the ark because he doesn’t want the ark to fall on the floor. He reaches out to stop it from falling. Except that God had said previously that you could never touch the ark. Shouldn’t this be a special circumstance? No.
Understand that it was King David that created this situation. God had commanded that it be transported by people on sticks and rods. David thought it would be more convenient if this just put it on an ark and let oxen carry it. What did David learn from this? Look down in 2 Samuel 6:9:
So David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”
Let me now ask you, when you worship God, how much fear are you experiencing? A lack of fear of the Lord is a problem in a lot of worship today. Because we have no fear of God, our generation has made worship about the people, about man and his experiences. It’s about feeling a sense of emotional catharsis. But if we feared God, what people would understand is that worship is not about us or about our preferences, or our catharsis or convenience. It’s not even about what kind of music we like. A fear of God understands that worship is for God. It’s not for you. Because it’s for God, it must be done God’s way.
Let’s look at this. What are the ways that God has prescribed for acceptable worship? Hebrews 10:25 tells us:
Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
1 Timothy 4:13 tells us:
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
The Bible is to be explained and preached, like where it says in 2 Timothy 4:2. We confess our sins, like in Joshua 7:19. In Colossians 3:16, songs, hymns, and spiritual songs are sung. Matthew 21:13 says that the church is to be a house of prayer. And Philippians 4:18 says that individuals are to be giving from their finances. And 1 Corinthians 11 tells us we need to partake in the Lord’s Supper.
Those are the things that God has prescribed for us. If you are a Christian, you are not free to say that you don’t like organized religion, church, or waking up on Sundays. You can’t say that your time of worship is doing your own reading, and listening to the radio and call it a day. You’re not free to do that. It doesn’t matter whether it is convenient or not or if you enjoy it. It’s because God commanded you to do it a certain way.
We don’t get to add things to worship either. We’re not free to incorporate things like prayer beads or bow down to statues of the saints. One big thing in the Church today is called Holy Yoga, where you do yoga set to Christian music and that’s somehow worship to the Lord. Your preference, convenience, and innovation is all irrelevant. Worship is for God, not for you. We worship God on His terms, not ours. To worship God in truth, is to worship Him with accurate doctrine and prescribed methods.
Now let’s look at how to worship God in spirit. This is the second thing that Jesus told the Samaritan woman. To worship in spirit is to worship God with the right attitude. It can’t be a hypocritical attitude, you have to be conscious of your life before God. I want to look at Romans 12 with you, which will help drive home the point. Romans 12:1 says:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
This is what true worship is. In the Old Testament, you would have to bring animals to the altar to be sacrificed. The cross changed everything and the only thing we are to bring now is ourselves as a sacrifice. Back in the Old Testament days, you were to bring an unblemished, pure, spotless animal. So what are you to bring today? You are to bring an animal that is unblemished, pure, and spotless. That’s the point that Paul is making, this is how you are to bring yourself before God. We are to be constantly cleansing ourselves from the impurities and sin of the world.
Any kind of sexual immorality, idolatry, angry and unforgiving hearts, or envy are the things that ought to be out of your life by the time you come to worship God. In this verse, who is doing the work? You are! It’s your spiritual service of worship. Before you do that, you cannot come and worship God in spirit.
A long time ago there was a popular praise song that was called, “Come As You Are to Worship.” It’s not a bad song, but it’s a little bit inaccurate in that we are actually to be coming to God transformed to worship. When you are saved, you of course come as you are; there’s no requirement to salvation. But you better not stay as you are. If you are saved, you will be transforming and changing and becoming sanctified. Look at Romans 12:2 which says:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
That’s a pretty high standard. You must continually be fighting to renew your minds and make it agree with what the Word of God says. God is not going to change His opinion; we have to change our opinion so that it agrees with His revealed will. The work that you must do is bring your mind in conformity to God’s revealed Word.
A similar idea is expressed in Psalm 24:3-6:
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob.
Finally after you’ve understood the truth of God’s Word, you’ve checked that your methods of worship are according to those that God has prescribed, and you’ve checked that you’re not being hypocritical and you’ve purified yourself for worship by the renewing of your mind, now you are ready to engage your emotions. God does definitely want you to engage your emotions in worship. The very fact that He wants us to use instruments to praise Him, means that He wants us to feel emotion. Music has that kind of power to stir our hearts. Emotion is the proper response to the truth of what God is and has done. If you’re not emotional when you are praising God, it means one of three things.
One is that I may not have done a good job of picking out songs with good theological content. Or may you don’t properly understand the truth of what the song is talking about, because you don’t yet have the depth of knowledge to appreciate it. Or it means that you have checked out mentally and are just going through the motions.
True worship will engage your emotions. The first one you ought to have is fear, reverence and awe. If you look at the Bible when people encounter God or a vision of God. Fear and brokenness are the only emotions they have. Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, the Apostle Peter, and all the disciples react this way when confronted with God’s holiness. That’s the only proper response. Isaiah proclaimed in Isaiah 6:5:
Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.”
It’s not like it’s a fear of rejection. It’s the kind of fear that you would have if someone stuck you in the same room as a friendly lion. You respect the power of the lion because you know that at any moment that lion can turn from a friendly lion into a savage one. C.S. Lewis said that the paws of a lion have two modes. They can be furry and caress, or the claws can come out to stab.
In the same way when you come to worship God, remember that you are coming before the God of all-consuming fire, that is the holiness of God. What is more, you are presenting Him a sacrifice of yourself. I find that pretty scary to be honest. But not only fear and brokenness are what we feel, but also joy. The Biblical examples are too numerous to really go into. But I’ll just give you an overall breakdown.
When John the Baptist heard about Jesus when he was in the womb, he leapt for joy. That’s the amount of joy that Jesus filled him with, as a fetus! Philippians 4:4 is a clear Biblical command, it says:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Psalm 97:1 says:
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.
Psalm 84:2 says:
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
1 Peter 1:8 says:
You greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
There are many more examples. Scripture is just so clear that joy is a proper response. You have to understand the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the price that Jesus paid for you when He brought you out of the darkness and into the light and set the captives free. O death where is your sting, and grave where is your victory, right? That’s what you’re celebrating, Christ has won the victory for you. Here’s the awesome thing, if you come to God having believed in Jesus and present acceptable worship, the Bible says that God will accept your worship. What’s more than that, God will make the worship enjoyable for you.
We are the ones at the end of the day who benefit from worship. Does God need our worship? No. He doesn’t need anything. Worship is directed at God and for God, but the benefit accrues to us. True worship is enjoying God. When we worship the acceptable way, this is how we come the closest we can on this earth to experiencing the joy of Heaven. Just to close, I want to take you to one last place in Scripture to show you what this is all leading towards. The worship we do at Calvary is just rehearsal for the worship we’ll be doing in Heaven, like what it says in Revelation. Revelation 19:1-6 says:
After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.”
You know who that is, who was the sound of the mighty peals of thunder and the many waters? That was the saints! You and me! On that day, that will be our voices saying in response, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” That’s what we are rehearsing for and I can’t wait to be there.
Let’s pray. Father, we so clearly see in Your Scripture that You don’t take worship lightly. You are serious about how Your people worship You. Help us to evaluate for ourselves and our church whether we are worshipping in Spirit and Truth because that is the only kind of worship You accept. Forgive us Lord if in the past we have offered up anything that is unworthy. Help us now to be careful to worship You with acceptable doctrine, methods, attitude, and with the proper emotions. Help us once again to do so now. In Christ’s Name, Amen.