Have you ever seen a church divided over an issue? I think we can all agree that division and disunity is destructive to the life of any church. When I think about church division, my mind goes to the subject of worship. Why? Because there are few others issues that can incite such red-hot emotions as the issue of worship. This is nothing new. A quick survey of the Bible indicates this.
In Genesis chapter 4, we see the culmination of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3; the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Have you ever noticed that the issue over which Cain killed Abel was worship? Cain and Abel both worshiped God in different ways. Abel was accepted while Cain was rejected. Rather than repent and change, Cain kills his brother in a jealous rage.
In 2 Samuel chapter 6, we see another worship war between David the king of Israel and his wife, Michal. The ark of the covenant is being brought back to Jerusalem to its rightful place in the tabernacle of God. It had been stolen by the Philistines several years before and although Israel had retrieved it, it had not been taken back to the tabernacle till now. This was a great day. God’s manifest presence is coming to the capital city of Israel. David, the king, is overjoyed and is offering sacrifices and dancing before God as the ark enters the city. His wife looks out a window and despises David for being so undignified. She then proceeds to criticize David for his act of worship. As a result, God curses Michal with barrenness for the rest of her life.
In Ezra chapter 3 we see the dedication of the new temple. The Israelites have returned from Babylonian captivity and rebuilt the temple. The new temple is not nearly as magnificent as the first temple. At the dedication of this new, smaller, less-extravagant temple; the music is played and the young people rejoice because they finally have a temple to worship in, while the older men who remembered the first temple before it was destroyed 70 years prior are weeping because this new temple isn’t as grand as the first one. While this isn’t a war necessarily, it does show how God’s people can be divided over worship.
Jesus encountered the war concerning worship when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar in John chapter 4. “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:19-20). The Samaritans were a people of mixed race and mixed religion. After the northern kingdom of Israel was captured by the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Israelites from that area intermarried with Gentiles from the region. They also mingled elements of the worship of God with pagan worship. The result was the people called the Samaritans. They had been taught to worship on Mt. Gerizim, where Israel had received blessing from God (Deut. 11:29). The Jews were right to worship in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans were not worshiping according to the Scripture. Jesus points this out when he says, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” Jesus goes on to point out that the true worshiper must worship in “spirit and truth” meaning that true worship must be with the whole heart (spirit) and based on the Bible (truth).
Why all the division about worship? It’s really simple: Satan hates worship. He hated it in Isaiah 14 where we see his rebellion against God. Satan loves to turn worship of God into war between believers. Why? Because worship brings the body to Christ together as one and focuses us on Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Jesus prayer to the Father for the church in John 17 was that we be one: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
Worship is varied and diverse and not everyone worships the same. Jesus said that two things were necessary for worship. It must be in spirit – that is, from the heart; and it must be in truth – it must be biblical Don’t be a tool in Satan’s grip. Love God, love your brother, and don’t divide over that which ought to unite us – the worship of God.