The words out of Christ’s mouth in John 4:22 almost seem unthinkably harsh. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews”(4:22). Jesus points to the ignorance of the Samaritan worship. What was the origin of this ignorance? They rejected the majority of the books of the Old Testament. Thus they had a very incomplete and inadequate knowledge of the One True God. For centuries they had been bowing down, for centuries they had “a form of godliness.” Yet it was all done in ignorance. Very simply the Samaritans did not worship the One True God. They worshiped a god but not the God of the Bible. They turned their backs on the revelation of God and thus they turned their backs on worship. Notice that Jesus says, “You worship what you do not know”, perhaps referring to their whole system of worship—it was wrong in all aspects.
Jesus says that “salvation is of the Jews”, they were the ones given the very oracles of God! They have the law and the writings from God and they DO know WHO they worship. It is only by the Scriptures that we can obtain the knowledge of the True God. Without knowing Him our worship is empty and in vain. Yet even though their worship was directed to the True God, they were wrong because although they drew near to God with their mouths, in their actions they denied Him.
There is no room for a “way-to-go-you’re-really-trying-hard” speech. Jesus doesn’t give them an “A” for effort. He clearly, boldly, and bluntly says that it is all wrong. There is a right worship and there is a wrong worship that much is clear. God does not simply accept any attempt so long as it “is sincere”. Right worship is determined by a correct knowledge of the Almighty God that is only available through His word.
We must bring this truth to bear on our lives today. Correct theology breeds right worship.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves how all this applies to us. It may be that of many modern worshipers it can also be said, ‘You worship you know not what.’ Certainly God has made a rich and full revelation for us in Scripture, but when we go to church on Sunday, all too often it seems that our approach to God ignores much of it. It is easy to have out minds firmly made up as to what God is like and then not listen to what God says about himself in Scripture (Morris, Leon, Reflections on the Gospel of John. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA. Reprint with permission of Baker books, 1986, p. 140).
Unfortunately the attitude regarding worship today seems to lean towards the idea of worship as consisting of isolated and occasional acts as opposed to a way of life. Armed with this philosophy of worship correct theology really becomes an after thought if it is ever thought of at all. If an act of worship is all that I am concerned with then does it really matter who God is and what He is like and what He has done? Not really. So people might go to church or participate in a “worship service” as an end in itself. It is nothing more than a way to occupy an hour or so on a Sunday morning just before the football game or the family reunion.
Worship certainly encompasses all of life and is not simply to be relegated to a part of life.