part of the what is truth? series

Where we worship God has often been debated through the years. Some hold to the idea that worship must occur in a cathedral — an often ornate structure dedicated to the worship of God. Others don’t take much stock in the structure at all, whether an official worship building or someone’s house.

Yet another dimension to this question gets layered on with the advancement of technology. “Virtual worship” is now possible and even quite prevalent for all sorts of reasons. Technically speaking, this medium would eliminate the need for any cathedral, building, or house.

Does where we worship God matter at all? Are we permitted to worship God anywhere? What does Scripture show us?

“You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.”

Theodore RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt

how Scripture answers "Does it matter where we worship God?"

The Bible says much about God’s preferences on how He is worshiped, not the least is where God is to be worshiped. It is a central factor in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Covenant3,4,5,6,7. So much so, that even when the nation was divided, some people still honored God’s desire to be worshipped His way and in His place7.

God had designated the tabernacle3 and later the temple7 as specific and required places of worship. They were marked by His very presence3,4,5. The people clearly understood this in Moses’ time3, David’s time6, and on through to the divided kingdom7 and into Jesus’ day in the first century1.

As Jesus ushers in a new covenant in the pages of the New Testament, He points to a time where worship location will change1, but God’s presence will still mark the location – wherever two or more are gathered2. Or, as Paul states, coming together in the same place8.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

A time will come when true worshipers will worship in “spirit and truth.” God seeks these worshipers and it is how they “must” worship Him since He is spirit.

Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria. It’s a time when Jews considered Jerusalem the center of worship (still under the Mosaic covenant). Conversely, the Samaritans had developed their own center of worship – an offshoot of the traditions passed down from their Jewish heritage. Worship location is very much the context in which Jesus is speaking. Immediately preceding he says, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (vs 21)

How does it inform?

Jesus’ statement is very close to several aspects of this question. Based on the context, the implication is that “spirit and truth” worship relates to (indeed, contrasts with) geographic “religious centers” of the day. How exactly will this happen? And by “spirit” is he referring to man’s spirit or God’s Spirit (Holy Spirit)? We can’t be sure with this passage alone, but nevertheless He directs that this is how worship must occur.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

2

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Where more than one is gathered in Jesus’ name, He is there with them.

Jesus speaking to the disciples about how the church would correct one in error.

How does it inform?

There is a time for purposeful, corporate worship (“gathered in Jesus’ name”) and in that time Jesus (aka God, Holy Spirit) are in their presence.

Does it apply? Yes

3
You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.
You will not worship God in that way.  Instead, God will choose a place for you to worship Him – a place where He will also be. There you will bring their offerings, sacrifices, tithes, etc.

Moses giving instruction to the people before entering the Promised Land. He tells them they will not worship God in the way that the surrounding nations worship (e.g. idols), but rather in a place and way appointed by God.

How does it inform?

God laid out specific instructions for where to worship Him under the Mosaic law. First, in the tabernacle which was at the center of camp during their wandering. Later, in the temple in Jerusalem constructed by Solomon.

Does it apply? Yes

4

And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Moses finished constructing the tabernacle at which point God Himself entered.

The instructions from God for and the actual construction of the tabernacle. This was the temporary “tent of meeting” used while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness.

How does it inform?

God dwelt among them by filling the Holy of Holies – that portion of the tabernacle that housed the Ark of the Covenant.

Does it apply? Yes

5

so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

The priests could not perform their duties due to the intense glory of God’s presence filling the temple.

Solomon has constructed the temple in Jerusalem and just offered the prayer of dedication.

How does it inform?

Just as with the tabernacle, God fills/dwells in their house of worship.

Does it apply? Yes

6

Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!

The people go to God’s dwelling to worship Him; synonymous with going to the footstool of His throne.

A song of ascent sung by the people when going up to Jerusalem to worship.

How does it inform?

The people went somewhere to worship to be in the presence of God.

Does it apply? Yes

7

Those among all the Israelite tribes who were determined to worship the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their ancestors.

Certain individuals were determined to worship God in the place (and way) God had authorized.

Just after the dividing of the kingdom, Jeroboam (king of the north) implemented his own system and cities of worship so that he might keep his people from going to Jerusalem (part of the southern kingdom) to worship.

How does it inform?

Some people were determined to worship God in spite of being in a different country (requiring travel) and adverse political circumstances. A pretty remarkable commitment given their circumstances.

Does it apply? Yes

8
Now when you come together at the same place, you are not really eating the Lord’s Supper. For when it is time to eat, everyone proceeds with his own supper. One is hungry and another becomes drunk.

They were coming together to eat the Lord’s Supper, but not doing so properly – they were not waiting on each other, doing it in excess and for carnal reasons (getting drunk).

Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth gives many admonitions and instruction about their worship practice.  In this case, he’s admonishing about the divisions created in their inappropriate Lord’s Supper practices.

How does it inform?

Regarding partaking of the Lord’s Supper, they were to “come together at the same place.”

Does it apply? Yes

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If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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