I have been arguing that the basic building blocks of worship have existed ever since creation, were codified in the Mosaic system, and are actually pictures of heavenly reality. I have suggested that these building blocks follow this flow: (1) God reveals himself and initiates a relationship with his people; (2) God forms the boundaries of the relationship with his commandments; (3) the nature of worship consists in this relationship of communion between man and his Creator; (4) this worship takes place in the sanctuary of God’s presence; (5) failure to obey the commandments of God prohibits communion with him; (6) God provides atonement whereby man is once again enabled to walk in communion with him.
Taking into account this essential picture of worship as expressed in both Creation and the Mosaic system allows for a more complete recognition of the significance of Christ’s coming for the overall understanding of the nature of Christian worship. Jesus himself revealed his deep identification with the temple by the fact that he cleansed it both at the beginning (John 2:13–15) and end (Mark 11:15–19; 11:27–33; Matt 21:12–17; 21:23–27; Luke 19:45–48; 20:1–8) of his earthly ministry.1
Yet he is not so much tied to the external rituals of the temple worship (although he participates regularly in them while on earth); he is concerned with what happens at the temple because of the deeper importance of what it signifies. This is made clear by his discussion with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7–26). He indicates that although location was necessary as part of the Mosaic system (“We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews,” John 4:22), his coming removes the necessity of that system since it is only a visualization of the deeper spiritual realities of worship (“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,” John 4:23). This also allows him to emphasize the nature of communion with God and his people as one of dialogue—God speaks (“truth”), and his people respond with their spirits.
- Debate does exist as to whether John’s account of a temple-cleansing near the beginning of his Gospel is indeed a separate occurrence than the one recorded in the Synoptic Gospels or whether John simply moved the account earlier in his report. For a helpful survey of the arguments and defense of a double cleansing, see D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991), 177–78. [↩]