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“God is an invisible Spirit and His worship is to be spiritual. It may be asked, then, why the Old Testament ceremonial system included so many visible features. Is there an implicit contradiction here? The answer is that these visible elements of the ceremonial worship of Israel were designed not to picture God to the people, but to represent various truths which were ultimately to be fulfilled in Christ.

The centerpiece of Israel’s worship was the ark of the covenant, with two angelic beings facing inward toward an empty mercy seat. It was due to this peculiar feature of Israel’s religion that the heathen nations chided them saying, ‘Where is your God?’ How strange this must have looked to Israel’s pagan neighbors! They had gods of wood, stone and metal, but Israel’s God was an empty throne.

The truth, of course, was that Israel worshiped the One authentic God, who cannot be limited by any artist’s skill, but who is transcendent over the universe which He created, displaying His wisdom, power and holiness through His mighty acts of Providence while all of the gods of the nations are deaf, dumb, blind, lifeless, powerless statues.

The visible elements of Israel’s ceremonial system, then, were never intended to represent God, who defies any earthly representation, but only to foreshadow specific aspects of His redemptive work, which would one day be fulfilled in history by Jesus Christ. This is why, with the completion of Redemption in Christ, all of the visible imagery falls away, having served its intended purpose. The sacrifices, altars, incense, candles, trumpets, and every other physical type vanish into obscurity, giving way to the surpassing splendor of the present reality of a living Savior who is seated on the throne in glory.

What remains in New Testament worship is only the real and abiding presence of the invisible God, whose worshippers ‘see no form’ but only ‘hear His voice’ speaking to them from the Throne of Grace. This is why the worship of the New Testament Church is simple and spiritual, unencumbered by the visible shadows and symbols which, even in the day of their necessity, could only present an incomplete and partial view of the realities they depicted.

This is the essence of what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth” (Comin 50-51)

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