Does It Matter Where You Worship?
Does the physical location where congregations of the elect assemble to worship God the Father have any positive or negative impact on one's relationship with him or his Son? Does it displease the Father for his children to assemble to worship him in places dedicated to false religious systems or to other gods?
In order to come to an understanding of the Father's will about where one should and should not assemble to worship him, one must under- stand the instructions that the Creator God gave to the nation of Israel concerning how to deal with false religions and the places where false gods were worshiped.
A COMMAND AND WARNING FROM GOD
"Obey what I command you this day. Behold, I am about to remove the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite from before you. Consider what you do, lest you make an agreement with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, and it becomes a snare in your midst" (Ex.34:11-12 Para.).
The Creator commanded the nation of Israel not to make treaties or agreements with the nations in Cannan, and he warned them that such agreements would only cause them trouble.
"But instead you shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves [places of worship]. You shall not worship another god: for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God: Lest you make an agreement with the inhabitants of the land, and then go whoring after their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and one of them [the idol worshiper] call to you, and you eat of his sacrifice; And you allow their daughters to be taken by your sons, and their daughters go whoring after their gods, and cause your sons to do the same" (Ex.34:13-16 Para.).
The Creator told the Israelites to destroy the places where false gods were worshiped and warned against making agreements with the people of the land. The phrase "eat of his sacrifice" implies participating in their form of worship. The Creator made it very clear that he did not want the Israelites to have anything whatsoever to do with these idolatrous religions.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Creator commands the Israelites to totally eliminate the people and their religious systems of worship from the land he was giving them.
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land to possess it, and has cast out these nations stronger than you, and God has made you victorious over them you shall strike them and totally destroy them; you shall not make an agreement with them, nor show mercy to them. Neither shall you marry them; do not give your daughters to their sons, nor allow your sons to marry their daughters, nor their daughters to marry your sons. Because they will cause your sons to stop following me, so that they may serve other gods: if you allow this, the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and suddenly destroy you" (Deut.7:1-4 Para.).
"This is how you will deal with them; You shall destroy their altars, break down their images, cut down their groves, and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people to himself above all people on the face of the earth" (Deut.7:5-6 KJV Para.).
The Creator God commanded the Israelites to totally destroy these people, their places of worship, and the symbols of their religion. The Israelites were to completely separate themselves from other religions and from the things pertaining to their evil religious practices. God the Father is a righteous God and his people must be righteous; he will not tolerate anything evil among his people. See also Deut.12:1-3; 2.Cor.6: 14-18.
The history of Israel is full of examples which show that, when Israel followed God's instructions to remove all vestiges of false religion, they prospered nationally and individually. However, when they refused to obey God's instructions regarding false religion and its practitioners, they always suffered for their rebellion.
THE ARK IN THE TEMPLE OF DAGON
The Israelites did not follow God's instructions to totally destroy the people and remove all of their religious systems from the land; instead, the Israelites entered into agreements with some of them. Therefore, God allowed the Israelites to be in a constant state of conflict with these people and other nations. In one of their many battles with the Philistines, God allowed the capture of the Ark of the Covenant as a lesson of what their disobedience had caused:
"And the Philistines took the ark of God . . . and brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod arose early on the next day, behold, the statue of Dagon had fallen upon its face on the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the people put Dagon back in its place. And when they arose early the next day, behold, Dagon was on its face again before the ark of the Lord; but this time the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off; leaving only the stump of Dagon on its platform. . .. And the Lord's hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and plagued them with hemorrhoids, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw what had happened, they said, the ark of the God of Israel shall not remain with us: for his hand is greatly against us, and Dagon our God" (1.Sam.5:1-7 Para.).
Here is an example of how the Creator viewed the mixing of holy objects set aside for his use with things dedicated to false religious systems. What the Creator God said was an abomination during the days of ancient Israel is still an abomination in the Father's sight today (Mal.3:6).
The elect are sacred vessels within which his holy spirit resides. That which is holy should not reside with the unholy. The Father does not want anything holy and dedicated to his service to be placed alongside that which is unholy.
THE ELECT ARE TEMPLES OF GOD
"Don't you know you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy them; for the temple of God is holy, and you are his temple" (1.Cor.3:16-17 Para.).
The temple of God is not only the physical body; the mind is also a temple because this is where the Father's holy spirit resides. Should the Father's children bring their body and mind within a temple of Satan? Those who serve the Father should find the surroundings of a place dedicated to a false god as repugnant as he does. The scriptures clearly show that the Father and Christ hate these places and what they represent. The scriptures also show the consequence of mingling with this world's false religious systems. See Amos 3:3.
Although the text below speaks to physical fornication, its principle also applies to spiritual fornication with false religious systems.
"Don't you know that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a whore? God forbid. Don't you know that he that is joined to a whore is of one body? For two, he says, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. . ..Don't you know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit that is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, that belong to God" (1.Cor.6:15-20 Para.).
Do the Father's elect glorify him when they bring the temple of his holy spirit into a temple of a false religious system and attempt to worship him in a place dedicated to beliefs and practices which are in opposition to him and his worship system?
An Idol is Nothing
Some of the elect believe that, because their reason for assembling in a place dedicated to the practice of a false religious system is to worship and serve the Father, their worship of him in that place is acceptable to him. They base this belief on the following text:
"But about sacrifices to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Concerning the eating of
things sacrificed, we know that an idol of this world is nothing, and that there is no other god except one. For even if some are called gods in heaven or on earth; even as there are many gods and many lords but to us one God, the Father of whom are all things; and one lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we by him. However, everyone does not have this knowledge: but some being aware of the idol eat an idolatrous sacrifice at this present time; and their conscience being weak is defiled" (1.Cor.8:1-7 NIV Para.).
Some of the elect at Corinth would knowingly eat things sacrificed to idols, but they did not have a clear conscience in doing it; therefore, it was sin for them to do this, because they were compromising their conscience in this matter.
"But meat [food] commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see you which has knowledge sit at meat [at a meal] in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (1.Cor.8:8-12 KJV).
This text seems to say that the Father's elect may eat a meal prepared from the things sacrificed to idols, which is exactly what it says. How- ever, the subject being addressed in this text is that of eating food which has been offered to an idol; it is not one of worshiping the true God in a place dedicated to other religions and gods. The subject is whether or not it is circumspect for one of the Father's elect to eat things sacrificed to idols in a place which is dedicated to other religions and gods.
There is an indication that some of the members of the church at Corinth understood that the food sacrificed to idols did not become pure or impure by the act of sacrificing, which was believed by those who sacrificed to these idols and false gods.
Associating with Evil
Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians and warned them not to have a close association with false religions which are devised by evil spirits:
"What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that you should have fellowship with devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils" (1.Cor.10: 19-21 KJV).
The English word fellowship in verse 20 is translated from the Greek word koinonos, which does not mean fellowship, it means to have a close association. A large part of the question being discussed in chapter 10 pertains to how close an association the Father's elect can have with false religions and their practices and still maintain a righteous attitude and a good relationship with the Father. Paul answers this question in verse 23:
"I can do all things that are lawful,; however, doing these things is not always expedient: Although I can do all the things that are lawful, doing all these things is not always constructive" (1.Cor.10: 23 Para.).
WISE USE OF LIBERTY
Just because a person has a good understanding of a subject does not mean that person has the liberty to exercise that understanding in front of others, because each person is in a different stage of spiritual growth. Some will have reached a high degree of spiritual maturity, but others will still be babes in the truth. The scriptures show that we must be careful how we treat the spiritual babe and how we should set an example for those still young in the faith.
The overriding theme of Paul's discourse in 1.Corinthians, chapters 8 and 10, is that of setting a righteous example for the young in the faith and taking care not to cause them to fail because of one's superior knowledge or understanding, which someone new in the faith may not be mature enough to accept.
PROPHECIES FOR THE FUTURE
"And it shall come to pass in that day, says Jehovah, I will remove your horses out of your midst, and I will destroy your chariots. And I will remove the cities of your land, and pull down your fortifica- tions. And I will remove witchcraft out of your hand, and you shall have no fortune-tellers. I will also remove your carved images, and your pillars from your midst. And you shall no more worship the work of your hands. And I shall pluck your shrines out of your midst; and I will destroy your cities. And I will execute vengeance in anger and in fury on the nations, such as they have not heard" (Mic.5:10-15 Para.). See also Isa.17:7-8; Jer.17:1-4.
There is no doubt that Christ will totally eliminate all traces of false religious systems when he returns to rule the earth. Therefore, it seems inappropriate for the ambassadors of Christ to willfully sit in the camp of the enemy, which represent a way of life opposed to the Father and his way of life. It seems that it would be especially disappointing to the Father that his children would attempt to worship him in a place he finds repugnant and will eventually destroy.
PAUL ON MARS' HILL
Some believe that, when the apostle Paul spoke to the men of Athens on Mars' Hill (Acts 17:22-25), he was meeting with them in their place of worship; therefore, they believe this shows that it is acceptable to worship the Father in a place dedicated to other religions and gods. However, the following analysis shows this belief to be without merit.
Mars' Hill was a Greek Areopague, which was a place of public meetings where the council of Athens would often meet to discuss official matters. It was not a place of continual pagan worship, as some might believe. Paul did not conduct a formal worship service for the Father's elect at this place; he was merely revealing the true God to a group of people who happened to be there when he was.
Throughout the scriptures, there are many references to acceptable places for the Father's elect to worship him. However, within these references, there is not one scripture which sanctions the worship of the Father within the confines of a place dedicated to another religion or god.
Some of the elect reason that, because people of false religious systems do not know they are worshiping false gods and are just deceived, it is acceptable to worship the Father in their place of worship. And some reason that, because some people of false religious systems have dedicated their property or place of worship to the God of Israel even though they do not know who he is, it is not wrong to worship the Father in that place.
Whether or not people know they are worshiping a false god or state that they have dedicated the use of the property to the God of Israel, it does not remove the fact that the place is where false religion is practiced and a false god is worshiped. The apostle Paul wrote, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unright- eousness of men, who hold [suppress] the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom.1:18 KJV).
When choosing a place to worship God the Father, a person should carefully consider how he feels about false religious systems and carefully note the instructions to ancient Israel and the early church about being separate from this evil world and its false religious practices.
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness? And what agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he that believes with an infidel? And what agreement has the temple of God [the Father's elect] with idols [false religion]? For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, do not touch the unclean thing; and I will receive you" (2.Cor.6:14-17 Para.).
The English word unclean in verse 17 is translated from the Greek word akathartace, which means impure, demonic, or foul. The unclean thing Paul speaks of is the false religious systems of this world from which the Father's children should totally separate themselves.
"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." (Rom.12:9 KJV)
The English words abhor and evil are translated from the Greek words apostgeo, which means to detest, and poneros, which means evil in effect or influence.
"Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1.Thes.5:22) is one of the things Paul lists that the Father's elect should be doing. This short phrase is extremely powerful; the Father's elect should not only be righteous but also shun all things that even appear to be evil.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep yourself unspotted from the world" (Jms.1:27 KJV Para.).
Keeping oneself from being corrupted by this world includes separat- ing oneself from this world's false religious systems and false gods.
The Israelites were instructed to destroy and eliminate everything connected with the practice of false religion from the land God was giving them. They were instructed not to be complacent and tolerant of false religious systems or their practices. The scriptures show that, when the Kingdom of God is established on the earth, all false religious systems along with all of their places of worship will be completely purged from the earth.
A survey of the biblical record shows that God the Father and Jesus Christ are not in the least bit ecumenical in their view toward this world's religions and gods. The Father has only one worship system and condemns all others as being false. Those who advocate unity of all religions should read the Book of Revelation, which reveals that there are only two religious systems in the world: Satan's various false religions and the Sovereign God's true worship system.
Affordable and Convenient Places to Meet
Affordable, convenient, comfortable, and safe places to formally worship the Father are very difficult to find. However, the practice of the Father's true religion is not convenient, comfortable, or safe in this age. The Father's elect are limited in almost every endeavor they attempt in this evil world. To use monetary justification, convenience, and comfort as the foremost criteria or as an excuse to use the facilities of this world's religions seems to be missing the point of the many instructions in the Bible which require the Father's elect to separate themselves from false religious systems and false gods.
Questions to Consider
Why would one who claims to worship and serve God the Father want to meet in a place dedicated to the worship of a false religion or a false god?
Does it please the Father for his children to worship him surrounded by idols, paintings, and symbols which violate the first two of his Ten Commandments?
If false worship systems and false gods are thought of in the same way God the Father and Jesus Christ view them, it is easily understood that the Father's elect should assemble in a place pleasing to him.
By B. L. Cocherell b8w13