DOES IT MATTER WHERE THE FATHER'S CHILDREN WORSHIP HIM?
Does the physical location where the congregations of God assemble to worship God the Father have any positive or negative impact on one's spiritual relationship with him or his Son? Does it displease the Father for his elect 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 God's will about where one should and should not assemble to worship him, one must understand the instructions that 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
Exodus 34:11-16 Paraphrased
"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 will make an agreement the inhabitants of the land where you are going, and it becomes a snare in your midst" (vs.11-12).
God commanded the nation of Israel to make no treaties or agreements with the pagan nations in Cannan, and he warns them that such agreements would only cause trouble for them.
"But instead you shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves [places of worship]. For 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" (vs. 13-16).
God clearly 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" clearly implies participating in their form of worship. God made it known that he did not want the Israelites to have anything whatsoever to do with these pagan forms of religion.
In the Book of Deuteronomy, God commands the Israelites to totally eliminate the people and the religious systems of worship from the land that he was giving them.
Deuteronomy 7:1-6 Paraphrased
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land to possess it, and has cast out these nations that are 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" (vs.1-4).
"This is how you will deal with them; You shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and 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 that are upon the face of the earth" (vs.5-6).
God commanded the Israelites to totally destroy these people, their places of worship, and the symbols of their religious systems. God is righteous and his people must be righteous; he will not tolerate anything evil among his people. Clearly God wanted national Israel to completely separate themselves from other religions and the things that pertained to their evil religious practices. See also Deut.10:15; 12:1-3; 2.Cor.6:14-18; 2.Pet.2:9-10.
The history of Israel is full of examples showing 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 instruction concerning false religion and its practitioners, they always suffered for their rebellion. See 2.Kgs.23:14-25; 2.Chron.14:2-4; 2; 19:2-3; chap..
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 a clear example of how God views the mixing of holy objects that are set aside for his use with things dedicated to false religious systems. The true Christian is a chosen vessel of God within which the Spirit of God resides. That which is holy clearly should not reside with the unholy. God does not want anything that is holy and dedicated to his service to be placed alongside anything evil and unholy.
God does not change; what God said was an abomination during the days of the ancient Israelites is still an abomination in his sight today (Mal.3:6).
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 any man defiles the temple of God, him God shall destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and you are a temple" (1.Cor.3:16-17 Para.).
The temple of God is not only the physical body of a child of God; the mind is also a temple because this is where the spirit of God resides. Can one who is a true child of God bring one's body and mind within a temple of Satan? One who serves the true God should find the surroundings of a place dedicated to a false god repugnant. The scriptures clearly show that the Father and Jesus Christ hate these places and what they represent. The scriptures also clearly show the consequence of mingling with this world's false religious systems. See Amos 3:3.
Although the text below is about physical fornication, it also easily applies to spiritual fornication with today's false religious systems.
"Don't you know you not 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 you not 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 elect of God glorify him when they bring the temple of his spirit into a temple of a false religious system and attempt to worship him in a place that is dedicated to beliefs and practices that are in opposition to his worship system?
An Idol is Nothing
Some of the Father's elect children believe that, because their reason for assembling in a place dedicated to the practice of a false religious system is to worship the true God, 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 Para.).
Some of the elect at Corinth would eat the 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 consciences 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 it is alright for the elect of God to sit in a pagan temple and eat a meal prepared from the things that were sacrificed to its idols. And that is exactly what it says. However, the subject being addressed in this text is that of eating food that has been offered to an idol; the subject here is not one of worshiping the true God in place that is dedicated to other religions and gods. The subject is clearly whether or not it is circumspect for one of the elect of God to eat things sacrificed to idols in a place that 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
In 1.Corinthians 10:19-21, Paul speaks about the question of having a close association with evil:
"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 Lords table, and of the table of devils" (KJV).
The English word 'fellowship' in verse 20 is translated from the Greek word 'koinonos', which does not mean 'friendship', 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 elect of God can have with paganism and still maintain a righteous attitude and a good relationship with God. 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" (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 should be careful how we treat the spiritual babe and how we should set an example for those that are still young in the faith.
The overriding theme of Paul's discourse in First 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 one has a 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 fortifications. And I will remove sorceries out of your hand, and your 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 Jesus Christ will totally eliminate all traces of false religious systems when he returns to rule the earth. God hates evil and will not allow it to exist in his kingdom. Therefore, it seems inappropriate for the ambassadors of Christ to willfully sit in the camp of the enemy, which represents a way of life that is in opposition to his way. It seems that it would be especially disappointing to the Father that his children would attempt to worship him in a place that he hates and will eventually have destroyed.
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 God in a place that is 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 elect of God at this place; he was merely revealing the true God to a group of people that happened to be there when he was.
Throughout the scriptures, there are many references to the proper places for the elect of God to worship. However, within these references, there is not one scripture in which God sanctions the worship of him within the confines of a place that is 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 alright to worship the true God 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 although they do not know who he is, it is not wrong to worship the true God in that place.
Whether or not people know that 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 clearly says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold [suppress] the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom.1:18).
When choosing a place to worship God the Father, a person should carefully consider how God feels about false religious systems and carefully note the instructions to ancient Israel and the early church concerning being separate from this evil world and its false religious practices.
"Don't be unequally yoked with the 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 elect of God] 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.6:14-18 Para.).
Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth is full of caution concerning how the elect of God should behave toward unrighteous and evil practices. The English word 'unclean' in verse 18 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 a true Christian should totally separate themselves.
"Let love be without dissimulation. abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." (Rom.12:9)
The English words 'abhor' and 'evil' are translated from the Greek words 'apostoeho', which means 'to detest', and 'ponagros' 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 a true Christian should be doing. This short phrase is extremely powerful. The elect of God should not only be righteous but also they should shun all things that even appear to be evil.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (Jms.1:27).
Keeping oneself from being corrupted by this world includes separating oneself from this worlds false religions systems and false gods.
The Israelites were instructed to destroy and eliminate everything connected with the practice of false religion from the land that God was giving to them. They were instructed not to be complacent and tolerant of false religious systems or their practices. The scriptures clearly show that when the Kingdom of God is established upon the earth at Christ's return, all false religious systems along with all of their places of worship will be completely purged from the earth.
A survey of both the Old and New Testaments shows that God is not in the least bit ecumenical in his view toward this world's religions and gods. He 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 religions in the world: a false one, which is of Satan and a true one, which is of God.
Affordable and Convenient Places to Meet
Affordable, convenient, comfortable, and safe places to formally worship God are very difficult to find. However, the practice of the Father's true religion is not convenient, comfortable, or safe in this age. The elect of God are limited in almost every endeavor they attempt in this evil world, and 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 of God that require a true Christian to separate themselves from false religious systems and false gods.
Questions to Consider
It seems that, if one views false worship systems and false gods in the way that God the Father and Jesus Christ view them, one will know that the elect of God should assemble in a place that is pleasing to God.
By B.L Cocherell, file b8w9