Soon after John the Baptist was thrown into prison, Jesus left the country near Jerusalem with His disciples, and went toward Galilee, the province in the north. Between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north lay the land of Samaria, where the Samaritans lived, who hated the Jews. They worshiped the Lord as the Jews worshiped Him, but they had their own temple and their own priests. And they had their own scriptures, which was only the five books of Moses, for they would not read the other books of the Old Testament. The Jews and Samaritans would scarcely ever speak to each other, so great was the hatred between them. It was a long and tiring journey from Judea back to Galilee, and as He walked along the broad, hot valley floor of the ascent of Lebonah, Jesus would have seen the low-lying hills to the east and the gradually rising heights to the west. He would then come to Sychar, near the ruins of the ancient Shechem. And here, being much wearied from their journey, Jesus and His disciples paused to rest at the well at Sychar.
This well had been dub by Jacob, the great father of the Israelites, many hundreds of years before. It was an old well then in the days of Jesus, and it is much older now, for the same well may be seen in that place still. Even now travelers may have a drink from Jacob's well. It was early in the morning, about sunrise, when Jesus was sitting by Jacob's well. He was very tired, for He had walked a long journey; He was hungry, and His disciples had gone to the village near at hand to buy food. He was thirsty, too; and as He looked into the well, he could see the water, a hundred feet below, but He had no rope with which to let down a jar to draw up some water to drink. Just at this moment a Samaritan woman came to the well, with her water jar upon her head and her rope in her hand. Jesus looked at her, and in one glance read her soul and saw all her life. He knew that Jews did not often speak to Samaritans, but He said to her, "Please give me a drink." The woman saw from His looks and His dress that He was a Jew, and she said to Him, "How is it that you, who are a Jew, ask drink of me, a Samaritan woman?" Jesus answered her, "If you know what God's free gift is, and if you knew who it is that says to you, Give me a drink, you would ask Him to give you living water, and He would give it to you."
There was something in the words and the looks of Jesus which caused the woman to sense that He was not a common man. She said to Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where can you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who drank from this well?" "Whoever drinks of this water, " said Jesus, "shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." "Sir," said the woman, "give me some of this water of yours, so that I will not thirst any more nor come all the way to this well." Jesus looked at the woman and said to her, "Go home and bring your husband and come here." "I have no husband," answered the woman. "Yes," said Jesus, "you have spoken the truth. You have no husband. But you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband." The woman was filled with wonder as these words penetrated her soul. She saw that there was a man who knew what a stranger could not know. She felt that God had spoken to Him and she said, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet of God. Tell me whether our people or the Jews are right. Our fathers have worshipped on this mountain. The Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where men should go to worship. Now, which of these is the right place?" Her concern, and the major issue of the moment for her, had to do with the specific proper location for worship. In this respect, this woman differed little from the multitudes in this hour who ask, "Where should we worship? What church should we attend? What ministry should we submit to?"
The Lord did not dodge her question. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe ME, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The time would come, said the Lord, when both "this mountain" and "Jerusalem", as well as any other geographical locality, or appointed structure, would be considered completely irrelevant as a condition to worship.
A recent newspaper article was entitled, ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS STRIVE FOR SPIRITUAL AND POLITICAL HOME. It included the views of a rabbi and a Palestinian activist. The interview with the rabbi stated, "Today, Jews believe that worshipping in Jerusalem is essential to serving God, many of whose 613 Biblical commandments can be fulfilled only here." At the same time, the interview with the Palestinian pointed out, "So sacred is Jerusalem, Muslims believe, that a good deed committed here has 1,000 times the normal weight, while a sin committed here has 1,000 times the normal gravity." Opinions and sentiments concerning Jerusalem still run deep and are strongly felt by the carnal- minded after two thousand years! The modern day city of Jerusalem still is the object of a struggle for power involving pride, envy, oppression, and tyranny.
The Samaritans for generations had worshiped God in Mount Gerizim and the Jews had for generations worshiped in their temple in Jerusalem. Each scorned the other's place of worship and Jesus is here speaking to the woman of Samaria and telling her that PLACES ARE OF NO CONSEQUENCE. God is a spirit - and mountain worship will not be acceptable. Neither will temple worship in Jerusalem be acceptable to God. If man is to worship God, then man must worship God AS HE IS, and not as man thinks He is or where man thinks He may be. Carnality and the natural man attempt to bring God into a realm that will enable them to see God according to their belief. Therefore some worship idols or images of metal, wood, or stone. Others worship the sun or the elements. Some must go to a building to worship God and others must have all manner of rites and ceremonies. Some must have a Jesus in a body of flesh, before they can worship God. But Jesus said that God was seeking a people who would worship God in the realm and sphere in which God is - in Spirit and Truth. Worshiping a physical location is not spiritual worship.
"Oh," you say, "I do not worship the location, I just go there to worship God." Precious friend of mine, if you must go there in order to worship God, you are worshiping the place! When we worship God in spirit and in truth, it separates us from all the "helps" and "crutches." Such a worship takes away all traditions of men, all the ceremonies and all the rituals and all the forms that every religious body of people are cumbered with. We won't go to a mountain, neither will we find it necessary to go to a temple. We will not have to work anything up or pray anything down. Certainly the Lord draws His people together for seasons of fellowship, praise, instruction, and edification.
We do not oppose such gatherings, as the Lord ordains. But true worship will not take place just on Sunday morning or perhaps a night or two each week. True worship is a CONSTANT, CONTINUAL STATE OF BEING. God is spirit, and who can know spirit except God take us unto Himself in the realm in which He abides. God, Spirit and Truth, fills all space, is everywhere present, eternal and unchanging. When we live and walk in the spirit we are always dwelling at home in Him. We are always able to know and experience Him in the heaven of His presence, the true home and heaven of the consciousness of the life, reality and substance of God within. This is one of the great truths that the vast majority of church members have not grasped to this day. That is, that the place of worship has no bearing whatsoever on the act of worship. Today, in order to hold together the system, the religious system men have developed, there must be a place of worship, and men must gather themselves together at that place so that they may worship.
Anyone who claims to be able to worship God at any time and in any place becomes a heretic to the organized religionists. For, if the places of worship were taken away, and men truly worshiped in spirit and in truth, the whole religious system would fall apart. There would be no reason for it to continue. The whole religious system is built upon having a "place" for people to come to so that the works of men may continue to be carried out. Again, let me affirm that God does indeed gather His people together, but such gathering together is UNTO HIM, and the place and order becomes inconsequential. It is when the place becomes important, it is when preachers and organizations demand your attendance, your submission, and your allegiance to them and their program, asserting that you cannot make it in to heaven, or the Kingdom, or sonship, or immortality apart from their teaching, their method, their order, their program - it is there that worship in spirit and in truth is usurped by worship in "this mountain" or in "Jerusalem."
Religion always tell us where, when and how to worship. Ah, but the Spirit, like a rushing wind, carries us off to that realm of spirit and truth far beyond the place, time and methods into the very presence of the Father for it is there we gather to worship! Let all who read these lines know of a certainty that worship in spirit and in truth is the worship of the New Covenant. This worship of the New Covenant and Testament is a new worship, which Christ Jesus, the heavenly spiritual man, the second Adam, set up almost two millenniums ago; and then put down and abolished the worship at the mountain, and the worship at Jerusalem, when He set up this worship in spirit and truth. And this spirit and truth must every man and woman know within themselves, by which they may know the God of truth, who is a spirit, within their spirit.
The outward Jew worships in the Old Covenant and Testament. They sing and pray and preach in their outward temple made with hands. The inward Jew worships in a temple, his body being the temple of the Holy Ghost, in the New Covenant and Testament, the new and living way, they sing and rejoice and minister and pray in the Holy Ghost, their bodies being temples of the Holy Ghost. This body is not the outward body of flesh, but the body of the inward man, the house from heaven, the spiritual body, the body of the Christ which every man who is putting on Christ is building within his own reality of Christ within. The type has passed, and we know that the temple built with hands is no more.
But what do we see? Men are trying to reproduce it, or to invent a substitute for it, thus perpetuating the Old Covenant, to walk as outward Jews. Church buildings, cathedrals and temples are pawned as the meeting place with God! Call these "churches" if you will. THEY ARE NOT CHURCHES. The very name is a blasphemy. They are mere buildings; and there is nothing sacred or holy about them. They are not the "house of God" as the ignorant love to call them.
We praise God for the privilege of gathering together with those of "like precious faith," and rejoice in any assembling of saints that is truly unto Him: but in point of fact it is not in any building made with hands that the Father is worshiped. Ah, how greatly we misconceive our true position! We certainly need not the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, nor any cathedral or so-called church building to worship the Father or to minister as the Lord's anointed; because we are constituted priests of the HEAVENLY TABERNACLE, which no human hand ever reared, and which is the true meeting-place between God and His spiritual priesthood, yea, of all who come to God. It is an indisputable fact that in all of the recorded history of the human race men have been prone to associate their worship of God with places and things, and to attach some special sacredness or power to that place of thing, until the places and things become more important than God Himself. Many precious folk imagine that because they met God in some glorious experience in such and such a building, room, or seat, they will find Him there again.
I remember seeing people during the great healing campaigns of the late 1940's and early 1950's, long after the tent was folded, the lights out, and the trucks departed, returning to stand in the saw dust at the exact spot where the glory of God had been seen, expecting to meet God in just the same way again. Jesus said: God is not a place, a building or a mountain; God is SPIRIT. You cannot confine God to a temple or a time. God does not move exclusively on Sunday morning at twenty minutes past eleven, following three choruses and two minutes of singing in the Spirit. His Spirit is everywhere, all the time. Whatever your expression or ministry is it should be able to function at any time and in any place, just as well as it does at "church." That is how Jesus ministered. He ministered in the fields, in the mountain, in the streets, in the homes, on the lake, and in the temple. His meetings never started at ten and ended at twelve. He was the temple of God at all times and in every place. And God manifested in His temple at all times and in every place.
This will be the mark of the manifested sons of God. Their ministry will not be in church buildings nor in auditoriums. Their meetings will not be scheduled for certain hours on Sunday and Wednesday. There will be no newspaper or television advertising. There will be no campaign manager, music director, or prescribed order. They will appear and show forth the glory of the Father in the restaurants, in the homes, in the fields, in church buildings, on ships at sea, in airplanes streaking through the skies and trains racing through the night. It will be the sovereign, spontaneous, continuous, unrestrained, unplanned, unrehearsed, omnipotent outflow of Life, Light and Love. It will change lives, transform churches, revolutionize cities, conquer nations. It will redeem society and sweep the nations and all things into the Kingdom of God. IT IS THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT. Even now we must learn to live and walk in the Spirit if we treasure the beautiful hope of sonship to God. They that worship God must do so in a state of being: in spirit and in truth. I was greatly blessed many years ago by the following words written by George Hawtin: "There is a place in God where saints may dwell ten thousand times more real than any natural realm. There is a true temple, NOT MADE WITH HANDS, eternal in the heavens. It is the mystical temple, which is HIS BODY. There is a church which is THE TRUE CHURCH. Its happy saints dwell in the realm of the Spirit, and, because they do, they continually worship God in spirit and in truth.
I anticipate that many will ask, 'How do we worship God in Spirit?' But this you will not discover until the hour comes when you learn that neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, not in the church system, nor in the denomination, nor in the mass, nor in the ordinances, nor in any such thing do men worship the Father. When you have departed from all these things and broken these idols from off your neck and cast their image from before you, then you will see no man but Jesus only, and then only will you understand what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. When this wisdom is sweet to your soul, then like the woman of Samaria you will drop that jug with which you for so long a time drew natural water from a natural well, and you will run off as she to unashamedly declare, 'Is not this the Christ?'" - end quote.
May God help all who have received the call to sonship to realize that we do not have to go to Jerusalem or to a mountain, or be at a special time or place to worship the Father, or use special words or a certain form, or go through the religious places because our whole life IS WORSHIP. The great apostle Paul declared, "I am poured out like an oblation." Like incense, his whole life was an offering to God. May God almighty do a work in us and cause us to be true worshippers, that whether we are in the desert, or in the mountain, or in Jerusalem, or at home, or in a gathering of the saints, whether by voice, or by offering up, or whatever we are doing, reality be in us, so that whatever we do, we are doing it out of that reality.
Strange, isn't it, that most "gifts of the Spirit" only work after three choruses or at the close of the sermon! Let us ask God to help us not to be PROFESSIONAL WORSHIPERS, but to be TRUE WORSHIPERS of the Father. While I am not at all opposed to gatherings, preachings, teachings, etc., the fact remains that the way it is being done is still after the order of the feast of Pentecost. Seems to me the new order has not fully come in - but certainly the Spirit is drawing us to walk only in and by the Spirit and not after the old order of a dying age. To me, the answer is not in continuing to do the old, nor is it in refusing to meet or minister in a visible and corporate way at all - it is just being led by the Spirit each and every day, doing only what we see our Father doing.
There is a wonderful scripture passage which is troubling to many wherein the inspired writer admonishes, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:25). Be not alarmed or distressed because of those who would use the letter of this word as a hammer to bring condemnation to one who does not attend their weekly or daily set times of assembly! Nor, on the other hand, should you use your "liberty" as an excuse to "do your own thing," becoming self-righteous in your "freedom," independent and exalted in your own "spirituality," cutting yourself off from the body of Christ! Both extremes are unbalanced. On the one hand, there is the person who is in bondage to a group or leader or religious system, being careful to observe the letter of the law, attending every time the group assembles, regardless of the spiritual quality of the meeting.
The other extreme is the one who is so independent and self-sufficient that he holds nothing but contempt for any gathering, regardless of the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit. In seeking to be free, he has come into bondage to lawlessness and rebellion. He is going his own self-righteous, puffed-up way, not being led by the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, the righteous Judge, bring us into balance, that we may truly be free in our spirits from man's religious requirements and bondages, yet humble before the Lord and before our brothers and sisters in Christ, ready to serve one another, and ready to receive from each other, as He leads, and gathering together as He directs, with meek and receptive hearts. But there is a truth in this passage beyond all this.
The Greek word for "assembling" is EPISUNAGOGE. The word, literally, is a verb meaning to synagogue. It is a compound of the Greek prefix EPI with the word SUNAGOGE from which we get our transliterated English word Synagogue. EPI means super- imposition - that which is above, higher than, highest, upon. SUNAGOGE means a meeting, assembly, or gathering. Putting these two words together, EPI- SUNAGOGE means THE ABOVE SYNAGOGUE, THE HIGHER MEETING, THE HIGHEST ASSEMBLY, THE HIGHER-THAN-ALL-GATHERINGS! It bespeaks of something far greater than merely collecting so many breathing bodies together in one place. It is a meeting in a higher realm, on a higher plane, in the high places of the Spirit, and in the heights of Truth. It is a gathering together in a dimension above. It indicates an assembling IN THE SPIRIT, as Paul also testified, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). Tens of thousands, yea, tens of millions of believers gather together in "church buildings" every Sunday morning, and because they make the effort to get out of bed, get the family ready, and drive off to a warm pew, they are convinced that they have met the requirements of the divine decree: "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together."
My beloved, they have not even touched the hem of the garment of this truth! We are not to forsake or neglect that wonderful seating we have together WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLIES! That is precisely what the passage is saying. Hebrews 10:25 is nothing but lifeless words, until one sits in the presence of the Father, joined in worship with kindred spirits, and partakes of that holy communion within the veil! It is only as spirit calls to spirit that the depths of eternal truth are opened. And multitudes who meet together every week for singing, teaching, etc., have never discovered the glorious and eternal reality of that ABOVE SYNAGOGUE. They do not meet or minister or live from that higher than all heavens realm of HIS LIFE.
When we meet with a company of the elect, we are not to think of them as the whole of those with whom we worship and minister. The true priest is one of a great festal throng, which is comprising the spiritual temple built of the living stones of redeemed and transformed men and women. As priests in the HEAVENLY SANCTUARY, the TRUE TABERNACLE which is above, we are but part of a great and universal congregation consisting of all the elect saints who have gone before, and those now living, gathered out of all ages, and throughout the vast universe of God. The preacher, the prisoner, the traveler, the mother, the king - all meet there IN THE SPIRIT REALM, and worship and minister from thence. All are priests, and yonder is the great High Priest of our profession, who has pressed through the heavens and ever lives as the Minister of the heavenly sanctuary. He is "a minister of the true tabernacle." And such are we! He hath raised us up and made us sit together with Him in these heavenly places, and He has made us to be a kingdom of priests.
It is not "in church" on Sunday morning that we know the power of this priesthood; it is IN THE SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, it is ASSEMBLED TOGETHER IN THE ABOVE SYNAGOGUE, in reality wrought within, every moment and everywhere and in every situation and circumstance as we live and walk and move in HIS REALM. The regenerated spirit becomes a component factor in the sweet harmony of God's spiritual Kingdom. And what a Kingdom! And what a harmony! In duration it is from everlasting to everlasting. The granite hills shall melt away; the earth shall leave its orbit and fall into the chaos of crashing worlds; Orion, Arcturus, and Pleiades shall cease to travel the holy aisles of heaven; the sun shall be turned into darkness; the heavens shall be rolled back as a scroll, and as a vesture shall they be folded up; but beneath the scepter of the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, our Father, the Kingdom of Heaven shall still remain and move on in sweetest harmony with His holy will. For in this high and holy Kingdom no forces ever clash, no laws ever fail, no truth ever goes astray, no beauty ever fades, no light ever loses its luster, no good ever grows less, no life ever gets old, no love ever becomes cold, no joy ever ceases, no harmony ever has a discord.
From the time when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God first shouted for joy, rhythm and rapture have rolled upward and onward through all the boundless and eternal spiritual universe as the sweet expression of the mind and will of almighty God. This universe, this higher than the heavens universe, this Kingdom of Heaven, is the home and heritage of every son of God. He belongs to it, and it belongs to him. He is in it, and it is in him. He holds himself in harmony with it and it fills his soul with its songs. He apprehends its truth, enjoys its beauties, and partakes of its holiness.
There is no place in it where he may not feel at home - no place where he has not a right to be; for it has been the Father's good pleasure to give him the Kingdom. His life is not measured by years, but by its possibilities and expansiveness. He has already been translated into this Heavenly Kingdom (Col. 1:13)! And the inner man which is renewed day by day, the heavenly man born from above by the incorruptible seed of the word of God, the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness cannot, by the very nature of his being, ever be separated from the consciousness and reality of this heavenly existence, contrary to the contentions of those who teach that departed saints are dead like dogs, without consciousness or being, until the day of resurrection.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). Divinity and eternity are born within the man who is born of the Spirit. Now he is a child of God, but it does not yet appear what he shall be. We are not to forsake this UPPER-SYNAGOGUING of ourselves together - the communion and fellowship and expression together in this highest of all realms - THE SPIRIT! Through we should meet and sing a thousand songs of praise and preach a thousand sermons out of the Good Book. If we fail to touch that high realm of life and reality in the spirit we have not "upper-synagogued" at all - having merely assembled and done some religious things on the low plane of soulish activity.
J. PRESTON EBY