Summary: Many times what we call worship is not God honoring and is actually misdirected. Genuine worship must be focused on God and who He is.

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Acts 17:22-31

Worship Without Understanding

Don W. Miller

Friendly Hope Baptist Church, Jonesboro, AR

June 10, 2001 am

Question: Can we really worship what we don’t know or understand? Don’t answer too hastily. Think about it.

- According to Jesus: The Samaritans were doing so, John 4:22.

- According to Paul: The Athenians were doing so too.

Worshipping the UNKNOWN.

Worshipping in IGNORANCE.

Worshipping without UNDERSTANDING.

But GENUINE WORSHIP is an expression of our LOVE for God.

A.W. Tozer – “Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring and awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Who Is in Heaven.”


For many, the aim of worship is, “What’s in it for ME?” Notice the focus and the direction of this form of worship. It is not God centered, but ME centered.

The gods that the people of Athens made were modeled after themselves. Whenever man rejects the true God and goes off into ignorance, he begins to make his god or gods in his own image. When genuine worship occurs and God is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth, THEN man is re-made into the image of God. This is part of the reason that real worship is somewhat threatening. It brings about a change in us. Not just a surface change, but a change at the core of who we are.

The ATHENIANS erected an altar to “the Unknown god.” They feared that they had overlooked or neglected some “god” and that they might offend him and incur and suffer his anger and wrath for this offence.

What was the motive of this worship? Love? NO! FEAR!

It was FEAR and the desire to avoid retaliation from some petty minded deity.

Today, many hold this attitude toward God. It is not LOVE and devotion and adoration that cause them to acknowledge and do some service to God, but FEAR. Fear that God will prove vindictive and punitive if they withhold at least a token service to Him. They try to give God as little of themselves and their resources as they can and, if not get His blessings, at least avoid His wrath & judgment. They apply this to both here & now and for eternity.

The SAMARITANS were half Jews. When the Babylonians conquered Israel, the Northern Kingdom, they deported most of the population and resettled foreign people in their place. The native Hebrews and the new inhabitance soon intermarried and synchronized their religious practices. The worship of the northern kingdom had its roots in orthodoxy. It started off real and based on truth, but it became corrupted, compromised and degenerated into ritual and superstition. By the time of Jesus, He would say about their worship habits, “You worship what you do not know.” Going through the motions, without the reality behind them.”

ILL. John MacArthor tells of the “Cargo Cults” of South Pacific, a continuing legacy of WWII. When Allied troops swept across isolated South Pacific islands and established airstrip and refueling bases to press the war with Japan. The primitive native people where suddenly invaded by a modern civilization with no time to adjust and learn what it was about. When the war ended and these island bases were abandoned these natives felt forsaken. These primitive people saw something real, but misinterpreted it, and launched into dark ignorance. They constructed scale models of the thing they had seen and desired, hoping to lure the “cargo gods” back. They started worshipping the men and products of a civilization that they did not understand but desired.

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