Video preaching

True vs. False worship

Scripture: Matthew 4:8-11

Sermon notes

This text records one of the three specific instances of temptation that the Saviour faced at the hands of the devil. In Luke’s account the order in which these temptations are recorded is slightly different.

As the great representative of His people, Christ submits to this temptation. In the wilderness He withstands the devil where Adam succumbed and fell in paradise and emerges as the champion to deliver His people.

The test here revolves around the question of worship. This is a defining issue! It was a defining issue for Christ personally as the mediator and redeemer of His people. It was an issue on which the success or failure of His work hung. It will further determine who is on Christ’s side and distinguish them from those on the devil’s side. The question of the nature of worship is a critical aspect of the spiritual conflict between Satan and the Saviour, and their respective adherents.


  1. Authority. The Saviour here cites Deut 6:13. The written word of God is authoritative on the matter. Many today adopt a view that God may reveal extra-scriptural, updated instructions on worship. The Biblical regulations on worship are timeless. Some will object that we ought therefore to worship in an OT fashion. No! because the Bible itself teaches that these Levitical regulations have passed away but the underlying ethos of worship is unchanged. Note the vital instructions on this matter in Col 2:18-23. Neither the commandments of men, nor human will, nor the supposed example of angels, define worship.
  2. The Divine claim, v10. The Saviour establishes the Divine claim upon the worship of all creation—even of the devil! The command of God is a singular, personal command to every creature. Cp Matt 22:36-38, Romans 1:18-23, 25. It is the sin of mankind universally that they have refused this claim.
  3. Exclusive. The worship that the Scripture demands is the exclusive service of God. The idea of loving, loyal, faithful service is clearly established here. This is what worship is ultimately all about. Worship = ‘kiss the hand’ and may well be derived from the imagery of a dog licking the hand of its master. Associated with this term are the ideas of prostration and humble devotion. The word serve > ‘hired labourer’. Worship involves the recognition of God as master and a submission to His will. No man can serve two masters…7:24.


  1. The devil opposes Biblical worship. There must be no mistake about the source of non-worship, or non-scriptural components in worship. The devil sets himself against the right worship of God. He does so here even in the case of Christ! There was not the least hope that he could prevail yet he tried. Even the most convinced and convicted advocate of Biblical worship will be tempted in this way.
  2. False worship is the worship of the devil. The devil puts himself forward as the object of worship here. In reality, this is what happens every time there is a divergence from Divine commandments on worship. Cp Acts 17:22, Deut 32:17, 2Chron 11:15, 1Cor 10:20. The same concept is seen in the devil’s description as the god of this world, 2Cor 4:4. This must be seen in spite of the use of identical terminology—worship, v9, 10. The same word: but activity as far apart as heaven and hell.
  3. The promised advantages of abandoning true worship, v8-9. See Luke 4:6. Satan makes a lavish promise here. In this case his purpose is to have Christ by-pass the cross and claim the crown over these kingdoms. He is specially referencing the future emergence of the Antichrist. See Rev 13:2, 4. Avoiding the reproach of the cross and gaining material/temporal enhancement is still a temptation in worship. Cp Gal 5:11.


  1. Get thee hence! A stern rebuke of the devil’s notions is given. The devil leaves. Cp James 4:7. We must resist (withstand, Eph 6:13) the inroads of such devilish worship.
  2. A dogmatic Biblical approach. The Saviour insists on the Scripture being the exclusive definition and guide of acceptable worship. That is His practice and the template for His followers. These are not an idle quotation of Scripture. The Saviour is insisting that He will live by those words. What saith the Scripture? (Rom 4:3) must be our constant query.
  3. Support. There is a striking reference to the support that the Saviour received at this point. This too is the experience of those who give themselves to serve God in worship as Christ did. Cp Heb 1:14, 1Cor 11:10. The power of Heaven unites behind those who determine to worship God His way. Those who worship God His way find themselves in harmony with the angels—thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven, 6:10.

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