In John 4:24 Jesus makes one of the most succinct yet one of the most profound declarations of worship in all of Scripture. During his lengthy conversation with the Samaritan woman, she asks Him an important question – “Were the Samaritans allowed to worship God on Mount Gerizim or did they have to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem?” While she was looking for a concise answer, Jesus gave her a theological response.
John 4:24 – God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
WOW! What a profound statement! In only 14 words in English and 13 words in Greek, Jesus gives a theological lesson on both the person of God and the nature of worship. What, then, does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?
1. Worship is not bound to one location
The questions posed by this inquisitive woman shed light on the thinking and the belief of the Samaritans. The Samaritans were a people of mixed ancestry – they were both Jewish and Gentile. Although they worshipped Jehovah, they worshipped Him in their own manner. They had their own Pentateuch, their own version of Israelite history and their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
Yes, Jesus answered this woman’s question, but His response goes beyond the religious traditions of His day. For the moment, Jewish worship was still contained to the Temple Mount, but He was about to inaugurate a new age in which God would no longer dwell in a Temple made with human hands, but in the heart of every believer (I Cor. 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:19-22). Thus, worship would be freed from its location restraints.
For us, this means we can now worship God at any time and in any place. We are not restricted to the church building or Sunday worship. God receives sacrifices of praise all throughout the week. In other words, worship is open for business 24/7.
Are you taking advantage of this tremendous blessing? Or, are you a Sunday morning worshipper only? God desires for you to worship Him every day and in every place.
2. Worship is spiritual
On the surface, that seems like an extremely obvious statement. Yet frankly, many people worship physically without worshipping spiritually. On the outside they are going through the motions, but their internal spirit is not engaged. Their spirit is not connecting with God’s Spirit.
- Worship must be spiritual because God is a Spirit.
As we mentioned, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the nature of God. He states that God is not composed of physical matter and does not possess a physical nature. He cannot be represented by physical objects and cannot be contained or controlled.
- Worship must be spiritual because God’s Spirit desires to connect with our spirit.
As a worshipper, Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood that principle. In Luke 1:46, 47 she declares, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The simple truth is that it is our soul and spirit that connect with God. Theologian Wayne Grudem states, “Unless our spirits are worshipping God, we are not truly worshipping Him.” (Systematic Theology, p. 1011).
Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.
It is that spiritual connection that points out sin in our lives. It is that spiritual connection that produces true worship. It is that spiritual connection that allows God to speak to us. It is that spiritual connection that produces change in our lives. Worshiping in spirit allows God’s Spirit to minister to us.
3. Worship must be based on truth
Sadly, we have allowed the creativity of worship to affect the truthfulness of worship. We highlight method over meaning. If we are not careful, worship can be more influenced by culture than it is by the Bible. That is extremely dangerous!
Jesus says that true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth. What did Jesus mean?
- The truth should never be affected by worship.
Truth is truth. It is absolute. It is unchangeable. It is non-negotiable. It is transcultural and it is eternal. That TRUTH is seen repeatedly throughout Scripture.
Psalm 119:89 -Your eternal Word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.
Psalm 119:160 – The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Malachi 3:6 – For I the Lord do not change…
Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We must never allow politics, popularity or the pragmatics of worship to change the truth. The simple fact is that whenever worship strays from the truth it is no longer worship. Worship should always be grounded upon the truth.
- The truth of worship should propel us towards truthfulness
The truth of who God is should cause us to be truthful about who we are. Real worship produces honesty and a genuineness of heart. As we see ourselves in the truth of God’s Word through singing, preaching and wholesome fellowship, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to worship in spirit and in truth.
“Lord, help us to worship in spirit and in truth.”