John 4:24 – “in spirit and in truth”

A recent comment made here asked some important questions about worship. He mentioned John 4:24 and Jesus’ comment that true worshipers must worship God “in spirit and in truth.” I think it would be helpful for us to spend some time thinking about what it means to worship in spirit and to worship in truth. Let’s set the passage before us first:

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus is the source for Christian Worship

The unnamed woman in John 4 asks a worship question of Jesus. Although she might not have fully understood who Jesus was she did call him a prophet. The woman was wise in seeking the answer to a worship question by turning to the proper source of worship information. She noted that people were divided on the proper place for worship. Her people, the Samaritans, believed one thing while their Jewish cousins taught something else. For the actual answer she turned to Jesus.

Like this ancient woman, it is vitally important that we seek our answers from the correct source.The correct source – indeed the only source available today – is the Bible. It is the Bible that offers a single foundation upon which all can stand. It is the one place where God-believing, Christ-honoring men and women can find common ground. While the Bible did not exist as it does today,  the words from Jesus were truth for Jesus spoke of God (John 7:17; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10) and God’s words are truth (John 17:17).

Truth has been delivered “once for all” (Jude 3) and is available to all men. Let us always turn to God for truth and reject every form of doctrine not found in Scripture.

The Issue of Christian Worship

Having come to the proper source for truth, the woman now proceeds to discuss one of the many divisions between the Jews and the Samaritans. Her question is in the form of a statement to which she hopes Jesus will reply. The issue centered upon the proper place for worship. Now we could just as easily ask a question about the worship itself or what we do in that worship.

Is there a standard for worship. Does anything go? Are our motives all that matter?

There is a standard. Reaching back to Judaism we find that God always expected certain things of those who worship him. Cain’s offering to God was rejected while his brother’s was accepted (Genesis 4:1-16). Nadab and Abihu, brothers and sons of the High Priest Aaron, worshiped wrongly by offering strange fire at the Tabernacle (Leviticus 10:1-2). In the New Testament Paul rebukes the Christians in Corinth for many things including their chaotic self-centered worship (1 Corinthians 14:26-35). I think we all agree that God desires worship which is true to his teachings.

Let’s take a moment and examine our worship practices. What actually happens in the worship service? Can we offer some authority for them or are we left with personal, emotional answers? While something in a worship service may make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, does it appeal to God? Is it what God wants or what I want?

God is the both the purpose of our worship and author of it. Let us please him and as servants, we will also be pleased.

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