Worship in Spirit and in Truth, Part I
This short series: Worship in Spirit and in Truth are familiar words to most believers. They were written by John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The two words – worship and truth – are fundamental to the essence of God and man’s response to Him.
v.20: Our fathers worshipped on this mountain but you claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem
v.21: Jesus declared: Believe woman a time if coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
v.22: You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
v.23: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth for they are they kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
v.24: God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.
With these words Jesus concluded His discussion with the Samaritan woman. She had an understanding of spiritual issues based on her theology. She knew that the Messiah was coming and when He comes He will explain everything (v.25). Jesus seized the moment and revealed Himself to her as the Messiah (v.26). Please notice: she was a Samaritan and a woman.
What is happening here? It is something radical and drastic. In a different form Jesus repeats Mark 1:15: …The kingdom of God is near… The Kingdom is Jesus Himself, the self-Kingdom). The way His people relate to Him is part of kingdom life. Jesus ushered in a new mode of existence, a new reality. Jesus proclaimed that the time has come. The fulfillment of the ages was at hand in Christ by the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3; Galatians 1:4; 4:4-5). History was marching along on God’s timetable. A new age had come in Christ with is in stark contrast to the New Age of our time. This is in reality an old morality of Eastern religions and spirituality being pushed by many today. These voices represent a movement attempting to dismantle true Christianity. There is nothing new under the sun!
Early in Jesus’ ministry, He touched on the topic of worship which from one perspective is the essence of life. Since everyone is a theologian and of life is theological. However, His major concern was the God of worship. If the people know the true God, they will know and endeavor to worship Him as He deserves and commands. Honor and worship is due God simply because God is worthy and man is a worshipping being. Fallen man says no: the creature is worthy of worship and honor. The mantra in some for is: to heck with the concept of a Creator, let alone the Creator Himself (Romans 1:18-23).
The Old Testament affirmed the proper worship of God by focusing on a locale, the Temple, and God’s presence. Pagan religions had their pantheon of gods that allegedly paroled and controlled their locale. Thus, many local deities were established and worshipped. Catch that last sentence. Local deities were established. In essence, man was wagging the tail of the dog! The worship was to a physical object that man named as a god. Worship was to be in a physical manner and always to get some favor or to avoid supposed wrath. These objects could not speak or move.
In the book of Deuteronomy the so-called gods and the pagan practices of worship were condemned as Israel was about to enter the Promise Land (12:1-4). Rather, worship was to be in the place of the Lord’s choosing in contrast to pagan worship (12:5-7). The site, the where, of worship was important to Moses and to the Holy Spirit. However, the how of worship, an attitude of joy and devotion was an integral part of worship as well (12:7). You could not have one without th other. Lastly, the what of worship was outlined (12:15-19). The people from the heart were to present their sacrifices as an extension of themselves to the Lord as an acceptable offering. In this way the people would enter into God’s presence and live.
Early in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus emphasized a radical, drastic change. The Old Testament prefigured and pointed to the reality of the true God. Jesus, truly God as the Messiah was in their midst (Luke 17:21). The Old Testament had and will continue to serve God’s purpose: it prepared the way by pointing to the true Way. The Jews did not have it right and neither did the Samaritans. God was expanding the people’s understanding of the true God, both Jew and Samaritan, and eventually the Gentile.
Early in Jesus’ ministry, He declared the essence of true worship which had been prefigured in the Old Testament. The declaration was based on the reality that God is Spirit and that the Holy Spirit had come and was coming in a fuller form. In due time, the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2). Both Christ’s and the Spirit’s coming created a different realm of existence for the believer. The Holy Spirit equipped and enabled Jesus to do His work and He equips the Church and the believer to do their work. This includes the proper worship of God.
In John 4, Jesus declared the reality of true worship in His encounter with a Samaritan woman. Jesus approached worship in the same format: where, how, and what. The venue of the discussion was in itself incredible. A woman and a Samaritan were both considered second-class citizens and not worthy of fellowship. To drink water from her hand was thought unclean by the Jews – contamination! During Jesus’ conversation with her she demonstrated her moral impurity. Jesus confronted her and she attempted to turn the subject of the conversation from her to another subject. She chose worship (4:20-24).
1. Consider the where, how, and what of worship. How do you apply those concepts today to your life?
2. What does the Old Testament about the worship of God: see Deuteronomy 4: 5-14; 6:1-9; 12:1-14?
3. Jesus ushered a new way of life that was present in the Old Testament.
a. What is the significance of the pillar of fire and the cloud during the wilderness march?
b. How does the Levitical system of sacrificial picture God’s presence?
John 4:20-24: Part II
Continuing our series: Worship in Spirit and in Truth, Jesus is at the well of Jacob. He is seeking people – worshippers as well as being a good steward of his body. He seized the opportunity which was part of God’s providence. He reiterates one of His purposes in coming as the Godman: worship would be to one God with one motive for the right reason according to the Spirit. This concept was taught in rudimentary form in the Old Testament. Now Jesus was expanding truth!
Truth and knowledge were to be wedded in worship (v.22). The woman had made the central fact of worship the place rather than the person worshipped and the worshipper. The woman did not focus on the God to be worshipped or the worshipper! She spelled out the issue as one of understanding according to man: Jews or the Samaritans. She had missed the importance of a universal church – Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14-16). In verses 20-21, Jesus gives the women a choice: to believe Jesus or continue in unbelief.
Jesus explained that she misunderstood the where of worship as she has defined it. It is not a place issue and it is not a Jew or Gentile issue. It is a heart issue. Worship is based on true knowledge and she did not have that knowledge (v.22). As He will explain, if one has the Being and person of God wrong, then worship will be wrong. She needed a heart changed – she needed salvation as a starter. Jesus moved to the what and to the how of worship.
• First, worship is based on the knowledge that God is and that He deserves worship from every creature.
• Second, God deserves worship His way and with a right motivation. He is Spirit and He is Truth. Therefore, He must be worshipped in Spirit and truth (v.23-24).
• Third, Jesus declared the presence of true worshippers with His coming.
True worshippers were present in the Old Testament. But with Jesus’ coming a radical change occurred. The transcendence of God with an emphasis on His otherness – holiness emphasized the necessity of a mediator to safely enter his presence. With Jesus’ coming and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the flood gates of God’s revelation were opened. What had been hidden in the Old Testament was now revealed. After the Holy Spirit was poured out, there would be greater clarity of God and worship through the Son by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus ushered in a new existence for His people and for His creation. This included greater understanding of who God was and who they were. The old was going and the new was being ushered in. People would change their thinking about God and themselves. Part of the new knowledge was the reality that God is spirit (v.24). Because He is, worship must be spiritual – from the inside-out, directed by the Holy Spirit. The goal is to honor and not to get. God is a living Spirit, a living Being in contrast to the dead objects such as a tree-deity, a stone-deity, or a mountain-deity. Because the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, the Triune God will be worshiped in truth (John 16:13).
1. The woman had a wrong view of who and who (God and self)? How does thinking affect worship?
2. What is the significance that God is Spirit?
3. God is looking for true worshippers. Where will He find them and how will He and the worshipper know?
Worship in Spirit: Part III
We continue the series: Worship in Spirit and in Truth. In Jesus’ ministry to the Samaritan woman and to believers in all ages, He taught basic principles regarding God, worship, and worshippers. In His conversation with her, He met her where she was in terms of theology and its application. She had a wrong view of worship because she had a wrong of God, herself, and others. I God’s world, she could not live and worship any way she chose. She could not view God in any way she chose.
She asked where true worship would be conducted and she answered herself giving two options (4:20). Jesus told her she was wrong on both counts (4:21). He then clarified that the true worshipper has proper knowledge of God and worship (4:22). In verse 23, Jesus drops a time-bomb. The hour is now that true worshippers have no specific ethnicity and they will worship God in spirit and truth. What hour is Jesus speaking? Jesus refers to His Messianic coming. The fullness of time is now – Christ had come, the new exodus of God’s people from darkness to light is in progress, and the Holy Spirit will soon follow in His fullness (Romans 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:9-10; John 20; Acts 2). In verse 24, John declared that God is Spirit. Because He is, worship is to be in spirit and in truth.
Jesus gave the woman a twofold truth about God and herself. She was a worshipper as are all men. There is true and false worship and true and false worshippers. Since she is a worshipper by God’s design and God is to be worshipped His way for His glory, true worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth. That is God’s way!
By worship in spirit, Jesus may be referring to the inner person – the heart. Or He may be referring to worship that is Holy Spirit-informed, Holy Spirit- directed, and Holy Spirit–energized. Or He may be referring to both. It is thought-provoking to consider the fact that Jesus chose the subject of worship as the means to present Himself as the Messiah. Jesus met the woman where she was. She brought up the subject most likely to deflect conversation into her own life. She received more than a theology session. She received Jesus. He revealed Himself to her because He was in the Spirit and He was truth.
Only the believer can worship in spirit because only he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and only he is able to think properly about God and himself. All men are spiritual beings, image bearers of God. That fact alone means that man is a religious and worshiping being and a theologian. He does and will worship – self or God. Sometimes it is God that he knows but not as he ought. He worships the God of Scripture God’s way or he worships a god that he has created in the way that he thinks gives him the most advantage. Only the believer has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This indwelling brings God into a Father-child relationship with the believer and the believer into relationship and communication with God.
The believer’s union with Christ makes all the difference in terms of living including worship. The believer is able to think God’s thoughts about himself and God. He is able to desire what God desires for God and for the believer. True acts of service to God and to others will follow. The believer knows God because He is known by God. The believer has been changed inside-out and has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Christianity is an inside-out religion that moves out from the heart. For the believer, the activity of the heart should be manifested by concrete God-honoring-thoughts, desires, and actions. The externals are manifestations of a changed heart and should be true expressions of love of God and others (Matthew 22:37-40). Externals are important because they can be a barometer of the content of one’s heart. Heart allegiance and devotion to God and for God whether in a worship service or in daily life is in part what it means to worship in spirit.
Worship in spirit is predicated not only on what man is in relationship to God, but more so on who and what God is. He is Spirit. The very essence of God is that He is Spirit. This point stresses the fact that He is unique and distinct from man and His creation. As Spirit, He is immaterial and invisible. He is not composed of parts. Therefore, God cannot be discerned by the bodily senses. Since God is Spirit, He must be acknowledged and worshipped in the fullness of the Holy Spirit by the exercise of saving faith and true hope. The fact that God is Spirit demands that a person be changed by the Spirit and begin to know God as He truly is.
Worship – corporate and individual in and out of church – must be actively dependent upon, regulated, and controlled by the Holy Spirit. Only then will worship be from a heart of love and faith to the true great God out of reverence for Him. Because God is Spirit, worship must in accordance with the reality that He is Spirit. Man is body and spirit – inner and outer man, a duplex being. Man has a body but God has no body.
Throughout history and today, idolatry is alive and well. Generally idolatry took the form of the worship of some physical object. The object was something that the people experienced with their senses: they could see, touch, taste, and feel it. The idolater was at home in his world giving honor through ritual to himself as he did homage to this physical object. The believer no longer is a purely sensual being. He interprets what he takes in with his senses through saving faith (1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9). He is what I call a suprasensual being. Since God is Spirit, the believer will and must know and worship Him from a heart changed and growing by the Holy Spirit.
There is one God and only one form of worship – from the inside out according to biblical principles. At the well, Jesus gave a theology lesson with God as the subject. God is not limited to any one place. He is Spirit and dwells everywhere. Saying that God seeks out true worshippers is tantamount to saying that God seeks and saves those who are lost (Luke 19:10). God keeps His children and they develop as true lovers and worshippers of God.
1. What does it mean to worship God is spirit?
2. What are the reasons given for the call to worship in spirit?
3. How is it possible for the believer to worship in spirit?
4. What is necessary for a person to worship in spirit?
Worship in Truth: Part IV
Concluding our series: Worship in Spirit and in Truth, Jesus continues His ministry to the woman at the well. Jesus took the opportunity to teach her, and all believers, the truth about God and people. He meets this woman where she was in terms of her relationship with God. She needed the Spirit and she needed truth. The woman had some idea of revelation. She acknowledged Jesus a prophet (4:19). She knew God deserved to be worshipped and that Scripture promised a messiah (4:20, 25). She missed the where, how, and what of worship because she did not know God.
Jesus began the theology lesson with knowledge in order for the woman to get the big picture. He taught that God’s revelation is progressive, expanding, and culminates in Jesus – His person and work. Jesus was about to fulfill what the Triune God decided in eternity past (John 6:37-43). Jesus, Immanuel, presented Himself to her as the Messiah (Matthew 1:21, 23; John 4:26). In that light, God dwells with His people and they dwell with Him. Locale is not the issue.
However, coming into God’s presence and remaining alive and well was a major concern for the Israelites. The Old Testament taught that to see God generally meant death (Genesis 16:13; 32:30; Exodus 33:20, 23). Entering into God’s presence and living was a question that was answered throughout redemptive history since Genesis 3:15. Jesus and the Holy Spirit progressively revealed God’s answer. Fellowship with God was His initial design for man but sin and God’s judgment entered the picture.
God established the sacrificial, ritual system in the Old Testament by which a privileged high priest once a year entered God’s presence and offer a sacrifice for himself and the people (Leviticus 16). The people could know if the sacrifice was acceptable if the priest returned to them. This system pointed to Christ as the High Priest who entered into the Holy of Holiness once and completed the task of atonement (Hebrews 6:13-20). As the High Priest, the first installment of His return was His resurrection which signified that God accepted Him as the true and final sacrifice (Romans 4:25). The final installment will be His second coming. The Old Testament gave insight into what was coming in Christ as revealed in the New Testament.
Worship in the Old Testament was God-ordained and it was to God as He revealed Himself. It was robed in ritual, ordinances, and ceremonies which pointed to Christ. At the cross Christ, the privileged High Priest, entered the Most Holy Place almost naked and offered His shed blood as the atoning sacrifice. His resurrection confirmed that the debt God’s people owed to God had been paid in full. After His Ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church and His people. Without the Holy Spirit’s coming, Christ’s mediatorial work (redemption accomplished) would have been for naught. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic of the new kingdom.
The Spirit is also the Spirit of truth (John 15:26; 16:13) and the new birth (regeneration: John 3:3-8). Jesus is truth (John 14:6) and His Word is truth (John 17:17). True worship is based on a proper knowledge of God, worship, and the person – the worshipper. True worship stems from one’s union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. True worship, both individually and corporately, is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions.
The Spirit was working in the Old Testament. While glorious, His fullness had not come until Pentecost. The Old Covenant while glorious gave way to the more glorious New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6-21). A fuller knowledge of who the Triune God is takes the person back into eternity, pushes him into the present, and motivates him to look forward. The Triune God is the true God of His true people. God was and is calling His people from every tribe and nation.
True knowledge of God compels a believer to assign to God that which is His. It is to give God full worth-ship. Knowing and growing in the knowledge of God’s true worth-ship is part of worshiping in spirit and in truth. Knowing God and enjoying Him is the duty, privilege, and blessing of every believer. True knowledge of God always leads to true knowledge of self. Truth sets a person free when that truth is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it is not truth (John 8:31-32; 14:6, 16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13).
In corporate worship, God is present with His Church. The special presence of God is also a privilege and blessing as part of the New Covenant. The Triune God is the audience as believers worship Him in spirit and truth. Every believer is able to relish the time he has with his God, not only in private and individual worship but also corporately as a church family. Corporate worship is the highest expression of worship and is a duty, privilege, and a blessing for God’s covenant people (Psalm 100).
1. What is your understanding of John 4:20-24?
2. The believer and the Church are Spirit-filled: what effect does that fact have on your thoughts, desires, and actions?
3. What will you pray for when you ask the Holy Spirit’s blessing on your private and public worship service?