Pristine Grace

Worship in Spirit and in Truth
by David Bishop

    Someone asked about worshiping God in spirit and in truth.

John 4
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

    Under the Mosaic economy God was formally worshiped on Mount Moriah. This is the mount where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, where David built an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and where the Temple was later built by Solomon.

    In contrast to the Jews who worshiped at Mount Moriah, the Samaritans were a hodgepodge of displaced people from the nations of Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim later resettled in the region of Syria by the king of Assyria.

    We are told in 2 Kings 17:24-34 the Lord set lions upon these resettled Samaritans as punishment for not worshiping Him according to His law. At the conclusion of the account, we are told these Syrians eventually came to worship God, but not as the Jews did, as the only God, Creator of the heavens and the earth. They instead worshiped Him as one god among many other gods.

    Many centuries later, in John 4, we find one of the descendants of these displaced people remarking about these things to Jesus. "Sir," she says, "our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."

    This woman's comment is more than just about location. It's also about law and sacrifices. The Samaritans did not offer the ritual sacrifices Moses had prescribed. Nor did they sacrifice at the prescribed places, like at the Temple on Mount Moriah, for example.

    In effect, what the woman asked was, ain't my worship good enough? Ain't my sacrifices just as good as the ones you Jews offer? In other words, as long as my heart is in the right place, don't my works count for something even if they're not exactly the same works God requires from you Jews?

    Listen to Jesus' answer.

"Woman, believe Me," He says, "the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."

    On the one hand, you Samaritans worship what you do not know. That is, you don't know who God is because you don't have the prophets, and you don't have the law. You instead grope blindly about in the dark just like your ancestors did. We Jews though, we do have the prophets and we do have the law. We know who God is and what He demands. We know He is the only God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, and there is none beside Him.

    Years later, the apostle Paul would put it this way in his epistle to the Romans. "What advantage has the Jew? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God." (Romans 3:1-2)

But Jesus does not stop here! He does not stop at identifying the error in the woman's thinking, or at the erroneous differences between Jews and Samaritans. Instead, He continues on and in the process surprises her.

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him."

    On the one hand, the Jews have the oracles of God. They know who God is, the only God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and they know what He demands in regards to holiness and justice. Jesus warns the woman though, that this is not going to cut it. You asked Me about Jews and Samaritans. Well, I'm answering you, and I'm telling you they're both wrong. Converting to Judaism is not going to save you. Repenting of your Samaritan ignorance won't help you. Turning in worship from one mountain to another isn't going to do anything for you, because in the end this is not what God seeks.

    Jesus defined Himself in John 14:6 as the truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

    Jesus did not say He was LIKE the truth, or that He was the way TO to the truth. No, He said He IS the truth. He is what the truth is. Therefore, if I am to worship God in truth, then I must worship God in Christ.

    He also defined spirit in John 6:63. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."

    He didn't say His words GIVE spirit, or His words are the way TO spirit. No, He said His words ARE spirit and they ARE life.

    No longer is worship confined to a building, located atop a particular geographical spot. And no longer do God's worshipers worship Him with animals sacrifices and ritualistic washings. Instead, God is found only in Christ, and the only way to worship Him is in Christ.

    In other words, God is not honored nor worshiped in, by and/or through any act or service of worship that is not offered in thanksgiving strictly by someone made righteous only by the cross of Christ. Such people can be anywhere geographically speaking and still worship God.