“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24)
When I have engaged people with the Gospel, sometimes in the conversations they endeavor to change the subject when they begin to get uncomfortable. They want to discuss another subject other than what is really the subject we need to discuss: their need for Christ.
This was the case with the woman Jesus encountered at the well. When He confronted her about her immorality and sin, she wanted to discuss the worship of God. How ironic that she wanted to discuss worship when her life was such a mess. Only when she repents of her sin and receives God’s forgiveness and righteousness, can she really become a true worshiper of God.
She wanted to debate where the appropriate place of worship really was. The Samaritans believed it to be at Shechem. The Jews observed their worship in Jerusalem. Who was correct she asked?
Pastor John MacArthur explains, “Both Jews and Samaritans recognized that God had commanded their forefathers to identify a special place for worshiping him (Deut. 12:5). The Jews, recognizing the entire Hebrew canon, chose Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:5–13; 2 Chron. 6:6). The Samaritans, recognizing only the Pentateuch, noted that the first place Abraham built an altar to God was at Shechem (Gen. 12:6–7), which was overlooked by Mount Gerizim, where the Israelites had shouted the blessings promised by God before they entered the Promised Land ((Deut. 11:29–30). As a result, they chose Mount Gerizim for the place of their temple.”
However, Jesus instructed the woman that soon such specific places of worship would be obsolete for both the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus’ purpose in coming to the earth was not only to bring a new covenant of salvation, but also with it a proper understanding of worship. John 4:24 gives us the classic statement of not only the nature of God but also the nature of worship: in spirit and in truth.
Dr. MacArthur continues by saying, “This verse represents the classical statement on the nature of God as Spirit. The phrase means that God is invisible (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27) as opposed to the physical or material nature of man (John 1:18; 3:6). The word order of this phrase puts an emphasis on “spirit,” and the statement is essentially emphatic. Man could never comprehend the invisible God unless he revealed himself, as he did in Scripture and the incarnation. The word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit. Jesus’ point here is that a person must worship not simply by external conformity to religious rituals and places (outwardly) but inwardly (“in spirit”) with the proper heart attitude. The reference to “truth” refers to worship of God consistent with the revealed Scripture and centered on the “Word made flesh” who ultimately revealed his Father (14:6)”
How often do we actually worship in spirit and in truth? Both elements of worship present a delicate balance which is often difficult to achieve, but not impossible. It takes effort on our part but also a dependence upon the Holy Spirit to keep both aspects in view. Otherwise, we either have emotion based entertainment substituting for worship, or cold, dead orthodoxy with no heart in which people go through the motions replacing worship. Both are extremes which must be avoided.
Take time to truly evaluate your personal, along with your corporate weekly, worship at church. See if they contain both spirit and truth. You may be surprised by what you find. Consciously strive to worship God in both your spirit and His truth.
Soli deo Gloria!