Worship God In Spirit and In Truth

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Worship God In Spirit and In Truth

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: John 4:24


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Today, as we continue our study of the teachings of Jesus, we want to notice another conversation Jesus had that led to a truth about true worship.   Recall that last week we discussed the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus in which He declared “You must be born again”… “of water and the Spirit”, a likely reference to baptism – obeying the gospel – where we respond in obedience and God does as He promised when we do (cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21).

Following this we find a conversation of Jesus with a Samaritan woman that leads to His revelation of who He is and a discussion of true worship.  In this lesson let us first notice the context, and then discuss what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth”


  1. The Context
    1. Jesus has left Judea and is headed toward Galilee (1-3)
    2. He goes through Samaria (4). Bear in mind that the Samaritans were a people despised by the Jews because of their mixed history and as such the region was often avoided by Jesus (they would go around rather than passing through).  But Jesus goes through there anyways.
    3. He comes to a city called Sychar, near where Jacob had dug a well and given the place to his son Joseph (5-6)
    4. Jesus sits down to rest by the well. His disciples go into the city to get food.  A Samaritan woman comes out to draw water.  Jesus asks for a drink (6-8).   The woman is surprised that Jesus would speak to her (because 1) She was a Samaritan, 2) She was a woman).  She asks why He asked her for a drink.
    5. Jesus turns the conversation spiritual by offering her “living water” – we know this to be a spiritual reference to the eternal life He offers (9-10). The woman asks where this water is and describes the well of Jacob and asks if He is greater than Jacob (11-12).
    6. Jesus again describes this water noting that the water of Jacob’s well was temporal, but the water He gives quenches thirst forever – again, it is salvation – everlasting life (13-14)
    7. The woman asks for this water, but Jesus then exposes her sinful past (multiple husbands and living with one not her husband) (15-18).
    8. The woman then perceiving Him a prophet turns the conversation toward worship (maybe she was changing the subject)(19). She noted that they worshipped on that mountain (As I understand, the Samaritans accepted the 5 books of Moses, but nothing else of the OT), thus they believed true worship WAS there at Jacob’s well (Genesis 33:18-20 notes when Jacob returns to the land – 20 years after fleeing for fear because of his deceits and of Esau – and he settles in Shechem).  NOTE that the Pentateuch mentions nothing about Jerusalem as God’s chosen place.  Thus the woman notes “you Jews say that in Jerusalem is where you ought to worship.” (20)
  2. Worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth
    1. Continuing the narrative – now addressing true worship:
      1. Jesus responds noting that a time is coming when there will be a change in worship. Worship will not be the material places – either in Shechem or in Jerusalem.  (21)
      2. He noted, “You worship what you do not know…” 2 Kings 17 describes the resettlement of Samaria after Assyria carried (Northern) Israel away into captivity. They people displaced in the land were taught by a priest carried away from Samaria (thus a follower of Jeroboam’s calves).  They continued in idolatry, but they feared YHWH (17:28) – sort of.
        The worship of Samaria was FALSE worship!
      3. We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (22) – this is something that was taught, not only in the LOM, but also through the prophets and the rest of the Old Testament, INCLUDING David, who built Jerusalem (Genesis 12:1-3, 49:10, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Isaiah 2:2-4, 2 Samuel 7:12-17, Psalm 147:19-20, cf. Romans 3:1-2, 9:3-, etc.)
    2. But the hour is coming
      1. Jesus declared that something different was approaching – we know that Old Law was on its way out. Jesus would bring it to its conclusion and nail it to the cross.
      2. And now is – It was imminent.
      3. When TRUE worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. – the new law was going to be spiritual – not about the mere ritual of both the Samaritan and Jewish worship which were BOTH corrupted and had left God.
      4. The Father is seeking such to worship Him – God wants something better than the mere ritualistic and corrupt worship.
    3. 24, Worship Him in spirit and in truth
      1. God is Spirit – certainly, God is! He is not flesh and bones.
        1. Recall Acts 17:22-25 where Paul was in Athens and addressed “the unknown God”.
        2. And while He is revealed in nature (cf. Romans 1:20), we only know of His nature because He has revealed it to us. Consider 1 Corinthians 2:9-12.
        3. His nature factors into HOW we are to worship Him now.
      2. We MUST worship Him – this is something necessary.
      3. In Spirit & in Truth – BOTH of these qualifiers address how we to worship God.
        1. First, in consideration of who He is (He is Spirit) and how we are like Him – Spirit (cf. Genesis 1:26, 2 Peter 1:4 – we are partakers of His divine nature);
        2. Second, it must be motivated by His directions – truth. If we are truthfully worshipping God, we will do it AS he instructs us.  That is something that was HEAVILY emphasized under the Law of Moses (cf. Hebrews 8:4-5 which indicated the importance of pattern).  Jesus Himself declared in Luke 6:46 that if we call Him Lord, we will do what He says.    And remember, His word IS truth (John 17:17)
        3. The Old Testament is filled with examples of corrupt worship – in many instances going through the motions, but God was not impressed. That is the focus of Malachi 1 & 2, and the vain worship of the religious leaders in the days of Jesus (cf. Matthew 15:1-9, Matthew 23:1-7ff, etc.   Then there was the idolatry!
  3. What about our worship to God?
    1. We MUST worship Him – God demands that we worship Him, and that we so properly.
      1. Matthew 4:10, as Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy to Satan He noted that we are to worship God and Him only shall we serve.
      2. Revelation 22:9, commanded at the very end – “Worship God” (and don’t worship man).
      3. This is also borne out in the numerous passages that condemn idolatry.
    2. Is it in spirit?
      1. Traditionally, we think of this as descriptive of proper motives, and that certainly is part of it.
      2. Proper motives are certainly important in EVERY act of worship – the Bible declares our worship MUST be heart centered
        1. Singing – Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:15 – sing “with the Spirit and with the understanding”
        2. Prayer – 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 6:17-18 – we are praying “in the Spirit”. Our prayers must be with faith (James 1:5-6, 5:15-16)
        3. Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – we partake of the Lord’s Supper in communion (fellowship) with our Lord; 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 – it must be in a worthy manner, discerning the Lord’s body.
        4. Giving – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – cheerfully, and not grudgingly, AND as he purposes in his heart
        5. Preaching – truly, the message needs to be delivered and received with open hearts – cf. Acts 17:11.
      3. Yet, perhaps the idea of spirit is something more than this – it is from the heart, but it MUST be driven by obedience and being “spiritual” or godly beings (like Him) –
        1. Consider 1 Peter 2:5 & 9 – we are a spiritual priesthood.
        2. We offer spiritual sacrifices – Hebrews 13:15
        3. Romans 12:1-2 – we present ourselves as living sacrifices
      4. Our worship must be driven by the fact that we are in right relationship with Him – Romans 8:1 talks about the one who walks “not according to the flesh, but according to the Sprit.” Vs. 4-5 contrasts those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit.
      5. In other words, the heart is not enough. Many today reason, “As long as my heart (and they mean motives) is right, what I do doesn’t matter”, or they might say, “God doesn’t care about HOW we worship Him, as long as we are sincere.”  Friends, that is NOT enough!
      6. Worshipping “in Spirit” IS following His instructions! To act otherwise is to worship in VAIN! Romans 10:1-2 spoke a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
      7. Remember that in our text, Jesus is CONTRASTING the worship of both the Samaritans AND the Jews with worshipping God “in spirit and in truth.”
      8. SO, when we think of worshipping God in spirit – let us be examining ourselves.
    3. Is it in truth?
      1. Again, as we think of this, we think of doing things the proper way.
      2. That too is absolutely imperative in our worship. We have a pattern and we MUST follow that pattern.
        1. That is why we partake of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday (Acts 20:7) and ONLY assembled together (1 Corinthians 10 & 11). It governs the elements and the order.
        2. That is why we only sing, and do not use instruments – because every passage that addresses our worship in song ONLY mentions singing (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:15, etc.).
        3. That is why we only take up a collection on Sundays – 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
        4. Our prayers and our Bible study – ought to be based upon truth as well.
    4. But the idea of truth also means genuine, or unhypocritical.
      1. We cannot merely “go through the motions.”
        1. Understand that you can engage in worship with an absolutely proper pattern, BUT it can be wrong.
        2. That is what Israel often did and they were despised by God because of it. Amos 5:20-26 declares the LORD as He hated their feast days and sacrifices.   The same thing in Isaiah 1:11-16 where the Lord not only rejects their offerings but calls for their repentance.
        3. Be reminded that there were ALSO times when God was well pleased with their worship. I think of Josiah as he restored true worship in 2 Kings 23:21-23 where he restored the Passover to a time some 600-700 years prior.  I think of the true worship of Israel after returning from Babylonian captivity as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
        4. TRUE worship is ALSO Spirit driven – He guides us into all truth (cf. John 16:13, 1 Peter 4:11 – speak as the oracles of God, etc.)
      2. Our goal needs to be to bring praise to Him – as we have noted so often, worship is first and foremost about God – Hebrews 13:15-16.  And if it is about God, it will be according to His pattern!
      3. But it is also designed to build us up – that is the premise of 1 Corinthians 14:1-26. True worship takes this into consideration.
        1. That can be determined by what we do to prepare our minds to worship (proper rest, forethought as we lead the worship, etc.),
        2. Choosing our songs and lessons with thought,
        3. Making sure that the Lord’s Supper is not a mere afterthought, etc.
        4. Doing what we can to ensure that we leave edified (not necessarily happy),
        5. A sermon can be truthful and hateful at the same time, and thus NOT pleasing to God. Ephesians 4:15 – leaders need to “speak the truth in love”.
        6. We ought to be “edified in love” (Ephesians 4:16) when we are taught the truth and do the truth.

Much more could be said about this text.  The response was spectacular when Jesus identified who He was and the woman left her waterpot and went to the city declaring who Jesus was.  But my point in this lesson is for us to understand that we must be worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” and I hope that we can see those two concepts are much more closer related to each other than we sometimes think.  You CANNOT worship God “in spirit” without it being truthful, and you CANNOT be true in worship WITHOUT a proper spirit.  Therefore, we must resolve that our worship be “in spirit AND in truth.”   Think about it!