In Spirit and In Truth
My whole life, I have heard people talk about this passage. Pastors telling us we need to worship God in spirit and in truth, but what does that mean? How do I worship God in spirit and in truth? I will start by saying that I don’t know if what I came up with is right or not. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I always try to research the verses we’re talking about by taking the Bible literally, while keeping it in the context of the entire Bible. This has been a tough one, but I will tell you what I have found. At the same time, I would welcome your thoughts on the matter, feel free to post them in the comment section.
If we look at John chapter 4, we see that the first 42 verses are telling the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. We have all heard this story our entire lives, but I want to look at a few points in it. First, let’s look at the book of John as a whole. Notice John, Jesus’ best friend, doesn’t waste any time. He starts by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Word, and was in the beginning with God the Father. Then, John goes right into the ministry of Christ.
In chapter 3 we see that John the Baptizer is baptizing in one town and Jesus is baptizing in another. John’s disciples come to him and ask him about this because everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. Here is where John says, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.
So, chapter 4 starts by saying that, because the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making more disciples than John the Baptizer, He decided to leave Judea and go to Galilee. But I want to point out verse 4 of John chapter 4, it says, “He had to go through Samaria on the way.” You see, it’s not that Jesus had to pass through Samaria because it was the quickest way to Galilee, it was actually out of the way. Plus, as a Jew, He would have been expected to go around Samaria even if it was on the way. So, what it comes down to is that Jesus needed to see this woman.
In this conversation, the woman asked Jesus in John 4:19-20, “19 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?’” Let’s look at Jesus’ response to this question. He said in verses 21-24, “21 Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’”
Let’s look at this phrase. Jesus said that at that time some worship God in one holy place and others worship Him in another holy place. Then He says that the day is coming, and it’s already here when true worshipers…let’s stop and look at that phrase. He says, true worshipers. The best definition of the Greek word, ἀληθινός alēthinós, (al-ay-thee-nos’) is “that which has not only the name and semblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name” (Tittmann, p. 155). So, He is talking about people whose very nature is worship. These people will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
These people, these true worshipers won’t need a place to go and worship God, they can worship Him in spirit wherever they are. So many churches, even to this day, keep the doors to their buildings open so their parishioners can have a place to come and worship. But why? We don’t need a building to go to and worship God! Look at the Church of the new testament. There is never any mention of a church building. They met in homes, in the street, the church at Philippi met by the river. In Acts chapter 2 it does say that they met in the Temple, but that was the Hebrew temple. Picture this for a minute. The Jewish leaders had just crucified Jesus, days earlier. Then His followers begin holding services in the courtyard of their temple, worshiping the one they just crucified…that took guts! So, them worshiping in the temple was a statement, not a religious act.
If you have never studied the book of John, I would highly recommend it. In fact, if you haven’t, stop now and do it…it’s that important. After studying it you may want to watch Mark Driscoll’s series on it, it’s very good. When you get to chapter 14 you will see that Jesus is telling us that He is the only way to the father, then in the second half of the chapter, He is introducing us to the Holy Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus said, “He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” Do you see that? The Holy Spirit leads into ALL TRUTH! Then Jesus goes on to say that the world can’t see Him because they aren’t looking for Him.
In the last two verses of chapter 15, John says, 26 “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. 27 And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” John 15:26-27. Here Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of Truth.” He then tells us what the Holy Spirit will do in us. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will testify about Him and then we must testify about Him. You see, the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus to us so that we can testify about Jesus to the world.
What I believe it comes down to is that first of all, we can worship God anywhere, it doesn’t have to be on a mountain or in a church building. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and must worship God in the Spirit. Secondly, we must come to God truthfully, with no pretenses. Worship Him in the council of the Bible; His word is truth (John 17:17). We must allow the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to speak through us in worship (Phil 3:3, Rev 1:10).
So, as you go into your day, ask the Holy Spirit to testify to you about Jesus and then tell others what He told you. Always remember that prayer is a dialog, not a monologue. When you pray, always listen, He’s trying to speak to you.