In answer to the question, “How does a Christian worship?” the believer might reply, ‘In spirit and truth’. Where does that come from?
John 4:23 ‘But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship HIm.’
These words of Jesus were spoken to a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from Jacob’s well at Sychar. (John 4:1-42) He told her she had lived with five husbands, and currently she was with a man she hadn’t married. (v 18) Taken aback and amazed that a Jewish stranger should know this, she took Him to be a prophet. (v 19)
A bit flustered, she said the fathers of the Samaritans had worshipped on the very mountain where they were, and yet Jews maintain Jerusalem is the place where one ‘ought to worship.’ (vs 19, 20)
Jesus explained that salvation would be from the Jews, and the time had come (v 23) for ‘true’ worshippers to worship the Father wherever they are, and they would do it, ‘in spirit and truth’. (v 24) Jesus qualified His statement by saying, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (v 24)
She said she knew the Christ was coming, and He would tell them everything. There and then Jesus told her He was the Christ! (v 26)
Gob-stopped, she left her water pot and went back to her city to urge everyone to go and meet Him. Many did, and believed – not just because of the woman’s testimony, but because of their own conviction. (v 39) They truly believed He was ‘the Christ, the Saviour of the world.’ (v 42)
So what does it mean to ‘worship in spirit and truth’?
Our spirit with a small ’s’ is the enlivened spirit that once was dead in our trespasses and sin. Before regeneration by the indwelling Holy Spirit we were in Adam, but after regeneration we are in Christ. In our dead state we were unable to worship God. In our born again state (John 3:3-8) we are able to worship Him. The new man’s (2 Corinthians 5:17) desire is to serve and worship God in purity of thought and deed.
His foremost commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30) becomes the objective. We know Christ Himself has obeyed this command (John 15:10) on our behalf, and we can rest in Him. However, we endeavour to be like Christ, which means giving God absolutely everything, as Christ gave His life. He died that we might live. (John 3:16)
To worship ‘in truth’ is to be sincerely honest in all our motivations as judged by our conscience before God. (Romans 9:1; 2 Timothy 1:3)
This is the sort of worship and the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. (John 4:23)
Christian worship is adoring and honouring God with due reverence to the one and only true God. It can be done in private (Matthew 6:6) or collectively with other Christians. (Colossians 3:16, 17)
Worship is more than a state of prayer or contemplation. Worshipping God is an activity of the mind and spirit played out in the way we live. Our lives are sacrifices to Him: Are we Christ-centred in our actions, always seeking to please Him? (1 Thessalonians 2:4; 4:1) Is our worship an expression of ourselves? (1 Timothy 2:8)
If our worship does not reach the perfection to which we aspire, don’t let us worry; don’t let us fret. (Philippians 4:6, 7) God knows our heart. We can relax and rest in Him. (Hebrews 4:1-11) He is our Sabbath. He loves us. (John 3:16) He gave His life for us to become our friend. (John 15:15)