Presented by Steven Schiller Feb 27, 2022

                                           In Spirit And Truth (4:20-24)


At Jacob's well, Jesus and the Samaritan woman discussed the matter of worship...

Samaritans and Jews differed as to where one should worship - Jn 4:20

Samaritans believed they should worship on Mt. Gerazim

Jews understood that it should be in Jerusalem

Jesus said the time was coming for a different kind of worship - Jn 4:21-24

Where worship would not be defined by its location (though Jews had been right)

Where true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and truth

What does it mean to worship the Father in spirit and truth? Many say it means...

To worship God from the heart ("in spirit")

To worship God as He directs in His Word ("and truth")

Yet note the contrast made by Jesus...

The Jews had worshipped correctly by going to Jerusalem

But the time was coming when place would not be important

-- A contrast is being made between OT worship and NT worship

Somehow Old Testament (OT) worship had not been "in spirit and truth"...

Yet God required worship from the heart from the Jews - cf. Deut 6:4-7; Isa 1:10-18

And God required worship as directed by His Word - cf. Deut 5:32-33

[If "in spirit and truth" does not mean "from the heart and in harmony with God's Word", then what does it mean? Let's first consider...]

                                 WORSHIPPING GOD IN SPIRIT


In contrast to that which is mostly physical

This explanation is in keeping with the context - cf. Jn 4:24

Jesus began by saying "God is Spirit..."

The worship of God is to be "in spirit" (i.e., spiritual)

Note these comments:

"...men must offer a worship corresponding with the nature and attributes of God." - J. W. McGarvey

"Since he is Spirit, he must receive spiritual worship..." - B.W. Johnson

"A pure, a holy, a spiritual worship, therefore, is such as he seeks the offering of the soul rather than the formal offering of the body - the homage of the heart rather than that of the lips." - Albert Barnes

-- A worship was coming that was more in keeping with God's nature!

                              AS OPPOSED TO "CARNAL" ORDINANCES...

OT worship consisted of carnal (fleshly) ordinances - cf. He 9:1-10

A physical structure (tabernacle)

Special priesthood, clothing for priests

Lamp stands, burning incense

Instruments of music

Feast days

Animal and meal sacrifices

-- All which appealed to the carnal or physical senses of man

NT worship is geared more toward the spiritual side of man:

God's temple is now spiritual, made up of Christians - 1Co 3:16; Ep 2:19-22

All Christians are priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices - 1Pe 2:5,9

Our prayers are as sweet incense - Re 5:8

Our music is making melody with the heart, not the harp - Ep 5:19

The Lord's Supper - Ac 20:7; 1Co 10:16-17; 11:17-34

Spiritual sacrifices of praise and service - He 13:15; Ro 12:1-2

-- The emphasis is on the spirit of man, not his physical senses!

[Physical ordinances of the Old Covenant were until "the time of reformation" (He 9:9-10), which occurred with the coming of the New Covenant. As Jesus proclaimed, the new worship is more in keeping with the nature of God ("God is Spirit..."), designed to relate more to the spiritual side of man. Now let's examine...]

                                   WORSHIPPING GOD IN TRUTH


To worship according to the commands of God?

Certainly we should do this

But this is no contrast to what God expected in the OT - cf. Deut 5:32-33

Jesus admitted that the Jews were right in their worship - Jn 4:22

What then is the contrast between worship that was and that which "now is"?

Not between true and false worship

But between that which is true (real) and that which had been a shadow

-- A worship was coming that was more in keeping with truth and reality

                      AS OPPOSED TO "SHADOW (SYMBOL)" WORSHIP...

Many elements of worship in the OT were simply a shadow or figure of that to come

The Tabernacle was a symbol - He 9:8-9

The Law with its worship was only a shadow of that to come - He 10:1

Christ is now in the true tabernacle (heaven)- He 9:11-12,24

We should expect the worship of the true to be different from that of the shadow

We have already seen that to be the case:

Old Covenant worship, which was but a shadow, was physical in nature

New Covenant worship is according to the true realities (God is Spirit, Christ in heaven) and is therefore more spiritual in nature

-- The emphasis is on that which is true (real), not which was a shadowy symbol of things to come

[This explanation of worshipping God "in spirit and truth" is more in keeping with the immediate context. Since God is seeking "true worshippers" who worship Him accordingly (Jn 4:23), some thoughts about our worship today may be appropriate...]

                                                WORSHIPPING GOD TODAY


There is vain worship - Mt 15:7-9

Based on traditions of men, while ignoring the commands of God

Offered without involving our "hearts" (spirits)

There is ignorant worship - Ac 17:22-23

Ignorant of the true nature of God

Ignorant of the worship He desires

There is will worship - Col 2:20-23 (KJV)

Self-imposed, not God-directed

What we like, what we think is good

-- Just because we worship God, does not mean He is pleased with our worship!

                                MANY OFFER CARNAL WORSHIP...

When they appeal to the OT for their authority for how they worship

For instrumental music, burning incense, clapping, etc.

They seek to justify that which appeals to the flesh (senses), not the spirit

When they offer that which appeals to their fleshly nature

Preferring what is based on how it sounds

Preferring what is based on how it feels

-- Striving to be more spiritual, some revert to becoming more carnal, a reason to be concerned (cf. Ga 4:9-11)!

                                GOD SEEKS TRUE WORSHIPPERS...

Who worship God "...with their spirits" - Matthew Poole

Seeking to engage the spirit (mind) more than the organs of the body

Content with the simplicity of worship that stresses the spiritual side of man

Who worship God "...according to the rule that he hath prescribed, in truth and reality." - ibid.

Not desiring to return to the carnal ordinances imposed until a time of reformation

Content with the worship ordained in the New Covenant

Who can worship God anywhere, anytime, with true spiritual worship - e.g., Ac 16:25

-- God seeks such worshippers, who seek to worship Him in spirit and truth!


Matthew Poole offered this explanation of our text in his commentary... "God...is a spiritual Being, the Father of spirits, and requires a spiritual service proportioned to His being; and therefore those that pay a religious homage to him, must do it with their spirits, and according to the rule that he hath prescribed, in truth and reality."

How can we be sure to offer spiritual and true worship acceptable to God...?

Look to the New Testament for our authority in worship!

Worship in ways ordained by Christ and His apostles! - cf. Ac 2:42

As God is Spirit...

Our worship should be spiritual and not limited to special places

The emphasis should be on the spiritual (e.g., meaning of the words), and not the physical (e.g., how it looks, sounds, feels)


"...the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." (Jn 4:23)