John 4:1-26 True Worship WC McCarter
In John four, we meet Jesus as He is heading out of Judea and north to Galilee. In between these two regions is the region of Samaria. Most Jews would avoid Samaria by going around it along the Jordan River, since over 700 years of religious and racial prejudice separated the Jews and Samaritans. Jews looked down on Samaritans who were half Jew and half Gentile, and considered them impure people. Although it took more time, traveling along the river would be the easiest route. Jesus had a special purpose for this trip. He was on a mission. He overlooked racism and disregarded the Jewish traditions of the time. What he does and says is highly valuable.
In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, in response to one of the most heated questions of the day, Jesus makes a statement about worship and worshippers. He told a Samaritan woman at a well that the time had come when true believers would worship God in spirit and truth. This woman quickly grew to understand that Jesus was a prophet and maybe even the Messiah, but it is not clear whether she understood what Jesus meant by “spirit and truth.” Yet, that is our goal today. What was Jesus teaching about true worship, and how does it apply to us?
Point 1: Spirit and Truth- Linked
These 2 terms go hand in hand because they are both governed by the same preposition- “in.” In effect, Jesus says that worship is to be, “In spirit and in truth.” They are linked together. We must interpret both terms in light of each other. D. A. Carson says that they “form one matrix” and therefore are “indivisible” (226).
Connective: First, we see that both of these words must go together. This will guide us as we investigate this text.
Point 2: Location and Means- Dismissed
In the context, it seems that Jesus compares and contrasts location and means of worship. These are the two subjects discussed.
*What locations are named? (1) Mount Gerizim; (2) Jerusalem Temple
*What means of worship is understood at both? Ritual Ceremonies
Jesus dismisses Mount Gerizim and even the Jerusalem Temple as the correct location for worship. He also rejects the means of worship for both, which was ritual ceremonies. Since both the location and means of worship have been dismissed, all we are left with is what? Worship in spirit and truth.
The spirit (human) replaces both the Jerusalem and Gerizim locations for the appropriate place for worship, while truth replaces ritual ceremonies. Let me mention that the apostle John often uses words that can have multiple meanings. Here is an example, the word “truth” can also be translated as “faithfulness” or “reality.” Jesus is saying that we must worship God with sincerity of heart, in truth, in faithfulness. This is our true act of worship. Outward rituals are not our means of genuine worship. Love for the truth and faithfulness to the truth is our true means of worshipping God the Father through Christ the Son.
Connective: It is now clear that worship has changed to spirit and truth because the old locations and means have been replaced, but we now face the real question, What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?
Point 3: Spirit and Truth- Meaning
At this point I like what Mark Moore says about true worship, “The Spirit of God and the spirit of man commingle.” Worship is when our human spirits commingle with the Holy Spirit, with sincerity and complete reality before God.
Ritual was the old requirement of worship. Jesus changes this to worship in truth, which is anything that is in harmony with God’s Word and will.
God is not limited to a place or time. We can commune with God anywhere at any time. We can serve God in many capacities and in any place.
You know when you’re riding with someone and they have to slam on their brakes? What do we do a lot of times? We grab the dash, like it’s a steering wheel. We tense up and try to push the brake with our foot, even though we are not behind the wheel. It is an automatic reflex that we have developed. Now, who can blame someone for doing that? Yet, the same thing often happens in our worship times, but that cannot be excused. That cannot be laughed off. We cannot allow ourselves to merely go through the motions of a traditional routine.
Jesus said, “God is Spirit.” God is much more than this physical world. Worship is much more than a specific location or any ritualistic event. Is it wrong to designate a place to meet for worship or to do many of the same things each week? No, of course not. We have the commands of the Lord and His apostles and the example of the early church to follow. We are commanded to assemble together on a regular basis. We are commanded to do some of the same things when we meet such as partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We are to belong to a local church among whom we worship and serve. Yet, we must understand that the location and means by which we worship do not control us. We worship the Father in spirit and truth. We can worship under a steeple, in a pew, at someone’s house, in someone’s basement, at a baseball stadium, at work, or out under a tree, etc.
Have you been in a spiritual rut? Have you not “felt” the Spirit in worship?
Do you feel far away from God at times?
Let us forsake all forms of worship that are based merely on man-made traditions, human insights, and only outward activities. This, of course, means that we must not bend to cultural pressure, whether it be secular culture or Christian culture, as to how we should worship our Lord. We must be faithful to the truth, and we must worship Him in spirit.
Let us not engage in the “worship wars” to argue about music styles or what clothes we wear on Sundays.
Let us do this one thing: Worship God in spirit and in truth. In your spirit, get to know the Lord better. In your spirit, commune with the living God. Let your spirit be the starting place of your obedience to the truth. Believe in your spirit. Trust in your spirit. Pray in your spirit. Love Christ in your spirit. Let us be faithful to our Lord in everything we do because He has and will be faithful to us.