The True Worshippers
The True Worshippers
John 4: 5 0 42.
‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24).
True worship addresses God, not only as the Creator and Preserver of our natural world, all that we see around us, and as the great Lord of the Universe, but true worship also brings us into the presence of a God who has taught us to call Him our Father, the beloved of our souls. Jesus tells us here that the Father seeks for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let that thought sink in for a second; God seeks true worshippers. Have you ever really considered the magnitude of that statement? Our worship satisfies God’s loving heart and is a joy to Him. He who has forgiven our sins to the uttermost, and brought us into eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ, finds pleasure in our worship of Him. We, puny, finite, relatively insignificant creatures of His vast universe, actually have the privilege of being able to bring joy to the heart of Our Heavenly Father. With that in mind, let us hear what Our Lord has to say further regarding the subject of worship.
In our Gospel reading this evening, in an encounter with a Samaritan women at Jacob’s well,our Lord spoke of three types of worship. There was the ignorant worship of the Samaritans, the intelligent worship of the Jews, and the spiritual worship which He Himself had come to establish. Perceiving that Jesus was a prophet, and to shift the attention away from her less than admirable lifestyle that was being uncovered, the Samaritan woman, like so many when their sin is being brought to light and exposed, attempted to take refuge in a religious debate: ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’
Never one to mince words, or confuse an issue with an abundance of rhetoric, Jesus simply replied: ‘Ye worship that which ye know not’. Let us remember that the Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament except for their version of the 5 books of Moses. Their knowledge of God was lacking and incomplete; and consequently, so was their worship. In 722 B.C., after the ten tribes of Israel had been carried captive, and those regions left almost uninhabited, the king of Assyria planted in them a colony of various nations from the eastern part of his empire, who, mingling with the few original inhabitants, formed to themselves a strange concoction of a religion, by mixing together the principles and rites of Judaism and those of oriental idolatries -“fearing Jehovah, and serving their graven images.” (2 Kings 17:24-41). Yes, the Samaritans worshipped the God of Israel, the true God, but they were entrenched in gross ignorance for they worshipped Him strictly as the God of that land, as a local deity, along with all the other ‘gods’ of the nations. At the time of the return from the Babylonian captivity, the Samaritans, after having their alliance refused by the Jews, became their bitterest enemies, and presented the most active opposition to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple and capital (Ezra chapter 4; and Nehemiah chapters 4 & 6). The Samaritans did not acknowledge the authority of the historical books, as written by the Jews. The natural consequence of all these circumstances was, that the Jews and the Samaritans regarded each other with a much more rancorous, resentful, bitter dislike for one another than either of them did to the idolatrous nations by which they were surrounded. We may find that strange, but is it all that different from the animosity that has existed between God’s children in the different denominations; each going their separate ways, assigning different degrees of importance to God’s Holy Word, worshipping the same Lord, but not together, and yet, having no problem in being of one mind in fully accepting the ways of the godless secular world around them? The Lord said the Samaritans worshipped what they knew not – that they were ignorant, not only of the place, but of the very object of their worship. The Samaritans had abandoned the Law, and developed their own version of worship. Indeed, they feared the Lord after a fashion; but at the same time served the gods of those around them.
Regarding the Jews, Jesus said,‘We worship that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews.’ The word of salvation was of the Jews (Acts 13:26). It was delivered to them and they therefore knew what they worshipped. To them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), the covenants, and the receiving of the Law, the temple worship and the promisesof God. (Romans 9:4). Jesus answers the woman’s question by saying that in worshipping at Jerusalem, we, the Jews, are acting in compliance with the Divine will. In essence, He is saying ‘In regards to the religious debate between you and the Jews, you are wrong, and they are right; you are ignorant, and they are well-informed’, but, you are both wrong.
But, Jesus did not stop there for He continues on to say “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
Obviously, the words ‘in spirit and truth’ do not mean, as it is so often taught, worshipping in earnest, in sincerity, from the heart, for as mentioned earlier the Samaritans had the five books of Moses and some knowledge of God and there was doubtless more than one among them who honestly and earnestly sought God in worship. Likewise, the Jews had the true full revelation of God in His word, as far as it had been revealed and there were among them godly men, who called upon the LORD with their whole heart. As far back as Genesis Chapter 4 we read ‘then began men to call upon the name of the LORD’. And yet Jesus said that, “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”. It is imperative, they must worship Him in spirit and in truth; there is no other way. This is not the first time that we have encountered this very emphatic word ‘must’ in John’s Gospel. Last week we discussed Jesus’ use of it when He said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7) and “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). Each of these three “musts” is equally important and intertwined to create the fabric of worshipping God in spirit and truth. The first has reference to God the Spirit, for it is He alone who brings about the new birth. The second refers to the work of God the Son in His incarnation and death upon the cross, for He it is Who is the propitiation for our sins. The third has reference to God the Father, for He it is that seeketh worshippers (John 4:23). The foundation of our worship cannot be built on anything else; it is only those who have been reborn of the Spirit, and who are resting solely upon the atoning work of Christ, that can worship the Father.
In order to worship God in spirit and in truth, He must be known: and He cannot be known apart from Christ. To worship God “in spirit and in truth” means in the full and final revelation which God has now made of Himself in Christ by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. ‘Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.’ (John 8:18)
To worship in spirit and in truth is contrary to a carnal worship which is external and ostentatious. Worshipping in spirit and in truth excludes all worship of God with the senses. Worshipping in spirit and in truth eliminates everything that is of the natural man for it is the adoration of a redeemed people, occupied with God Himself. The natural man looks upon worship as a duty, something that God demands from him and which gives no joy as he offers it. Far different is it with those who have been born from above and redeemed with the precious blood. Worshipping in Spirit and truth is the new nature in the believer stirred into activity, turning to its Divine and heavenly Source. It is that which is “spirit” (John 3:6) turning in adoration to Him who is the “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). It is that which is the “workmanship” of Christ (Ephesians 2:10) turning to Him who re-created us. It is the child spontaneously and gratefully turning in love to his Father. It is the new heart crying out, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). It is sinners, cleansed by His blood, exclaiming “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This is true worship; being assured of our acceptance in the Beloved, adoring God for what He has made Christ to be unto us, and what He has made us to be in Christ. It is not approaching Him to receive from Him, but rather to render unto Him. It is the pouring out of the heart’s adoration. The entire object of the worship, from beginning to end, is God and God alone. The author of worship in spirit and truth is God for He can only be satisfied with that which He has Himself produced. “Lord… Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” (Isaiah 26:12). Worship in spirit and truth is indeed praise, but it is so much more; it is the adoration flowing forth from a heart which is fully assured of the excellency of Him before whom it bows in love and reverence, expressing its profoundest gratitude for His unspeakable Gift, and to have ‘the Spirit of the Son’, dwelling within us, and revealing the Father unto us, making us spiritual worshippers crying out ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6).
The woman at the well had asked our Lord whether Samaria or Jerusalem was the true place of worship. Jesus answered that henceforth worship is no longer to be limited to a certain place: ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.‘ For as God is Spirit, not bound by space or time, but in His infinite perfection always and everywhere is the same, so His worship will henceforth no longer be confined by place or form, but will be spiritual as God Himself is spiritual. The more our worship is in spirit and truth, the less attractive to the flesh will it be. There is so much so-called worship today that is chiefly designed to render it pleasing to the flesh with beautiful surroundings, sensuous music, and entertaining programs. Much of this ‘worship’ comes from, and ministers to, the soul, the emotions. Music which makes one “feel good”, emotional anecdotes which draw tears, the stirring oratory of a polished speaker, the clever showmanship of professional evangelists and singers who aim to ‘produce an atmosphere’ for worship and which are designed to move the varied emotions of those in attendance, are so many examples of what is of the soul and not of the spirit. True worship, spiritual worship, is reverential, occupying the worshipper with God Himself; and the effect is to leave one not with a hyped-up sensual experience, but with a peaceful heart and a rejoicing spirit.
The purpose of our worship should always be to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and yes – bring pleasure to God. He must at all times, and in all places, be sought and worshipped for Himself, never as a means towards something else. Worshipping in spirit and in truth is a way of life, not a separate activity that we do when we feel so inclined. We should live in an attitude of constant dependence on the Spirit of God; to live our life, to do His work, and especially, to worship Him. And, above all, remember that the Father is not seeking worship, but rather, the worshipper. May you be found by Him as such, from this moment forward.
…. Paul G. Stanley originally given on Feb. 2, 2005