“true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (Jn. 4:23)
In speaking these words to the woman at the well, Jesus was trying to help her understand that true worship goes beyond traditions. How the Samaritans worshiped versus how the Jews worshiped was not the real issue. Worship is about meeting God where He is, not where we are, which requires worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. The focus of worship is God, not us.
Jesus’ words provide two cues as to why we too must define true worship in this way:
1) The essence of who we worship
Look at the next verse for why Jesus defined true worship the way He did — “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
If God is spirit, it only makes sense that we relate to Him on that level. As a spirit, He is not confined to one location. Consequently, we are able to worship Him anywhere and at any time. We must not try to confine Him to a certain place nor to one set tradition of worship.
God must, however, be distinguished from any other kind of created spirit. He alone is eternal, without beginning or end. He alone in infinite, not limited by any constraints. Consequently, we must worship Him not only in spirit, as He is spirit, but also in truth as the One of whom there is none greater whose very being not only defines worship but also life itself.
2) Who spoke these words
Jesus elsewhere claimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). Certainly Jesus knew what He was talking about. He came from the Father and would be going back to the Father. Jesus took on flesh so people could relate to Him but His true essence is spirit as He and the Father are one (Jn. 17). While on earth, He connected with the Father in spirit and truth, leaving us with an example to follow.
Not only does Jesus have the authority to tell us how we should worship but He also provided the way for us to do so through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit within us enables us to relate to God on the spiritual level so we don’t have to be stuck in our outward traditions and narrow understandings (1 Cor. 2:9-16).
Are You the Kind of Worshiper God Seeks?
If you are so locked into one set way of worshiping God that you judge others who worship differently than you or you can’t worship God unless following that tradition, perhaps it is time to ask if you are a true worshiper. Yes, we can embrace certain traditions as meaningful expressions of love and adoration, but let’s be careful we don’t become so exclusively entrenched in those traditions that we put more emphasis on them than the God we worship.
For More on Worship: Worship Ministry That’s God-Centered