Christianity · Theology

Worship in Spirit and Truth

“But 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. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~John 4:23-24

When I first heard my pastor preach John 4, something within me gravitated toward this verse. I felt as if our Lord Jesus Christ had intended this as the mission for His church, yet we were sorely lacking in carrying out Christ’s command. As I watch the world around me spiral toward judgement, I couldn’t help but think it my mission to help the modern church understand one of Christ’s most significant messages. Please read this carefully and search the Scriptures as you do so. Thank you!

(Note: All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version.)


So many of us have tried and failed to define what worship truly is. My natural response to the word is to think of music, but Colossians 3:23 (“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily…”) implies that worship means much more. When I did find the appropriate definition elsewhere in John (with Tozer’s assistance), it was much simpler than I imagined. I believe the most clear definition of worship found in the Scriptures is laid out in the words of our Messiah:

“And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” ~John 8:29

“I always do those things that please Him.” If you stop to think about it, that simple phrase covers everything worship can and should be. Worship is never limited to the music one sings in church every Sunday; rather, Christ teaches that worship is using what God has given us to reflect His enduring righteousness. Why do something that only brings our Father sorrow?

In Spirit

The Old Testament worshippers, in one aspect, did see God’s Spirit fellowshipping with them by manifesting Himself as something in creation, like fire. (Evenings with Tozer, July 3) Yet it was not until Pentecost–that is, after Jesus came to Earth–that the Spirit of God did not simply move around souls. Those who receive Christ Anno Domini now have the beautiful gift of seeing God’s Spirit work in the Person of the Holy Spirit, Someone who dwells and works inside the soul.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” ~John 14:26

In other words, New Testament believers, equipped with the knowledge of all three Persons in the Godhead, can worship as houses of the Holy Spirit and witnesses of the Father and Son’s work. Yet they can only do so if they are willingly led by the Holy Spirit, letting Him not only dwell in their hearts but enable them for ministry. They are not only saved; they are ready to wait or move as the Lord instructs so as to bring forth a bountiful harvest of souls.

In truth

“…Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth[.]” ~Luke 20:21

When Christ mentions that the future church will worship Him in truth, He implies the following two things (at least): (1) that the true church will not dwell in hypocrisy and (2) that God will at last equip His children with the complete Biblical truth.

Dwelling in hypocrisy requires consistency and pure willfulness. In other words, the true church does fall into hypocrisy as a result of humanity’s fallen state; but those who are only nominal “Christians” will do so with unrepentant hearts and do it continually. Such activities as going to church for entertainment or indulging in sin without the conviction of the Holy Spirit are sure signs of falling into the latter category and plead for the person to care for his dying soul. The true church, when it does fall into hypocrisy, will listen to the convictions of the Holy Spirit and cry out to the Father for repentance, saying, “Oh God, my heart is wicked; purge me from this sin.” Though they know that prayer will not give permanent immunity to wrongdoing, the faithful’s prayer is coupled with sincerity, love, and a desire for repentance–all of which the Father loves, accepts, and rewards.

In the Old Testament, however, the people of God did not have this immense privilege of coming straight to the throne room as they were. No, they had to be physically cleansed and come humbly to the altar with an animal sacrifice in their hands for a time seemingly immemorial. Since Christ had not come in their time, they could not plead the cross. God had given them the truth of His word, but half of it was missing. The other half would be granted to God’s children shortly after Christ’s own sacrifice. It was only then that a believer’s eyes could be opened to the inexplicable majesty of the Holy Spirit, the reward of the faithful, and the perishing of the deceitful hearts. The true church now has the complete divine revelation, rejoicing in the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of harmony with God. They cannot possibly fathom all God’s wonders and mysteries, but they can take heart, knowing that He has “overcome the world.”

When we choose to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, we choose to worship by giving Him everything we are, receiving and immersing ourselves in His spirit, and rejoicing in His holy Scriptures. We pray, we love, we are still–motionless as we wait for God to lead us. And as the Samaritan woman, we leave our empty vessels at the wellspring, rushing to share our joy with the broken, waiting world.


~Sarah Merly

November 29, 2017

Isaiah 53