What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

Readers Question / Comment - What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?


I came across your website a couple weeks ago and have enjoyed reading your Bible studies. A question came to my mind and I was hoping to seek your opinion and guidance. The Bible says we are to worship God in spirit yet I've never heard anyone explain what that means. What is worshiping in spirit, what does it look like, what does it entail? I'm just curious because often this scripture is quoted by ministers but they offer no guidance on what exactly it means to worship God in spirit. Thank you for any clarity you can offer me...


JPN Reply:

Hi Kim,

thanks for the email to pleased to read that you have enjoyed the site.

John 4:22-24 "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. (23) "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. (24) "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

It is important to read this in the context (like everything). Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman. They had their own location (Mount Gerazim) and laws concerning worship which differed from those given to the Jews (whose worship was through the temple in Jerusalem). The Samaritan's had a form of worship but it wasn't based on truth ('You worship what you do not know'). The Jews had the truth of how/where to worship (for that time) but had turned in into rituals and a religious exercise that were devoid of the heart and the leading of His Spirit.

So Jesus said that the time had come when true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. So what does that mean?

Well, in the context in means that worship would no longer be in a set place, a set time, with set rituals. The Jews and Samaritans had a 'place' to worship - We are called to enter into God's presence wherever we are and this is a spiritual reality. True worship is 'in spirit' which means spirit led and from the heart... not from some religious compulsion or law (like for example the worship of Islam) but wherever we are when moved in heart to give honor and glory to the King of Kings. It would also be based in truth. That is, it is based on God's word and Him who is truth - Jesus Christ. Worship in truth also involves being free from hypocrisy. So we don't worship to be seen by others like the Pharisees did (or from other impure motives).

So it is from a true heart and through the leading of God's Spirit, normally when some aspect of God and truth is revealed to our hearts (whether it is seeing ourselves and own need once again, or seeing what Jesus has done for us once again, or seeing the majesty of God once again)... The Spirit of God works in our heart to spontaneously give something back to the One who is due all honour and glory and majesty - Our Saviour Jesus Christ.

After writing that I've just looked at what Ray Stedman said on this passage as I normally like what he has to say. I'll include that below as it should probably give extra insight.

Hope this helps!



Pastor Ray Stedman on John 4:21-24

Jesus says three remarkable things:
First, he says, in effect, "Your question about where to worship is soon going to be entirely irrelevant. The hour is coming when geography will no more be an issue. Temples or buildings will not be necessary to worship God. God is going to, and has already provided, that your body is the temple; that is where he wants his worship to go on." By his death and resurrection, Jesus knew that he was going to destroy all the symbols of worship on earth. So temples, buildings and geographical locations are no longer significant. Your own body, your own person is the place where God wants worship.

Secondly, he said to her, "Your knowledge is incomplete. You have been the victim of garbled truth. You have some truth but there is much error mingled with it; you have been misled." This often happens. Most of the cults teach garbled Christian truth mixed with error. But Jesus says, "The Jews know more. They at least know where is the proper place to carry on worship by symbol because they are part of God's plan. 'Salvation is of the Jews.' " Jesus does not deny it. He himself speaks as a Jew. He recognizes that Israel is indeed part of God's program to bring salvation to the world, and he does not set it aside.

Thirdly, Jesus says, "Here is what true worship is: true worship is done in your human spirit." It is what we call worshipping from the heart. And it must be in truth. It must be honest, not a put-on. It is not something you do with your body while your mind is somewhere else. Worship is what you mean with all your heart. When we sing hymns, God is not interested in our just mouthing words. He is interested in our hearts meaning what we sing. Most of our hymns are hymns of worship, prayer and praise addressed to God. They are to come from the heart, so we are to sing with meaning. God is seeking such to worship him. In every congregation God is looking for those who mean what they are singing, who, from the heart, are saying these things to him. That is what worship is. And the reason it is worship is because it is in line with God's own nature. God himself is a Spirit, he is invisible; and we too are spirit, in the innermost part of our being. Therefore, worship is the joining together of Spirit with spirit. How true are the words of the old hymn,

Speak to Him then for he heareth,
And Spirit with spirit can meet.
Closer is He than breathing,
Nearer than hands and feet.

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