But just as parents look for an ever-increasing maturity and a right response of their children, so God also looks for this in His children. We are easily sidetracked, whether naturally or spiritually. The expression “to worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24) is found in our Lord’s words to the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria. Let’s examine them more closely in context to get a better idea of what worship is.
The woman was a Samaritan. In 2 Kings 17 we see that the Samaritans’ worship was unacceptable to God because they sought to worship Him along with the heathen gods of their forebears. God will not share His glory with anyone. History tells us that the Samaritans built a temple on Mt. Gerizim which the Jews burned. The Jews’ temple was at Jerusalem, the place where God had chosen to set His name. Both these religions placed great value on external observances – places, sacrifices, rituals, and outward pomp. The Jewish priesthood at this time was under the control of Sadducees, who did not believe in angels, spirits, or the resurrection, and accepted only the five books of Moses as God’s Word.
In condescending grace the Lord first reached the heart of this woman. Then He addressed her conscience. This made her uncomfortable and desirous to deflect Him from the subject. She acknowledged Him to be a prophet and proceeded to ask Him which of these two places would He say was the right place of worship. Sinful, unregenerate man today is often ready to discuss religion and bring up points of tradition and opinion.
The Lord cut through all this to the real issue of who God is and what He is looking for. One religion might be more right than another, but neither knew God as Father. We only come to know the Father through the Son, so must first come to know the Son in a living personal way. The Father seeks worshipers, not mere adherents to a religion of their tradition or choice. Externals were no longer the issue. He is Spirit and seeks that which corresponds to Him, true or real worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth, in contrast to mere outward religion.
Real worship is produced by the Spirit of God in the hearts of those who know Him as Father because they have received His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord in their lives. Real worship is acknowledging the Father’s worth and His love. It is acknowledging who the Lord Jesus is and what He has done for God’s glory and our salvation. True worship is a matter of the heart, produced by the Spirit in accord with the truth of God.
For corporate worship to be pleasing to God it must have the same characteristics. It must be led by the Holy Spirit and consistent with the Word of God. It is not a “spectator sport” designed to occupy an audience’s time, but the happy, orderly outflow of hearts taken up with the glorious work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. While directed upward to God it will also be of blessing to man.
By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org