A cold war existed between the Jews and Samaritans when it came to the issue of worship. The woman at the well distinguished the dividing line in this worship war: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain [Mount Gerizim], and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus didn’t deny the tension but defused it when He said that a time was coming “when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father . . . [because] true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (4:21, 23). Jesus distinguished between a place and a Person. But what did He mean by the phrase “spirit and truth”?
Because God is spirit (4:24)—meaning His essence is spiritual, not physical—our worship must be spiritual. True worship takes place within the human spirit, when our attitudes, attentions, and affections are trained on God alone. This is the meaning of worshiping in spirit.
The second half of this pairing—“truth”—means to worship God with integrity, casting away all falsehood and mere appearance. When Paul said that idolaters exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25), he identified an essential characteristic of God: truthfulness. We might say, “God is truth”—He really exists and has revealed Himself as the only true God. “For he who comes to God must believe that He is” (Hebrews 11:6).
True worship therefore focuses our spirits on God alone, reveling in His divine reality—celebrating the truth that He is who He says He is in Scripture and that He seeks a love relationship with His sinful creatures.
Derrick G. Jeter holds a master of theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and served as a writer for the Creative Ministries Department of Insight for Living Ministries. He has authored or coauthored more than twenty-five books. Derrick's writing has appeared on influential Web sites, and he is a contributing writer for The Christian Post. He and his wife, Christy, have five children and live in the Dallas area. He blogs at www.DerrickJeter.com.
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