WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH
Many have come out of organizations that provided evidence to their congregations that their specific group had a completeness of understanding of the truths of God that was unique to them alone. But circumstances brought many of us to “personal” investigations, which proved to us that significant areas of what we had believed were in error.
I have seen that our God has provided us with the means to grow in knowledge and truth. I have learned that each of us has to use the resources available to us to find the actual evidence of truth. We may have the complete confidence that we will find truth in place of the misrepresentations that we have been exposed to. But this can only be done through the invisible guidance of Gods Spirit working in us, to inspire us and to rightly use those resources.
I see that everyone, except the true agnostics, possesses a “belief” relating to the “mysteries” of life. This belief that one would hold to can be considered to be their faith. Even an ardent Satan worshiper may possess a faith that is felt to represent truth. But what is the degree of truth that any one of our faiths is actually built upon?
The principal subject of this paper deals with what we could consider the product of a personal growth in truth and knowledge. The “product” resulting from a faith that provides the ability to “worship” God in spirit and in truth. The dictionary definition of the word worship is equivalent to the way we as a society use the word. But, this does not reflect the New Testament usage of the word. As we progress toward the meaning of the worship of God as outlined in the New Testament we will see that the use of any physical means to “worship” God works against the statement made by Christ in John 4:24. “God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”
It is always so important to consider the context of any verse that is under consideration. In John 4:7 we are introduced to a fundamental element of the chapter. Jesus became engaged in a conversation with a Samaritan woman in a Samaritan city. She was a person not holding to the faith that was given to Judah by God. Judah up to this time had a relationship with God that was based upon the “physical” sacrificial system. In verse 10 Jesus sidestepped her question and spoke of the awesome gift of the “spirit” of God. And indirectly made it known that it would be available to the gentiles. Verses 13 and 14 elaborates on the wondrous value of that spirit. Then the subject of worship comes up in verse 20. She correctly stated that the Samaritans worshiped there and that the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Then the subject of worship specifies the worship of God the Father. In verse 21 Jesus said that a physical place would no longer be a criteria for worshiping God. And verse 22 tells us that the Samaritans worship was built upon error, but the worship of the Jews had value, because they did have knowledge of God and that God dealt directly with the tribe of Judah in bringing about the salvation of mankind. In verse 23 three elements of these verses are united. TRUE worshipers are to worship the Father in spirit and truth and The Father seeks such to worship him. Then comes the powerful statement in verse 24. “God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”.
For many years I had an awareness that I really didn’t know what was meant by this statement. Christ’s words of instruction as recorded in John 4:24, are simple, and they sound profound but they are not necessarily very clear or easy to fully understand.
First of all, what does it mean when it says God is a spirit? What is the importance of stating that God is “spirit”? Isn’t he so very much more than what is simply described as “spirit”? Satan is spirit, --- angels are spirit, --- demons are spirit. So I have had the desire to understand why we are told that God is spirit in the context of that statement.
And in regards to the instruction that we “must worship him in spirit”, I thought our worship would in its expression, one way or another, through our “obedience”. And isn’t it true that obedience manifests itself in some kind of “physical” action? So what does it mean that we must worship him in “spirit”?
Here are some verses that I thought reflected one’s worship of God.
Rom. 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Rom. 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
2 Cor. 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
I Pet 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Don’t these verses show that what we would normally consider worship of God could include our obedience?
After a considerable length of time thinking about “spiritual” worship, I became aware of some answers that I believe have some very far-reaching implications!
To begin with, I believe we will find that Satan is worshipped through means that are physical in nature. In other words, through ways that bring sensual fulfillment in some way. When an effect on ones senses is of first importance, we are thinking or living within the architecture of Satan’s world. When we understand this, I believe we have gone a long way in understanding the statement that we must worship God in spirit.
Getting right to the point, we shall see that we have to possess a way of life that is “spiritually” motivated. In other words, moved to action by the values and precepts that are held in our mind. In this present age it is principally the written word of God that provides our spiritual resource. That is coupled with the invisible help and guidance that is directly provided by God. It will become evident that those mental or spiritual values are NOT introduced, built up and established through the gratification of our senses. This would be a primary reason that God is kept invisible to us. We do not understand and appreciate God ··· his thoughts ··· and his ways through means that are physical in nature (an atheist can appreciate a stunning sunset). But, it is through that “spiritual” understanding that we may grow in the capacity to truly worship God. That understanding, as we shall see, also provides the alternative to living by ones own capacity, by ones five senses. Rather than the senses (or as the KJV puts it, “the flesh”) dictating the values that we live by, we live by God’s spiritual values ------ knowing that our particular needs, sooner or later, will be abundantly cared for, whether in this body or in our spiritual body.
I think the place to begin is to recognize that there are only two fundamental entities that are actually worshipped or that can be worshipped. One is Satan the devil and all he stands for. The other is, our Father and our Savior (Mat. 4:8-10). Anything that might be considered “Worship” will ultimately be traced to Satan or God.
Even though obedience shouldn’t be equated to worship, one can’t exist without the other. We can’t worship anything unless we have developed a respect for it strong enough to be influenced by it, and obedient to it. We know that in the final analysis, we either worship Satan, for the most part in our ignorance, or God. We can never worship God through ignorance, for we are told that he MUST be worshiped in truth. A very inspiring study is to go through the Bible and read all that God has to say about “truth”. Rev. 9:20 does show us that “things” can be worshiped in place of God, but as we will see, those things all directly lead to Satan and his values.
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk;
Our Natural Development of Self -Service
So mankind can “worship” physical things. But what happens when worship is based on some physical thing or event? Through the physical event the senses are providing ··· our mind ··· with information ··· as to whether or not something has value. If the impact of that “something” is great enough, a worship of it can be established. So then, in a very natural way, we can develop worship for something through the avenue of our senses.
Growing in knowledge and understanding (subjectively speaking) through our senses is the way of man. And for the vast majority of people it is the ONLY WAY that we, as humans, can engage life.
The senses are dealing with one’s personal state of being ------- our own “physical” state of being. And as was just described, “our” thought processes are a direct result of the messages that our senses have sent to our mind.
Those thought processes being the result of certain, personal, physical, experiences are then, by nature, “self centered”!!!
The result of that process being a development of a way of life that promotes self-service. When you look at all life, including religion, you see this self-service, or the way of get, being at the foundation of it all. But again, this is normal or natural to human kind. It is accepted as a fact of life. We are told that we have to work around any ill affect that selfishness might cause “through some kind of element of good that resides in us all”.
It is important to note that what society may call “spiritual thoughts” or spiritual thinking is universally motivated by some “reward” or fulfillment. For example, in “Christianity”, for the most part, is not “getting” saved, the primary interest? I don’t know of any religion apart from the Church of God, that doesn’t have as fundamental beliefs a list of personal benefits that are to be enjoyed by the members of that particular religion. We naturally get involved in things for what we can get out of it. But all of this simply reflects our natural, fleshy, (carnal) approach to life. And Satan uses this nature in mankind to promote worship of himself. And he does attain it.
In contrast, what was the principle fulfillment for the apostles of the Church of God? Over and over we can see that it was a life that was fulfilled through service to others.
Satan personifies self-gratification, and through our natural development as human beings we are in tune with his way of self-service. Through this kinship, Satan can dynamically promote self-service with dramatic and sometimes unbelievable results. Without exception, to one degree or another, depending upon the individual, his way becomes our way. Now it is all very reasonable when we understand that Satan “is” the god of this world as 2 Cor.4:4 shows us:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
It is now time to compare the “works of the flesh” to the “fruit of the Spirit” of Galatians 5. Notice that in verses 19, 20 and 21 every one of the things listed require the senses to be involved. It is clear enough to see it for such things as adultery or lasciviousness or envying. But, hatred, wrath and strife cannot exist without their being a connection or reaction to the senses, directly or indirectly. With that connection being represented by some kind of “personal” or subjective unfulfillment or loss. Couldn’t a slap on your face give rise to the beginnings of the feelings of hate? The key is that the loss takes away from our own personal “sense of well being” and through hate, wrath and strife we seek to right the wrong. Notice that hatred, wrath and strife are also called the lusts of the flesh, even though they represent a state of mind.
What is so incredible to observe is that the fruit of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, gentleness or faith are all reflecting a state of mind that is NOT necessarily dependent upon a personal fulfillment of a physical circumstance. Being “fruit of the Spirit”, it is not dependent on ones own senses for its manifestation or function. It “is” motivated by an appreciation of the result of a way that is profitable to ALL mankind regardless of our immediate, personal circumstances. It is SELF-LESS. IT REPRESENTS THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
Some time ago, the example of David was mentioned in a message that I was privileged to hear. Psalm 51 gives us a wonderful example of the fruit of the spirit dwelling in a human being. David was chastised by God for sin that he committed. He experienced a loss of a sense of well-being. Did he become angry or vengeful over it? No. He was broken by Gods displeasure with him. Did he want to get back in God good graces so that he personally wouldn’t lose out in all the benefits of being in the kingdom of God? No, that was not it at all.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 “Then” will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
As far as I can see, David had only one reason to regain Gods acceptance, to be a help to bring others to salvation. I don’t see any self-service in his attitude. His overriding motivation was not his own state of well-being.
Anyone with this spiritual motivation, being independent of the flesh, has the complete freedom to provide for the welfare of others as the “word of God” directs. In Addition, they would have the ability to love others as one loves oneself.
(For a closer look at this subject see the paper titled
“Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”)
All this can provide us with a point of view that considers anything done that involves a righteous physical activity (which should account for most of our daily life) has at its origin a non-physical factor. For the children of God the “spirit” provides the leadership or direction for our entire “physical” life. But for the natural man it is the reverse. The natural mans spiritual values or state of mind have been shaped and formed by a lifetime of physical stimuli.
All this points up the power of the “calling” of God. If you remember it was spiritual in nature. A purely spiritual experience (truth being revealed to our mind). And it was the beginning of the fulfillment of Gal. 5:25.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
If the Spirit directs our whole life, the senses or flesh will provide nothing in regards to “dictating” our personal direction. For example, the “Word of God” and the historic example of Israel direct us away from the observation of birthdays as a value to us, in any way. We should consider the various ways that birthdays provide for a focus on the “self”. When we do that, we can understand why God has left this practice out of the social framework that HE has provided for us to live in. Living by the Spirit, we are directed by a new nature. This nature or “new man” lives in harmony with the Spirit of God. Essentially, that occurs through the fruit of the Spirit. Our worship of Him would represent our most profound personal expression.
This represents such a complete departure from our normal approach to daily life that the “great gulf” spoken of in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, fully describes the difference between the life based on self-service through the flesh and the life of “service” through the Spirit.
Luke 16: 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
How Should We Worship
Before we can go on, we need to get a good understanding of the Biblical definition of the word “worship” and become better acquainted with some other key words that would help us in our understanding.
Thayer’s #4352, defines “worship” for N. T. use as: kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or to make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication. It literally means to kiss the hand.
Homage: Webster’s: anything given or done to show reverence, honor,
Obeisance: Webster’s: 1. A gesture of respect or reverence, such as a
bow, curtsy, etc. 2. The attitude of respect shown by this.
According to Thayer’s one might think that the thought of worship can be fairly broad in its scope, as “anything given or done to show reverence or respect”. Any act that gives reverence or respect. Like obedience would do. Obedience would show reverence and respect. But is this the definition that Christ was aiming at in regards to “worship” in the statement of John 4:24? No, --- I don’t think so. I think the key to the understanding of the meaning of worship is found through an exhaustive look at the way the term “worship” is used in the New Testament. The word worship is used forty-four times in forty verses. The word “worshipping” is used twenty-nine times in twenty-eight verses. Yet there is only one description demonstrating how a person worships God and for that matter Satan also. This description is used in fifteen verses.
Here are most of the scriptures where the description of worship is used.
Mat. 2: 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Mat. 18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all
Mal. 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, a// hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Mark 15:19 And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. (this mocking gesture reflected the general understanding of the day for the term “worship”)
Acts 10:25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet and worshipped him.
I Cor. 14:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
Rev. 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet and to know that I have loved thee.
Rev. 7: 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces and worshipped God,
Rev. 11: 16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Rev. 19: 4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia
Rev. 19: 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. IO And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Rev 22: 8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things.
9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thyfellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
Don’t these examples make it plain that there is no act of obedience, or some kind of expression of praise, or anything like it connected to actually “worshipping” God? In fact the following two verses that put a distinction between worship and that which is related to service. In these verses we see that “service” is in addition to “worship”.
Mat. 4: 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Rom. 1: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Yet, there is only one thing shown to us that demonstrates “worship”. Falling at God’s feet !!! All of the times that the word “worship” is used in the New Testament, there is no other act, of any kind that is recorded, other than “falling” before God except for the unique instance recorded in Heb.11:21. When we consider the context of all these scriptures, there is just one meaning, represented by the act of falling before God. It is the complete, absolute, acknowledgment of Gods righteousness, and majesty and power. It is a demonstration of our acceptance of that power and authority over us. It is a pure expression of the most profound “thoughts” that we may have in our relationship with God. There is no room for any consideration in our mind other than the fullness of the greatness of God. The impact of the “thought” of Gods perfect righteousness, expressed through perfect love, however the thought may be generated, is what brings us to our knees. --- This is our “spiritual worship” in light of the examples that we have been given.
But, what does it means that the Father is spirit and those that worship him, (being his offspring), must “worship” him in spirit. I see now that the answer as being quite straight- forward. God is not found through anything physical such as a wood or stone or silver or gold image.
Act 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
He cannot be reached through our senses or any physical act. See Acts 17:25 It is only through the power of our mind (made manifest by God’s Spirit working in us) that we can come to an awareness of the glory of God and approach God with that awareness. As we know, the “physical” miracles that God has given mankind haven’t done it. It can only come through the spirit in man, as it has been influenced by the Spirit of God. It is a Spirit to spirit relationship.
But what is the natural tendency of man in his endeavor to have a relationship with God? It is to shape that relationship around elements that are principally physical in nature. When we look at the preoccupation of “Christianity” and all other religions of the world we see that they are structured around beliefs and traditions that are rich in physical trappings. That would include the Santa influence and lights on the tree to nativity scenes at Christmas time or bunnies, eggs and the sunrise service at Easter (all being inspired as a perversion of the truth by Satan). The Tibetan Buddhists, renowned for their “spirituality” are immersed in physical elements to guide their spiritual journey. Carnal human beings have to receive an ongoing physical dividend for themselves before they can worship anything or any one! All this being at the expense of growth in the grace and knowledge of God. The vast majority are simply involved, in a vain attempt, of one kind or another, --- to worship God. There is just no way that anyone can grow in an ability to truly worship God through means that are dependent upon physical stimuli or the misguided teachings of the natural man. But, we are told that we must worship him in spirit if we think to worship him at all. So what this means to me is that to actually worship God, we have to know the mind of God. And it is only through the grace of God that we may come to an appreciation of the spiritual considerations of the mind of God. See Philippians 2:5-8.
It is very interesting to note that there is no statement in the Bible that reveals that there is anything that we can do that may be considered the “work of the spirit”. And in particular, the spirit that is in man cannot work up a relationship with God. It does say there is the work of the flesh. That word work in Strongs is # 2041: ergon, er’-gon; from a prim. (but obsol.) ergo (to work)- toil (as an effort or occupation); by impl. an act: --deed, doing, labour, work.
Beside interesting, it is a very telling fact. Once again it shows a Spirit to spirit relationship. Lets look at I Cor. 2:11-14.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned
We are not spiritually enlightened by any physical influence or activity. The songs and dances of King David, as emotionally inspiring as they were, were “expressions” of a spiritual understanding that he already possessed. It can be said again, that emotions can produce lasting thoughts, but that is not how God works his work in us.
We MUST Worship in Truth
This brings us to the final word of John 4:24. Must worship in spirit and in truth. So then, it is impossible to worship God unless it travels through the avenue of “truth”. If ones thoughts of worship are based on anything else as Rev 9:20 has shown us it can be, then those who are making an attempt to worship God, are worshipping a false god. Christ made it so very plain. If you are to worship God you MUST worship him in truth. --- If we hold dear anything as truth, and in fact it isn’t, then how is it possible to fall at Gods feet and glorify him for something that is not of His doing? The instructions to worship in spirit and in truth give no room for coming before God, in worship, believing something as a truth of God that, in fact, isn’t.
God’s mercies are so very great and since he made mankind subject to vanity, he knows full well the insurmountable limitations of the natural man. But the firstfruits are called to the truth, and through the truth, called to the worship of God. So in order to fulfill that calling our priorities must be to grow in grace and knowledge. With the guidance of God’s spirit, the knowledge that we accumulate will be utilized in the development of the understanding of truth.
2 Peter 1: 2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
John 14: 15-17 If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
We can go to God having an “assurance” that something is true (that may not actually be true). But, in going to God with an assurance of truth, it would be well to accompany it with the fervent request that we will be continually guided to truth. But when we hold or are convicted of something to be a fact of truth, that is not true, we have surely diminished our capacity, or even eliminated our ability, to worship God in truth, without really knowing it. He MUST be worshipped in truth. It’s easy enough to see that “Christianity” has accepted traditions of men, but what about the “Church Of God”? It-is-in-a-state-of-disunity --- the only thing that seems to unite God’s church is the fact that the Sabbath and Holy Days must be observed. But for so much of the other doctrine, there are leaders that are taking the church in “divergent” directions that hold “their” doctrines to be, in fact, truth.
Is the truth that we are called to limited primarily to the understanding of the Sabbath and Holy Days? No! --- Not at all! We are called to “perfection” or “completeness”. Eph 4: 11
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Are these verses there just to represent a pipe dream? Those who are actually growing toward that completeness must also have an ability to discern one’s own belief’s in regards to them being a representation of truth. For without that discernment how are we able to grow “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”? And without that measure of truth how are we able to worship Father? For he must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. We must have the utmost care in what we take to ourselves as “truth”.
Therefore, the more we do grow in understanding and truth, particularly the understanding of the selflessness of the way of our Savior and our Father, the more we can come to them with a complete acknowledgment and acceptance of their righteousness, majesty and power. And with that acknowledgment and a thankfulness and a love that is so complete, that our worship of the Father will be in spirit and in truth.