The True Worshipper

John 4:20-24

John Chapter 4 is a popular narration in the gospel of John where an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is recorded. In this encounter, many truths emerge as Jesus engages the Samaritan woman who, on hindsight in the narrative, we also know was an adulterous woman. Firstly, Jesus breaks a racial barrier between Jews and Samaritans in this narrative: “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (vv.7-9).

Note that Jesus was the first to initiate a conversation: “Give me a drink”. The woman’s response was that of shock. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” If John had left it at that point, we probably might be wondering, “why did she respond in that manner?” John inserts an explanation: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans). Clearly, we see an existence of a racial barrier: “The comment that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans explains to John’s readers outside the land of Palestine that Samaritans were considered by many Jews to be in a continual state of uncleanness, thus they would have thought that drinking water from this woman’s water jar would make a person ceremonially unclean” [1].

What is the lesson here? Jesus reaches to people  of “every nation, tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Secondly, by speaking with a woman, He broke down gender barriers.  The reaction of the disciples in v.27 tells a lot. “They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” Over and against their “marvelling”, Jesus’s engagement with the woman teaches us that, when it comes to salvation, “there is neither male nor female“(Gal 3:28).

More importantly, of all the lessons we learn from the narrative, Jesus revealed Himself as the expected Messiah–the Saviour of the world: “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26). This takes us to our title for today “The True Worshipper“.

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”(John 4:20-24).

In the conversation, the woman introduces a topic on worship which considering her lifestyle, could possibly mean there was a yearning in her heart for freedom. Don’t forget, she has religious knowledge. She knew of a coming Messiah.

So who is a true worshipper?

The true worshipper is one who worships in spirit and truth. Though, true, that is quiet an unsatisfactory answer because other questions remain unanswered which are, “What Is Worship”, “Who Do We Worship” and What Does It Mean To Worship In Spirit And Truth”? If we answer these, then we will get a clearer answer of who a true worshipper is.

What Is Worship?

The act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; religious reverence and homage; adoration, or acts of reverence, paid to God, or a being viewed as God. The worship of God is an eminent part of religion, and prayer is a chief part of religiousworship.

~ Tillotson [1]

If you have observed, it appears worship has become synonymous to music—slow Christian music. And the phrase “true worshipper” is often used by Christian musicians. You might have heard a worship leader saying something along these lines “Today, we will give all our worship to the Father. Leave every burden you came here with and let’s worship the Father in Spirit and Truth“. I must say, personally, I have heard the phrase “worshipping in spirit and truth” more from Christian musicians than from any other place. Does this suggest worship and true worship is all about music, the raising of our hands to God in praise etc? Worship involves more than music. Worship is the totality of the lives we live as Christians. Everything we do as believers must be geared towards worship: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). In Romans 12:1, the Bible “appeal[s] to [us]…to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. The Bible further says:  this “is your spiritual worship”.

Worship involves a life of holiness; presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. Leviticus 6:13 is worth noting: “Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out” What do we have here? Worship is unceasing. Our whole life is worship. We must live “Coram deo”, that is, in the presence of God always. That leads us to our next question.

Who Do We Worship?

Or, who is the object of the Christian’s worship? The answer is God. It is God who seeks true worshippers and it is God who ought to be worshipped in spirit and  truth. The object of our worship must be pointed out since some worship all kinds of things but not the true God. God warns against this in the first and second commandments (Exodus 20:3-4). Who is God? “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. [2] “God is a Spirit”(John 4:24). What does that mean? It means He is unlike us. He has no bodily parts and is self-sufficient; what theologians call asiety of God:

The term aseity comes from the Latin phrase a se, meaning “from or by oneself.”…Since God is a se, he does not owe his existence to anything or anyone outside himself, nor does he need anything beyond himself to maintain his existence. He is not like the idols that depend for their existence on  select materials, skilled craftsmen, and ritual offerings (Isa. 40:19-20, 44:15-17, Psm. 50:8-15). Indeed, he has no needs at all (Acts. 17:25). So the terms  self-contained,  self-existent, selfsufficient, and independent are often used as synonyms for a se.[3]

Further, we know God to be the Creator (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Acts 17:24). In Acts 17:29, Paul says “we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man”. You see, God is not the creation of humankind or an imagination of a divine being as some have claimed. God is the self-sufficient One from whom all lives and creation proceed. The true worshipper therefore is called upon to worship God in spirit and truth.

Worship In Spirit And Truth

Throughout the Bible, it is God who prescribes how He should be worshipped. And anytime people have breached God’s prescription of worship, there has been consequences. If there are true worshippers, it means there are false worshippers. A false worshipper is one who worships God not according to His revealed pattern of worship. An example of a false worship is in Leviticus 10:1 “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them”.

What we see here is an unprescribed worship–that which God had not commanded. The first point to be made therefore is that, worshipping in spirit and truth is worshipping according to God’s prescribed pattern. No human prescribes how God is to be worshipped. He is the one who prescribed He be worshipped in spirit and truth. One crucial element of worshipping according to God’s prescription is the element of Faith. “…without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). How can you worship a God whose existence you don’t affirm? And this faith is not a blind leap into the abyss. This faith must be in the person of Christ Jesus. Look at what Christ said in verse 22: “salvation is from the Jews”. We can’t miss that point. It is clear. This is a self-reference to Himself. The origin of Salvation is to spring forth from the Jewish people in the person of Jesus. Faith in Christ is utmost worship because without that, there is no access to God. Hear Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).

Secondly, in contrast to worship  restricted to a geographical location (John 4:21), the Omnipresent God can be worshipped anywhere. We need not undertake a pilgrimage or restrict Him in a temple: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man”(Acts 17:24). God is not restricted to any geographical location. Thirdly, worship must be in response to God’s truth. Our worship must be according to God’s revelation of Himself in His word. We cannot grapple in darkness worshipping  God contrary to what He has revealed in His word. God has given us His word; which is truth to aid us in knowing Him.

Finally, the disposition of our heart is crucial in worshipping in spirit and truth. We must not be found offering lips service to God. Our worship must be from a sincere heart. Jesus quoting Isaiah 29:13, rebukes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees saying:  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-8).

If you are to assess yourself, will you qualify as one who is a true worshipper?


2 Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 4

3 Study notes on John 4:9; The ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, Crossway, 2008

3 A Paper on Divine Asiety and Apologetics by John M. Frame link




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