Worship in Spirit and Truth

Text: John 4:24

Worshiping God is one of the great privileges we have as His people. He does not need our worship (Acts 17:24-25), but He desires our worship (John 4:23). However, just because He seeks worshipers does not mean He will accept just any worship we offer. In Jesus’ statement to the Samaritan woman, we see what God expects of those who would worship Him.

Three Key Terms

  • Worship (proskuneo) – “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence” and “kneeling…in order to express respect or to make supplication” (Thayer); deliberate, not inadvertent; included the action and purpose
  • Spirit (pneuma) – our inner being; “the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides” (Thayer); worship is not done mindlessly or else it is not worship (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:28-29; 14:15; 2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • Truth (aletheia) – that which is correct and certain; an objective standard; the word of God is truth (John 17:17); worship may be heart-felt and sincere, but it is in vain without authorized actions (Matthew 7:21-23)

What Did Jesus Mean?

  • God is spirit” – He is not a man, so do not expect to please Him as we would please men (or ourselves); we must please God, not man (Galatians 1:10)
  • Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” – right action and purpose; worship from the heart (not just “going through the motions” or to be seen of others); worship from the word (by His authority; according to the pattern)

Parallel OT Passage (Joshua 24:14)

  • Serve Him in sincerity and truth” – action and purpose; practice and attitude
  • Fear the Lord” – part of the attitude; cannot serve God acceptably without godly fear (Hebrews 12:28)
  • Put away the gods which your fathers served” – part of practice; cannot mix worship (Colossians 2:20-23)

Lesson: God Has Always Had the Same Expectation

  • The law has changed (Colossians 2:14) – but God has always had a certain expectation of man’s worship/service/devotion
  • What did that mean for the Jews? … they failed to live up to God’s standard (Amos 5:21-23; Malachi 1:10) and needed to repent; the place of worship was irrelevant (John 4:21); they needed to “worship in spirit and truth
  • What did that mean for the Samaritans? … they failed to live up to God’s standard (Jeremiah 3:6; 2 Kings 23:19) and needed to repent; the way their “fathers” worshiped was irrelevant (John 4:20); they needed to “worship in spirit and truth
  • What does this mean for us? … we need to “worship in spirit and truth“; right action and purpose; if we are not living up to God’s standard and worshiping from the heart, we need to repent


  • God desires our worship, but does not need our worship
  • He will not accept whatever we offer Him – only what He has said He will accept
  • Therefore, if we wish to please God, we must worship as He has always expected man to worship – “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24)

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