The concept worshipping God in Spirit and Truth was introduced by Jesus in John 4 where he met the Samaritan woman at the well. There, Jesus struck a conversation with the Samaritan woman and a few topics came up. Firstly, it was about Jesus claiming that he is the living water where no one will thirst again if they drink water given by him.
You can see the biblical context of living water in Psalm 42:1 about our souls pants for God like how the deer pants for water and that our souls thrist for the living God. We can also see the biblical context of living water in Zechariah 13:1 about a fountain being opened to clean people from their sin and impurity. Jesus is referring himself as this living water, this fountain that will flow and make the Jews and Gentiles alike to be atoned if only they were to ask Him.
The second topic discussed was the woman’s affair with many men. It signifies the sinful life of the Samaritan was brought into the spotlight during that conversation by Jesus. If the woman would just believe that He is the living water, that Jesus can make her thirst no longer, she will be saved.
The woman tried changing the subject by talking about subject on worship where Jesus responded that there will come a time when true worshippers will neither worship God in Jerusalem or on the mountain but they will worship in Spirit and Truth. Jesus emphasized again that salvation is from the Jews which points back to Genesis 12:3 that through the Jews, other nations will be blessed. Through the Jews, comes Jesus and He will be the Savior not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
We can see that in order to be true worshippers, one must believe that Jesus is the Living Water who will clean our sins once and for all. We will not “thirst” again spiritually. That is the prerequisite of a True Worshipper in order to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
Not only Jesus said that he is the Living Water, He also proclaimed himself as the truth in John 14:6 – I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. Since Jesus is the TRUTH, He must also be the WORD because it is described in John 1. Here we can see Jesus = Truth = Word = The Living Water = Salvation of the world by dying on the cross as a sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins.
In order to worship God in truth, in summary, we must worship God in Jesus. We must understand the theology of truth as plainly shown to men in scriptures not creating our own theology on worshipping God. The only term of an acceptable worship which is pleasing to God is through Jesus Christ and that is the TRUTH.
Jesus explained that God is spirit. In biblical context, we can see that in Gen 1:1-2 about the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. Matthew 3:16 suggest the Spirit of God descending like a dove after Jesus was baptized.
When God is spirit, it implies that God can be worshipped everywhere and will not to be bound by geological barriers. He is everywhere and can be worshipped at any time and any place. The Holy Spirit is at work as well as he will help us to pray when we do not know how to (Gal 4:6 and Romans 8:26 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.)
Therefore, worshipping God in spirit and in truth addresses not the where or the method we worship but rather the attitude we have when we worship. The Israelites was doing everything right in terms of sacrificial procedure but God said in Isaiah 29:1 – “The people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men”. The Pharisees and teachers of the law did everything that was commanded by the Torah in fact, they intensified their rituals, but Jesus called them “brood of vipers”.
Without knowing the truth of what Christ has done for us on the cross of calvary, we will never be able to worship God in truth as we will form our own doctrines and theologies of God in our own finite mind like what described in Romans 1:18 – 25. Hence, in order to know the truth, we need to search the scriptures diligently and more importantly to have a genuine relationship with God in our daily lives because worship does not happen and confined only on a Sunday in church if we want to worship in Spirit and Truth.
Worship should not be dependent on human emotions or hype without having a proper theology to guard us. In short, we ought to worship the RIGHT GOD and with the RIGHT APPROACH.
THE RIGHT GOD and the RIGHT APPROACH – Romans 12:1
When Jesus came and died for our sins once and for all, the way we approached and worship God was radically changed. We no longer need to sacrifice bulls and goats to appease as what have happened in the OT sacrificial system.
So, how do we worship now? In Romans, Paul tells us that our spiritual act of worship is the way we live our lives. We ought to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God, that is our living sacrifices offered to God.
It is no longer what we do in front of others when we worship God, but rather what is done closed doors. The things we done closed doors in our private lives will be our gauged on how we fair in worshipping God with our daily lives. Our very thoughts and motives in our hearts were challenged by Jesus when He taught his disciples that “we have committed adultery when we looked at a women lustfully” or “we have murdered our brethren when we hated them”.(Matthew 5: 21, 28)
Having said that, it does not mean that we need not come to church any longer. Paul encourages us not to give up meeting each other. What is more important here is that we must be careful not to be like the Israelites who were practicing a ritual given by God with the wrong understanding of it’s significance. Same like us, the Lord’s supper is instituted by Jesus and given to us to remember Him. But if we come to church every Sunday without understanding the significance of it, then we are just like the Israelites doing a ritual and forgetting what matters most to God.