Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth
Jesus said, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24)
Apparently, not all believers are implied by His words here. God is seeking for some people that will fit this description, but what exactly does Jesus mean?
Our Lord declared, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) This experience is the first vital step for the true worshipper of God. One cannot even comprehend God’s kingdom, without first having been "born of the spirit."
Jesus continues by saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The born-again Christian – having confessed his sin and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary and received Him as his Lord and Savior – has begun a spiritual life. Now that believer can begin to worship God in spirit ... to some degree.
Paul admonishes us, saying, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 7:1) He is speaking here to Christians, telling them that, having already been saved, it is necessary to cleanse ourselves from carnal and spiritual uncleanness. The grace of God provided not only forgiveness from sins, but the strength to "put off the old man with his deeds," by mortifying the deeds of the body through the Spirit. (Col. 3:1-10; Rom. 8:6-14)
This second definite work of grace called "Sanctification" – the fundamental doctrine of the Holiness movement – became widely promoted in modern times in the 18th Century by John and Charles Wesley. Through sanctification, the believer’s spiritual condition is improved, allowing for a greater ability to worship God in spirit.
Because of the restoration of this doctrine of holiness, a condition existed which would allow an outpouring of the Holy Ghost like that described in Acts chapter 2. In 1896, ten years before the Azusa Street revival, in a holiness church in North Carolina, over 100 people received the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with tongues – the first recorded occurrence of this phenomenon in modern times.
Now, God’s people had reached a new level of spirituality. This "Pentecostal" movement began to spread. People were receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and were worshipping God in spirit as had not been done since the early church.
But Jesus said, "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13) The Holy Ghost, here called the Sprit of Truth, was not sent only to cause men and women to speak with other tongues and to dance or be slain in the spirit. He has another vital function: to lead us into ALL TRUTH.
With the outpouring of God’s spirit, we can now begin to expand our worship to "worshipping in truth." The doctrines of Salvation, Sanctification, and Being Filled with the Holy Ghost are all true. And as it is with worshipping in spirit – that as you grow spiritually, your worship of God "in spirit" is increased – so also does your worship of God in truth increase as you accept the truths of God’s Word as the Holy Ghost reveals them. The more truth you have received, the greater your worship of God in truth becomes.
Jesus put worshipping God in spirit first, because Christians are more apt to emphasize it. Even in situations where a particular doctrine of a church is not scripturally accurate, the Spirit of God moves among the people and they worship God in spirit, though not in truth.
Jesus adds "and in truth" to inform us that worshipping in spirit is not enough. As He also said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matt. 23:23) They had chosen to keep some of the law, and had forsaken the really important part. Jesus said that they should have done the weightier part, and at the same time done the lesser part also.
Likewise, our Savior is telling us that, although we must worship is spirit, we must not leave off the "weightier matters" of worshipping in truth.
Let us therefore receive a love of the truth, to learn all that we can from God’s word, that we might please Him, who saved us from sin and gave us the hope of eternal life.