*What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?
*What does the Holy Spirit have to do with righteousness?
*Who is a spiritual man?
*What was wrong with the worship of the Pharisees?
*What was the source of Jesus’ teaching?
During early New Testament times the Jewish people had little to do with Samaritans. When the disciples saw Jesus carrying on an extended conversation with a Samaritan woman they marveled. The discussion with this woman contains some valuable teachings. These teachings begin in John 4:21.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But 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 (John 4:21-23).
What does it mean, the true followers of God worship Him in spirit and in truth?
A number of New Testament passages make the meaning plain. Paul wrote, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son . . .” (Rom. 1:9). Paul said here that his worship toward God was with his spirit. He tells us, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:28-29). One, then, favorably viewed by God as a spiritual Jew has a spiritual orientation in his life and is a true worshipper. A distinction is drawn between one who worships God spiritually as opposed to one who worships God physically. What really counts, Paul says, is what has taken place with a man inwardly, within the heart and mind. One who worships God spiritually has progressed far beyond a physical orientation. Paul expressed it, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). There is an inward man and an outward man. The outward man worships on a physical level without understanding the deep spiritual things of God. Not so the spiritual man. “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. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). Of the spiritual man we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2).
Old Testament worship involved the flesh. Laws, rules, and regulations of one type or another did nothing to change the heart and mind inwardly. There could be no inward change from a physical orientation. While the Israelites carried out the precepts of their religion physically, there was no Holy Spirit available to bring about a change of heart and mind. Not until after the resurrection of Christ was the Holy Spirit made available. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). By means of the Holy Spirit the heart and mind of man can be changed. This was why Paul wrote, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). That is, the law or rule set in motion by the receipt of the Holy Spirit frees us from a physical orientation which results in sin and death. The physical orientation and spiritual orientation are opposed to one another. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:17).
True righteousness is realized by means of the Holy Spirit. God’s promise is “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). Notice the opposite. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:5-7). The Holy Spirit generates a spiritual interest that cannot be acquired while on a physical plane. Paul describes the spiritual plane. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). So, when Jesus referred to the true worshippers, He meant those who worship the Father in spirit-those who have a spiritual orientation as a result of a renewed heart and mind. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
New Testament passages describe the spiritual man-the man who worships God in spirit. Consider the following: “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 [by means of] the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20). If the body is the instrument of the mind, the body will automatically do what the mind dictates. One who worships God in spirit will reflect a spiritual orientation of the mind by his deeds. So, the statement Jesus made to the Samaritan woman regarding true worship entails worshiping God by means of the Holy Spirit. What is the result? No longer is worship physical; it has now entered into a level that allows the recipient to enjoy a spiritual relationship with God-the result of repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Spirit. The orientation of the natural man is physical only and can be nothing else unless one is given the privilege of worshiping God in Spirit.
But, notice something else. Jesus said the true worshippers will worship God in truth (John 4:23). What did He mean? He meant God cannot be worshipped properly if one is in a state of error and falsehood. God must be worshipped in union with truth. Why? Because God Himself is the epitome of truth. To be acceptable to God, truth and error cannot be mingled. Notice, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4). One called of God cannot be called into doctrinal error; he is called to doctrinal truth only. It is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2). The paramount axiom of one’s calling is receiving revealed truth. It cannot be any other way. God is the sum of truth, its very representation. He cannot be worshipped except by means of truth. One called to the truth will by the very nature of his calling worship God in spirit and in truth.
What does God wish to see in those who worship Him in truth? He wants to see sincerity and honesty embedded in the innermost recesses of a man’s heart and mind. “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6). God wants truth and truthfulness to be an essential part of man’s being. He wants an orientation that reflects His character and Being. God does not sanction dishonesty and hypocrisy; those called of God must reflect truth in their beliefs and behavior. Righteous behavior will be the result of understanding the true doctrine-the revelation given when one is called. It is impossible for those who live in doctrinal error to reflect the God of truth by the way they live. What does doctrinal error lead to? To sin and misbehavior. Those who worship God in truth will adhere to the true doctrine revealed by the teachings of Jesus. They will not be practicing things in their worship or behavior that are contrary to God’s Word. Jesus promised His disciples, “. . . ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Free from the pitfalls and evil consequences of sin.
Jesus promised His disciples they would comprehend the truth. There need be no doubt. Jesus said, “Howbeit 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 shew you things to come” (John 16:13). One who receives the Holy Spirit will automatically understand the truth. This is the promise of Jesus. But what is truth? “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). This means those called of God will understand the Scriptures. The source of truth is the Holy Bible. We study it because, as Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So, when Jesus said God must be worshipped in truth, He meant that God must be worshipped according to the Word of God-the Holy Bible.
In Luke 5:33 we find another significant teaching of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples had just been criticized by the Pharisees for not fasting regularly. Jesus gave His answer and teaching to this accusation by means of a parable.
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better (Luke 5:36-39).
What did He mean? What lesson is intended for us?
The Pharisees were set in their ways. How did they fast? Jesus tells us,
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly (Matt. 6:16-18).
What was wrong with the Pharisaical method? It was all show. Jesus said that God cannot be worshipped by outward show. The entire system of worship developed by the religious leaders during the time of Christ was a physical religion. Paul attested to this when he wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3). They failed to comprehend the true purpose of worship in the Old Testament period. It was to lead them to Christ. “For Christ is the end [aim, purpose] of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). The religious leaders of the day refused to accept the example and teaching of Jesus. They insisted on maintaining their own physical worship and forms of righteousness. They could not change or receive correction. So, they rejected Christ.
The book of Job describes this human proclivity. “What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?” (Job 15:9). This is the typical carnal reaction. Quite often the natural human response is to refuse new knowledge. This is what the religious leaders did in the time of Christ. They became angry with the truth. Why? Because it did not agree with what they formerly believed. Many people find it next to impossible to admit they are wrong about anything. Human nature is such that most people do not like correction, and they do not like to be criticized for their beliefs. Here is an Old Testament example: “Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon” (Isa. 30:12). In the Old Testament period, the religious system had become fraudulent.
This was the same situation that existed during the time of Christ and afterward. The Pharisees and Sadducees reacted in the same manner to the teachings of Jesus as was done in the Old Testament period toward the prophets. And this is quite often the way people react today. So, human nature has not changed much. When Jesus answered the Pharisaic criticism toward His disciples by saying “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better” (Luke 5:39), He meant the Pharisees were stubbornly set in their ways. The leaders in His day refused to accept the New Testament dispensation. Yet, that Old Testament dispensation was destined to come to an end. “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Heb. 8:8). What change was to take place? “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. 8:10). It was this orientation that the religious leaders, during the time of Christ, refused to accept. But, this new orientation is being fulfilled in the hearts and minds of those called today.
What is the lesson for us in Luke 5? It is that when we hear new truth we must be open-minded. We must be willing to look at it objectively and be willing to discard some of our cherished beliefs when we see they are wrong. We must be willing to accept change when that change is substantiated by Scripture. We are to become a new creation spiritually (Gal. 6:15). This requires change. But this cannot happen if one is self-willed, stubborn, and unwilling to admit error.
Another important teaching of Jesus is found in John 5:23-24. Jesus had earlier shown the importance of believing in Him as the Son of God (John 3:16). Equally important, however, He said is the proper honor and respect for the Father. Notice His comment, “. . . all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him . . .” (John 5:23). The religious leaders refused to honor Jesus as the Son of God. Therefore, they dishonored God, the Father. Refusal to recognize the Son meant the refusal to recognize the Father. The rejection of the one was the rejection of the other. The Pharisees and Sadducees hurled invective, criticism, and accusations against the Son while at the same time thinking they were honoring the Father. One cannot be worshipped without the other. To repudiate the Son automatically repudiates the Father. One who admires, worships, and obeys the Son will admire, worship, and obey the Father. How important is this? Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Salvation rests on belief in both the Father and the Son. One cannot be worshipped without the other, for the Father and the Son are one (John 10:30).
The religious leaders in the day of Christ could not accept the fact that their Messiah was God in the flesh. Neither could they grasp the fact that their Messiah was preexistent. To them, the Messiah was envisioned as simply a man who would be raised up to a level of “near God.” When Jesus said He was God’s Son they sought to kill Him. Jesus pointed out that He and the Father were in absolute unity and accord. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (John 5:19-20). Jesus made it plain that there was a special relationship between Him and the Father. He was the representation of the Father. This was why Paul wrote, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Ph’p. 2:10-11). Jesus said He was the true bread of life sent from the Father. “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). Everything that Jesus did and taught was what the Father desired. When we accept the truth Christ brought, we accept the truth from the Father. So, Jesus stated, “. . . Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me” (John 7:28-29). And what was the reaction by the religious leaders?
They were so enraged they sought to “take Him” (John 7:30). This is what He told them when they demanded: “Where is thy Father? “. . . Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (John 8:19). Unknowingly, they were repudiating the very Father they claimed was their God. Jesus added, “. . . If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me” (John 8:42). Later, when one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him to show them the Father, He replied, “. . . Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:9-10). To the Jewish leaders Jesus said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:43-44).
Acknowledging the Father and the Son, however, requires more than merely accepting their names. Notice Jesus’ instruction,
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23).
Believing in God the Father, and Jesus Christ means obeying the will of the Father. The will of Jesus is the same as that of His Father. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). Acknowledging God and Christ means putting the truth to practice in our lives by living it.
The emphasis in all these discussions that Jesus had with the establishment of His day was that He and the Father are one. If One is rejected so is the other. The teaching that Jesus gave here is that both Father and Son are deserving of the awe, respect, honor, and worship belonging to Divine Beings only. We must not fail to recognize this distinction as well as the unity between the Father and the Son.