“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 4:23-24
When it comes to worship, biblical truth and doctrine are foundational. This is where we must always begin. Worship apart from truth puts us in the place of basing our worship and our relationship with God on our own wisdom, experience, emotions, or traditions.
In John 4, Jesus is carrying on a conversation with a Samaritan woman. When the conversation became too probing or personal for the woman, she changed the subject to a dispute about the proper place for worship. Jesus addresses her attempted diversion by informing her that her approach to worship is flawed. In John 4:22, Jesus says to the woman, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know.”
There is much that goes into this statement and to understand it, you have to understand the relationship between the Samaritans and the Jews. I will not go into all the details, but, in brief, the Samaritans were descendants from the Jewish people who were left behind when the nation of Israel was taken into exile. Over the years, those who remained were intermarried with people outside the nation of Israel. They set up their own places of worship and rejected most of the Old Testament, except for their own version of the first five books. Therefore, Jesus is stating that her knowledge of God and real worship was lacking. She was focused on the wrong thing. And she was focused on the “where” of worship and had completely lost sight of the “Who” of worship.
Sound, biblical knowledge of the gospel and Who God is, is absolutely essential in worship. And where does this knowledge come from? It comes from the Word of God. Yes, God does reveal Himself to us through His creation – He displays His majestic power and glory in all that we see, down to the microscopic level. Because of this, anyone who does not believe is without excuse (Romans 1:18-32).
Nevertheless, the Word of God is indispensable. It is within the pages of Scripture that we see the character and attributes of God marvelously revealed through His mighty works and law. We see the prophecy of the coming Christ. In these pages, we have the gospel, which proclaims the greatness of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, Who took upon Himself the sin of the world, that we could be redeemed and brought into the glorious kingdom of God. This truth is the rock upon which we stand. It is the anchor that holds us in the storm. It is what fuels biblical worship and living. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
As an integral part of our spiritual worship, we are commanded to renew our minds. We do this through the transforming power of the Word of God. If we want to be true worshipers of God, we must be grounded in God-centered, Christ-centered truth. There is no exception. God’s Word in me establishes the foundation for worship. It puts my focus on the God of truth. Otherwise, I am left to imagine or create a god that may have little or no basis in reality – a god in my own image. And that is idolatry. If my worship, experience, or life contradicts the truth of God, I need to change. Otherwise, I will not be drawing near to God. I will be led away in error or self-deception. I will be worshiping some other god or, maybe, just worshiping myself and my own desires.
God reveals Himself to us. He desires for us to know Him better. As we seek and draw near to Him, He will help us grow in our knowledge of Him, through Christ. And we will discover, over and over, the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).
Together for His glory…