“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The advent of Christ to earth signaled a time of transition within in the Kingdom of God. Things were changing – the crooked paths were being made straight, the roughs ways were being made smooth (Luke 3:5-6), the plan of redemption was unfolding. This is not to say that there were no “true” worshipers before this time, or that the genuineness of the Old Testament saints was being called into question, but rather that a new dimension of truth about God himself was about to be revealed, exemplified in the person and work of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
“God is spirit” – Within the context of their discussion about where God ought to be worshiped, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman that God is spirit, so he is not confined to any particular place, but rather inhabits all of the heavens and the earth. Solomon, who built the first temple in Jerusalem, understood this fully. Before the work on the temple had even begun, Solomon declared:
“But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?” (2 Chronicles 2:6)
“His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” – In order to be clear about what is meant by the term “worship” as it is used within this passage, let’s see what Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has to say about the Greek word, “proskuneó,” translated here as “worship”:
4352. proskuneó – From “pros” and a probable derivative of “kuon” (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.
However, let’s not delve too far down into the “dog and master” analogy, for Jesus did not refer to God as the Master but rather as the Father. To worship God in this sense is to humbly show submission to someone who is inexorably higher and greater than ourselves. To worship the Father in truth, we must not only understand the truth about who and what he is, but also understand the truth about who and what we are in relationship to him.
“For they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – So many of today’s Christian devotionals and worship songs focus on a God who is “crazy about us”; where we become the object of his adoration, rather than the other way around. But such hubris is antithetical to the very quality that God appears to value most in a person, namely humility:
“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)
We serve a high and holy God, whose ways are inscrutable. We cannot know everything about God, but he already knows everything about us. He knows all our weakness, all our foolishness, all our shame, all the ugly things that we don’t even know about ourselves, and the astounding thing is, he loves us anyway!
In his famous psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, David said, “You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6) I think that there is something deep within the heart of man that instinctively understands this, and yearns for it as well – a desire for this raw connection with the heart of God, where we can stand with upturned faces before our heavenly Father, naked and unashamed, loving him and knowing that we are loved by him. This is only possible through Christ.