But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth…
I. THE GREAT PECULIARITY OF CHRISTIANITY and proof of its Divinity IS THAT IT IS FITTED TO BE THE RELIGION OF EVERY AGE AND COUNTRY. There is nothing in its institutions which confines it to one place rather than another; and nothing in its requirements which makes its exercise easier at this time or that. The heathen attached special sacredness to some shrine; the Jews could perform the most solemn acts of their worship nowhere but at Jerusalem. This was enough to prove that Judaism was not designed to be permanent, because it could not be universal. Christianity takes the whole world for its Jerusalem, and attaches no sacredness to certain lands and temples. A kind of sanctity must be attached to the scenes of Christ's life, of course. But it is not a religious sacredness. A church built on Calvary would be no holier than anywhere else.
II. EVERYWHERE THE FATHER SEEKS TO BE WORSHIPPED IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. Why? Because of His nature. Composed as we are of body and soul, men have formed improper notions of the Godhead, because we are unable to form ideas of a purely Spiritual Being. The Deity differing immeasurably from ourselves, to invest Him with our imperfections is to destroy reverence. Were He not a Spirit He could not possess the properties which belong to the Divine Being — omnipresence, e.g. — a body cannot be present in different places at the same time; infinitude — a body cannot fill the universe. But in His spiritual nature He must be immeasurably removed from the highest ranks of created intelligence. We want to stretch beyond spirit, because we cannot but believe that God is infinitely beyond angels; and it is our duty to maintain the thought that God is far above all created excellence.
III. ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP, THEN, MUST TAKE ITS CHARACTER FROM THE NATURE OF GOD. It follows, therefore, that carnal and ceremonial worship will not be acceptable. Prayer must be based on God's perfections. It were useless to pray unless persuaded of His omnipresence — who could worship a being who was not within hearing? — and equally useless unless convinced of His unchangeableness. Who could pray unless God's promises and precepts were immutable? This worship is not optional, but obligatory.
IV. SPIRITUAL WORSHIP DOES NOT EXCLUDE BODILY.
1. The body as well as the soul is to be sanctified and glorified; with both, therefore, God is to be honoured.
2. Where there is inward worship there will not be outward irreverence.
3. But it is indifferent except as the index and accompaniment of the soul.
V. BUT THIS WORSHIP IS PRIMARILY SPIRITUAL.
1. It is an act of the understanding. Not "What ye know not," but "What we know." God as known by the light of nature and revelation.
2. It is an act of the will — surrender and submission to God.
3. An act of the affections — delighting in and sympathizing with God.
4. An act of faith —
5. An act of reverence.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.