But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth…
I. SOME GENERAL PROPOSITIONS. Spiritual worship —
1. Is founded upon and riseth from the spirituality of God.
2. Is manifest by the light of nature to be due to Him; not the outward means, which depended on a law, but the inward manner. "Sacrifice to the gods, not so much clothed with purple garments as with a pure heart"
(Menander). This could not but result —
(1) From a knowledge of ourselves. Psalm 100:1, 2, is a natural principle. Man must know that his faculties were given him to glorify God.
(2) From the knowledge of God (Romans 1:21).
3. Spiritual worship, therefore, was always required by God, and always offered Him. His spirituality fails not, and spirituality must run through all the rights of worship, and did (Deuteronomy 30:10).
4. It is, consequently, every man's duty to worship God in spirit as to worship Him at all. He that denies worship to be due to God denies His Deity; he that waives spiritual worship, denies His spirituality.
5. The ceremonial law was abolished to promote spirituality of worship.
(1) The legal service is called "flesh," in opposition to the gospel, which is called "spirit" (Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 9:10; 2 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Romans 2:29).
(2) The legal ceremonies were not a fit means to bring the heart into a spiritual frame. They had a spiritual intent, but did not work spiritual affections in the soul (Galatians 4:9; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1).
(3) Neither are they hindered spiritual affections; because the people sunk down to the things themselves, and refused to perceive their spiritual intent.
(4) Upon these accounts, therefore, God never testified Himself well pleased with that kind of worship; not as they were His own institution, but as they were practised (Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 1:11-14).
(5) God, therefore, never intended their permanence, and often mentioned a coming spiritual change (Hebrews 7:18; Galatians 4:2; Malachi 1:11).
6. The gospel service is spiritual. Spirituality is the genius of the gospel (Romans 12:1). Its matter — love of, and faith in, God — its motives (John 1:17), its manner, its assistances, are all spiritual.
7. Yet the worship of our bodies is not to be rejected.
(1) Bodily worship is due to God (1 Corinthians 6:20). Both body and spirit are from God, and should be for God.
(2) Social worship is due to God, but this cannot be without some bodily expressions.
(3) Christ worshipped with His body (Luke 22:41, 42).
II. WHAT SPIRITUAL WORSHIP IS.
1. From a spiritual nature (Ephesians 2:10).
2. By the influence of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:13, 26; Ephesians 6:18).
3. Done in sincerity — from the heart (Romans 1:9; Proverbs 23:26; Exodus 25:7; Psalm 119:108). This is the salt which seasons every sacrifice, and without the heart worship is a stage play (Romans 10:10).
4. Performed with unitedness of heart (Psalm 86:11; Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 6:6; Psalm 119:10).
5. Discharged with spiritual activity (Psalm 57:8), and acting spiritual habits (Psalm 103:1). Hence the necessity of —
(1) Faith (Hebrews 9:6).
(2) Love (Romans 8:15).
(3) A spiritual sensibility of our own weakness.
(4) Spiritual desires after God (Psalm 63:2, 8; Psalm 42:2).
(5) Thankfulness and admiration (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:13, 14).
6. Offered with delight (Psalm 43:4; Ephesians 5:18, 19).
7. Paid with deep reverence (Isaiah 6:2; Hebrews 12:28), and humility (Hosea 2:4; Isaiah 6:5; 1 Chronicles 29:14). God commanded not the fiercer creatures to be sacrificed, but the meek; none that had stings in their tails or venom in their tongues.
8. Performed with holiness (Psalm 93:5; Hebrews 9:14; Revelation 4:8).
9. Performed with spiritual ends and raised aims at God's glory (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 4:11). Some worship as poor men offer a present to rich — not to honour them, but to gain a richer reward (Malachi 3:14).
10. Offered in the name of Christ (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 8:3).
III. WHY A SPIRITUAL WORSHIP IS DUE TO GOD, and to be offered to Him.
1. The best we have is robe presented in worship, on the grounds —
(1) Of God's excellency (Malachi 1:13, 14).
(2) God's command (Exodus 29:13).
(3) Heathen precedent, who offered their males and their children.
(4) All creatures serve man, by the Providential order, with their best.
(5) God has served man with His best.
2. We cannot else act towards God according to the nature of rational creatures. Spiritual worship is due to God because of His nature, and from us because of ours. To withhold our spiritual faculties is to deny them the end and use for which they were given.
3. Without the engagement of our spirits, no act is an act of worship. The posture of the body is best to testify the affection of the mind.
4. There is in worship an approach of God to man. Ought not our spirits to be prepared to receive Him? (Exodus 19:10, 11; Ezekiel 48:35).
5. To have this worship is God's end in redemption and sanctification (Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:5).
6. Other worship cannot be acceptable, God being a Spirit (1 Peter 2:5).
IV. TO MAKE USE OF THIS. It serves —
1. For information. If spiritual worship be required —
(1) How sad their state who, so far from giving it, render no worship at all. Worship is founded on creation (Psalm 100:2, 3), and man in no state can be exempted. Where there is no acknowledgment of God, the gate is open for all sin (Hosea 4:1, 2; Genesis 4:16). Worship to a false God, or in a false way, is better than none at all.
(2) Diligence in outward worship is not to be rested in (Revelation 3:1).
2. For examination.
(1) How are our hearts prepared to worship? Do we quicken our spirits? (Psalm 27:8.) Are our hearts fixed?
(2) How do we act our graces in worship?
(3) How do we find our hearts after worship? How as to inward strength, humility, delight?
3. For comfort.
4. For exhortation.
(S. Charnock, 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.