The Axe At the Root
John 4:23-24
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth…

1. The worship Christ here established involved a change — "The hour cometh."

2. It was a distinguishing kind of worship, separating the true worshippers from the false.

3. It was directed towards the Father as its object.

4. It originates in a work of grace — "seeketh."

5. Its nature is Spirit and Truth.


1. Before the Flood it was of the simple form; the outward ordinances were few, the chief of which were the offering of animal sacrifices. Connected with this, no doubt, was the meeting of gracious hearts for prayer, and also the ministration of truth since Enoch prophesied. But this worship was too spiritual. Cain commenced a schism, and set up taste and self as a guide in religious worship. The result was a general neglect of religion.

2. The patriarchal method. The head of the family offered sacrifice, and, as in the case of Job, household religion was maintained. But very early, although he could not forget God after the Deluge, man began to interpose visible objects between himself and God. The use of Teraphim became common even among those who had some knowledge of God. The nations being dispersed, soon lost the idea of the invisible, and worshipped idols.

3. The ceremonial form was instituted after the spiritual had broken down. This was suitable to the infancy of the Church, but is as unsuitable now as swaddling clothes would be to full grown men. But even while it existed it was spoken of as soon to be superseded, was frequently broken through by Divine authority, and had no visible thing to worship. In spite of it all, however, idolatry was the common sin of Israel, from which they had to be purged by the Captivity.

4. Since that day God has been treated in one of three ways —

(1)  Adored by outward symbols, as among Brahmins, Romanists, etc;

(2)  Worshipped through ritualism or unbending forms;

(3)  Or neglected altogether for superstition. The lesson of all which is, that men will, if they can, find a substitute for God.

5. Christ comes to tell us now that His worship is wholly spiritual.


1. Because man has fallen, that as his body wants clothing so he is always dressing up his religion.

2. It is more difficult to worship God in spirit than in form.

3. To worship God spiritually men must part with their sins.

4. Men cannot traffic in spiritual religion.

III. WHY IS SUCH WORSHIP TO BE RENDERED? Why not with windmills, as in Thibet?

1. God seeks spiritual worship. To set up our own forms, therefore, is to insult God.

2. God is a spirit, otherwise it might be right to worship Him with material substances or something congenial to humanity.


1. Let us be particularly jealous of anything which looks like going back to ceremonialism.

2. Let us make it matter of heart searching as to whether this service has been ours.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. IN SPIRIT, as regards the inward power.

II. IN TRUTH, the outward form; the first strikes at hypocrisy, the last at idolatry.


Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshippers.

Spiritual Worship
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