John 4:23, 24
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth…
In some form worship is all but universal. Wherever on earth man is found, there he presents to the Power above the offerings of his devotion. Doubtless there are cases without number in which worship has degenerated into mere superstition. Yet, where worship is at its best, it is one of the very highest manifestations and exercises of human nature. Much has been said by philosophers, by poets, by theologians, concerning the nature and the virtue of worship. But more light has been cast upon this subject by Jesus, in the few words recorded to have been spoken by him to the poor Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, than has been yielded from every other source. Few portions of our Lord's discourses have been more quoted or more admired than this. But the world has still much to learn from these memorable sayings.
I. CHRIST TELLS US WHOM WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Idolaters offer their adoration, in some cases to the great and imposing objects of nature, as the sun, the moon, etc.; in other cases to the works of their own hands, as to images of silver, of gold, of wood, etc. The perplexed in mind have worshipped "the Unknown God," and agnostics profess to venerate "the Unknowable." But it is the happy privilege of Christians to worship the God who is revealed by the Lord Jesus.
1. As the Spirit, apprehended, not by the senses, but by the soul. The Divine Being, spiritual in nature, everywhere present, everywhere conscious, everywhere acting, is the proper Object of human worship.
2. As the Father, who is not distant and unapproachable, but very near, to whom we owe our being, who supplies our wants, exercises over us a constant care, and trains us for the future by a moral discipline. Such is the affectionate relation which is sustained to us by the great Object of our adoration.
II. CHRIST TELLS US HOW WE ARE TO WORSHIP. There have been devised by men's ingenuity and superstition many methods by which it has been thought worship might be acceptably offered. Bodily posture, ascetic rites, unholy ceremonial, painful pilgrimages, and cruel sacrifices have been deemed acceptable, and have accordingly been practised. In contradistinction from such modes of service, Christ bids his disciples worship:
1. In spirit. Man's spirit, because created in the likeness of the heavenly Father, possesses the power of honouring, praising, thanking, and loving the living God. The heart is the seat of loyalty, of gratitude, of love. Not that worship is to be locked up in the secrecy of the breast; it may and will find expression in solemn speech and joyful song. But all utterances and forms of worship derive their value and their power from their being the manifestation of spiritual life and spiritual aspirations.
2. In truth; i.e. with a just conception of the Being worshipped, and in sincerity and reality. Such worship will be personal, and not merely formal or vicarious. The priest must not arrogate the functions of the worshipper. And true worship will be of the life, as well as of the lips; for both alike will be accepted as the revelation of deep and spiritual feeling.
III. CHRIST TELLS US WHEN AND WHERE WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Upon these points his lessons differ from the maxims and the practices of those who follow the narrow ordinances of superstition. For whereas men have usually set apart special places and special seasons as peculiarly suitable for worship, as peculiarly acceptable to God, the Lord Christ speaks on these subjects with a breadth and freedom quite superhuman.
1. At all times, irrespective of human ordinances and customs. There are special seasons when it is well, when it is in accordance with the practice of the Church, and even with the authority of the primitive Christians, to offer stated, solemn, and spiritual sacrifices. But both the precepts and the example of Jesus assure us that we are not confined to such times, but that there is no season when sincere worship is not acceptable to God.
2. In every place worship may be presented to the omnipresent Creator. No longer on the heights of Gerizim or in the temple of Jerusalem, i.e. exclusively and specially, is the Eternal Father worshipped. Wherever God's people meet together in a devout and lowly attitude of mind, and under the guidance of the Spirit of God, there is a consecrated place. Nay, the scene of retired and solitary worship is holy; for a worshipping nature and a worshipped Deity are together there.
IV. CHRIST TELLS US WHY WE ARE TO WORSHIP.
1. One reason is to be sought in ourselves - in our own nature; we have been made capable of this lofty exercise. This is a prerogative denied to the inferior creatures of God. We live beneath the high possibilities of our being, if we restrain worship and draw not near unto the Father of our spirits.
2. Another reason is to be found in God himself; his nature and character are such as to command and to invite our worship. Our heavenly Father cannot be known by any who are capable of right judgment and right feeling without appearing to such deserving of the lowliest and most fervent adoration.
3. God seeks believing worshippers. An amazing proof both of condescension and compassion! How can we withhold from God that which he, the Almighty Lord, deigns to seek from us? - T.
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.