Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)
God Is Spirit
The act of worship was instilled in man when God created him in the Divine image. Adam and Eve were created by the hand of God as eternal creatures possessing a physical body. Death is a consequence of sin when the Tree of Life is taken from away from men. When Cain killed Abel, the body died, but the eternal spirit of Abel cried out to the ears of God. The reason Cain was angry with Abel was that the Lord did not respect the offering of Cain. While the Bible does not reveal how God instructed early man to worship, Cain and Abel are said to have brought an offering to the Lord. Abel’s worship was accepted and Cain’s was rejected. Worship has been in the fabric of humanity’s relationship with God from the beginning of time.
In the story of Cain and Abel, there is acceptable worship and worship that is not accepted. The days of Noah found everyone worshiping themselves. Abram became a great man of faith as he built altars across the landscape to worship the one true God. Moses led the Hebrews to Sinai to worship the Lord God Deliverer. Through the Law of Moses, worship was an integral part of the nation of Israel, culminating in the building of the House of God in Jerusalem by Solomon. When Israel turned away from true worship to serve idols, the Lord withdrew His presence from a wicked people. Their worship was vain and useless. When Jesus came into the world, the Jews and Samaritans represented the remnant of a once mighty nation of God’s people.
Jesus sat by the well of Jacob as the disciples went into the city to bring food. When a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water, Jesus asked her for a drink. She was shocked a Jew would speak to a Samaritan woman. The Lord told the woman things few people would know. She realized Jesus must be a prophet when He told her she had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband. The immoral woman was taken back by His perception appealing to a difference in worship between the Samaritans and the Jews. She said the Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim but the Jews said worship must be in Jerusalem.
The answer Jesus gives the Samaritan woman is not a new doctrine but the reaffirmation of the age-old relationship of God and man. Worship has never been about a place on a map but the place in the heart. There is true worship and vain worship. Jesus tells the woman a day was coming when worship would not be confined to a single place but true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth because God is Spirit. Cain’s worship was refused because his heart was evil. The worship of the Jews turned away from the true commandments and they were rejected. Worship is not about a place because God is not a place. True worship must come from the eternal nature of man as God created him in His image. God is Spirit and demands worship in spirit.
The nature of man is confined to the physical world but only temporarily. Man does not possess a soul. He is an eternal being possessing a physical body. This is the bridge to understanding the nature of God as Spirit. Jesus declares worship can be false and vain. Calling on the name of the Lord does not suggest the approval of God. Worship must be according to the will of the Father. God is not impressed or moved by how long the prayer is or the contriteness of the face. What men view as pious can be revolting to God. The heart is what God sees because He is Spirit.
Jesus impressed the woman with the true nature of worship when He explained the true nature of God. If God is Spirit, worship must be in spirit and truth. Men can attend a worship service and go away impressed with the fervency and devotion of the service, while God looks upon the worship as vain and useless. Gauging worship by the whims of human wisdom denies the nature of God. The only true worship is when men remember that God is Spirit. Nothing in this world can contain the Lord God except the open and honest heart. When the spirit of man comes to worship, remember God is Spirit.