Text: John 4:23-24

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. God is a Spirit: and
they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:23-24)

Last week, we saw how God desires the sons of men to worship Him. However, God
does not just accept any form of worship. The fact that Christ found it necessary to state
that it is “true” worshippers that he seeks tells us that not all which is rendered to God in
worship is pleasing to Him. Thus, as saints who seek to please our God, we must be care-
ful not to render that which is an abomination in His sight.

What exactly is the worship which God craves? Verse 24 has the answer – “they that
worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Anything that falls outside these
two requirements will not be accepted by our glorious God.

The first requirement is that worship must be “in the spirit”. Since God is a spirit,
therefore worship must also be spiritual in nature. In other words, true worship must
come from the inner man. Mere lip service and external appearances will not suffice for a
heart that is far away from the Lord. The example of the Pharisees is a case in point –
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh
unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far
from me.” (Matt. 15:7-8) Similarly, being in church to participate in the Lord’s Day
service as a means to “pay one’s dues” and looking good before men means nothing
when there is little love for the Lord in the heart. Half-hearted praise is vanity before the

On the other hand, observe the whole-hearted worship of the Psalmist in Psalm 103.
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the
LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” (Ps. 103:1-2). Such must be the
praise we render before the Lord at all times. Note that such worship in the spirit can
only be rendered under the aid and control of the Holy Spirit. “Wherefore I give you to
understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and
that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Cor. 12:3). Only
those who are spiritually born again can worship Christ in the spirit.

The second requirement is that worship must be “in the truth”, that is, it must be
according to God’s Word. Anything less will be rejected by the Lord.

Alas, men in their foolishness oftentimes think that they can worship God according to
their terms. However, this flies in opposition to what is meant by “worship”. Is not
“worship” the acknowledgement that God is the Sovereign of the world and the Master
of our lives? If that is the case, surely it is God who determines the terms of worship that
is to be rendered unto Him and not man. Worship is meant to glorify God and not to
tickle the lustful fantasies of men.

The Scripture is replete with examples on how serious God is with regards to worship
being in truth. In Genesis 4, we see the example of Cain offering to God the fruit of the
ground while Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof (Gen. 4:1-
2). Abel did right because God had set the example in Genesis 3 that He is to be
worshipped with an offering that involves the shedding of blood (c.f. Gen. 3:21).
However, Cain did not follow the specifications of God and thus his offering was
rejected. The response of Cain exposed the deeper issue. Instead of repenting of his sin,
he murdered his brother in jealousy. His heart was never right in the first place. Thus, he
could not care less about worshipping God in the truth.

Another example is that of Nadab and Abihu. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of
Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon,
and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.” (Lev.
10:1) Nadab and Abihu were struck dead with fire by the Lord on account of the “strange
fire” which they offered. Poetic justice indeed. Thus, we too must be careful that we do
not offer “strange fire” to the Lord in our worship of Christ. It is not a light matter. The
Lord will judge all who would steal from His glory.

Alas, what we see in churches today is a scant regard for what God’s Word teaches
concerning the worship of God. One author rightly observes that in the arguments of
both “traditional” and “contemporary”, “what pleases the people often takes precedence
over any consideration of what pleases the Lord. Worship as entertainment prevails over
worship as service rendered to God.” (Barrett) Churches become citadels of fleshly
entertainment rather than centres of holy worship. While Christ’s name may be
proclaimed from the lips with relish, in reality it is man who is exalted and not God.

Dearly beloved, how do we regard the worship of God every Lord’s Day? Do we prepare
our hearts to seek Him sincerely in truth when we enter His house? The Lord is actively
seeking for true worship. Let us render it to Him to the praise of Christ’s name.

Yours sincerely,
Pastor Clement Chew

“Do not flatter yourselves: if you go to places of worship
merely to look about you or to hear music,
you are not worshipping God.”
(Charles H. Spurgeon)