Worship in Spirit and Truth

Written by Frank Jamerson.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Jn. 4:19-24


A. Jesus turned a request for a drink of water into a discussion of a change in the system of worship.

1. “In consequence of the dispute which arose over the marriage of Manasseh, who belonged to the high priestly family, with a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh. 13:28), a temple was built on Gerizim as a rival to that in Jerus (alem) (c. 432 B.C.)...The temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus c. 110 B.C.” (ISBE). The destruction of the temple did not settle the dispute over the proper place of worship.

2. The Samaritan woman, perceiving Jesus to be a prophet, wanted to settle the question.

B. Worship: “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (Vine). Thayer says: “To kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence; hence among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence; hence in the N.T. by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication.” Ps. 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

C. The contrast Jesus taught is more than we usually think about.

1. The Jews were right - or Jesus could not have said the Samaritans were wrong (Jn. 4:22).

2. If truth was not required under the Old Law, the Samaritans were as right as the Jews.




A. A new system was coming

1. Jews were right

a. While the law, priesthood and temple were in effect (1 Kgs. 8:17-21; 1 Chron. 28:10-13,19).

b. The priesthood and the law (as well as the temple) ceased (Heb. 7:11,12).

2. A change was coming

a. A new system under Christ (Acts 4:10-12).

b. When did it come? (Eph. 1:20-23; 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:5-10).


B. The contrast:

1. Was not simply sincere versus insincere:

a. Ex. 25:2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”) Jesus quoted Is. 29:13 in Mt. 15:7,8 and condemned ritualism and traditionalism.

b. It is carnal ordinances - versus a spiritual system (Heb. 7:16; 9:10).

2. Was not truth versus error

a. The Samaritans were wrong (Jn. 4:22), the Jews were wrong in following traditions instead of truth (Mt. 15:9; Col. 2:16,17,20-22). An example (Lev. 10:1,2; 16:12).

b. The contrast was carnal ordinances of the law versus spiritual emphasis under Christ

(Jn. 4:23,24). 



c. Truth: (alethes) “true as opposed to false,” (alethinos) “describes that which is not only true but also completely what it professes to be...The popular sense of the word ‘ideal’ - fulfilling the complete conception - comes near to this usage” (Westcott). (cp. Jn. 1:17 - contrast is between shadow and substance, the symbolic and the real.)


C. Shadow versus Substance:

1. Physical temple (1 Chron. 28:10-13 built by Solomon; rebuilt by Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:8; 4:1,24; 6:15). Spiritual temple (1 Cor. 3:16,17).

2. Special priesthood (Heb. 7:11,14) - priesthood of believers (1 Pet. 2; Rev. 5:9,10).

3. Many washings (Heb. 9:6-10) - washed in the blood (once) (Rev. 1:5).


D. Old Covenant versus New Covenant:

1. Temple, priesthood and sacrifices (Ex. 40:10,26,27) - now a new temple, priesthood and sacrifices (Heb. 13:10-15).

2. Food and drink (Lev. 11) - righteousness (Rom. 14:17; Col. 2:14-17; 1 Tim. 4:1-4).

3. Circumcision (Gen. 17:10-13; Lev. 12:1-3) - of the heart (Rom. 2:28,29; Col. 2:11-13).

4. Instrumental music (2 Chron. 29:25)) - sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

Dr. Candlish (a Presbyterian author): “I believe that it is a question which touches some of the highest and deepest points of Christian theology. Is the temple destroyed? Is the temple worship wholly superseded? Have we, or have we not, priests and sacrifices among us now? Does the Old Testament itself point to anything but ‘the fruit of the lips’ as the peace-offering or the thank-offering of gospel times? Is there a trace in the New Testament of any other mode of praise? For my part, I am persuaded that if the organ be admitted, there is no barrier, in principle, against the sacerdotal system in all its fullness - against the substitutes again, in our whole religion, of the formal for the spiritual, the symbolical for the real” (Bales, p. 16,17).



Warning - Dt. 4:2; Heb. 2:2,3


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