We Christians when talking about the subject of worship often quote the words of Jesus, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
While I have always appreciated this verse, and those two factors which Jesus said would be essential ingredients in New Testament worship, I never fully understood why it was these two elements that He mentioned specifically. Why the two together?
It took listening to a friend of mine preach in church one Sunday to open this up. One of our assistant pastors – and also a good friend of mine – was preaching on John 12 where Mary took some very
costly oil and anointed Jesus’ feet with it, so that the fragrance of the oil literally filled the whole
house. Judas got offended and, with devious motives, made a statement which might have been taken
for nobility, but would have put Mary under massive shame: the oil should have been sold and the
money given to the poor. Jesus’ rebuke to Judas actually did not concern the fact that Judas just
wanted to take money for himself, but rather that Mary’s worship was mingled with revelation, on two counts: 1. It was required that He be anointed for the day of His burial, and 2. (and this was much more for the sake of those who might have tried to fight on Judas’ side) that we will always have the poor with us, but Jesus in His earthly form was not always going to be around.
On this second point let me just say this: I am finding it increasingly necessary every day of my
Christian life to be continually prophetic about everything! If I try to walk on principle alone then I
could easily miss something that God is intending to do. Principles are good and right, such as selling
what we have and giving to the poor – but that principle did not work in this situation. Another example would be that Jesus stated that He came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and telling His disciples to go to the same. Yet in John 4 we find Him ministering to a Samaritan woman, and then staying in their city another two days! And the gospels of Matthew and Mark record an amazing story of a Syrophoenician woman (Matt 15 and Mark 7) whose radical faith obtained Jesus’ answer way before the gospel was due to go to the Gentiles.
I see those who lived in prosperity, those who lived in poverty, and some who lived in both and didn’t
mind either way (Phil 4:12)!
I see the sovereignty of God over the earth expressed (Ps 24:1), the responsibility of man over the earth (Ps 115:16) and even, dare I say it, the devil’s power over the earth (1 John 5:19)! There are theological camps who would like to emphasise one or another of these (and God help those who want to emphasise the last!) when in truth if we take an overall view it seems manifestly clear that there is a war raging over this planet! The sway between the Lord’s power and the devil’s is in man’s power to determine.
I see hundreds of other contrasts in the Bible which, of course, non Christians would say are contradictions. I hope I have slightly described in that last paragraph how they are not even slight contradictions, they are all true on different levels. And when this comes to my day-to-day life it requires me to be prophetic rather than merely principled.
For example, and I hope this doesn’t offend too many people, I have never particularly subscribed to
a doctrine of prosperity entirely, but at the same time I have had to remain open to the Lord’s
working in such a way as to bringing great finances into the life of an individual, family, or church,
and sometimes I have even found myself praying for it for some! At the same time I believe wholeheartedly that one can live with very little and yet, of course, have everything in the world because you have Jesus. For me personally I think it is more likely to become that, but I have seen Him using people on both sides of this fence.
So to draw it back to the main subject, our worship must be revelatory. Mary’s was. So was Abel’s as
he brought a Lamb, evidently somehow understanding that something had to die, prophetic of Jesus’
sacrifice. Cain’s unfortunately wasn’t. Neither was King Uzziah when he tried to enter into priestly duties to be more worshipful. God had not allowed him to try and carry out the duties of priest, and so the principle of course remained established that it was the duty of the Levitical priests. Uzziah went to offer incense, the priests withstood him, he got angry…and broke out in leprosy, from which he tragically died.
At best, when we worship without revelation it can cause us to miss something God is saying. But in the cases mentioned it cost them dear, and we must take this on board.
What then do I believe Spirit and Truth refers to? I believe that, at least in part, it refers to
revelation. Revelation is the sum of Spirit and Truth. When the Spirit of God comes on the Word of
Truth, revelation cannot fail to result. The One who authored it is keen to reveal His purpose,
historically and now, to write His law on our hearts, and of course to reveal Jesus in the Word.
So, for us to worship in Spirit in Truth, I believe that we must worship with hearts open to God that
are crying out for what He has to say for this moment in time. We must remain open to what He
wants to say and do. And simply, sometimes our worship just takes different directions, such as
prayer and intercession, or warfare, or high praise and celebration, or intimacy, or commissioning…
Let us be prophetic as we worship, let us worship in Spirit and Truth.