Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spirit and Truth

I was teaching my class at Amberton last night. We were in John 4 -- the great story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. We came to verse 24, and I just confessed to the class that I have never felt settled with the meaning of this verse. It is where Jesus says, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

We have tended to attach meaning to it that I don't think fits the context. In my tradition, we have tended to stress the "truth" part and have said that when we gather in corporate worship we better get it right. Obviously, when we approach God -- it must be on His terms. But is that what Jesus intended as He spoke to this woman sitting by a well?

Others have suggested that Jesus is spirit and truth, and so He is referring to Himself. I don't know. Maybe.

Could it be this simple? The woman had tried to sidetrack Jesus by bringing up the subject of the proper place to worship. And Jesus simply told her that since God is spirit, worship is not about a place. It's about an attitude.

I tend to think that is the meaning, but I still feel like I am missing something. Like why didn't Jesus just say, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit." In the contest of John 4, what is the "truth" part alluding to? Because the Samaritans didn't believe in the law and the prophets? (Historically, they accepted only in the Pentateauch.) Any ideas?


JRoss said...
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JRoss said...

JRoss said...
I think within John's gospel he defines the words. Truth is Jesus (14:4) and His words are truth (6:63). Truth is not propositional in John, but personified in Jesus. Spirit is Jesus! Therefore, to worship in Spirit and Truth means neither to worship in Jerusalem or Mt. Gerazim, but through Jesus.

On another note - I love the progression in John. First, the 100% Jew (Nicodemus), now the mixed breed (Samaritan), then comes the 100% Gentile (Royal Official 4:43ff). What's John up to here? Could it be that late 1st century Christians were struggling with race issues within the church?

Much more to say .... too little space to say it.

Preach the Word!

Amy C said...

It occured to me also that maybe by truth he could be referring to an honest and open confession of the state of our hearts when we worship. If we can not "come clean" before God, why would we expect him to make us clean? Just a thought.

Rick Ross said...


I can get my teeth into that one! I like that.

Randy said...

Interesting enough Linda posed a similar question the other night to me. My understanding is that in context the word translated as truth means sincerity. I believe both spirit and truth are two halves of the same idea. We must worship with our spirits and we must worship truly.