John 4:23-34

Worship in spirit and truth. Identifying the Messiah. Jesus’ food.

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23But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. 24God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

Building upon the previous discourse, continuing from Jesus’ statement, “A time is approaching when your worship of the Father will not be confined to this mountain or Jerusalem,” we now confront a fresh directive from Jesus, guiding us to worship God “in spirit and truth.

Worship in spirit

The term “spirit” is customarily linked with notions such as fervor, passion, commitment, and is often invoked when engaging in practices that are deemed spiritual, such as prayer or singing devotional melodies. In essence, the capability to worship God hinges on the depth of one’s dedication. Nevertheless, as gleaned from reputable sources, including the epistles of Paul like Romans and Galatians, the accepted criterion is our faith in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, rather than our ability to muster fervency independently.

Further illuminating this theology is Paul’s correspondence, wherein he frequently underscores the inherent conflict between the spiritual and the fleshly in the pursuit of divine righteousness – the foundation of our reconciliation with God and our subsequent communion with Him. A striking articulation of this concept is found in Galatians 5:18:

“But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:18)

The essence of worship resides in being led by the Spirit, rather than being bound by legalistic prescriptions. Worship in spirit is compromised if one remains ensnared by legalistic constraints.

Worship in truth

Now, let us explore the dimension of worshiping God “in truth.” Does this imply honesty during worship? It becomes evident that no descendant of Adam can genuinely worship God in truth. Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things,” and Romans 3:23 asserts, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, if the veracity of one’s heart were to be the yardstick for acceptable worship, how can anyone be certain that their acts of devotion are unequivocally pleasing to God?

Consequently, we must turn to the timeless verity that worshiping God in truth is an acknowledgment that the righteousness we require is bestowed upon us solely through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. This profound realization is the crux of genuine worship, where we approach God in the cognizance and assurance that our righteousness is derived exclusively from Christ’s atoning sacrifice.


25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he.” 27Now at that very moment his disciples came back. They were shocked because he was speaking with a woman. However, no one said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you speaking with her?” 28Then the woman left her water jar, went off into the town and said to the people, 29Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Surely he can’t be the Messiah, can he?”. (John 4:25-29)

The Samaritan woman is evidently taken aback by Jesus’ capacity to unveil the depths of her innermost thoughts, yet her perception should not be regarded as an eternally unchangeable truth. While she is indeed fortunate to discern this revelation about the authentic Messiah, applying this assessment to anyone else who exhibits similar perceptive skills might lead her into the deception of following a counterfeit prophet.


30So they left the town and began coming to him. 31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33So the disciples began to say to one another, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete his work.” (John 4:30-34)

Let us quote a few related verses for additional context:

Humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD’s mouth. (Deutoronomy 8:3)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Peter 2:2)

Clearly evident, particularly in John 6:35, is Jesus’ emphasis on addressing spiritual hunger and thirst. The focal point should be on nourishing oneself with the “spiritual milk,” which fosters growth in comprehending the depth of salvation found in Christ.

If Jesus finds sustenance in fulfilling the divine mission of sacrificing himself on the cross for our sins, leading to our justification before God, then what else can be our nourishment except placing our faith in his redemptive work on our behalf?

(Next study: John 4:35-54)

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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