In spirit and in truth
“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” (John 4:23-24).
J. I. Packer writes,
What is worship? It is essentially doxology, a giving of glory, praise, honour, and homage to God. In the broadest sense of the word, all true piety is worship.
Usually, however, the term is used in its narrower and more common sense, that is our communion with God, both in public and in private.
Worship must be, as the Lord says, “in spirit and in truth.” In spirit means that true worship is inward, rather than outward. It is to be done with one’s whole heart. It also means that the Holy Spirit living within us assists us to worship God, for without His assistance we cannot worship.
In truth means that true worship is to be done with sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy, and with singleness of heart, or concentration. It also means that worship must express man’s response to evangelical truth, the gospel of salvation, applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, the phrase “worship the Father in spirit and in truth” can be understood that we are to worship the Father, with the Holy Spirit, and in Truth, who is Christ Jesus. Or, in other words, our worship is to the Father through the Son by the Spirit. Therefore, true worship must be Trinitarian.
These facts, that true worship is Trinitarian, that it can only be performed with the Spirit’s help, and that it is made possible and is accepted only through the mediation of Christ, imply that only those who are His, whom He regenerates, can worship Him truly and acceptably. “We must find healing in Christ’s wings, before God can find spirituality in our services. All worship issuing from a dead nature, is but a dead service,” says Stephen Charnock.
These are the keywords that should describe our worship: “… reverence, faith, boldness, eagerness, expectancy, delight, whole-heartedness, concentration, self-abasement, and passion ….”
But how do these come in our practice of worship? In order to apply this in our own practice of worship, we have to ask ourselves, “How do we prepare for worship?” Perhaps a short time of private prayer upon taking our seat in the church building is not enough. Let us heed to George Swinnock on preparation for the service of the Lord’s Day:
Prepare to meet thy God, O Christian! Betake thyself to thy chamber on the Saturday night, confess and bewail thine unfaithfulness under the ordinances of God; ashamed and condemn thyself for thy sins, entreat God to prepare thy heart for, and assist in, thy religious performances; spend some time in consideration of the infinite majesty, holiness, jealousy, and goodness, of that God, with whom thou art to have to do in sacred duties; ponder the weight and importance of His holy ordinances …; meditate on the shortness of the time thou hast to enjoy Sabbaths in; and continue musing … till the fire burneth; thou canst not think the good thou mayest gain by such forethoughts, how pleasant and profitable a Lord’s Day would be to thee after such a preparation. The oven of thine heart thus baked in, as it were overnight, would be easily heated the next morning; the fire so well raked up when thou wentest to bed, would be the sooner kindled when thou shouldst rise. If thou wouldst thus leave thy heart with God on the Saturday night, thou shouldst find it with him in the Lord’s Day morning.