Theme: Worship in Spirit and Truth
In this week’s lessons we look at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and see that once the Lord brings someone to saving faith, one proof of their conversion is that they tell others.
Scripture: John 4:1-42
She said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” So you notice that Jesus began to talk about that. He did not tell her that he wanted to go back to the previous topic of her relational life. He let her change the subject, but he talked about it in terms of the revelation of the way to come to God, on which the Jews rather than the Samaritans were correct. Salvation is of the Jews, Jesus said. God has given it through the Jews. The Jews have the proper Scriptures and they have the covenants and they have the temple worship and the sacrifices and all those things. Concerning the Scriptures, they had come to the human race through the Jews, and which the Samaritans had rejected in large measure. You remember I said that they accepted their version of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, but they rejected the rest of it. And Jesus would have said, “You err in that, because salvation is of the Jews, and God has provided the Scriptures where we are to know about him and the way of salvation through the Jewish prophets.”
It may even be that he stepped back into Old Testament history and showed her how, although salvation came through the Jews, it was nevertheless possible for Gentiles to be saved, but it was through that channel of Judaism. Would it be possible, perhaps, she being a woman and a Samaritan, that he talked about Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, who was saved and brought into the company of the people of God? It would be very strange if Jesus didn’t call attention to that story. Or Ruth, the Moabitess, one who was despised by the Jews in her day as well, but who nevertheless followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to the Promised Land, saying, “Your God shall be my God and your people my people.” You see, probably Jesus talked about those kinds of stories.
And since she asked the question, he also taught her about what true worship is. He said, “It is true that salvation is of the Jews, which means that the worship of God is to be focused in what goes on there in Jerusalem, namely, the sacrifices which point forward to the Messiah. Nevertheless, the time is coming, when the Messiah appears, that the focus of worship will not be on a particular location. Rather, true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth.” Well, he must have begun to explain that. To worship God in spirit is not referring to the Holy Spirit; it’s referring to the spiritual part of our being. True worship is the worship of the heart, and it doesn’t matter whether it takes place in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim, as she had asked.
But lest we misunderstand that and conclude that it doesn’t make any difference what I believe as long as I have a certain kind of religious spirit within me, Jesus went on to say that true worship must be done “in truth.” Now, what is the measure of the truth? The measure of the truth is the Word of God. That’s why we stress the teaching of the Word of God in worship services. A worship service is not a service into which we come to sing a lot of lively songs and feel good about ourselves and go out and say, “Didn’t we have a wonderful worship experience!” Many evangelicals today seem to approach worship that way. But worship is not about reaching an emotional high. Worship is where the truth of the Word is taught and we respond to it with our mind and with our heart. We are actually worshiping the God who has revealed himself in Scripture. Jesus must have taught all of that.
Finally, he gets to the end, in verse 26, and he reveals who he really is. Again, it’s in response to something the woman. She said that one day the Messiah will come and explain everything clearly. And then Jesus basically said to her, “The time of the Messiah has come, and I am he.”
How does Jesus demonstrate that the Jews worship nearer the truth than do the Samaritans?
How does Jesus indicate that worship changes with the coming of the Messiah?
Application: If you are sometimes distracted during the worship service, ask the Lord to remove it and enable you by the Holy Spirit to focus on him alone.