Summary: Jesus told the woman at the well that God is seeking people who will worship Him in spirit and truth. In this message, we will examine the first part of that statement. What is spiritual worship?
We’ve just finished three Sundays looking at the pattern of evangelism in this passage of the woman at the well. Starting this morning, we’re going to zoom in on this one part of Jesus’ conversation with her. You remember that Jesus had just presented this woman with her sin. Knowing everything about her, he asked her to go get her husband. She said she didn’t have a husband. Jesus told her she was exactly right. Then He reminded her that she had had five husbands and was now living in an immoral relationship with another one. She was busted. And when she was busted, it brought conviction on her heart. And when she began to feel the pangs of conviction, she did what most of us do. She tried to side-step it. She didn’t try to justify her sin or talk around it. She just changed the subject. She changed the subject from the issue of her sin to the subject of worship. Even though Jesus didn’t allow her to distract Him from His main message of the Gospel… He did give her a few words of profound truth about worship. We have those few words recorded in the text that’s before us this morning. As a matter of fact, these few verses are some of the richest words in all of the New Testament on the subject of worship. Because of that, we’re going to spend some significant time zooming in on them. By significant time, if the Lord tarries, I mean at least three Sundays. Here’s what I need from you. I need you to come. See, this morning we’re going to look at spiritual worship. Next week we’re going to look at truthful worship. Then the following week we’re going to look at true worship. Each part will be self-contained. But if you just get this week’s teaching without the other two, you risk being unbalanced. And as you look around the church today, you can what unbalanced looks like. Truth without spirit is cold and dead. In the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 1-3, truth without spirit is the Ephesian church. It’s the church that lost its first love. Jesus said they must repent or He would remove them from His presence. He would no longer walk in their midst. Spirit without truth is empty, undisciplined and ultimately self-centered. Spirit without truth is the church at Sardis in Revelation 3. When people looked at them, they looked alive. They had a reputation for being exciting. But Jesus said that they were dead. He said that they needed to remember the truth they had learned in the past. Jesus said that they needed to repent or He would come to them in judgment as unexpectedly as a thief. The Bible is clear that we must worship God in spirit and truth. We can only get the full, balanced picture of worship when we spend time looking at each separately and then both together. That’s why you need to be here each time. Will you do that?
Even though the woman at the well was trying to divert attention from the conviction she was feeling, she asked a good question. She was a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew. She knew that people called Jesus a rabbi which meant that He was a teacher. She also knew that He had looked into her heart and seen what she had hidden there. That’s why she called Him a prophet. So four things came together here. She was with a teacher. She was with a prophet. She had a good question. And what better way to change the subject that to ask a hotly debated question like this one. She basically asked—who is right? Were her people right in the way they worshipped God or were Jesus’ people right? You see, hundreds of years before, after King Solomon died, Israel was divided into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. The southern kingdom included Jerusalem which was where the temple was. The Old Testament law required that all of Israel was to worship God in the temple. Well, after the nation was split, the Jews of the northern kingdom wouldn’t go into the southern kingdom to worship in the temple. So they went against God’s law and made their own priests and built their own place of worship. Years later, both the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom were punished by God for their rebellion and sent into exile. While they were scattered among the nations in exile, some Jews from the northern kingdom began to intermarry with the pagan nations around them. The children of this intermarriage came to be known as Samaritans. They were looked at as half-breeds and the Jews hated them. Since the Jews hated them they weren’t allowed to worship in the rebuilt temple after the exile. So, since they weren’t allowed to worship in the temple, they carried on the tradition of the northern kingdom. They built their own place to worship. Remember that the Old Testament Scripture was all that they had at this time. The Samaritans didn’t even hold to all of that. They rejected everything but the Pentateuch—the books of Moses, the first 5 books of the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were all that they believed in. Those five books say nothing about Jerusalem and the temple. They talk about the tabernacle of God, but don’t have a specific place for it to rest like in Jerusalem. So the Samaritans looked at Deuteronomy 11 and saw Mount Gerizim as the place where Israel proclaimed the blessings of obeying God’s commandments. So that’s the place they picked to build their temple. By the time of the woman at the well, the Samaritan temple had been destroyed. That was another bone of contention, because it was a Jew that did it. But even though their temple was still in ruins, that didn’t faze them. They put together another place and still gathered there to worship. As a matter of fact, to this day, there is still a handful of Samaritans who gather there to worship. The Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim. The Jews worshipped on Mount Zion. But not only was the place of their worship different, the way they worshipped was different. Samaritan worship was exciting. It was lively. It was passionate. It was intensely emotional. If you were to walk into a Samaritan worship service, you couldn’t help but be emotionally stirred. Jewish worship was completely different. It was very liturgical. By that I mean that everything was in complete, rigid order. They had an order of service that had been the same from time immemorial. Daddy did it that way, granddaddy did it that way and his granddaddy did it that way. There was nothing spontaneous. There was little if any emotion. It was all focused on doing the exact right thing at the exact right time in the exact right way. Oh, and by the way—in the exact right place. The worship of the Jews and Samaritans was as different as day and night. So, even though the woman at the well was asking the question to take some heat off her conviction, it was a good question. Since they’re so different, who is right? And Jesus gave her an interesting answer. He told her neither one was right. Neither one was right because things had changed. He didn’t go into the whole history of it. He knew that the Old Testament prescribed that the Temple in Jerusalem was where they were supposed to worship. But He didn’t go there. He didn’t go there, because it was a new day. It was the beginning of a new chapter in God’s dealings with man. And this new chapter called for new worship. In verse 21, Jesus said “the hour cometh.” Whenever the word “hour” is used in that way in the New Testament, it is talking of a changing time period in the unfolding plan of God. In other words, there is a new phase coming—a new hour in God’s plan—a new chapter in His book. And when Jesus says that that hour is coming, it sounds to our ears like He’s speaking of a time in the future. Well, He is and He’s not. You can see it more clearly in verse 23. Jesus says that new hour is coming and it’s already here. What is the new hour that Jesus is talking about? He’s talking about Himself. Even though His work had not been completed on the cross yet, He was sitting there in front of the woman at that moment. The new chapter in the unfolding plan of God’s worship was before her. And Jesus told her that the new chapter He was opening before her was a chapter of new worship. That new kind of worship is characterized by two words—spirit and truth. This morning we’re going to look at the first of those two words—spirit. Since Jesus said that we must worship in spirit and truth, then we must know what He means by each of those. So, what is spiritual worship? Spiritual worship is liberating. It is animating. And it is sustaining. First, spiritual worship is liberating.