by Rev. D. H. Kuiper
"God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." John 4:24
The truth that Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman is the truth embodied in the Second Commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth." The reason for this prohibition is
that God is spiritual and invisible. this commandment has to do with the right worship of the only true God. We are not to represent God with images, nor worship Him in any way other than He has commanded in His Word. We are not to use images of God in the churches, for then we would be pretending to be wiser than God Who would have His people taught, not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of His Word.
That God is spirit means on the one hand that He is immaterial and invisible, while on the other hand that God is pure being and the ground of the creature's being as well. We ought to face some questions at this point. What do you think about when you think of God? Do you try to visualize God? Do you form some sort of mental picture of Him? What about our children and their conception of God? Further, what are we to think of Scripture's telling us that God has a heart, hands, hearing, and smelling? the importance of our subject for all prayer and worship cannot be over emphasized!
The spirituality of God is not the easiest virtue of God to write about or to comprehend. We know that God is spirit, but this does not mean that we fully comprehend everything that is implied in this brief statement of Jesus at Jacob's well in Samaria. First of all, let us rid ourselves of several possible misconceptions. Our subject does not have to do directly with the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Third Person is called the Spirit because He is the energy or breath that proceeds from Father to Son and from Son to Father within the Trinity. but here we are to understand that Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the entire Godhead, is spirit! Nor is God spirit in the sense that angels are spiritual beings, but angels are creatures brought forth by the Word of God in the beginning. Angels are invisible but they can be made to appear, and they have their ground of existence in God. they are spiritual creatures while God is uncreated, spiritual being. This implies that the properties of matter are not true of God. All matter has weight, occupies space, can be touched, weighed and measured, and undergoes change. Not so with God! Moses told the children of Israel, "And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice." (Deut. 4:12) And Jesus said, "Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape," for God has no form or shape. What are we to think, then, of those passages of the Bible which speak of God in terms of hands, eyes, ears, mouth, and son on? In the light of the above, we must certainly understand such revelation of God to us as figures of speech (anthropomorphisms) in which God speaks of Himself in terms of human description in order that we might better conceive of Him. But this does not mean that we may form images of God! Who could ever sculpt a Hand that touches everything or paint an Eye that sees all things constantly, even the hearts of men? In God, heart, hand, eye, etc., are present in the ultimate sense, and what man possesses is but a creaturely reflection of what is perfectly present in God. But none of the properties of matter pertain to God; He is immaterial or noncopereal. God is spirit!
It is striking that it is easier to say what God's spirituality is not than to say what God's spirituality is!! God is pure essence. He is pure life and energy. God is the Father of spirits, and the Father Creator of all things visible as well. All that is material or substance is composed; it is made up of smaller entities or parts. Being pure spirit, God is simple and uncomposed. God is indivisible. For one thing, this implies that God does not only have virtues or attributes, but He is His virtues or attributes. God is spirit. God is love.
Because God is spirit, God is invisible. God is not seen, cannot be seen, and will never be seen. We want Scriptural proof for these assertations, don't we? In John chapter one, the beloved apostle states, "No man hath seen God at any time." Perhaps we think that Adam or Moses or Abraham saw God at some point. But John instructs us to the contrary. The apostle wants us to understand that we do not some to know and enjoy God because we see Him, but only because, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him." the Son has come forth from the very bosom of God (this speaks of the intimate knowledge and understanding the Son has of the deep things of God) to reveal God to His people! When the apostle Paul writes the young pastor Timothy, he exclaims, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see ..." Paul goes further than John. he agrees with John that no man has ever seen God in the past; he goes on to assert that no man shall ever see God in the future. It's impossible! The creature can never see that which is pure spirit. Just as our eyes cannot look directly at the sun on a clear day without damage, so man cannot look at the glorious being of God and live. We ought to recall the words of Jesus, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Let that suffice us. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ. Wonder of wonders, God has made Himself visible, fully and richly, in the incarnate Son! For this reason Jesus can say, "No one cometh unto the Father but by me", and "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:6, 7) Perhaps you have one of the beatitudes of Matthew five running through your mind: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." We can understand the first part, for without holiness no one shall ever see the thrice holy God: but what can the last part mean? the saints, who are the pure in heart, shall never look upon the being or essence of God for that is impossible for the creature; and in heaven we shall still be creatures. But we shall see God as He is fully revealed in the exalted Head of the Church, Jesus Christ! And seeing God in Christ, we shall be satisfied!
All this means that our worship of God must be a careful, spiritual worship. the worship of God is the main point of Jesus conversation with the Samaritan woman. Man must worship, but will man decide of himself how to worship the God whom he has never seen? This often times is done, with results that are nauseating to God and perilous to man. (See for example Isaiah 1:12-15 and Romans 1:21-23) Nowadays people twist the words of Jesus in John 4:21 to make them say that they don't have to go to church to worship God; they can do that at home or at the beach or in the mountains. Just so you're sincere! Or there is all manner of experimentation in the worship services: movies, plays, liturgical dances. This is the direction men take if they presume to decide the matter of the right worship of God, and we would blunder just as badly if we should take this matter into our hands.
God must be worshipped as He has commanded us in His word, and here the Word says, " . . . in spirit and in truth." When Jesus says that the "Father seeketh such to worship Him', Jesus is not saying that God weakly or vainly looks for these worshippers, but He confidently asserts that the Father seeks, finds, and equips worshippers of Himself. true worship is the fruit of the work of God in the hearts of His people, it is the God-worked response to the Holy Gospel, and thus it is found pleasing to God!
Secondly, worshipping God "in spirit" does not mean in or by the Holy Spirit. We do not deny, of course, that the Holy Spirit must be present in a man before he can even desire to worship God, much more perform such worship. But here the word "spirit" stands opposed to all that is fleshy, carnal, and outward. Not by outward observance, not by wearing of sackcloth and ashes, not by the mere appearance of a man in church, will God be worshipped. But from within, from the heart, with a lowly and contrite spirit that understands the sinfulness of one's sins. The posture of the body is not the key thing; the posture of the soul is! God is properly worshipped only when He is worshipped in truth, that is, according as He truly is and according as we truly are! Thus, worship requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Mediator of God and men.
Thirdly, the true worship of God must rest upon God's Word. There He tells us Who He is and who we are, and there He reveals how he will be revered by the saints. Briefly this includes that we worship Him with our offerings, with prayer, with singing, in the peace of the communion of saints, and most importantly of all, with a quiet, reverent attention to the preaching of the Gospel. the preaching is the heart of the worship service; may it ever remain so in the church of Jesus Christ. preaching of the full counsel of God, preaching that is authoritative, preaching that is lively, preaching that expounds and applies, preaching of the doctrines of grace so that God is magnified and every human resource debased!
And finally, in "spirit and in truth" certainly means that we worship the great God of our salvation actively and sincerely. Whenever the word "spirit" is used, it connotes the idea of energy and activity! Is that the way we worship God? Do we sing out, from the heart? Do we pray along with the minister, really making his thoughts and petitions our own? Do we follow closely the unfolding of the sermon, comparing it with the Word of God and asking ourselves what this means for our lives of gratitude to God? Are we present in God's house because we love that God Whom we have never seen, and fervently desire that all things glorify Him for such a great salvation?
"May the words of our mouth, and the meditations of our heats, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer."