Worship in Spirit and Truth—Not Spirit or Truth

Josh Buice


When Jesus passed through Samaria rather than bypassing the people, he demonstrated a pressing need to keep the divine appointment of the Father and to meet a very specific woman at a well used well. In Jesus interaction and conversation with her which can be seen in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel—we see something very important about the subject of worship. According to Jesus, the worship that God demands is from the spirit and truth rather than spirit or truth.

This is not two different types or styles of worship; rather it’s two sides of the same coin. Biblical worship involves worshipping God in both spirit and truth.

God Demands Worship in the Spirit

The woman at the well was focused on the place of worship, specifically Gerizim. However, she was not focused on the heart of true worship. Genuine worship of God proceeds from the heart. It’s not driven by location, attire, styles, nor is it based on other cultural things. True worship comes from the heart or it’s not true worship at all. Stephen Charnock, the great puritan writer wrote the following:

Without the heart it is no worship; it is a stage play; an acting a part without being that person really which is acted by us; a hypocrite, in the notion of the word, is a stage player…. We may be truly said to worship God, through we [lack] perfection; but we cannot be said to worship him, if we [lack] sincerity. [1]

In some circles, worship has become so stiff and stale that it’s choked all joy from the people. Often such styles have taken the primacy over and above the joy of worshipping God from the heart. A mind that’s renewed in the gospel and a heart that is totally surrendered to God produces a joyful worship of God. Biblical worship involves the engagement of mind and emotions—the totality of who we are inwardly. True worship cannot happen apart from the heart being properly and fully engaged.

In many cases today, what is passed off as worship is merely man-centered activities that are external attempts to go through the motions of worship rather than to actually engage in biblical worship. Such dry routine is to miss the point of worship. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Have you ever engaged in a worship service and felt that you were a million miles away from God? Have you finished praying and felt that you were merely repeating words rather than engaging in communication to God? We know the difference between a spiritual worship and man-centered activity. Andrew Bonar penned these words in his journal:

During the whole day and every service I felt myself strengthened and upheld by the Lord’s presence in spirit, more than usual. There were moments of great nearness.

Perhaps the reason we often feel great distance rather than great nearness in our worship is because it’s centered on the flesh and designed to entertain carnal flesh as opposed to glorifying a holy God. Our Triune God has called us to worship him in our spirit—from an inward submission and joyful response to his deep love for us.

God Demands Worship in the Truth

It could be said that to worship God apart from truth is to not worship God at all. In other words, doctrine matters. Sadly, many churches have designed their “worship” around fleshly experiences and entertaining music rather than sound doctrine. We must never forget that doctrine matters and any church that downplays the importance of doctrine is downplaying the importance of truth. Without the revealed truth of God’s Word, the people of God cannot worship God properly. John MacArthur has rightly stated the following:

Worship is not merely an emotional exercise with God-words or musical sounds that induce certain feelings. Worship is certainly not a mystical catharsis of human passion detached from any rational thought or biblical precept. True worship is a response of adoration and praise prompted by truth that God has revealed. [2]

One thing we must remember about Jesus in his conversation with the woman at the well is that he pointed her to the truth of the gospel. He likewise pointed her to the truth about himself. Jesus loves truth and in John 14:6, declared himself to be the Truth. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, he demonstrated a profound love for the Scriptures. The revelation of God and the truth about God as revealed in his Word is vitally important and inseparably linked to true worship.

Just as the heart is engaged in worship, so must the mind be engaged. More than an intellectual comprehension of the truth about God, the mind is engaged in the worship of who God is, how God saved us, and why our lives should be consistently reflecting the glory of God. Knowing God is more than just knowing things about God. Having a knowledge base about God is far more than nuggets for Bible trivia on Sunday evenings. The truth we know and believe about God stands at the very heart of worship and separates the true and living God from worthless idols.

Worship matters! For that reason, this January the G3 Conference will be focused on the theme of worship. It is my desire that we will see individual Christians strengthened and local churches spared from the empty pursuit of pragmatism as we focus upon true biblical worship. I hope you will join us this January. Make your reservations at G3Conference.com. Take just a moment to view the video below for a little more information about the upcoming theme.

  1. Stephen Charnock, Discourses Upon the Existence and Attributes of God (New York: Ketcham, n.d.), 225-226.
  2. John MacArthur, Worship: The ultimate Priority, (Chicago: Moody, 2012), 160.

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Author Pray-for-your-pastor

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.