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John teaches us to worship God in spirit

Columbia Biblical Studies: Thursday, June 19
Columbia Biblical Studies: Thursday, June 19
Roberta Dulay

Today’s bible study is from the Gospel of John 4:24: God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

In this short, simple verse, we are, once again, reminded that God is spirit, rather than tangible. God's essence cannot be reproduced or replicated by any powers of mankind. And, since God is spirit, we must worship him in spirit and in truth. We do this each time we pray, calling upon the spirit of God to come into our hearts through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and savior.

The fourth chapter of the Gospel of John is actually the discourse with the woman of Samaria. In this lengthy episode, Jesus encounters a woman, a foreigner, of questionable reputation, who becomes a hesitant but effective witness, resulting in the conversion of many Samaritans. There is an obvious contrast with the preceding narrative featuring the male rabbinic teacher of Israel who never understands.

John teaches that the hour is coming, and is now here. For John, Jesus’ hour is the climactic event of his death, resurrection, glorification, and the saving event of God’s act in Christ taken as a whole. From the point of view within the narrative, this hour is still to come, for Jesus is not yet glorified,

But her, as elsewhere, the Jesus in the narrative line of the Gospel story speaks past the characters in the story to the post-resurrection readers. For John and his readers, this hour, the time of salvation, is both present and to come. This corresponds to the message of the kingdom of God preached by the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. This corresponds to Christ himself, who has already come, but is also still to come at the end of history.

Our passage today seems to be a definition of God, yet it is not. This is not a definition of God. The point here is that God is to be worshiped in a way that corresponds with his own being, in the spirit that God sends through Jesus, not by animal sacrifice at a specific location.

Confusing? Yes. Often, what appears to be exceedingly simple is the most difficult of all. But let’s put it another way: speaking to God in anything but spirit is like speaking to someone in a language they cannot understand. It is speaking to me in Turkish or Russian, when I understand only English. Remember, connection must be made through correspondence. And, this correspondence is impossible if it is not of like kind that can be understood.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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