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What Does It Really Mean to Worship God in Spirit and Truth?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Comments (2)

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

That frequently quoted verse has become a popular proof text for charismatic doctrine. In fact, a recent article in Charisma magazine used it as biblical support for speaking in tongues as a form of “spirit-to-Spirit communication with God.”1

But do Jesus’ words in John 4:24 really affirm sign gifts as necessary parts of our worship? In the following audio, John MacArthur explains the true meaning of worshiping God in spirit and truth.

God calls His people to be worshipers—people who revere Him with all of their adoration and affection. The Strange Fire conference is designed to encourage true spiritual worship by defining it rightly.

For more information about Strange Fire, please visit the conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Cody Zanini  |  Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 7:59 AM

Sit back, and be witness of the things that have passed, the efforts of those inspired in the present, and prepare for things to come. Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" This organization (website, church, college, seminary) represents a small fraction of truth. How delighted to be blessed by God as one who can discern truth from a lie. However, I shall boast in my weakness, as a struggling, saved sinner, praise God Almighty for grace, mercy and forgiveness. I hope one day to meet you Mr. McArthur. I hope......

#4  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Monday, July 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM

It is really puzzling that John says in this audio clip that ‘spirit’ means ‘attitude’ in John 4:24. For the Scriptures reveal that God has given each of us our own spirit (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Mary’s spirit rejoiced (Luke 1:47), Jesus committed his spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46), Stephen cried out to Jesus to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59), Paul’s spirit was refreshed (1 Cor 16:18), and it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). So, surely, worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth’ means worshipping him in our spirit, as well as in truth.

If it simply means a particular attitude, i.e. to worship God in a ‘spirited’ or wholehearted manner, that makes us similar to football supporters who encourage their team in a ‘spirited’ manner. Nor can it simply be a matter of how much knowledge about God we can accumulate, because ‘the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God’ – they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). We might be able to quote verses of Scripture, but that doesn’t mean that we have accepted them. Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris quote verses of Scripture – when it suits them.

So whilst we might not agree with everything written in the article in Charisma magazine, there is evidence that speaking in tongues is a form of “spirit-to-Spirit communication with God.” Paul wrote that ‘one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God’ (1 Cor 14:2). Later on in the same passage Paul explained his resolve to pray with his spirit, and also pray with his mind; to sing praise with his spirit, but also sing with his mind (1 Cor 14:14-15). He was saying that he would pray in tongues and also pray in his natural language; he would sing in tongues and also sing in his natural language – he was intent on worshipping God in spirit, as well as in truth.