John 4:24 – God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
What does it mean that God is Spirit? When we think of spirits, certain things come to mind. Ghosts, apparitions, strong drink, demons…all of these things are called spirits, so which of them is God like?
Is God a ghost? Is He strong drink? These may seem like silly questions, but it is important to determine what Jesus means by God is Spirit. Why? Because, understanding what it means that God is Spirit informs us how we must interact with Him.
Note: When Jesus says, “God is Spirit”, in John 4:24 he is not referring to God, the Holy Spirit, who is a person of the Godhead. We know this because this statement is made regarding the worship of God and in verse 21 Jesus specifically says this worship is for, “The Father”. When Jesus says, “God is Spirit” he is referencing the whole essence of God; the attributes and uniqueness of God Himself.
First, we should look at the actual word “spirit” that is used here in John 4:24. Both times the word is used, “God is Spirit” and “in spirit and truth”, it is the same word.
The most literal meaning is breath or wind. Breath being the life force of all creation (Genesis 2:7) and wind being an unpredictable, natural force that cannot be controlled by humans. Jesus even describes the Spirit as wind in his conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:6-8). On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples gathered in the upper room He came like the sound of a “rushing wind” and fire. So, “spirit” and “wind” have a definitive Biblical correlation. As such, wind serves as a tested metaphor to help us understand how God is spirit. He is invisible, untamable, goes where He wills and blows on whom He will, He cannot be controlled or summoned, His presence is not seen but it is often felt, sometimes as a small and gentle breeze and other times as a mighty and fearful hurricane. God is Spirit!
To further understand what is meant by, “God is Spirit”, it may be helpful to explore how we, who are created in God’s image, interact with our own spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 – And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are made up of body, soul and spirit. Each of these have their own function in constituting the personhood of every human being. The spirit is the essence of who we are – what makes us human. It is the everlasting, never-dying part of humanity that gives us our personality and fuels everything about us.
As miraculous a creation your body is, without your spirit you would simply be a pointless, purposeless robot. Your soul is what brings your body to life and your spirit is what God makes alive to give you a hope and a future through the living power of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:44-46)
Your spirit is you. The very essence of you. If I were to take your spirit out of you and put it in someone else, they would start acting like you because your spirit gives you identity. This is why when Christ redeems us, He redeems all of us, especially our eternal spirit; our identity. He redeems our identity by conforming it to His and we become identified with Him in His death and resurrection. (Galatians 2:20)
What does this have to you?
In John 4, Jesus says, the only true worshippers are those who worship in spirit and in truth. The greatest implication for us surrounding the statement, “God is Spirit” is that our worship must reflect that reality.
What does it mean to worship God in spirit?
First and foremost, it means only people whose spirits have been redeemed can worship God (John 3:5). Worship of God requires a rebirth by the Spirit of God, redeeming your eternal spirit and transforming you into the likeness of Christ. Only those covered by the blood of Jesus are fit for the worship of God. All others have no place in His throne room.
Secondly, worshipping in Spirit removes the previous geographical limitation of the worship of God. In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit dwelt in the Tabernacle and then the Temple. To worship God, you had to go to where He was. The woman at the well tried to debate this with Jesus and Jesus replied,
“‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father…But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.’” – John 4:21, 23
Worship is no longer bound to Jerusalem or a mountaintop or the ark of the covenant…God has unleashed His presence on His people and His Spirit is everywhere. Therefore, He must be worshipped everywhere. In all places, in every corner of creation. This is the most compelling motivation of all for evangelism. We don’t have to go to where God is because Christ condescended to us and brought God to where we are and commissioned us to carry His banner to the ends of the earth. Our God must be worshipped everywhere.
Thirdly, God’s spirit is the essence of who God is – it is everything about Him. Our spirit is our essence, all that we are. Therefore, to worship God in spirit is to worship everything that He is with everything that we are. This is a self-abandoning, God-consumed desperation and passion that Christ is teaching. Worship isn’t a checklist of place, time and duties…no worship is sacrificing the very essence of who you are on the altar of true devotion and offering yourself to the One who deserves your all. (Romans 12:1)
Let the true worshippers arise.