John 4:20-24 “The Proper Worship of God”

Introduction:  In the text last Sunday Jesus gave to the woman what she needed to receive the living water that He offered and she requested.  He said “Go call thy husband and come hither.”  This woman had no husband but was living with a man in a sinful relationship.  She had been divorced five times.  God hates divorce.  Men and women today should proceed cautiously when considering divorce.  God forgives all manner of sin, divorce included.  Jesus did not condemn this woman for her life style.  He showed her mercy and grace.  God has and will forgive those who divorce.  We learned also that as far as God is concerned this woman had no husband.  Divorce ends the marriage relationship.  The qualifications for a deacon require that he be the husband of one wife.  Some hold that if a man has been divorce and remarried he can not be a deacon.  This is not true.  This woman had no husband!  Neither does a man who is divorced have a wife. 

            Lets begin by understanding what worship is.  Let us examine some examples from scripture of worship.  First let us look at a man who was a leper.  He came to Jesus as the scripture says:

And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (Matthew 8:2) 

The word “saying” is a present active participle.  It is best translated “while saying.”  His act of worship involved prayer.  He is asking the Lord for cleansing.  He is acknowledging his faith and belief in Jesus’ power.  He acknowledges that Jesus is Lord.  He confirms his own unworthiness placing the condition of his cleansing upon the permissive will of the Lord.  Thus we learn from this leper that worship of God is truthful, from the heart, acknowledgment of who God is and our unworthiness of his benevolence.  Worship involves making our requests known to God and trusting in him to do what is best for us.  We worship by acknowledging the God is able to grant our requests but He is not obligated to do so.  All worship and pray, done properly, says “Thy will be done.”

            The same lessons on worship are illustrated in the story of a certain ruler whose daughter Jesus raised from the dead.  The text says:

While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.  (Matthew 9:18)

Again the word saying is a present active participle best translated “while saying.”  His worship involved prayer.  His worship involved faith in the power of God.  God requires faith of those who come to worship Him.

            There is an example of worship given to us of the disciples who, after seeing Jesus walk on the water worshiped Him.  The scripture says”

Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.  (Matthew 14:33)

Again the use of the word saying is found in connection with worship.  Worship involves accepting Jesus for who He is.  He is God’s only begotten Son.  He is God almighty.   He came to save men from the penalty of sin.  Our worship should always include praise for who Jesus is.

            The Canaanite woman who came to Jesus seeking help for her demon possessed daughter give us another example of worship.  Her worship was brief and very pointed the scripture says:

Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.  (Matthew 15:25)

Again the word “saying” is used here.  In these simple words she says much.  She knows she is not worthy.  She knows she can claim no promise of help.  She appeals to His compassion.  She knows He is a loving God and a merciful God.  Her simple worship, a prayer for help,  results in Jesus’ praise for her faith and God being praised and glorified.

            The last example of worship is a heavenly one.  There was seen by John twenty four elders and four beasts worshiping God on His throne.  The text reads:

And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.  (Revelation 19:4)

Again the present active participle is used “while saying.”  What does their worship teach us?  They said “Amen.”  This is a term which means “so be it” or “let it be so.”  These heavenly beings desire the will of God more than anything.  Our worship should follow this example and should agree with the will of God.  They also worshiped saying Alleluia.  This means “Praise ye the Lord.” Our worship is therefore not complete unless it results in an invitation for all men to come and join us in praising the Lord.  We worship God when we invite others to come and praise the Lord with us.


            This whole conversation is amazing to me for Jesus knows just what to say to this woman and He knows just how to answer her questions.  Many times I have found myself at a loss for words when questions arise.  I am often forced to retreat and give time for a proper response to questions raised.  Jesus never had this problem.  He knew exactly what this woman needed.

            Jesus has pointed out her honesty and her sin.  She now is forced to say something to address her sin.  She chooses to dodge the issue by pointing out the differences between the Jews and the Samaritans.


John 4:20  Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

            Here is the problem as she sees it.  Here life style is condemned by the Law of Moses.  She does not adhere to all of the teachings of the Law of Moses for the Law of Moses dictates that the worship of God is to be in the place were the Ark of the Covenant resides.  The Samaritans believed the writings of the Old Testament but rejected the part which dictated the worship of God at the Temple in Jerusalem. 

            This doctrine of the Samaritans dates back to the time of Jeroboam’s rebellion against Rehoboam.  To keep the people under his rule Jeroboam set up two golden calves in the northern tribes and made the people to worship there instead of going to Jerusalem.

            Sin is the transgression of the law.  1 John 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.  Her actions are condemned as sin by the Law of God and her sins had nothing to do with where her fathers worshiped.  She points out that she is not of the same religious convection as the Jews.  She says our fathers worshipped in this mountain.  But what she needed to point out was that she is a sinner in need of a savior.

            Notice how quickly she has changed the subject to direct it away from her sin.  Guilt is a feeling which most people try to avoid.  They do not want to feel guilty.  Lost people need to feel guilty.  This guilty feeling is caused by the Holy Spirit of God.  It is the Holy Spirit’s way of convicting the lost to lead them to admit their sin and seek the Salvation of the Lord.

            Both the Samaritans and the Jews restricted the worship of God to a specific place.  To worship God acceptably the Jews needed a temple, an altar, a basin, a lamp stand, a table of shew bread, an altar of incense, a vale, an ark, a mercy seat, an animal sacrifice, salt, scarlet, hyssop, cedar, water, unleavened bread, a priest, and a whole host of other tools.  Their worship was dependent upon material things.  Their worship was dependent upon a chosen place. 

            The Samaritans did not feel that they needed all of those things which the Jews used in their worship.  They simply used an altar made of stone for their sacrifices and used who ever they pleased for a priest.  Jesus will address this issue of what is needed for proper worship.


John 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

            Jesus said “believe me” and she is going to believe Him because He has told her all about herself.  She will not doubt anything He says.  He reveals to her a future event.  He tells her that there is soon coming a time when there will be no one worshiping God in this region.  In 70 A.D. the Romans will destroy the Temple in Jerusalem and cause all worship by the Jews and the Samaritans to come to a stop.  The disciples will not get this piece of information until a few days before Jesus is crucified.  Jesus will tell them of a time when the Temple will be destroyed and not one stone will be left upon another.  This land will be devastated by the Roman army and there will not be any worship of God in either of these places for a very long time.


John 4:22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

            The Samaritans would pick and choose what suited them from the Old Testament books and ignore the rest.  The Messiah who is the savior of men comes from the Jewish race.  Abraham had been told that “in thy seed shall all nations be blessed.”  The Messiah the Christ comes from the Jewish race.  Their whole system of worship points to the coming Christ and He would fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. 

            Simeon, the man who held the baby Jesus, said “I have seen thy salvation.”  Jesus is that salvation.  If one is to be saved he must look to the Jews for Jesus is the son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David.  Those who will have the water of life whose source is from God the fountain of living water must seek it from Jesus the Christ.


John 4:23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

            Jesus tells her now what true worship is.  It is from the heart and it is without hypocrisy.  God condemns worship that is just outward appearance.  He said “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near [me] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:  (Isaiah 29:13)

            True worshipers do not need material things to worship God.  They need a heart cleansed from sin and a mind focused upon God and a body which may express its submission to God.  It requires a belief in truth.  There is but one God and He so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins that we might be saved. 

            The father is seeking people to worship Him.  He calls men to come to Him and be saved.  This has been His theme throughout the ages.  Isaiah wrote “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else.”  (Isaiah 45:22)  The Lord has always desired and sought people to worship Him with their hearts.  The Psalmist David wrote “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give [it]: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  (Psalms 51:16-17)  The purpose of ritualistic worship and strict adherence to Law was to drive a man to recognition of his hopeless and helpless condition.  If he is to be saved he must throw himself upon the mercy and grace of almighty God. 


John 4:24  God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.

            Worship of God, who is Spirit, requires worship in spirit.  He can not be contained within the confines of a temple, no matter how large it may be.  He is not confined to material realm.  Our prayers are not material in nature. Our love is not material in nature.  Our Joy is not material in nature.  Our hope is not material in nature.  Our God is not material in nature.  He is Spirit and we worship Him with our hearts which are not material in nature.  Our minds are more than gray matter trapped in a skull of bone.  Our hearts are not muscle and blood.  We are spirit beings trapped within a body of flesh and bone.  God desires the worship of our inward man.  That portion of us which is not material in nature is that which God regenerates and makes a new creature.  It is that which He makes to be a partaker of the divine nature.  Our flesh will go back to the dust from which it came for it is material in nature and sinful and without hope.  Our Spirit goes back to God who gave it.  If that Spirit has been born again and has drank of that living water which Jesus so freely offers it will worship God in truth.

            Pilot will ask Jesus “what is truth?”  Jesus is truth.  His truth will set you free and if the Son shall make you free you are free indeed.  True worshipers worship in truth.  The Truth is that men are sinners and God is Holy and righteous.  This difference has separated man from God.  Sin has resulted in death.  All men are dead for all have sinned.  Men may be made alive spiritually by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  The Body is not regenerated and will die but the spirit which has been born again will never die. 

            When Jesus promised living water and everlasting life He meant just that.  One who confesses his sin and trust in Jesus to save him from the penalty of that sin will never die.  Those who refuse to repent will suffer the second death which is eternal separation for a Holy God in the Lake of fire.

            To worship God acceptably you must repent and trust in Jesus Christ.  Start your worship of God today.  Trust in Jesus now.

            Child of God, learn from this sermon that your worship is “saying” Lord you are able! Lord help me!  If thou wilt!  Amen! and Alleluia!