In the early verses of this scripture, Jesus tells the woman that we wouldn't need to go to the mountains or Jerusalem to worship.

...God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:20-24)

The spirit part is pretty clear to me but what do we make of worshiping God in truth?

Do we focus on worship in truth as being about the right way of worship or having the right mindset or perhaps it far transcends the idea of correctness?


8 Answers 8


So to worship in spirit means to do so with full purpose of heart.

(KJV) Matt 15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The Lord was speaking about the Pharisees here who outwardly followed all of the commandments of the law of Moses, but inwardly they were vile sinners. Later in the chapter Christ talks about how it is not what goes into us that defiles us (talking about the law of Moses restrictions on food and washing before eating) but what comes out of our hearts. So to worship in truth is to not only worship outwardly but to also worship in your spirit and heart because that is what truly defines a man's belief.

  • I get it now. I had to think it over, but you are interpreting that as "worshiping truthfully, not just for show" as opposed to "worshipping the true God". Interesting perspective. Funny how we can read the same thing and understand it completely differently. Thank you for giving me another way to look at it. Apr 21, 2012 at 4:55
  • Yep, I find that that happens a lot. One of the reasons I like talking with people of other faiths. And why I like this site.
    – Ryan
    Apr 21, 2012 at 5:44
  • Well said. I was about to write a post about worshiping out of a "sincere" heart, but this nails it. +1
    – Jas 3.1
    Apr 21, 2012 at 23:04

This is from a VERY specific perspective, and other perspectives are likely to have a different answer (and possibly take offense, though none is meant.)

From the perspective of my Fundamental, Independent Baptist Church, which regards the Bible ad God's word, written by men as inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, inerrant and infallible. (Starting out rather legalistic and then getting realistic)

To worship in truth means to worship as God has revealed Himself to us. To not twist Biblical teaching and statements to distort their meaning.

For example:

  • Some believe that God is a loving God, and would never send someone to Hell. They think that somehow, God will overlook their sins because of His love for him.
    • From our point of view, this is not worshiping in truth, it's idolatry - making a god to suit ourselves, rather than accepting the hard truth that Hell is real, and that without the saving grace of Christ, all are doomed to an eternity there. The truth that god does allow us to spend an eternity in hell if we choose to reject Him in spite of His love.
    • The Churches that teach such things, and the people that choose to follow them are teaching and following the doctrines and commandments of men, rather than those of God. (Matthew 15:8-9)

Of course, as evidenced on this site, "not twisting Scripture" is not such a clear thing. It is quite possible for two people to read the same Bible and come to vastly different conclusions about what it says.

One of the distinctive traits about us is that we hold very closely to the idea of sound doctrine. We probably emphasize it too much over love and being a light in the world through good works. But even among ourselves, there are things we don't agree on.

Still, I think that worshiping God, as He revealed Himself, to the best of our ability, is a good definition of worshiping in truth.

  • I don't know why but I think your answer makes more sense to me. Jesus cautions us about putting on a show before men whiles here he talks about worship to God in his true nature. +1 With that being said, will it be prudent for a new member of the Christian faith to weigh and study doctrines to see which one best (objectively) depicts the truth about God before deciding on where, how and with whom he should worship and fellowship?
    – Nok
    Apr 22, 2012 at 12:41
  • For instance, I'd want to check on the trinity doctrines just to make sure I'm not making an 'idol' for myself mistaken to be God the creator. What if I am a bit wrong in who I thought God truly is?
    – Nok
    Apr 22, 2012 at 12:48

What does it mean to worship in truth?

John 4:23-24 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. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Jesus announced a change in worship. Location centered worship was to fade away and be replaced by worship in spirit and truth. In a way "spirit" is the means by which we can worship as opposed to coming to a physical location.

Romans 8:15-16 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

We have an example of how to worship without truth.

Luke 18:11-12 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

We also have an example of worship in truth.

Luke 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

The Pharisee thought he was righteous and was probably factual about his fasting and tithing. However, the truth is that trying to impress God with our accomplishments is foolish. If we look at ourselves in truth, we can only respond with humility.


Catholic Perspective

[I]n Spirit and in Truth, i.e. in and via the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jn 14:6 (RSVCE)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

In the Order of Mass, at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer, and just before the Communion Rite, the priest takes the chalice and the paten with the host and raising both, he says:

Through him1, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor is yours,
for ever and ever.

The people acclaim: Amen.

1. [The One on the paten]↩


Worshiping in truth is an act of personal interaction between people and God. Jesus said to go into our closet and pray to God in secret (Mt. 6:6). A man who sits at a public restaurant, whether alone or with a group, bows his head and begins loudly thanking God for his food is probably an exhibitionist and is speaking to be heard by those around him. That's not to say that public prayer is wrong. A person leading a public prayer with earnest hope of being heard by God on behalf of the ones he/she is praying with is worshiping in truth with those who agree with the words being spoken. But worship that is not in truth is worship that is not totally directed to God as being the only recipient of it.


These two aspects of Jesus are a common thread which guide us to the two aspects of Jesus' mission:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Grace being the Holy Spirit made accessible through his death and Truth being his (and thereby God's John 1:14) Word spoken during his ministry:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32

Advice which I think it can be seen in the story of Apollos:

...who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. Acts 18:27-28

So, whilst seeming quite similar, the two are distinct aspects (for want of a better word) from Jesus both working together to save.


Knowing how to worship God in Spirit and Truth is crucial for faith to meet God's expectation. Jesus was bringing out to the woman at the well that following the traditions of man is not the same as meeting the expectations of God; righteousness is not attained by man's best intentions, nor by relying on such traditions of faith as one might have grown up in.

For faith to meet God's expectation there needs be obedience to His terms - which terms is made known through the Steward of His election. As such, in saying "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), He was showing Himself as that new Steward.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Abraham was a Steward through whom God gave instruction to build altars on mountains, which was a sanctified means of worship AT THAT TIME. Moses was a Steward through whom God gave instruction to build a tabernacle to house His altar; making the altars on the mountain NO LONGER SANCTIFIED for service, as the sanctification was now on the Covenant of Moses, and the terms of the Levitical priesthood defined by God AT THAT TIME.

Christ fulfilled in Himself all things of that covenant and by His blood purchased unto us a new and better Spiritual Covenant. This is what He was making reference to - a Covenant wherein He will be the Point of Sanctification in a Priesthood of Spirit and Truth; i.e requiring both the present indwelling of His Holy Spirit (through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by tongues), AND His Holy Knowledge (the foundation of Truth, laid in the heart of believers by living covenant apostles of Jesus Christ).

Truth, thus, are facts which are consistent with God's character, purpose and plan. Jesus BEING the TRUTH, speaks of that which He says, what He does, and the product of His work within the converted covenant believer. To worship God in Truth, means to worship God according to the terms of Christ's Covenant; in obedience to His knowledge / true doctrine. Without sanctified Stewardship, that becomes open to interpretation to believers, and so you see the 30 000 odd versions of Christianity currently in the world; in contrast with the One Truth (Doctrine of Christ) that united the first Church in One understanding.

1Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

To meet God's Standard in Jesus Christ, one needs to come into Covenant with Him, and receive the foundation of His Truth upon which to rightly build faith according to that One Blueprint which Jesus entrusted to the Apostles; as referred to by the Apostle Paul:

1Cor 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

God has in our time restored this Holy Knowledge for the restoration of His Church. I will quote a section here from the link that will follow, where you can gain further info:

Truth is the element that tells us that we need knowledge for faith and knowledge to reciprocate to God on His level. Faith builds with knowledge. Jesus Christ is truth, meaning that He is the record, blueprint, and pattern of our faith, which we follow. Jesus swore by Himself to be the eternal pattern/record for salvation; He is the law and principle we are to follow for righteousness. God’s will is that we would know Him only by the properties of Himself. Truth cleanses and nourishes the soul. John 14:4



As a Biblical Hebrew professor, I like to go back to the original for deeper understanding. Though Jesus is Truth personified and the Bible is referred to as the Word of Truth, Jesus was here referring to the way of worship. As well instructed in the Hebrew scriptures, He would have been thinking of the Hebrew meaning of the Greek words we have recorded in John 4:24 "πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός, καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτὸν ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν". Both in Hebrew and Greek, worship is the prostration of our life before God 24/7. It is not "services" - ritual performed weakly.

In Hebrew, "spirit" is also "powerful wind" that moves everything in its path; ergo, go with the Spirit; i.e., submition to where God moves you. "Truth" conforms to the trustworthy standard (yes, the Bible and Jesus' Himself). But this refers to our conforming our lives to Him; i.e., in trusting obedience. So if you have sincerity in your heart and mouth the correct words, it is insufficient. As the hymn says, we must "trust and obey" to worship God in spirit and truth.

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