As described in the Bible, the Jewish sect of the Pharisees was made up of individuals who were very religious and followed the letter of the law as they interpreted it. Two notable instances relate to the Sabbath and the tithe (giving a tenth). The Law of Moses gave specific commands relative to these. The Sabbath law is part of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8-10a “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” In the time of Moses, a man was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:36). The Pharisees were highly critical of Jesus in that they perceived that He broke the Sabbath by healing and doing good on that day. Relative to the tithe, we have Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” The Pharisees were careful to tithe everything, even to tithing the herbs in the garden. But Jesus still found fault with them. Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” Jesus didn’t criticize the Pharisees for tithing or keeping the Sabbath. He was critical of them for their traditions that nullified the commands of God and how they wanted to appear righteous before others to receive praise from men. Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah about them in Matthew 15:8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” In many areas they followed the teachings of the Law and the prophets. But their hearts were far from God. They were not worshipping God from their hearts.
The Samaritans believed that the mountain in Samaria was the place to worship God. The Jews worshiped God in Jerusalem. When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman, she brought up this issue. Jesus responded in John 4:21-24 “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 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. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” I want to emphasize that Jesus said that we must worship the Father in spirit and truth. It is important to worship God in truth; in other words, to worship Him as He tells us to worship Him. But my writing here is to encourage you to also worship God in spirit.
We may criticize the Pharisees for being rule keepers and neglecting the heart and spirit. But the truth is that we today can be just as guilty as they were in being rule keepers and neglecting the heart and spirit. One can attend all of the assemblies and activities of the church and be considered a good Christian. But does He truly worship God from his heart? Or does he just go through the motions and simply follow the traditions and rules that he has received? The apostle Paul wrote about serving God in the “newness of the spirit”. Romans 7:6 “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
One of the ways we worship God in spirit is in giving Him praise and glory from our heart with our voices. For all the blessings we receive from God, we should thank Him, praise Him, and give Him glory. Hymns, by definition, are songs of praise addressed to God. Ephesians 5:19-20 “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We worship God in spirit, when from our hearts we praise and thank Him with our words and with our songs.
Another way we worship God in spirit is praying to Him from our heart in a manner similar to the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This prayer praises God, requests that His will be done, asks for his help and deliverance, and praises Him again. Such a prayer from our heart would be worshipping Him in spirit.
Those under the law of Moses worshiped God by offering animal sacrifices. The Christian sacrifice is different. Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Other translations render this last phrase as “which is your spiritual act of worship” or “which is your spiritual service of worship”. Our spiritual worship is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Whatever God wants from us, we will willingly do.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. We should not neglect what the Bible teaches us to do, but we need to worship God from our very spirits. God is loving, merciful and gracious. He blesses us in so many ways. Why would we not want to worship Him? We should worship Him with our whole heart. I encourage you to worship God in spirit and in truth.