John 4 is one of the richest chapters theologically and spiritually in the Bible. it can be studied, read, and preached upon from many different angles focusing on one or more of the many elements and truths it contains.
these thoughts centre on part of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman contained in verses nineteen through twenty-four.
this portion of their encounter turns into a conversation about worship and it’s form and essence.
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain,” the woman says, “but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:20, NIV)
“Believe me,” Jesus replies “…a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:21;23, NIV).
form refers to “shape” or “the mode in which a thing exists.” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English).
forms of worship, therefore, will vary: artwork, music, dance, acts of service, prayer, singing, poetry, etc. the location in which worship takes place will vary: church buildings, theatres, living rooms, cafes, bars, etc. the form of worship will vary from tradition to tradition and believer to believer.
essence refers to “the intrinsic nature of something.” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English).
the essence of worship, therefore, has nothing to do with what we wear, where we worship, what songs we sing, and what instuments are being played. the essence of worhsip is a matter of the heart and soul; it’s a matter of spirit and truth. the essence of worship is the same for all believers: God is worthy to be worshiped.
will we worry more about the form of worship or the essence of worship?
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV).