Christians Worship With Spirit and Truth

“God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”​—JOHN 4:24.

1. What kind of worship pleases God?

JEHOVAH’S only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, left no doubt about worship that pleases his heavenly Father. While giving a heartwarming witness to a Samaritan woman at a well near the city of Sychar, Jesus said: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:22-24) How are we to understand those words?

2. On what did the Samaritans base their worship?

2 The Samaritans had false religious views. They accepted as inspired only the first five books of the Holy Scriptures​—and these just in their own recension, called the Samaritan Pentateuch. Whereas the Samaritans did not really know God, the Jews had been entrusted with Scriptural knowledge. (Romans 3:1, 2) It was possible for faithful Jews and others to enjoy Jehovah’s favor. But what would this require of them?

3. What is required in order to worship God “with spirit and truth”?

3 To please Jehovah, what did Jews, Samaritans, and others of the past have to do? They had to worship him “with spirit and truth.” So must we. Although service to God must be spirited, or zealous, and motivated by a heart filled with love and faith, worshiping God with spirit especially requires that we have his holy spirit resting upon us and allow ourselves to be guided by it. Through study and application of God’s Word, our spirit, or mental disposition, must be attuned to his. (1 Corinthians 2:8-12) For our worship to be acceptable to Jehovah, it must also be rendered to him with truth. It must conform to what God’s Word, the Bible, reveals about him and his purposes.

Truth Can Be Found

4. How do some view truth?

4 Certain students of philosophy have developed the view that ultimate truth is not within the reach of mankind. In fact, Swedish author Alf Ahlberg wrote: “Many philosophical questions are of such a nature that it is not possible to give a definite answer to them.” Although some say that there is only  relative truth, is that really so? Not according to Jesus Christ.

5. Why did Jesus come into the world?

5 Let us imagine ourselves as observers of the following scene: It is early in the year 33 C.E., and Jesus is standing before Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Jesus tells Pilate: “For this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Pilate asks: “What is truth?” But he does not wait for Jesus’ further comment.​—John 18:36-38.

6. (a) How has “truth” been defined? (b) What commission did Jesus give his followers?

6 “Truth” has been defined as “the body of real things, events, and facts.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) However, did Jesus bear witness to truth in general? No. He had specific truth in mind. He commissioned his followers to declare such truth, for he told them: “Make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Before the end of this system of things, Jesus’ genuine followers would declare “the truth of the good news” earth wide. (Galatians 2:14) This would be done in fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) So it is vital that we identify those who are teaching all nations the truth by preaching the good news of the Kingdom.

How We Can Learn the Truth

7. How would you prove that Jehovah is the Source of truth?

7 Jehovah is the Source of spiritual truth. In fact, the psalmist David called Jehovah “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5; 43:3) Jesus acknowledged that his Father’s word is truth, and he also declared: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by Jehovah.’ Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me.” (John 6:45; 17:17; Isaiah 54:13) Clearly, then, those searching for the truth must be taught by Jehovah, the Grand Instructor. (Isaiah 30:20, 21) Truth seekers need to acquire “the very knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:5) And Jehovah has lovingly taught or conveyed the truth in various ways.

8. In what ways has God taught or conveyed the truth?

8 For example, it was through angels that God transmitted the Law to the Israelites. (Galatians 3:19) In dreams, he promised blessings to the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. (Genesis 15:12-16; 28:10-19) God even spoke from heaven, as when Jesus was baptized  and these thrilling words were heard on earth: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) We can also be grateful that God conveyed the truth by inspiring the Bible writers. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) By learning from God’s Word, then, we can have “faith in the truth.”​—2 Thessalonians 2:13.

The Truth and God’s Son

9. How has God used his Son to reveal the truth?

9 Especially has God used his Son, Jesus Christ, to reveal the truth to mankind. (Hebrews 1:1-3) In fact, Jesus spoke the truth as no other man ever had. (John 7:46) Even after his ascension to heaven, he revealed the truth from his Father. For instance, the apostle John received “a revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.”​—Revelation 1:1-3.

10, 11. (a) The truth to which Jesus bore witness is related to what? (b) How did Jesus make the truth become reality?

10 Jesus told Pontius Pilate that He had come to the earth to bear witness to the truth. During his ministry, Jesus revealed that such truth related to the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by means of God’s Kingdom with Christ as King. But bearing witness to the truth required more of Jesus than preaching and teaching. Jesus made that truth become reality by fulfilling it. Accordingly, the apostle Paul wrote: “Let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.”​—Colossians 2:16, 17.

11 One way in which the truth became reality was by Jesus’ foretold birth in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-11) The truth also became reality at the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic words about the Messiah’s appearance at the end of 69 ‘weeks of years.’ That took place when Jesus presented himself to God at baptism and was anointed with holy spirit, right on schedule, in 29 C.E. (Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:1, 21, 22) The truth further became reality by Jesus’ enlightening ministry as a Kingdom proclaimer. (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6, 7; 61:1, 2; Matthew 4:13-17; Luke 4:18-21) It also became reality by his death and resurrection.​—Psalm 16:8-11; Isaiah 53:5, 8, 11, 12; Matthew 20:28; John 1:29; Acts 2:25-31.

12. Why could Jesus say, ‘I am the truth’?

12 Since the truth centered on Jesus Christ, he could say: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) People are set free spiritually when they put themselves “on the side of the truth” by accepting Jesus’ role in God’s purpose. (John 8:32-36; 18:37) Because sheeplike ones accept the truth and follow Christ in faith, they will receive everlasting life.​—John 10:24-28.

13. We will examine Scriptural truth in what three areas?

13 The body of truth delivered by Jesus and his inspired disciples constitutes the true Christian faith. Those “obedient to the faith” thus “go on walking in the truth.” (Acts 6:7; 3 John 3, 4) So, then, who walk in the truth today? Who really are teaching all nations  the truth? In addressing such questions, we will focus on the early Christians and examine Scriptural truth relating to (1) beliefs, (2) manner of worship, and (3) personal conduct.

The Truth and Beliefs

14, 15. What would you say about the attitude of the early Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses toward the Scriptures?

14 Jehovah’s written Word was highly esteemed by the early Christians. (John 17:17) It was their standard regarding beliefs and practices. Clement of Alexandria of the second and third centuries said: “They who are laboring after excellency will not stop in their search after truth, until they have obtained proof of that which they believe from the Scriptures themselves.”

15 Like the early Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses esteem the Bible highly. They believe that “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching.” (2 Timothy 3:16) So let us consider a few beliefs of the early Christians in the light of what Jehovah’s present-day servants have learned because they use the Bible as their principal textbook.

The Truth About the Soul

16. What is the truth about the soul?

16 Because they believed what is said in the Scriptures, the first Christians taught the truth about the soul. They knew that “man came to be a living soul” when God created him. (Genesis 2:7) Moreover, they acknowledged that the human soul dies. (Ezekiel 18:4; James 5:20) They also knew that ‘the dead are conscious of nothing at all.’​—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.

17. How would you explain the hope for the dead?

17 Yet, Jesus’ early disciples had the sure hope that the dead in God’s memory would be resurrected, or restored to life. That belief was well-expressed by Paul, who declared: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Even at a later time, professed Christian Minucius Felix wrote: “Who is so stupid or senseless as to venture to maintain that man, originally formed by God, cannot be remade by him anew?” Like the first Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to the Scriptural truth about the human soul, death, and the resurrection. Let us now consider the identity of God and Christ.

The Truth and the Trinity

18, 19. Why can it be said that the Trinity is not a Scriptural teaching?

18 The early Christians did not view God, Christ, and the holy spirit as a Trinity. Says The Encyclopædia Britannica: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema [a Hebrew prayer] in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4).” Christians did not worship the Roman triad or any other gods. They accepted Jesus’ statement that Jehovah alone is to be worshiped. (Matthew 4:10) Moreover, they believed Christ’s words: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Witnesses of Jehovah hold the same views today.

19 Jesus’ early followers drew clear distinctions between God, Christ, and the holy spirit. In fact, they baptized disciples (1) in the name of the Father, (2) in the name of the  Son, and (3) in the name of the holy spirit, not in the name of a Trinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses similarly teach Scriptural truth and therefore differentiate between God, his Son, and the holy spirit.​—Matthew 28:19.

The Truth and Baptism

20. What knowledge is needed by baptismal candidates?

20 Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples by teaching people the truth. To qualify for baptism, they need a basic knowledge of the Scriptures. For instance, they must acknowledge the position and authority of the Father and of his Son, Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) Baptismal candidates also need to understand that the holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force.​—Genesis 1:2, footnote.

21, 22. Why would you say that baptism is for believers?

21 The early Christians baptized only informed and repentant individuals unreservedly dedicated to God to do his will. Jews and proselytes who assembled in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E. already had a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. Upon hearing the apostle Peter speak about Jesus the Messiah, about 3,000 “embraced his word heartily” and “were baptized.”​—Acts 2:41; 3:19–4:4; 10:34-38.

22 Christian baptism is for believers. People in Samaria accepted the truth, and “when they believed Philip, who was declaring the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ, they proceeded to be baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12) As a devout proselyte who had knowledge of Jehovah, the Ethiopian eunuch first accepted Philip’s statements about the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, and then he got baptized. (Acts 8:34-36) Later, Peter told Cornelius and other Gentiles that “the man that fears [God] and works righteousness is acceptable to him” and that everyone putting faith in Jesus Christ receives forgiveness of sins. (Acts 10:35, 43; 11:18) All of this harmonizes with Jesus’ command to ‘make disciples, teaching them to observe all the things he had commanded.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8) Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to the same standard, accepting for baptism only those who have a basic knowledge of the Scriptures and who have made a dedication to God.

23, 24. What is the proper form of Christian baptism?

23 Total immersion in water is the proper form of baptism for believers. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he came “up out of the water.” (Mark 1:10) The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized in “a body of water.” He and Philip “went down into the water” and then came “up out of” it. (Acts 8:36-40) Scriptural association of baptism with symbolic burial also indicates complete submersion in water.​—Romans 6:4-6; Colossians 2:12.

24 The Oxford Companion to the Bible says: “The descriptions of specific New Testament baptisms indicate that the person being baptized was dipped under the water.” According to the French work Larousse du XXe Siècle (Paris, 1928), “the first Christians received baptism by immersion everywhere where water was found.” And the book After Jesus​—The Triumph of Christianity notes: “In its  most basic form, [baptism] called for a confession of faith by the candidate, followed by complete immersion in water in the name of Jesus.”

25. What will be discussed in the following article?

25 The foregoing points regarding the Bible-based beliefs and practices of the first Christians are merely examples. It would be possible to cite other parallels between their beliefs and those of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the following article, we will discuss additional ways to identify those who are teaching people the truth.

How Would You Respond?

• What kind of worship does God require?

• How did the truth become reality by means of Jesus Christ?

• What is the truth about the soul and death?

• How is Christian baptism performed, and what is required of baptismal candidates?

[Study Questions]

[Picture on page 16]

Jesus told Pilate: ‘I have come to bear witness to the truth’

[Picture on page 17]

Can you explain why Jesus said: ‘I am the truth’?

[Picture on page 18]

What is the truth about Christian baptism?