Expository Sermon on John 4:16-26 | Biblical Worship

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Biblical Worship (John 4:16-26)

Many churches will do nearly anything to get a crowd at worship on Sunday. A church in Boston had a rock and roll festival for 1,100 teenagers. A procession of teens placed a Bible, bread and coke, pool cue and billiard ball on the communion table to symbolize religion, eating, and playing. Then a dozen teens crowded into the aisles to dance to rock music. The First Unitarian Church in Richardson, Texas, invited, Diana King, a Unitarian from Forth Worth, to take part in their service. Miss King, an exotic dancer at a Dallas nightclub, performed a striptease before 200 adults and children.

We could do much to draw a crowd here—we could have a rock and roll festival or a stripper—but we need to be sure that we are biblical in our worship.

This morning we want to examine how to be biblical in our worship.

The Precedence of Worship, vv 16-20

Jesus showed the Samaritan woman that he had supernatural knowledge.

Jesus and this Samaritan woman had been discussing “living water.” Jesus told her to go call her husband and bring him back. She told Jesus that she had no husband. He said that she had answered properly. She had had five husbands, and the man with whom she was currently living was not her husband.

This woman recognized Jesus’ ability.

She recognized that Jesus had to be a prophet. Jesus had told her thins about her life that he just could not know—he had to have supernatural ability. Nathanael had the same reaction when Jesus told him things that Jesus had to know supernaturally (Jn 1:47-49).

This woman, therefore, wanted to know where she should worship. Because she recognized Jesus as a spiritual leader, she wanted to ask some questions—This often happens with preachers. The Hebrews were to worship God in the place he would choose (Deut 12:5). The Jews rightly recognized that place as Jerusalem—that was the place God authorized Solomon to build the temple. But the Samaritans believed on should worship on Mount Gerizim. They believed Adam was formed from the dust of this mountain. They believed that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac here.

This woman knew that Jesus had the right to speak concerning worship.

We, too, need to hear what Jesus had said about worship. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matt 17:5). God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:2).

Jesus gave authority to his apostles (Matt 18:18). Therefore, listening to the apostles is the same as listening to Jesus. Therefore, we need to hear what the apostles have said.

We need to worship the way the apostles have instructed in worship.

The Place of Worship, v 21

Neither Jerusalem nor Mt. Gerizim would be the place for worship in the new Testament. An hour was coming when worship would be changed. “The hour” in John’s Gospel refers to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection changed worship (Col 2:4). Neither Jerusalem nor Mt. Gerizim would be exclusive places of worship.

We need to recognize that many things about worship do not matter.

  • The place where we worship doesn’t matter—we do not have to worship in a church building.
  • The order of our service doesn’t matter.
  • The time we start doesn’t matter.
  • As long as they are biblical, the songs we sing don’t matter.

The Procedure of Worship, vv 22-24

The Samaritans worshiped God ignorantly.

The Samaritans only accepted the Books of Moses as Scripture; therefore, there was much about God they did not know. There was much about worship they did not know.

We, too, can worship God ignorantly. The Athenians were worshiping God ignorantly (Acts 17:23). If we don’t spend time studying Scripture, we will worship God ignorantly—we will not know as much about God as we should, nor will we know that much about how God wants to be worshiped. Many today worship God ignorantly. Many throughout the world worship some type of Supreme Being, but they know nothing about him. Many worship in ways that God does not want to be worshiped, and thus they worship God ignorantly.

God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

God seeks individuals to worship him who worship in spirit and truth. The idea in “seek” is to “ask for” or “request.” God wants people to worship him. “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” (Eccl 12:13). “Fear God” means to honor him, reverence him. How better can man honor and reverence God than through true worship? Notice that fearing God is man’s all, that is what man is all about. God wants people to worship him in spirit and truth. God does not want to be worshiped just any way; he wants to be worshiped in spirit and truth.

God is Spirit, i.e., he is not physical.

We must worship God in spirit.

Since God is spirit, we must worship in spirit, with that part which is not physical, with our heart. If our worship is to be in spirit, our hearts must be right; if our hearts are not right, God will not be pleased with our worship (Amos 5:21-24). The people of Amos’ day were worshiping outwardly the way God had directed. But because they were not practicing justice and righteousness, God was not pleased with their worship.

If God is to accept our worship, our hearts must be right. We cannot live however we want through the week and expect God to accept our worship on Sundays.

Too, for worship to be “in spirit,” our worship must originate in the heart. Notice these texts:

  • “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19).
  • “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28).
  • “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2).
  • “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).

Let us be those who worship God in spirit, who worship with our pure hearts.

We must worship in truth.

“In truth” refers to our worship being in accordance with revealed truth; the word of God is truth (Jn 17:17). If our worship is not in accordance with Scripture, God will not be pleased with our worship (Lev 10:1-2). Nadab and Abihu offered worship which was not “in truth.” God was not at all pleased with their worship, but fire came from God’s presence and consumed them.

Our worship must be in truth; Everything we do in worship must have authority in the New Testament.

  • That is why we do not use instrumental music; there is no authority for such in the New Testament.
  • That is why we use unleavened bread and fruit of the vine at the Lord’s Supper and take the Lord’s Supper only on the first day of the week—that’s all for which we have authority.
  • That’s why we give of our means instead of having fund raisers—that’s all for which we have authority.
  • That’s why we pray to God rather than to some intermediary—that’s all we have authority to do.
  • That’s why we preach from the Word of God rather than tell stories—that’s all we have authority to do.


For our worship to be acceptable to God, it must be “in spirit and truth.”

Can you worship “in spirit?” Is your heart right before God?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.

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