Jesus told the woman at the well that worship in “spirit” was essential. But he also said it was to be “in truth.” What does it mean to worship “in truth.” I think there are several components to the answer to that question that come to my mind. There are probably many more. But first, it means that when we approach God, draw near to Him, we must do it honestly and wholeheartedly. In Matthew 15, Jesus spoke about the wrong kind of worshippers who he said, ““These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. … They worship me in vain.” It’s easy to pretend to worship as we look around at others with us, or evaluate everything that is going on rather than honestly opening our lives to Him. That surely can’t be worship “in truth.”

Second to worship “in truth” we must do it on the basis of the biblical revelation. In the passage I quoted above when Jesus told about those whose worship was “in vain” he went on to explain further that vain worship involved substituting rules taught by man (Matthew 15:8f). Jesus said in John 17:17 that God’s Word “is truth.” So if we are to worship in “truth” it must be in accord with Scripture. It was during the spiritual revival of the reformation that the altars in many churches were replaced with pulpits. It was to reestablish the prominence of God’s Word in “worship.” The Pulpit became the symbol of the centrality of the Bible. John Calvin carried this idea to physical extremes. The pulpits were placed so that every line of the architecture would carry the gaze of the worshiper to the Book that alone contains the way of salvation and the principles for a God honoring life. A physical pulpit was not in Jesus’ mind, but the centrality of the Scriptures certainly was as is clear from His words, “God’s Word is Truth.” Thus if we are to worship in truth, the Scriptures must be central to our experience.

I would also offer a third observation. To worship in truth is to worship God “Christocentrically.” He made it clear that no one can “come to the father” except through Him (John 14:6). If worship is man’s attempt to draw near to God, to be “true” it must come through Jesus. I remember the tabernacle of the Old Testament, where all worship took place. From its construction the approach to God is illustrated. The altar which is the sacrifice for sin is the first step. Thus the cross, the sacrifice that paid for all our sins, is the first step in approaching God. Then comes the laver which is a picture of cleansing. The incense represents our prayers. Behind it all stretches out the great veil dividing the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. This was the veil that was torn in half when Jesus died on the cross. This is where the blood of the sacrifice made atonement for our sins and opens the way for all to enter to receive the great mercy of God revealed through Christ by his death on the cross for our sins. There is no other way to draw near to God. There is no other way to worship God in “truth.”

“I am the truth…” John 14:6