A gracEmail subscriber writes that all believers outside his group are lost and that their worship counts for nothing before God. In support, he quotes Jesus’ statement in John 4:24 that God seeks worshippers who worship Him in truth. He says that means following a precise New Testament pattern of external details which his own fellowship (and likely no other) has discovered and accurately follows.
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The expression “in truth” usually means “truly,” “genuinely” or “sincerely” (Phil. 1:18; 1 John 3:18). God wants worshippers who really mean what they say when they praise and thank him, who are not merely mouthing empty words. Jesus’ statement about worshipping “in truth” comes in a conversation with a Samaritan woman who had asked him whether people ought to worship on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem (as the Jews did) or on Mt. Gerazim (as the Samaritans did). The place that matters to God is not defined by external geography. It is in the heart of the true or genuine worshiper.
Even if the phrase “in truth” meant exact conformity to some detailed pattern of worship (which the New Testament does not provide, having no counterpart to the Book of Leviticus), such a pattern would only include what God has actually said. Unfortunately, this subscriber has been taught to discount other believers based on a system of human inferences and deductions. There is a great difference between the clear word of God and our own logical conclusions, and we must learn to distinguish one from the other.
The notion that worship “in truth” means following a detailed code of regulations is part of a particular debating tradition which rightly belongs on the scrap heap of well-meaning human errors. Most of all, let us hear Jesus speak in this passage and remember what he says. God seeks worshippers whose words of praise are sincere, whose thanksgiving is genuine, whose adoration pours from the heart. That, rather than location, ritual or name above the door, constitutes worship that is “true” and characterizes worshippers in whom God truly delights.