But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. – John 4:23
Verse 23. – But the hour cometh, and now is – already the day has dawned, the new conception is breaking like “awful rose of dawn” upon the minds of some – when the veritable worshippers – those who answer to the idea of worshippers, those who actually draw near to the Father in living fellowship and affectionate appreciation of his eternal Name – shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. An old misreading of this text, accepted by some Fathers, and based upon the idea expressed in John 16:13, has found expression in the Sinaitic Codex, “in the spirit of the truth.” But “spirit” here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit of man – that part of man’s constitution through which he most especially bears the image of God, and with which the Divine Spirit deals, and in which he dwells (Romans 8:26). The worship in spirit is worship contrasted with all mere carnal concomitants, all mere shadows of the good things to come, all mere ritual, all specialties of place, or time, or sacrament, or order. It need not be in despite of a genuine reverence for days, or seasons, or postures, or washings, but in absolute independence of them, and they, without this, will be actually valueless. And in truth; i.e. as dealing with reality, the adequate and veracious expression of genuine desires and veritable emotions; καὶ γὰρ, nam et (ver. 9). For indeed also the Father seeketh such to be his worshippers. Luthardt and Meyer differ as to the emphasis. Meyer insists that the καὶ γάρ lays stress on the word which immediately follows, and he refers to 1 Corinthians 14:8 as not contradicting the rule. He would render, “For the Father also on his part seeketh,” etc. Luthardt says that the new thought is to be found in ζητεῖ, and therefore upon this the emphasis is laid. Westcott, by many passages, such as Matthew 8:9; Matthew 26:73; Mark 10:45; Luke 6:32, etc., urges that καὶ γὰρ “alleges a reason which is assumed to be conclusive from the nature of the case.” The whole sentence is therefore covered by the expression, “For the Father also on his part seeketh those as worshippers of him who worship him in spirit and in truth.” A slight contrast is felt between the regimen of προσκυνεῖν with accusative, here again introduced, following upon that with dative in the first clause. Moulton would render the first clause, “offer worship to the Father,” and the second by “worship him.” The Father is now seeking, by the ministry of his Son, by the gift of his Spirit, for those who approach him with deeply felt need and true affection, in spirit, not in ceremony, in truth, not in hypocritical or heartless profession. This is another indication of the high truth taught in the prologue (John 1:4, 9; John 3:21; John 18:38, see notes) that there are vast differences among men, even anterior to their reception of the perfect revelation of the Father’s heart in Christ Jesus. “The life is the light of men.” There are those who “do the truth” and are “of the truth,” who “worship God in spirit and in truth.” The whole gospel dispensation is a search for these.
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