By Eric Wheeler ( originally posted 3/22/2012 – re-posted 4/19/2014)

I realize that this subject is surrounded in controversy, and that I am probably going to ruffle a few feathers.  But for those who know me, I have never been one to shirk from the responsibility of speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular it is or who it might offend.  As Paul once wrote: “Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).  We are told that we are to “speak the truth in love” to each other so that we may all grow and mature in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 4:15).  Realizing that I must address this subject, because so many are spiritually confused and don’t know what God wants from them regarding whether or not they should be celebrating Easter or observing Passover, I knelt down this morning in prayer and asked the Lord what He wanted me to write regarding this subject:  I ask, “Lord, as You pointed out in the Scriptures, it is possible to worship you in vain; how then do You want us to worship You?” Immediately, the Lord answered me, and said, “I seek those who worship Me in spirit and in truth!” (John 4:23).  Astonished at His short, yet succinct answer, I immediately got up and began writing this article, as the Holy Spirit continued to illuminate my mind to this truth and its deeply profound ramifications.


Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”. These words were spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:23-24).  The fact that Jesus said “the true worshipers” clearly implies that there are false worshipers who are indeed worshipping God in vain and in religious futility.  Jesus addressed this empty worship when He said: “In vain you worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men… All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.  Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down”(Mark 7:7-13).  Here, Jesus is making it plain that He is more interested in people following the Word of God – which He called the truth (John 17:17) – than in them keeping their vain traditions.


Without having to go through the detailed, yet fascinating and enlightening, task of demonstrating the pagan history and idolatrous roots of our modern Easter celebration (which are outside the scope of this writing), I have chosen rather to focus the intent of this article on two monumental things that have everything to do with our personal worship of God: 1) What does “to worship God in spirit” mean?  And 2) what does “to worship God in truth” mean?  For Jesus said that this is what God is really looking for when we come before Him in order to worship Him.  And that we must worship Him according to these two things.




Continually in His earthly ministry, Jesus presented and upheld the Samaritans, whom the religious Jews hated, as an example of having a heart (or spirit) that wanted to worship and serve God, as well as serve others in love and with compassion.  Collectively speaking, the Samaritans didn’t do these acts of worship out of a sense of religious obligation and/or by compulsion, or by dictate of divine Scripture and command, like the Jews had begrudgingly done for centuries. But rather, they did these things by faith – that is, by and from their heart (from their spirit) – of their own free will – these things being a direct result and reflection of their faith, rather than a fulfillment of religious mandate.  Both Jesus and the Scriptures gave numerous accounts and stories of Samaritans giving and showing love and mercy, thankfulness and grace, and hospitality and compassionate reverence and care to both God and man (see Luke 10:33-37; 17:15-16).  Yet, many of them didn’t know the Scriptures; weren’t familiar with the laws and ways of God; and didn’t have a true and accurate understanding of history and patriarchal biblical teaching.  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “You [Samaritans] worship what you do not know [don’t have knowledge of]; we [Jews] know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).


Notice that Jesus said this to her after she had first inquired of Him – believing Him to be a prophet (a man of God) – asking Him how to properly worship God. She wanted to know if she should go to the Temple to worship God, as the Jews taught, or if it was okay for her to just keep worshipping at the substitute temple at Mt. Gerizim in Samaria that her forefathers had built.  She had been doing this for many years by tradition and according to what her forefathers had taught her.  It is obvious from her immediate question to Jesus regarding this matter that she had some internal reservations and growing doubts as to what she was doing by tradition was actually correct or not.  Notice that it was her intent to want to worship God correctly and in accordance with the truth of God. That is the whole reason why she addressed the subject with Jesus immediately upon learning that He was a “prophet” sent from God (John 4:19-20).  She wanted to know the truth and how to properly worship God!  Obviously, she already had a heart and a spirit residing within her that wanted to know God and to serve Him.  What she didn’t have was knowledge – or “know how”.  She didn’t know how to properly worship God.  So she took the earnest initiative to find out how to do so when the opportunity presented itself in the form of Jesus.  This earnest desire (heart and spirit) to serve God and to worship Him is what God saw in her and it pleased Him.  That is why God (in the form of Jesus) chose to reveal Himself to her (John 4:10).  But as Jesus properly assessed, she – being a Samaritan – lacked the proper knowledge (“know how”).


On the other hand, the Jews, unlike the Samaritans, had the knowledge (the “know how”) of how to properly serve God in truth.  This had been supernaturally given to them by God.  Even the Apostle Paul made this observation: “What advantage then has the Jew [over the Gentile], or what is the profit of circumcision?  Much in every way!  Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles [writings and words] of God”(Rom. 3:1-2).  They were given the words of God, and were shown the secrets of heaven.  God gave to them, by way of their ancestors, knowledge and understanding that the world did not have.  Even Moses recognized and professed this; that is why he said: “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe these statutes and judgments; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?  And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this Law which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:5-8).  And yet, because this Word which they heard from God, and were entrusted with by Him was “not mixed with faith”, it did not profit them (Heb. 4:2).  In other words, they did not enter into the true worship of God, although they had His truth, because they did not have a heart or spirit for God, but rather only served Him out of a misguided sense of religious obligation.  As God had continually said to them by the mouths of His holy prophets: “You honor Me with your lips, but your hearts are far from Me.  Has the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices?  I do not desire sacrifice. I do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart – these I will not despise!  I have had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, bring no more futile sacrifices; your incense is an abomination to Me.  Your calling of assemblies and sacred meetings – I cannot endure. Your Sabbaths and your appointed feasts My soul hates.  They are a trouble to Me, and I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.  Your hands are full of bloodshed. Wash yourselves therefore, and make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil; learn to do good. Seek justice, reprove the oppressor. Defend the fatherless; plead for the widow.  Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?  Is this not what I want from you – to take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and the speaking of wickedness? If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul – is this not what I desire, says the Lord?” (I Sam. 15:22; Psa. 51:16-17; Isa. 1:11-17; 29:13; 58:6-10).  And again, it is written: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God?  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?!” (Micah 6:6-8).


God was angry with Israel – the Jews – for not having a heart (a spirit) for Him.  They had a form of godliness, but had no substance – no heart, no faith, no deep abiding love for Him.  Theirs was an empty religion!  They only served God out of compulsion and out of religious obligation.  God even sadly lamented of them: O, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear [love and reverence] Me, and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deut. 5:29).  God is not interested in people coming to Him by forcible mandate.  For true faith and love are not by compulsion; neither is true worship ever dictated.  But as it is written, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).  Whatever is offered to God by way of compulsion or obligation is not acceptable or holy; neither is love that is compelled truly love.  God is not interested in forms of worship; neither is He honored by our empty vain rituals.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon us all to always ask ourselves in everything, when it comes to God and the true worship of Him, ‘Why am I doing this?’  ‘Am I doing this because I love God and because I want to, or because I have to?’  ‘Am I doing this because I am expected to, or because society and/or religious tradition tell me that I have to?  Or am I doing this because I believe it is the right thing to do and holy, and because it is an honorable thing to God?’  Both Cain and Abel brought an offering to God.  The Bible says that Abel’s offering was accepted; but that Cain’s was not (Gen. 4:4-5).  It is incumbent upon each of us who truly want to worship God and honor Him in spirit and in truth to find out why. It is apparent from Scripture that Cain’s offering was done out of a sense of duty and religious obligation; yet Abel’s was offered from the heart and from the best of the firstlings of his flock.  Each of us needs to be continually examining ourselves and searching our individual hearts to find out whether or not we are truly giving God our best, and that it is from our hearts, and not out of a sense of religious obligation or duty.


Find out from Scripture what God is pleased with and what He is not pleased with.  Ask yourself: ‘What truly are my motives for doing certain things and/or from not doing certain things.’  ‘Who am I seeking to please?’  ‘Society?  My church?  My neighbors and relatives?  Myself?  Tradition?  Or is it clearly God?’ Are we doing what God desires and what He wants, or are we doing our own thing, according to our own agendas and traditions, and just going through the religious motions?  Is our worship of Him by religious compulsion or an honest expression of our own free will?  Are our sacrifices and offerings (the things that we do and/or don’t do) holy to Him – that is, are they from our heart?  Or are we just giving Him the leftovers, the extras, and the excesses of what we have?  Are we worshipping Him according to the truth, and by what is honest, holy, and pure, or are we just doing things because society and/or religious teachings say that we should?  Examine these things in your own heart – you could be worshipping God in vain. The Bible says that God did not have any respect for Cain’s offering; what about our offerings – the things that we do in our worship of God?  Should He have any respect or regard for them?  God said that He will honor those who honor Him, and will disdain those who despise Him (I Sam. 2:30).




Although the Samaritan woman had a tender spirit and a heart to worship God, she nonetheless did not worship God according to knowledge (truth).  Jesus even specifically told her this (John 4:22).  Although she worshipped God from her heart, Jesus informed her that she was still missing something – truth (knowledge).  The Bible says that God’s Word is the truth (John 17:17); and that we who worship Him must worship Him in spirit (from our heart) and in truth (according to His Word) (John 4:24).  In the Bible, God never allowed His people to worship Him according to the same customs and traditions that the gentile (pagan) nations used to worship and honor their gods.  To do so, was to partake of idolatry and to offer profane things unto the Lord, which God strictly forbids in His Word (Deut. 12:29-32).  The Samaritan woman at the well had descended from a long-line of gentile settlers who had been transplanted into northern Israel from other pagan nations and territories that the Assyrians had previously conquered (II Kings 17:24-29).  The Bible says that approximately seven-hundred years before Jesus was born, these Samaritans brought with them into Israel their worship of foreign gods with all of their accompanying pagan customs and traditions, while at the same time paying homage to the God of Israel (II Kings 17:24-41).  Because the Jews would not let the gentile Samaritans help re-build their Temple in Jerusalem or worship there, the Samaritans then built their own substitute temple to God in Samaria on Mt. Gerizim.  Now upon meeting Jesus and realizing that He was a man of God (a prophet), the Samaritan woman wanted to know from Jesus where was the proper place in which a person was supposed to worship God – at Jerusalem or in Samaria?  Jesus pointed out to her that it didn’t matter where a person worshipped God, but rather what was important was how a person worshipped!  He said that it must be done in both spirit and in truth.  She had the proper spirit (the heart) to worship God, but lacked the truth – that is, she lacked proper biblical knowledge and understanding.  Jesus pointed out that the Jews had this knowledge, by saying, “We [Jews] know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).


The difference between the Jews and the Samaritans is this:  the Jews, collectively speaking, don’t substitute false things and illegitimate things for true.  In fact, it is well known and documented that Jews, by nature, meticulously hold fast to the legitimate and true, even to the point of undue reverence, and in some cases, at the expense of their lives.  For example, many Jews throughout history have chosen to die –staunchly defending the Temple, the Sabbath day, the sacred scrolls (the Old Testament Scriptures), and the holy articles of the Temple – rather than to allow them to become polluted, contaminated, and/or corrupted by gentile rulers and/or trespassing pagan violators. Collectively as a race, they have never allowed substitutes, counterfeits, illegitimates, or imposters to stand in place of anything holy or sacred in their worship of God.  They maintained the true, many of them even to the point of death, because God had entrusted them with this divine burden and responsibility throughout the ages for the benefit of all of mankind.  That is why Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). They were given this divine task of preserving God’s Word as a witness and as a testimony to the world (Rom. 3:1-2, 19-21).


In contrast to this uncompromising position of the Jews, the Samaritans’ whole existence was (and is) based on compromise.  They settled in a land that was not legitimately theirs; they worshiped and served all of their own pagan gods from their original homelands, while at the same time also worshipped the local God of Israel; they built a substitute temple to worship in when they were refused entrance into the authentic Temple at Jerusalem; and they created their own priesthood, instead of dealing with the God-ordained priesthood which came from the lineage of Aaron.  They illegitimately called Jacob their ancestral forefather (John 4:12), and fraudulently assimilated themselves into the posterity and heritage of Israel, not actually being true descendants.  Their true physical ancestors were not Israelite or Jewish, but rather the descendants of the surrounding gentile pagan nations from which they had come (II Kings 17:24-41).  And instead of worshipping God in truth, and according to His Word, they celebrated and worshipped the holy God of Israel according to their own pagan customs and traditions, all the while being ignorant of His holy directives as prescribed in the Bible and entrusted to the Jews, from which all of mankind was supposed to have benefited.




These are the two spiritual sides that Jesus addressed in His dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well that need to be joined together in order to worship God in spirit and in truth!  The “Samaritans” – spiritually representing many Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical churches today – have a heart (spirit) to worship God and truly want to serve Him.  However, many of them lack any real biblical knowledge and truth.  So instead of reading their Bibles for themselves, these modern-day “Samaritans” blindly just follow what their own pastors and teachers have erroneously taught them, substituting their own feast days (holy days) which are mired in paganism and idolatrous customs, in place of the God-ordained feast days that the Lord gave to us, thinking that they are worshipping God correctly and according to His will.  They have substituted false teachings and man-made traditions in place of the God-ordained truths and precise revelations of the Word of God.  Consequently, on the other hand, we have the “Jews” – spiritually representing all of the Christian denominations and people who are steeped-in legalism and Old Testament law-keeping – that indeed have biblical truth and knowledge, but are completely missing out on the spiritual intent of the Scriptures and the profound life-changing work of Christ Jesus working in their lives.  They live the letter of the law, but have completely missed the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit which truly imparts life and maturity (understanding) to those who have faith in Jesus Christ, and not in themselves or in their own works. The Apostle Paul described these “Jewish-minded” people, by saying, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:3-4).  He continued: “But their minds are hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (II Cor. 3:14-17).  “For the letter [of the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Cor. 3:6).


This is the message that Jesus was giving to the Samaritan woman at the well – and consequently to all who truly want to worship God: WE MUST WORSHIP GOD IN BOTH SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH! No more worship by compulsion or by dictated religion. Whatever we do or bring before God in worship of Him must come forth as a result of our faith and love for Him.  Our worship of Him must be a fruit of our devotion, our love, and our adoration of Him.  Compelled love and dictated faith is not love or faith at all; but rather meaningless and empty ritual, and vain worship. We shouldn’t even bother going through the religious motions then, if our heart is not in it.  And if our heart is not in it, then we shouldn’t dare bring it before God and present it to Him as a holy offering or sacrifice.  He won’t accept it!  Consequently, we shouldn’t try to worship God “with things that have been sacrificed to idols” either (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29).  In other words, if it has pagan idolatrous roots and histories and/or unclean connotations, then we shouldn’t try to “rename it” and/or “repackage it” and present it to God!  For God is holy, and just, and true.  And He takes no pleasure in man’s foolishness, his misrepresentations, or his subtle lies.  And be assured, God knows what we know and what we don’t know.  And He knows how much time and energy we diligently put into trying to find out the truth of a matter, and whether or not we really are seeking to worship Him according to the truth and according to what is biblically correct.  We are to be like the Samaritan woman – who put forth the required effort to earnestly find out whether or not what she was doing by tradition was right or not, and true and accurate.  Are we seeking to worship God correctly by questioning our traditional beliefs and accepted religious practices – to see whether or not they hold up to biblical scrutiny and validity?  We better not try and fool ourselves, by seeking to justify ourselves, by saying, “Well, my church teaches this or my church teaches that”.  It doesn’t matter what our church teaches, or what our pastor says – but rather, what does the Word of God say?!  Christmas is NOT Jesus’ birthday. Christ did NOT resurrect on Easter morning at sunrise; nor was He killed on Good Friday.  Search the Bible and find out the truth.  God expects us to, and then we are to live by it!


Contrary to what most professing Christians might think, in the Bible we are commanded to commemorate Jesus’ death, not His birth (Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:23-26; I Cor. 5:7-8; Lev. 23:5; Ecc. 7:1).  For He died and gave Himself as our Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7; John 1:29), and both Paul and Jesus told us to commemorate this feast day as a memorial to Christ Jesus until He returns (Luke 22:19; I Cor. 5:8; 11:23-26).  Conversely, there is no mention or commandment in the Bible to celebrate His resurrection.  There are many things that Christians are doing by ritual habit and by tradition today that are not biblical, but are in fact, idolatrous. Many things that we are doing in the churches have been added by men, and aren’t even biblical.  Both ignorant, as well as unscrupulous men, down through the centuries, have substituted pagan holidays and practices, and many other non-biblical things into our worship, and God is now commanding all people everywhere to examine their own beliefs and practices to see whether or not they hold up to biblical scrutiny.  If they don’t, then get rid of them.  If they do, then hold fast to them. We are told in the Bible “to prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). Let us quit going along with the church crowd, and find out the truth for ourselves, by reading and examining the Bible daily, and then begin to live it.  The perilous days ahead will demand that each one of us does this for ourselves!




If there is one thing that I have learned from the Lord Jesus Christ, it is this:  It is NOT our responsibility or right “to judge another man’s offering”.  What another person does (or doesn’t do), or celebrates (or doesn’t celebrate), or offers to God, is between them and God alone.  It is up to God to decide, based on that person’s heart and faith, and according to their knowledge and/or ignorance of a certain matter, whether or not God will respect (will accept as holy) their offering to Him or not.  It is solely between them and God alone.  As Paul instructed, we are not to judge another’s servant; to their own master each servant will answer (Rom. 14:4). One person may honor and observe one particular day above another day unto the Lord, and another person may not honor and not observe that same particular day unto the Lord (Rom. 14:5-8); both are fine as long as all things are done in spirit (by faith) and in truth (in accordance with the Scriptures).  Let all things be done (or not done) unto the Lord and for His glory.  As I have tried to demonstrate here in this article – every worshipper will be judged by God according to these two important things: Is our worship of God done in spirit? And is it done in truth?  “For the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).



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