May 29, 2014 Broadcast

The Spirituality of God

A Message by Steven Lawson

The concept of spirituality is used to communicate a variety of different ideas. For some, this word indicates a conscious commitment to the things of God. To others, to say that someone is spiritual is to suggest that he or she has a generic interest in religious or supernatural matters. However, to speak of God’s spirituality is actually to identify Him as a spirit—an immaterial, invisible, and infinite being that is fundamentally distinct from material, visible, and finite creatures. In this message, Dr. Lawson investigates what it means to affirm that God is a spiritual being and why this aspect of His character is crucial to our understanding of who He is.

From the series: The Attributes of God

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Spirit of Glory

  2. article

    Worship in Spirit and in Truth

  3. devotional

    God Is Spirit

The Spirit of Glory

We concluded our studies last week by looking again at our need not to be surprised when purifying trials come our way but instead to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12–13). This theme of the proper response to suffering is the predominant emphasis of Peter in his first epistle. From the very beginning of this letter, we read that as Christians we will inevitably suffer at the hands of other people. This suffering is used by God in many instances to purify His people so that their faith might become praiseworthy (1:6–7).

Though other portions of Scripture make it clear that our suffering sometimes comes because God is disciplining us for sin (Heb. 12:3–11), this is not the suffering that is primarily described in 1 Peter. Rather, Peter emphasizes the unjust suffering that comes to believers because the world hates Christ (1 Peter 2:18–25; 3:14–22). We do not deserve to suffer for following the Lord of the universe, because by confessing the name of Christ we have done the right thing. However, in His providence, God has ordained that His people share in the sufferings of His Messiah, the only one for whom any kind of suffering was completely undeserved (4:13).

Because of the difficulties that such suffering entails, we might be tempted to consider abandoning our profession. Therefore Peter constantly reminds us of the privilege of suffering for Christ. In today’s passage we read that if we suffer for bearing the name of Jesus we are blessed because such suffering proves that the “Spirit of glory and of God” rests upon us (v. 14).

This of course refers to the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who rested upon and empowered Jesus (Isa. 11:1–2; Luke 4:18–19). All of those who by faith are in union with Christ also receive the privilege of God’s Spirit coming upon them and dwelling within them (Gal. 4:6). It is this Spirit that enables us to rejoice in the midst of suffering, because by our suffering for Jesus’ sake we know that we are truly His. If the Lord of glory who was anointed by the Spirit could suffer and be blessed, we should then expect that all of His faithful disciples who likewise possess the Spirit will also suffer and yet be blessed.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Ligon Duncan

In an unlikely encounter with an immoral Samaritan woman, our Lord Jesus uttered one of most important statements ever made about worship. In John’s deeply moving account of Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well, after Jesus uncovers her hidden sin and shame, she asks Him about a worship matter of long dispute between Jews and Samaritans — and of great importance to them both: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:20–26).

Jesus’ answer thunders with points of significance regarding the momentous transition that He Himself was bringing about in the history of redemption through His own life, ministry, death and resurrection; but it also speaks specifically to the theology of Christian worship.

First, Jesus’ great statement that we must “worship in spirit and truth” has implications for every aspect of biblical worship. The Bible indicates that worship is both a specific activity and a way of life. Worship, as an activity, has at least three aspects in the Bible (public worship, family worship, and private worship) alongside all-of-life worship.

Public worship occurs when the people of God assemble for the express purpose of giving to the Lord the glory due His name and enjoying the joy of His promised special presence with His own people. This kind of worship is sometimes called “corporate worship” (because the body, or corpus, of Christ, that is, the Church, is collectively involved in this encounter with God), and sometimes it is called “gathered,” “assembled,” or “congregational” worship. This important aspect of worship is featured in both the Old and New Testaments. While Psalm 100:2 and Hebrews 10:25 speak of “coming before the Lord” and “assembling together” they are both addressing public worship.

Family worship is led by fathers, or other heads of families, with a view to establishing God-centered homes, promoting worship in all of life in all the members of the household, and in preparation for public worship. The Bible makes clear the importance of family worship (Ex. 12:3; Deut. 6:6–8; Josh. 24:15).

Private worship (which is sometimes called “secret worship” or “personal worship”) is taught and modeled throughout Scripture, especially by Jesus, Daniel, David, and Peter. Jesus gave specific instructions to His disciples about it in Matthew 6:6, and He exemplified it in Mark 1:35 and Luke 5:16. David spoke of it Psalm 5:3. Daniel spoke of it in Daniel 6:10, and Peter spoke of it in Acts 10:9.

Worship in all of life is stressed in both the Old and New Testaments and is behind the Shorter Catechism’s assertion that “man’s chief purpose is to glorify God.” In Jonah 1:9, when the prophet Jonah described himself as one who reverenced God, he wasn’t speaking of something he did exclusively on Saturdays, but he was characterizing his whole manner of life. Paul, too, says we are to glorify God in everything we do (1 Cor. 10:31), and this is what we mean by all-of-life worship.

Second, Jesus’ great statement that we must “worship in spirit and truth” means that we must glorify God (in public, family, private, and all of life) in accordance with God’s own nature and truth. This means at least two things: First, we must realize that God is Spirit, and, hence, He is not tied to one location for our worship. Second, we must worship according to the truth of Jesus’ person and work, for He is the truth (John 1:14; 14:6) and, thus, the only way whereby we may truly worship God. In other words, Jesus is Himself “the truth” according to which we must worship. He is the very incarnation of God (John 1:14), the embodiment of the Father’s character (John 14:6), and the fullest revelation of God’s nature and plan (John 1:18; Heb. 1:1–3). Thus, to worship in truth means to worship in accordance with the truth of and about Jesus — that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, and the only Savior of sinners.

So, for starters, when we say that we are to “worship in spirit and in truth,” we are saying that in public, family, private, and all of life we are to glorify and enjoy God — which are the two parts of all worship. Second, we are to worship God in light of who He is (and since He is Spirit we must worship in spirit, or in accordance with the reality that He is Spirit). Third, we must worship God in accordance with His revelation (that is, carefully adhering to the directions of His Word). Fourth, we must worship God in complete dependence upon, and trust in, Jesus Himself (who is the truth in the flesh).

God Is Spirit

Perhaps one of most insulting comments a Christian could ever hear from another person is “your God is too small.” As believers committed to the grandeur and majesty of God, we never want to be accused of having an inadequate conception of the Lord. We desire to love a God who is as great as Scripture describes.

As we continue our study of the divine attributes, we note that at times our discussion has been very abstract. These concepts can indeed be difficult to grasp at first, but they are essential to our spiritual well-being. We can only trust a Lord who is good, loving, holy, merciful, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and faithful as the biblical Creator truly is. At the same time, we recognize that we can study for a lifetime and only scratch the surface of His immensity. But this will be worth the effort, for as we deepen in our knowledge of Him, we will become ever more established in our faith (Heb. 5:11–14).

The verse we have selected for today’s study tells us that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). This may immediately conjure up images of a ghost or other such apparition, but we must be clear that to say the Lord is spirit does not mean He is wispy or ethereal. When Jesus says “God is spirit,” He simply teaches what the Father is like — divine, not limited by physical corporeality, life-giving, and incomprehensible.

As human beings we are defined by our locality. We can be localized at one particular place at one particular time. Though we are composed of body and spirit, our spirits are always where our bodies are, at least while we are alive. God, on the other hand, cannot be localized. When we say that He is spirit, we are saying that He is invisible, not contained. There is some analogical similarity between our spirits and the being of the Lord, but they are not identical.

To be physical is to have extensions. Our bodies extend out from our core to a definite boundary. However, our Father has no such extensions or limitations. We cannot be in more than one place at a time, but God is everywhere. Even our spirits have this limit (Luke 16:19–31), but God is forever omnipresent. We will examine this attribute more next week.

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