John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 4:24, God is Spirit

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

These are the words of Jesus, to the woman of Samaria. She was asking whether it was correct to worship God at the holy place of the Jews or of the Samaritans. Jesus’ reply made it clear God would not be found “in” a place.

The above verse is from the NIV translation; let me give it to you again in our familiar King James version:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

See the difference? How the KJV made assumptions about the nature of God, which the NIV corrected by retranslating the original Greek? God is not “a Spirit” (capital S), God is “spirit.” You don’t worship “him” in spirit, you merely worship in spirit. John’s Gospel, we all realize, is the most esoteric or spiritual of the four, and this is critical to understanding the Johannine writings.

God is not “a” love. God is love. God is not “a” light, or “a” life,” or “a” spirit, or “a” anything. God just is. Give up trying to point to him, because there is no “him” to point to. As The Shack would say, God is a verb.

In my opinion, grasping this basic difference will take you a long way to understanding John’s point of view.