What does this phrase mean? It is found several
times in the scripture.
The meaning of spirit is found in the word,
itself. In Greek it is PNEUMA. "Pneo" means to
blow. "Ma" means effect. Spirit is blow-effect, or
the effect of blowing. When God blew the breath of the living into
the nostrils of man be began to live. The effect of blowing was to
generate in man the invisible, intangible power of life, action and
intelligence. This produced sensation, which is soul.
"Man became a living soul," is a figure of speech, indicating
that he was to be dominated by his sensations. He had spirit and
body, but the soul was the dominant thing. Man is yet soulishhis
sensations dominate him. The spirit in man is too weak to control
him, until it is touched by the spirit of Christ, Rom. 8:9,
But what I want to stress in this editorial is the
fact that spirit is not tangible. It is very real, nevertheless.
the greatest powers in nature are intangible oneswind, steam, gas, electricity,
etc. So we must not think of spirit as being unimportant, because
it is intangible.
"In spirit" in to be regarded in the same
way. Christ said, John 4:23, "the true worshipers will be
worshipers will be worshiping God in spirit and truth." This
is to be taken as in contrast to worship in forms and ceremoniesritualism.
So far as the ritual of Judaism was concerned, Jerusalem was the place
to worship. But even during the period when this form of worship
was in effect, true believers could worship in spirit, anywhere.
Christ promised that the time would come when worship would not be
carried on in Jerusalem. That time has come. All worship
now, must be in spirit, or it is not worship.
Churches seem to not have learned this lesson.
They yet believe that some formality must be observed. Some ritual
must be carried out! And, as Henry Van Dyke said in his poem,
"The God of the Open Air": "They build their temple walls
to shut Him in, and Build their iron creeds to shut Him out."
The church house is considered sacred. The pulpit is especially
so! And then there are those who believe that only those of
"our faith and order" can worship God. And there are
those who think He looks with disdain on a place of worship that is not
costly buildings, with the apparent idea that God may be worshipped more
acceptably in them.
But God may not be worshiped at all in ritualno
matter whether it is the ritual divinely given to Israel, or that
evolved by men. He found no pleasure in the ritualism of Israel,
Heb. 10:5, 6. Neither does ritualistic worship benefit people or
make them better, for Israel, after many hundreds of years of such
worship, was ready to condemn the Son of God when He appeared among
them. Churches today that have the most venomous spirit of
persecution are those that have carried on the most elaborate
PROSKUNEO is the Greek word for worship. The
root of the word is KUON, which means dog. The most perfect form
of worship one ever sees, is the devotion of a dog to his master.
He may be ill-treated, or even half starved, yet he will worship his
master. Perhaps everyone is familiar with the story of the dog
that starved on his master's grave. If we worship God in spirit,
we have that attitude toward Him. Worship is the flow of love
toward God, form a heart that appreciates Him for what He is. Such
a heart pants after God, seeks Him, is devoted to Him. It is not
expressed by forms and ceremonies. It is that intangible attitude
toward God that leads one to love Him, not only when surrounded with
pleasures, but also when everything looks dark. Such an attitude
does not lead one to try to dictate to God in prayer. Rather, the
saint will say, "Lord, if You are willing, you can grant me my
desire," and then leave it in His loving hands, and thank Him
whether the request is granted or not.
How glad I am that worship is in spirit! Who is
able to perform ritual in a lifeboat tossed on the waves, or in a fox hole on the battle field, or while crawling through the jungles, or
while walking sentry on a dark night? And we would rejoice very
much, if we could know the real heart worship that is carried on in
millions of homes made sad by this terrible war. In times such as
these, ritual counts not at all, but the invaluable privilege of
communing with God counts much.
Circumcision in flesh has become maimcism. We
are the circumcision who are offering divine service to God in spirit,
and we are glorying in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in flesh,
Phil. 3:3. Service is rendering to another that which he
needs. God needs no ritual. He has no use for forms and
ceremonies. But His loving heart craves a response to His grace.
Our hearts give such a response. It is in spirit, not in forms and
ceremonies. It is intangible. Man may not se it. But
God knows it, and it refreshes Him. When we serve each other,
because we love Him, we are offering divine service to Him in
spirit. And we should serve each other. We should show
kindness and grace to others as an expression of our appreciation of His
kindness and grace to us. It is still service to HIM in
spirit. No ritualism can ever serve either man or God.
Ephesians was written before the secret administration
began. The things mentioned in it were to be in force when it
began. It is here now. In spirit we are enjoyers of the
allotment, a body, and partakers of the promise in christ Jesus through
the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser; and we have all this
jointly with those saints from among the Circumcision who are in the
ecclesia which is the body of Christ, Eph. 1:23; 3:6, 7. Paul does
not say we have the revelation of these things BY the spirit, as the
King James Version has it, (although that is true.) He says we
have the blessings IN spiritthat is, there is nothing tangible
about it. As to a joint body, we are scattered in many countries,
and have no opportunity to act jointly in anything. As to the
allotment, that is in the heavens, and we are yet on this war-torn and
sin-stained earth. On earth we have not actually come into
possession of the things promised through the evangel of which Paul
became the dispenser. Our blessings are among the celestials,
1:3. But in spirit we already have these things. With us it
is a matter of faith. Our enjoyment of them is in
expectation. Actually, as to our present condition, we are as far
from the blessings promised, and the joint participation and activity
and the joint allotment, as it is possible to be. But we have it
all, in spirit. It is very real, even thought there is nothing
tangible about it.
In Rom.2:29 is an expression that often
misunderstood. It says, "For not what is apparent is the Jew,
nor yet what is apparent in flesh in flesh circumcision; but that which
is hidden is the Few, and circumcision is of the heart, in spirit, not
in letter, whose applause is not of men, but of God." This has
been taken to mean that we became Jews when we receive the
"circumcision of heart." The passage that refers to us
in connection with circumcision is in Col. 2:11, where we are told that
we "were circumcised also with a circumcision not made with hands,
in the stripping off of the body of flesh in the circumcision of
Christ." This evidently has reference to the death of Christ,
and the benefits we receive from it. Circumcision under the law
was the cutting off of a small part of flesh. This was taken by Israel
as a badge of honor, instead of meaning that flesh has no standing with
God. So, in Col. Paul shows how circumcision, in its reality, was
the stripping off of the entire body of flesh. Only it was done to
Christ, for us, and not to us directly. This is our
But the passage in Rom. 2:29 does not refer to
us. "Jew" is used of the religious Israelite. But
Paul is showing that even though one is of the race of Israel, and extremely
religious, he is not really a Jew unless he has the circumcision of
heart. And what is that? Is it the cutting off of a portion
of the heart? NO; no cutting is done at all. The real Jew has this
circumcision in spirit. There is nothing tangible about it.
But it is far more real than circumcision in letter, (or
Now, back to the idea of worshiping in spirit and
truth. Ritualistic worship was not in spirit, and it was not in
truth. Israel got an erroneous idea of the function of the
law. It was not to make them better. It was to make them
worse. "Law crept in that the offense should be increasing."
And it did increase. After more than a thousand years of worship
in ritual. Israel was worse than at the beginning, as I have
already shown. But worship i spirit is also in truth. And
they who thus worship are not dangerous. They are not
bloodthirsty. They do not persecute. This kind of worship
does make people better, for they who engage in it loathe themselves,
have no confidence in flesh and, are glorying in Christ
It is feared that we are in danger of "losing
the war of faith." Not so, as long as conditions remain as
they are. In times of distress faith is nurtured. It is
amazing and gratifying to find so many people reading the word of God,
instead of taking their information second-hand. Sermons often obscure
the word of God, instead of illuminating it. Preachers have done
incalculable harm. But the time has come when they do not
"cut as big a figure" as they once did. Millions of
people are learning that the word of God is a message of cheer, instead
of one of doom for a large part of the human family. Soldiers at
the front are no longer trusting in the wisdom and power of man.
These have already failed. Many thousands of then realize for the
first time that they are in the hands of God. And on every battle
front, as well as in saddened homes in al the warring countries, there
is worship in spirit and truth. Unable to perform ritual while
firing a machine gun, soldiers, nevertheless, worship as they face the
hail of bullets. And they are convinced that the Master Hand is
protecting them. Never, before, in the history of mankind, have conditions
been so propitious for worship in spirit and truth.