In John 4:23-24 Jesus is recorded as saying, “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.”
What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? Well, first and foremost Jesus tells this woman at the well that ‘the time is now’. In Jesus we see the appearing of God’s definitive revelation. From this point on true worship will not be confined to any particular place, ritual, posture, or attitude. True worshipers do not worship with particular outward appearances, for Jesus true worship is a matter of spirit rather than physicality.
God’s essential nature is spirit. These words are not in reference to the ‘Holy Spirit’, Jesus is simply saying that God is spiritual rather than material. Carson notes, “in this context ‘spirit’ characterizes what God is like, in the same way that flesh, location, and corporeality defines the metaphysical properties.” (John, 225)
God is not bound by material places or things. It is necessary (‘must’ is emphatic) to worship God in spirit. In fact, Kostenberger argues that ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’ are governed by the same preposition, and therefore encompass the same overall idea (14:6, 14:17, 15:26, 16:13).
True worship is critically predicated upon accurate knowledge of the God being worshiped. Though God is spirit, He has made Himself known to all creation. In the same way that ‘God is light’ or ‘God is love’, He is also Spirit, and has presented Himself most fully in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Moreover, it is Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and enables/prompts humanity to true worship. Christ is truth, God’s word made flesh. In this passage Jesus announces to the woman at the well, ‘the time has come to truly worship because I am here’. True worship involves knowing the one true God, who has most fully disclosed Himself in Jesus Christ.