For many people this question appears to be self-evident with a confident use of Matthew 28:19 and 1 John 5:7. For most Christians, the fact that the Bible refers to Father, Son and Holy Spirit seems to be enough to end any further discussion on the matter.
If the Trinity is correct, we would assume that when Jesus spoke about what constitutes true worship, He would no doubt come straight to the point and proclaim in unambiguous terms that “there is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal persons.”
Strangely (for many) this is not the case. When we turn to John 4 we find that Jesus outlines to the Samaritan women what constitutes true worship. He makes it plain to her that the Jews know who they worship when He says:
John 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
If Jesus was a Trinitarian, then this statement that the Jews know who they worship seems rather generous and in fact could be seen as misleading. Most people know that the Jews are what some pastors call “rigidly monotheistic” and this belief is based largely on Deut 6:4.
Deut 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
If the Jews had a limited understanding of God as a Trinity and they somehow managed to misread the Hebrew word “Echad” for one as referring to one individual, then it seems to me that when Jesus indicates that the Jews know who they worship, that he is being extremely generous bordering on potential deception. But then maybe Jesus is about to bring this women into the truth of the Trinity using the fuzzy monotheism of the Jews as a platform to expound the deeper reality of three in one.
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
This is an extremely significant statement as Jesus uses the phrase “true worshippers.” Whatever Jesus connects to this phrase must be what true worship means. The word Jesus uses is “Father,” as the central focus of the true worshipper. How on earth can Jesus say this? If the Trinity is correct then He would have to have said:
John 4:23 [A Trinitarian version] But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father, Son and Spirit in spirit and in truth: for we seek such to worship us.
Why does Jesus only refer to the Father as the focus of true worship? Are we not commanded to worship Jesus also? Is this simply Jesus being humble and not wanting to promote Himself? But if Jesus speaks the truth and He said that true worshippers worship the Father, then how do we resolve this seeming contradiction?
I believe the answer is right in the text:
…worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
Who is the truth?
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
The way that we worship the Father is through our worship of the Son. As we behold how the Son obeys, trusts and submits to His Father, we learn the secret of how to worship the Father. Our worship of the Father is made possible through our worship of the Son. And how is this truth revealed to us?
John 6:63-65 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (64) But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. (65) And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
The truth that Jesus is the Way to the Father is only revealed through the Spirit (Matt 16:17). Flesh and blood cannot reveal this to men, but only the Spirit of God, the Father. Therefore the true worshippers will worship the Father through His Spirit’s revealed knowledge of the Son [The Truth] or as Jesus expressed it, we worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Just to make this point clear Jesus restates what He just said.
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The references to the Father in verse 23 are now paralleled to the phrase “God is a Spirit” meaning that the Father is a Spirit Being and that we worship Him [rigidly monotheistic] through the Spirit revealed knowledge of the Son, who is the truth.
So Jesus states simply and clearly that the Father is the focus of all true worshippers and that this worship can only occur through the Spirit [The Father] and the truth [The Son].
It is absolutely impossible to understand the words of Jesus as stating that three beings are the focus of true worship or more classically three persons in one being. Once Jesus used the phrase “true worshippers,” He was bound to give us a clear, resounding statement of what true worship means. If He somehow was trying to prepare this woman to understand the Trinity, then what He told her was nothing but a lie and we know that no lie is of the truth.
1 John 2:21-23 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (23) Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1 John 1:2-3 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (3) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.