To begin this session of the class I have to tell you something I don’t really have any knowledge of—Greek. According to my good brother, John 4:24 should be translated, “God is spirit.” Not “a spirit,” just spirit. Something about the Greek means “a” does not belong—don’t ask me what. Without the “a,” “Spirit” becomes God’s essence. Now add a couple of other verses where there is, correctly, no “a.”
“God is light” 1 John 1:5.
“God is love” 1 John 4:8, 16.
Okay, so what?
First of all, “God is spirit” tells us what he is, an invisible being. “God is light” tells us who He is, the essence of holiness and purity. “God is love” tells us how He relates to us—with grace and mercy. Put it all together and you get this: God is an invisible person who is entirely pure and holy, whose acts are always perfect love.
Now add this to the mix:
But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1Pet 1:15-16. And--
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:44-45
God wants us to be like Him. In order to be like Him, we must understand who and what He is and how that effects our behavior. The verses we read at the beginning tell us the response God expects from the fact of who and what He is.
First, God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24. What God is, spirit, means we are to worship “in spirit and in truth.” Our simplistic explanation of that verse, that it means we do the right things with the right heart, ignores the first part of the statement—“God is spirit.” If, like God, your spirit is your essence, then God expects you to come before Him with your own true essence. We may hide from others who and what we are, but we are to take the “real” us before Him when we worship. He will accept nothing less.
Second, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1John 1:5-7. If God is light, then He expects us to walk in the light. Our lives must match what He is (pure and holy) or the blood of His Son will not cleanse us.
And third, Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1John 4:8,16. If God is love and He offers that love to us, then He expects us to love others the same way and to the same extent.
So here is the point: the essence of God, who and what he is, makes demands on us. This is unique among all religions. Spend some time studying those Greek gods and find any who desired that their worshippers be like them. Find any who expected behavior to be changed by anything but fear.
Find any who can claim to be, in very essence, spirit, light and love. That is our God, and that is who He expects His children to be.