When I preached through John about twenty years ago, this passage stumped me. Oh, the EVV are clear enough:
ESV 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.All are pretty plain in saying that the Father seeks people who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Standing alone, you could lean the verse Calvinist (yayy), or Arminian or worse (booo).
CSB But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him.
NAS "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
NET But a time is coming– and now is here– when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.
NKJ "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
NIV Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
The trouble is the Greek text.
ἀλλὰ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν.The ESV's "the Father is seeking such people to worship him" renders τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. "To worship" represents a (in itself) straightforward articular present participle. Other considerations aside, we'd more probably render it something like this: "for indeed the Father seeks such as these who worship Him." The worship, then, is either antecedent to, or concurrent with, the Father's seeking activity.
This is borne out in parallel uses of ζητέω and an articular present participle:
Ecclesiastes 3:15 τὸ γενόμενον ἤδη ἐστίν καὶ ὅσα τοῦ γίνεσθαι ἤδη γέγονεν καὶ ὁ θεὸς ζητήσει τὸν διωκόμενονIn each, the condition precedes the seeking. In none of them is it the design of the seeking.
Matthew 18:12 Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ; ἐὰν γένηταί τινι ἀνθρώπῳ ἑκατὸν πρόβατα καὶ πλανηθῇ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν, οὐχὶ ἀφήσει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον;
Luke 24:5 ἐμφόβων δὲ γενομένων αὐτῶν καὶ κλινουσῶν τὰ πρόσωπα εἰς τὴν γῆν εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτάς· τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν·
At the time, I ransacked every book I had. I've since looked in more recent books (including Wallace). No one seems troubled by the construction; or they are, and that's why they don't comment.
So what is Jesus saying? Are there those who, as He speaks, are worshiping the Father in spirit and truth already, and the Father is seeking them? Or is it some sort of pregnant construction that warrants the insertion of "as" or "to be," leaving open the thought that they aren't thus worshiping Him at present, but the Father will bring them to that point by sovereign grace?
When I expounded it, having found no help in my resources, I took it in the sense that there is in true worship a mutual seeking. We seek after God, and He seeks after us (Psalm 145:18; Proverbs 15:8, 29, etc.). Bringing in the rest of the Bible, I'm constrained to confess that this would never happen apart from the prior, monergistic grace of God (Romans 3:11-12).
But that still leaves this passage, and I admit I've no confidence in my understanding of it. It's yet another (to me) large question that it is as if the commentators have agreed that they'll all pass over it in silence.
So, I appeal to the Ἑλληνιστὶ γινώσκεις; brain-trust. What do you-all make of it?
(If you're a lost beginner, hang in there; I have posts coming just for you.)