What Does It Mean To WORSHIP?

The word that is translated into English as "worship" is pronounced "shar-khaw" in Hebrew and is "pros-kou-neh'o" in Greek. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries says that "shar-khaw" means "A primitive root [word]; to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God:- bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship." The Greek word for worship looks a bit like the English word prostrate and pros-kou-neh-o is "to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; to fawn or to crouch to, that is (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):-worship." The word worship is found 103 times in the American Standard Version and 107 times in the King James Version. Examination of most of these indicates that shar-khaw and pros-kou-neh' o were always at a definite time and place rather than vague and ongoing. The word at the end of Romans 12: 2 (". . . which is your spiritual worship" in RSV) is not the word that that is otherwise used in the New Testament for worship, but rather is the Greek lat-ri-ah, meaning "ministration of God, that is , worship; divine service." The King James and American Standard versions render lat-ri-ah as "service" to avoid confusion with the usual use of the term worship; the Revised Standard calls it "spiritual worship." This distinction is being made bold here because of the proclivities of some to try to use Romans 12: 2 as a proof text to show that one is "worshipping" God in every moment of his life and therefore he does not need to go to church. Even without these references to the Hebrew and Greek, such an interpretation of lat-ri-ah puts the reader in direct conflict with Hebrews 10: 25 ("not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh") about church attendance.

It is man's nature to worship someone greater than himself. It was this characteristic of man that Paul expressed in his characterization of the Athenians in Acts 17. There were so many gods (little "g") there that the people, worried that they might have left one out in their worship, constructed an altar to an unknown god. Man's need to worship, and the controversies that occur over worship, go all the way back to Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4: 3-7 "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door: and unto thee shall be its desire, but do thou rule over it." These disagreements led to the first murder.

If man does not worship God, he will worship Satan. Those are the two choices. When Jesus was withstanding the temptations of the Devil as recorded in Matthew 4: 1-11, He said to Satan, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." The serve of Matthew 4: 10 as just quoted is the Greek lat-ryoo'-o (Strong's "from latria ( a hired menial); to minister (to God), that is render religious homage: serve, do the service'). Worship in the verse is the same pros-kou-neh'-o as already noted. On the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6: 24, Jesus further said "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." In enumerating God and Satan, Jesus listed the two possibilities that man has: To serve God or to serve Satan.

Service may be fluid and lifelong, but worship occurs at definite times and specific places. In Acts 24: 11 Paul said "seeing that thou canst take knowledge that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem" He didn't go to Jerusalem worshipping, he went up to worship. In the story of the conversion of the the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8:27 says "And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship;" Most of the remaining one hundred references to "worship" in the Old and New Testaments are similar in reference to time, place, and duration. The people doing the worshipping know when worship has begun and exactly when it has ended.

In every dispensation of time God has set forth commandments about acceptable worship. When man has stepped outside those commandments things have always gone badly. Worship has been both a joyous expression of praise to God and a trial to see if man would obey. It was the first substantial challenge to Pharoah from Moses to "let My people go." History might have been very different if Pharoah had reverenced God enough to let Israel go "sacrifice" or worship in the wilderness (Exodus 5: 1-9).

It was over the HOW of worship that Nadab and Abihu died (Leviticus 10: 1-3). Who says that the method of worship does not matter? It was over the WHO OF WORSHIP that the conflict of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led to their deaths and 250 of those who offered the strange incense to God. See Numbers 16. When God gives specifics about worship, those commandments must be followed to the letter. Disaster overtakes those who show insubordination to God with regard to the WHO and the HOW of worship. God takes worship as being very special. It is so special that if even two or three gather together in Jesus's name, He is there with them (Matthew 18: 20). It is through worship that we approach spiritual figures.

What does the New Testament say of worship? It is evident that there are two types of assemblies: The full corporate (five-event) worship service on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), and in other events, episodes or periods of worship during other times of the week.

1. We worship only God. We never worship man. See Paul's example in Acts 14: 8-18. Peter would not accept worship (Acts 10: 23b-29). Yet man seems all to willing to have other men worship and adore him. Part of this adulation has to do with religious titles (Matthew 23: 8-12). While Jesus was on this earth He would not allow people to call him Good (Mark 10: 17-18). But now in His risen state at the right hand of God it is appropriate to worship at His feet (Revelation 1: 17-20).

2. We worship in spirit and in truth (John 4: 16-26). We crowd out thoughts of the world in worshipping the Godhead. (II Corinthians 10: 5) When we partake of the Lord's supper, we do it in concentration (I Corinthians 11: 17-34). When we give as a congregation (corporate giving), we must do it in the right motives, for the motive is more important than the size of the gift or the apparent magnitude of the service. If the heart is not right, giving cannot be done (Matthew 5: 23-24).

3. The Lord's supper is shown in the New Testament to be done on Sundays (Acts 20:7). The "corporate giving" or giving that is done as a church is also done on Sundays (I Corinthians 16: 1, 2). With all five acts of worship included, this comprised the one full corporate worship service of the week. The acts of worship other than the Lord's supper and giving--preaching, teaching, praying, singing--happened on any other day of the week (Acts 2: 43-47). The WHEN of the full corporate worship service must have been important or we would not have been given the specific references in the New Testament.

4. God's word is specific about the WHO of leadership in worship assemblies (I Timothy 2: 11-15). It is for this reason that we do not have women teaching men in the Lord's church. See I Corinthians 14: 33b-36 and I Timothy 2: 11-15. Let's not make Korah's mistake.

5. What does worship include? Teaching or preaching (II Timothy 4: 1-5), giving (I Corinthians 16: 1-2), singing (but there is no mention of an instrument, Colossians 3: 16, 17; Ephesians 5: 18-20), praying (both of the preceding; Matthew 6: 5-15), and, on the first day of the week, the Lord's supper (Luke 22: 14-20). The teaching, praying, and singing must be done in a way that participants can understand what is going on (I Corinthians 14, whole chapter). Paul said in 1Corinthians 14:15, " What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."

During the other days of the week, there may be other assemblies of a congregation to study their Bibles, pray, or sing. Mid-week services are important and the first century church met daily (Acts 2: 46). It is not unreasonable for church leaders to ask members to attend a mid-week service in order to give them a spiritual meal (Acts 20: 28). The rules already noted about meaningful prayer, accurate teaching, and singing with understanding apply to those episodes or periods of worship, just as they did on Sunday.

6. Who should worship include? YOU. Hebrews 10: 23-31. Worship is special to God. Don't deny it to Him. He can deny everything to you. Don't give your worship to the Devil by serving him all week.

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