What the Bible Teaches about Worship


     Man has conceived and advanced many ideas and notions about worship, ranging from the bizarre black magic worship to the highly sophisticated worship of traditionalism with all the imagined pomp and stained class edifices. What is worship and has God specified the kind of worship he demands of his worshippers?

     Just because worship is offered does not necessarily make it acceptable. Man needs to realize that God is the object of man's worship (Jn. 4: 24). He is also a deserving recipient of man's adoration (Ps. 149) God also desires our worship (Jn. 4: 23). Since God is the object of our worship, He has the right to specify and stipulate what kind of worship He accepts. Before we proceed, however, let us attempt to define worship.

     There are three nouns and five verbs translated worship in the Greek New Testament. Mr. W. E. Vine sums up the conclusion to "worship," "…broadly it ("worship," dm) may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgment" (Expository dictionary of New Testament Words).

     Worship which God rejects. Let us now return to developing the thought of kind or type of worship. The Bible speaks of "ignorant worship" (Acts 17: 230, KJV). The Athenians were ignorantly worshipping the God of heaven (Acts 17: 16-23). They had one idol, included in their pantheon, with the inscription "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD" (Acts 17: 23). God was unknown to them because they had rejected a knowledge of him (Rom. 1: 22-25). As a result, their worship was not accepted (Acts 17: 23-31). Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Ye worship ye know not what…" (Jn. 4: 22). Alas, many today know not whom or what they worship. Jesus said we must worship in truth (Jn. 4: 24).

     We also read of "vain worship" (Matt. 15: 9). Vain worship was and is worshipping God "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15: 9). Ignorant and vain worship are condemned (Matt. 15: 1-9). Hence, it behooves man to know the God he seeks to worship and worship him according to the truth revealed in the Bible.

     The two situations of worship. As we have seen, worship is adoration and acquiesces to God. One verb, proskuneo, means obeisance. It is a compound word, made up of pros, towards, and kuneo, to kiss. Sebomai, another of the five verbs, especially suggests the act of revering or a feeling of awe. Thus, the worshipper must approach God worshipfully and willing, as it were, to prostrate himself before the august presence of God. Answered prayer is contingent upon being a worshipper of God and doing His will (Jn. 9: 31).

     There are basically two situations or circumstances of acceptable worship revealed in the scriptures, public and private.  Public worship. It is evident from a study of the scriptures that the early Christians participated in public worship (Acts 4: 23 ff.). Public worship on the Lord's Day was very important to the early Christians and was presented as a requisite (Heb. 10: 25). They came together in "formal worship" to celebrate the Lord's Supper (see "The Lord's Supper" in Great Truths, accessed from the home page), to pray, sing praise to God, give of their means, and to hear the word proclaimed (Acts 20: 7; 2: 42; Eph. 5: 19; I Cor. 16: 1, 2; Acts 20: 7, 2 Tim. 4: 1 ff., visit the Quotations section of Bible Truths for more regarding the Lord's Supper and music in praise of God). These five public acts on the Lord's Day involved the Christian in praising and adorning God. Public worship must be orderly and reverent (I Cor. 14: 40; Heb. 12: 28). God's word must be allowed to govern worship least we are guilty of "will worship," worshipping the way we want to (Col. 2: 23, see addendum). Remember, Jesus said we must worship in truth (Jn. 4: 24).

     Private worship. I am using "private" as opposed to "public." The truth of the matter is, from a careful study of the three nouns, five verbs, and all the relevant teaching situations involving worship found in the Bible, any act performed by man because God has commanded it is worship. Vine observes, "the worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise…" (Ibid.). Vine stated that not only is worship praise, as such, but can be "deed done in such acknowledgement." The view, then, that an act is only worship if it is performed in a religious assembly or in a church building is fallacious. The Christian who endeavors to teach another the gospel, obey civil law, and practice holiness is worshipping God, in a broad sense of the act (Phili. 2: 16; Rom. 13: 1-7; 2 Cor. 7: 1).

     In conclusion, it is wonderful to know that not only does God, the Creator and sustainer of all things created, seek man's worship but "he be not far from every one of us" (Acts 17: 27).  (For a detailed study of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, click on:  "I Corinthians 16: 1, 2, a Study".)

     Addendum:  A growing number of churches are now offering what they call traditional and contemporary worship.  They will post a different time for each.  The contemporary can offer anything from belly dancers to clowns.  Rock type music and bands are not uncommon at some of these contemporary services.  Instead of seeking to go back to the First Century and worship as the early Christians did, more are clamoring for the new and far out.  An Iowa newspaper reports about a way a denomination has found to please the people.   "Drive-in services pad church's congregation BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP).   For 25 summers the First United Methodist Church has sponsored drive-in services. Cars gather at a shopping center parking lot each Sunday during June, July and August. Worshippers, whether they've just rolled out of bed or on their way to somewhere else, don't have to dress for church. They don't even have to get out of their cars unless they want to grab coffee and donuts from a nearby tent. Preachers  throughout the Bartlesville area preach to the congregation on wheels that numbers about 80 each week. The sermon is piped through AM radio. Honking horns respond to 'good morning' or a song worthy of applause. 'We feel that it does serve a purpose, and it is still something that is very unique, ' said publicity chairwoman Peggy Stevens. 'For a lot of people, this is the only form of worship they will get.'"