Understanding the Concept of Worship

Worship is an innate human trait. We will worship something even if it is ourselves, wealth or fame. Whether we will worship is not the issue, but whom, and with what goal.
Worship is a centerpiece of the Christian life. Scripture is filled with admonitions to worship. In 1 Chronicles 16:29 we read, “Give to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!” (NKJV). Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Worship was joyously praised by David in Psalm 122:1 when he rejoiced, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'”
Understanding the concept of worship will be enriched by examining the three main words used in the New Testament for worship. In doing so, we will discover some important truths and realities about worship.
The most often used word is “proskuneo,” which is defined as “kissing the hand, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence.” /1 “When the New Testament uses (proskuneo), the object is always something, truly or supposedly, divine.” /2
Usage of this word does not mean that we must worship on our knees, but that we should have the same attitude expressed here. We are bending our spirits when we worship.
The second most often used is “latrueo,” which is defined as to “render religious service or homage, to worship; to perform sacred services; to offer gifts; to worship God in the observance of rites instituted for worship.” /3
The third most often used word is “sebomai” which stresses the “feeling of awe or devotion” toward the object of our worship. /4
Our greatest lessons from these brief word studies is that worship always involves action and reverence.
First, worship involves action. This stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of many during worship. Elton Trueblood said that “worship may be the greatest spectator sport in the world.” Someone else has said, “Most evidently people do not enjoy coming to worship: they are so late in coming, so early in leaving, and so bored while there.”
Worship cannot be boring if we are performing it as the New Testament prescribes. Worship always involves participation. We are not a theatrical audience surveying the scene with a critical eye. We are be actively involved on a personal level.
Yet, this is rare as evidenced by the frequent complaint, “I don’t get anything out of worship.” The studies above powerfully show that we must be fully engaged mentally, emotionally and spiritually in order to worship properly. This disallows boredom.
We must plan for worship and be ready to begin, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are coming before God when we worship him. Attendance must never be equated with worship. We draw near to God, not the building (Matthew 15:8).
Second, worship involves reverence which means “an attitude of deep respect, honor and deference.” /5 A reverent attitude also involves “obedient actions that naturally flow from it.” /6 Reverence literally means, “to turn in upon oneself.” /7 It requires deep thought and soul-searching. It is, therefore, never passive. We must seek to become a better person through worship, as we open our hearts and minds to God. We give God the respect due his Lordship, and nothing less.
/ 1. Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 548.
/ 2. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 6:763.
/ 3. Thayer, 373.
/ 4. W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 4:235-236
/ 5. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4:177.
/ 6. Ibid.
/ 7. Vines, 3:293.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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