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Defining the Concept of Worship

The word translated "worship" which most commonly appears in the New Testament is defined as "the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration; devotion" (Oxford English Dictionary). One of the Greek words translated "worship" in the New Testament suggests the idea of "prostrating oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)" (Strongs, p. 1190). Another Greek word for worship means "to revere, i.e., adore" (ibid.). Scholars render the Hebrew and Greek words for "worship" variously as "to bow down, do obeisance," "to be reverential, pious," and "to kiss (the hand) toward." J.H. Thayer suggests regarding worship: "Among the Orientals, especially the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence … hence in the N.T. by kneeling or prostration, to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication." The Psalmist expressed it this way: "Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!" (Psalm 95:6)

According to the Bible, then, the purpose of worship is to glorify, honor, praise, exalt, and please God. The nature of worship is the prostration of our souls before God in humble and contrite submission (cf. James 4:6,10). Worship offered to God must be a humble and reverent act. When it comes to acceptable worship, mere presence is not sufficient. With humility we must respect and reverence God, who demands that approved worship be in a proper spirit (attitude) and in truth as revealed in His word.

There is in mankind an innate quality which causes him to want to recognize and pay homage to something greater than himself. On some level, all people feel the need to worship. Worship springs from the heart, and it expresses gratitude, affection, awe, fear, and adoration. Worship is a time when we pay deep, sincere, awesome respect, love, and fear to the One who created us. As we consider the "Concept of Worship," note carefully the following:

  1. Worship should cause us to reflect on the Majesty and Graciousness of God and Christ, contrasted to our own unworthiness!

    God does not require worship from us, but we must worship Him to please Him. Our singing, praying, studying His word, giving, and communion are designed by God to bring us closer to Him. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)

  2. Worship helps us develop a God-like character!

    When we worship God we learn to value what God values and gradually take on the characteristics and qualities of God. When we worship God we develop more fully such traits as forgiveness, tenderness, justice, righteousness, purity, kindness, and love. All of this is preparing us for eternal life in heaven with God and Christ.

  3. Worship affords us an opportunity to commune with God!

    The very nature of worship demands an expression in actions that show something about our personal relationship with God. Our adoration and praise should flow from our hearts, directed toward the One we call "Father." Worship is an expression of personal affection and thanks to God, and as His children we should always be grateful for opportunities to offer this service. "You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation!" (Psalm 89:26)

  4. Worship gives us an opportunity to express our true feelings about God!

    The Psalms frequently illustrate this disposition of a devout worshiper — "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD'" (Psalm 122:1). Every child of God should look forward to occasions when we gather with other saints to thank God for all His wonderful works. God created us, sustains us along with all of His creation, and has, through the gospel, made it possible for us to approach Him as sons and daughters. We would be worse than selfish ingrates if all that God did for us did not swell our hearts to overflowing. We get the opportunity to express those feelings openly through the various acts of worship prescribed by God for us in His word.

  5. Worship gives us an opportunity to praise God!

    Worship is a time to pour out the praise for God that fills our hearts and minds every day! Whenever Christians meet to express their praise they are offering God a sacrifice (Hebrews 13:15). We join our voices and hearts together in song and prayer to offer praise to God (Romans 15:8-11). "O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise!" (Psalm 51:15)

Hopefully these things will help us seriously contemplate the "Concept of Worship" as it is revealed in God's word. We close with the following excellent advice from Mike Willis: "Brethren, we Christians simply must manifest the respect for the worship which is offered to God which is due to Him. We should never forget that we are in the presence of the Lord and show the proper respect for that occasion."

(Truth Magazine, Vol. 23, pp. 787-788, Dec. 13, 1979)