A Crash Course in the Biblical Meaning of Worship

Christian PrayingLast month, I preached a series of messages on worship (the audio is available here, here, here, and here). Before I started, I wanted to have a better idea of what worship is. There are words we use regularly that we apprehend but can’t easily define; worship has been one of those words for me. After looking at every instance in the Old and New Testaments where some form of the word “worship” is used, I came to the conclusion, worship cannot be limited to what takes place in the church building one hour each week. It is a lifestyle, and the overwhelming majority of the words translated as “worship” show it to fall into three types of behavior.

1. Biblical worship is a pattern of submission.
To worship God, we must humble ourselves. It does no good to praise God, if, in doing so, we approach Him as though we believe we are His equals. When we see any form of the word “worship” in the Bible, there is about a 2-in-3 chance that in the original language the word means to prostrate ourselves before God. Falling on our faces before Him means that we are humble and acknowledge our frailty. Part of worship means that we live our lives as though He makes the decisions. A simple test of this principle: When you are faced with a decision, is your primary concern more likely to be what God wants or what you want?

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God […]” (James 4:6-7).

2. Biblical worship is a pattern of reverence.
To worship God, we must honor Him. This is also called praise, and is a part of worship. In praise, we revere God by telling Him and others about His wonderful attributes. Worship, then, also means that we live our lives in such a way that they bring honor and glory to God. A test of this principle: Is your life oriented toward bringing God glory in every situation, or bringing that glory to yourself?

“That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6).

3. Biblical worship is a pattern of service.
To worship God, we must serve and obey Him. The Bible teaches that He has absolute authority over His children. A great summary of this principle is the following passage, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). To worship God means that He calls the shots in our lives. A test of this principle is this: Do you actively seek to obey the things He has told you to do, or do you regularly and willfully disobey Him?

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).