Looking for Worship in All the Wrong Places. (Or: What is worship/service?)

Looking for Worship in All the Wrong Places. (Or: What is worship/service?)

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Caveats Apply to This Article⚠ (Click to learn.)

  • There can be a great deal of ambiguity in language. As such, I am not proposing a “zero-tolerance” policy for word meaning—rather, I believe a holistic approach reveals important, broad themes.
  • I have detailed another worthwhile approach here, which may be more helpful for some.
  • The assembly of the saints on Sunday (and other days) becomes even more important once these concepts are understood. Or at least they did for me.
  • I am fallible and could be wrong.
  • Feel free to share, copy, modify, or dispute this article at your discretion. No attribution is needed. Consider it open source.


Worship Overview


Shachah, an important word

I recently saw some people talking about whether or not it’s a sin to talk with someone visiting the assembly during “the worship.” For many, “coming to worship on Sunday” is important, but is it at all what is described in the New Testament? What, exactly, is “worship?” Does the New Testament even mention a “worship service?” Turns out, it doesn’t! What’s going on here?

As we’ll find out, our modern word for “worship” does a HORRIBLE job of filling in for the concepts that God was communicating in His Word. And no surprise, because the etymology has morphed beyond recognition from what “worship” originally meant.

But it’s not just the etymology that’s a mess. Check out the sheer number of definitions for “worship,” and how nebulous they are:

worship definition from dictionary com

This will have to be a multi-part (though abbreviated, and at least in the article you’re reading, compiled into one piece) series, and we’ll just start off with the word “worship,” as found in the Old Testament. This word is predominantly from ancient Hebrew “shachah,” which means literally, “to bow down, to prostrate oneself.” So if you hear someone say that they’re “going to worship on Sunday,” do you imagine them going and planting their faces on the floor? Why do we use this word? What does it really mean?

7812 shachah worship





Bowing down, an important concept

Some people are concerned about doing anything that might interrupt “the worship” on Sundays, such as saying “hi” to someone new who walks in. But what IS worship? Do we really understand it? Yesterday we saw that in the Old Testament Hebrew, it is almost always translated from “shachah,” which means to physically bow down, to prostrate oneself. Think of Muslims on prayer rugs. They are “shachah,” bowing down, worshiping.

What does the word “worship” look like in the Bible? We’ll have to start out with the Old Testament. The first time is Genesis 18:2. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth.”

Can you spot the word “worship” in there? What is “worship,” as God defined it there? If you said, “bow down,” you’re right. Worship in the Old Testament, we will see, was a physical act of bowing down, of submission.


Worship—as God defines it

What exactly is “worship?” Is it five or so acts that we do only on Sundays? In the old Testament, we see that it’s mostly from the word, “shachah,” which means to physically bow down, yet we certainly don’t do much of that on Sundays! The first time it was used was in Genesis 18, and it was where someone bowed down.

Let’s look at the next usage from Gen 22:5. “ Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Ok, so what acts was Abraham doing when he was worshiping? Well, if we let GOD define it, we can read Genesis 18 and every other place where it was mentioned and see that Abraham was bowing himself down, prostrate and in submission.

Although translators sometimes get inconsistent and sloppy, we have great minds which God has given us, and we can look at the original words and use them. In this case, Gen 22:5 actually says, ““Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will bow down and return to you.”



Worship—inconsistently translated

We’ve seen that worship in the OT was a physical act of bowing down, and that translators inconsistently translate it as the definition, “to bow down,” or otherwise “to worship,” though they meant the same. Let’s look at some more, surprising verses on what worship was in the OT.

Genesis 23:7 So Abraham rose and worshiped (bowed down to) the people of the land, the sons of Heth.

Genesis 23:12 And Abraham worshiped (bowed down) before the people of the land.

Genesis 42:6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.

When someone says, “I’m going to go worship on Sunday,” do you imagine them going and bowing down physically as is the example all throughout the Old Testament? Probably not! We’ll discuss what it means in the New Testament coming up. As a hint, remember that the Old Testament was a physical foreshadowing of the spiritual to come. We often want to be physically minded instead of spiritually, but we need to overcome that urge.


Priest vs people: the important difference

So we’ve now seen that “worship” in the Old Testament was always a bowing down to something. People bowed down because the object was worthy of being bowed to. The concept being conveyed is one of submission to a greater power. Consider that God gives us the option to submit now, but at the end, “every knee shall bow.” are SUBMITTING to them. Consider also when Joseph’s brothers visited him in Egypt…they had to bow down. They had to SUBMIT.

Throughout the Old Testament, the people would worship (submit, bow down), and the priests would provide service. We can see this in Ezekiel 46 (and plenty of other places) in verse 2,

“The prince shall enter by way of the porch of the gate from outside and stand by the post of the gate. Then the priests shall provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate and then go out.”

Notice that the prince presented an offering and worshiped, but the priests were the ones who did the service and offered it up. Why? Because a priest can do nothing with his face to the ground, bowed down. In the New Testament, all Christians are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” That changes things big time, and we’ll talk about it down the line.


You’ll serve that which you worship

We have seen in the Old Testament that priests served, that the people worshiped (bowed down, prostrate) or submitted themselves to a higher power, and that it was all very physical. Today we’re going to look at what happens when we bow down (worship) false gods.

Deut 11:16 “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.”

Josh 23:7 “so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them.”

There are a plethora of other verses which have the same terminology. As we can see, those things we worship end up being the things that we also serve. There are some who worship, say, politics, being in submission to a political mission, forgetting to submit to God’s mission and His plan. Others submit to alcohol. We need to carefully watch that which we are worshiping.


All the time: the correct time to worship


Before we move on to mentions of “worship” in the New Testament, we need to look at some prophecies about it, and how it was going to change from the OT. Although much of Isaiah is concerned with this, I’m going to take some snippets from Is 66:19-23. Read it all if you get time.

“So your offspring and your name will endure. “And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from Sabbath to Sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down [worship] before Me,” says the Lord.”

Prophesied here is a huge change in worship. Notice that God said that He planned to change worship (bowing down) to something that occurred from new moon until new moon. In Genesis, we saw that Abraham was able to “go yonder and worship [bow down],” and then come back no longer worshiping. In this prophecy, God asserted that He was removing that type of worship for a perpetual state of bowing down. How can that be?


Perpetual

Isaiah says that we shall worship God all the time, which is highly at odds with what come places do, declaring worship to be certain physical acts that happen on Sunday. Those who believe that worship stops and ends at certain times often rely on Genesis 22:5, where Abraham went, bowed down (worshipped), and then got up again. “See,” they’ll say, “worship has a beginning and an end!”

The problem is that the Old Testament is very different than the New, and that God declared even in the Old Covenant that He would make a people who perpetually bowed down to/worshipped Him.

Here’s a question: how many times does the Bible say that we assemble on Sundays “to worship?” The answer is 0. So what’s happened? We’ll see coming up!


Jesus explains a new worship

In the New Testament, we are said to assemble on Sundays to worship (OT Hebrew=shachah, NT Greek=proskuneo) exactly zero times, which fits in with the Old Testament prophecy that we would instead be worshiping God from “new moon until new moon,” which is 100% of our lives. What does the New Testament say about worship? First, let’s see when and where Jesus had to say, using John 4:20-24 where a woman wants to know where and when worship would take place:

“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Pay close attention. Notice that the pattern is, “location, location, location.” “Mountain, Jerusalem, SPIRIT!” Jesus specifically said that there is no longer a “physical place” to worship, nor a limited timeframe, but rather that it is simply done in spirit and in truth.


Being in Spirit—when are you not?

We now know that God removed a time and place that we needed to worship physically (bowing down) with a continual, persistent state of submission in “spirit and in truth.” Some say that there are five acts of worship that we can do on Sunday, but this is found nowhere in the entire Bible. Instead, we are to spiritually bow down from new moon until new moon, all the time. As a Christian, when are you NOT in Spirit? Let’s look at the following verses:

Rom 8:9, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

1 Cor 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

Just as we are in the Spirit at all times, we SHOULD be submitting to God at all times. Be careful, though, because worshiping is submitting. We cannot claim to be “getting drunk for Christ” as worship, because we are then not submitting to God’s will, and worship is in the New Testament about complete, utter, spiritual submission to our Lord. But again, NOT “EVERYTHING WE DO IS WORSHIP“—I can’t stress that enough. Rebellion against God is NOT submission to Him!


Your service in the New Covenant

We have now seen that worship, in the New Testament, is a 24/7 spiritual submission to God. We’ve seen before that God says that humans end up serving that which they worship (submit to), so what is the overall service that He appreciates from us? We can see the answer in Romans 12:1

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your rational service.”

God is ultimately seeking a people who give everything to Him, who submit to Him utterly out of love and awe. He has no place for “five authorized acts of “worship,” or “Sunday-only worship,” which is an attempt to replace the spiritual aspect of the New Testament with an earthy form of Old Testament, physical thinking. Let’s submit to our Lord in Spirit and in truth!


Service Overview


Abad

Now that we’ve looked at what “worship,” is, we’ve seen that it is not limited to “5 authorized acts” or a certain day of the week, or a specific place. It’s a spiritual submission to our Lord from new moon until new moon, so saying that one “worships” from 11-noon on Sunday should be inaccurate…hopefully!

We know that the Old Testament had a system where the people prostrated themselves (worshiped) while the priests (Levites) provided service, such as offering up the sacrifices of the people. Since it was impossible to slaughter a ram with one’s face planted on the ground, this made a lot of sense.

Our next question to consider is, “what is service?” So many times people say, “that concludes the worship service,” though the term worship service is never found in the Bible. What is service? Who does it? When? To get us started off, the word primarily used for service in Hebrew is “abad,” and in Greek it’s, “latreuo.” We’ll discuss more on what it means coming up!


Made to serve

Looking at service, in the OT Hebrew it’s “abad,” and in NT Greek it’s “latreuo.” They are translated as “service,” and would more literally mean something like, “to work, to slave, to enslave.” Let’s take a look at various places where the word usually translated as “serve/served/service” is used. The first place is in Genesis 2:5, “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.” If you guessed that “serve” here was “cultivate, you’re right. It carries the meaning of “to work.”

We’ll look at some more verses just to prove what it means. Gen 15:13 says, “God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.”” Here the meaning expressed is “made to serve,” but it’s listed as “enslaved.”

We could look at a lot more, but for the sake of brevity, we’re going to move on into places where translators in some versions get “worship” confused with “service,” either through being sloppy or just having a bias because of tradition.


Poor translations of “service,” too

We’ve seen how the word for “service” is used, and it’s not at all like the word for “worship,” but many people get these confused. Using the NASB translation, today I’m going to look at some places where the word was mis-translated.

Exodus 12:31, “Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.”

The word “serve” is mistranslated as “worship,” which is strange, as right before we found out that God wanted His people to be let go so that they could serve Him.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” (Ex 9:1)

Why do people get these terms confused when they’re nothing alike? I think that it is greatly due to tradition (a clergy-laity split) and some spiritual laziness. It’s much nicer when your preacher serves you, and you worship for only 1/168th of the week.


Sacrifices of priests

We’re looking at the word “service/serve” and letting God define what it means. In Isaiah 19, there is a prophecy of many nations becoming a spiritual Israel, and in verse 21 it says, “They will even SERVE with sacrifice and offering, and will make a vow to the Lord and perform it.”

If you were a Jew reading that prophecy, and being told to serve with sacrifice and offering, you’d be thinking, “Man, this is NUTS! How can I offer a sacrifice if I’m not a priest? How can I sacrifice something if I have my head bowed to the ground, worshiping?”

Next: do we worship, as the people did, or do we serve, as the priests did?


We are priests now

Often these days, a “pastor” or preacher “serves his flock,” which “worships on Sunday.” In the Old Testament, the people who weren’t priests worshiped, and the priests did the serving. Are modern congregations which have the same style system correct?

First off, we know that God requires that we always be in spiritual submission to Him (worship), but we also know that now every Christian is a priest in God’s eyes:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (1 Pet 2:9)

“As priests, we know that we also must serve as well. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom 7:6)

Using a system where one “attends a worship service” on Sunday and is served by the reverend/pastor/priest isn’t an example of New Testament Christianity, but rather is an “easy” tradition made up by men. We need to all keep in mind that we’re priests and, as such, we should have some form of contribution to building up and serving.


⤑For the work of service

When you’re assembled on Sunday, we know that the Bible never says it’s for the purpose of “worshiping then,” so what is it for?W

hen we assemble together, the specific purpose is to help us as priests in serving God! Eph 4:11-12,

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

We also know that EACH of us should have a contribution to that edification, not just the preacher, and that we should be stimulating one another to love and good works. (1 Cor 14:26; Heb 10:24)

Put another way, the more subtle misunderstanding of this is that it sees God as requiring a “worship service,” to appease Him, when God has mentioned our assembly as being for our own edification. In 1 Cor 14:26, He says,

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

Jesus had to correct a Jewish misconception that was very similar and He chided them saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-3:6) Likewise, the assembly is for the saints, not the saints for assembly. Edification and equipping of the saints for the work of service is the goal—making ourselves strong, spiritual warriors for Christ, not just rulekeepers of technicalities.

All of the above is summed up in an often-mistranslated verse which says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service.” (Note: translator bias shows up in the NASB translation of this verse, which ends it with “spiritual service of worship,” though it never says spiritual or worship.)

So the Bible never says that we assemble “to worship,” but it does say that we worship (submit) spiritually, and in doing that, we naturally come to serve God, and in the assembly of the saints, that’s expressed as all things which further build us up to go out and work for our Lord.


Levite to Christian

Today is one final point about service of priests (us) that is often unnoticed. Let’s read Acts 4:32-37,

“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

This is important because it illustrates the shift away from the Old Testament system, where the Levites (Levitical priests) received the offerings from the worshipers and then provided service by sacrificing the offerings. One of the priests (a Levite) suddenly got it! The people used to be laying their offerings at the feet of the Levites, and now that’s changed. Suddenly a Levite is laying out his offering at the feet of the “uneducated and untrained.”

We really need to avoid going back to that Old Testament system where we “worship” and our “priest” serves!There’s a lot more depth to be had from studying these words, and I don’t have time to cover it all, so I encourage you to check them out for yourself!




A Simplified Explanation


⤑In spirit

Would you say that singing is an act of worship? Most would. But before I get to that, I have to say that it’s very easy to experience cognitive dissonance in such topics—that is, is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. I’ve experienced it. You have. We probably all have. But the truth doesn’t fear examination, and as those who seek the truth, we should also not fear finding our own beliefs to be incorrect, or perhaps simply misdirected, though the intent is good. In fact, the worst that can happen is that we learn and grow.

So, “we come together to worship.” Usually we say, “Well, you know, like to praise God, maybe to sing.” Check out 2 Chron 29:28-29 and how it explains worship:

“WHILE the whole assembly worshiped, the singers also sang and the trumpets sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. Now at the completion of the burnt offerings, the king and all who were present with him bowed down and worshiped.”

Notice that the singing wasn’t worship. The trumpeting wasn’t worship. The offering wasn’t worship. Why is that? How can those things be? Worship is the physical act of prostration and bowing down—it is the only physical act of “worship,” and that’s why “singing” and our five acts just aren’t worship. If you see some Jews on the floor bowing down, they are worshiping. Arabs on a prayer mat? Worshiping. Us singing? We’re singing. That’s what it is. Not worship. We are not assembling to worship, because we’re not assembling to bow down in reverence to God—not physically. In fact, we’re just assembling. 1 Cor 14:26 would explain it like this, saying,

“What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

Not “when you assemble to worship.” Not, “for the worship service.” Just, “when you assemble.”

worship service

But why? Why do we no longer bow down physically as the Jews did? Jesus said in John 4:21-24,

“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship (bow down/prostrate to) the Father. […] But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship [prostrate before Him] in spirit and truth.”

Notice that the lady asked for the location to worship (bow down) and she got her answer—the location is in the spirit. Not at a church’s building. Why? Because GOD IS SPIRIT. That’s where He wants our reverence. Not for 1/168th of the week in some brick building. In fact God wants our submission and reverence 24/7. Does He ever mention having a time or place for you to worship? Nope, that was for the Jews. Bowing down is worshiping, and it’s the only worship. Some do it physically, but God wants it spiritually. And that is why Isaiah 66 has a fantastic prophecy of the New Covenant saying,

““For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord, “So your offspring and your name will endure. “And it shall be from new moon to new moonAnd from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down (worship) before Me,” says the Lord.”

New moon to new moon. That’s ALL the time. Not just on Sunday. This is our Old Testament key, or one of them, to understanding the difference. We can submit to God spiritually—that is, worship Him, bowing our very spirits in reverence—from new moon to new moon. Now when we’re busy sinning, we’re kind of lifting our heads up and being that stiff-necked people who won’t bow down, so not “everything we do is worship.”


⤑In truth

When asked if she should worship at location X (the mountain) or location Y (Jerusalem), Jesus told the woman in John 4 to worship at neither of those physical locations, but rather location Z (in spirit), because GOD is Spirit.  That is, bow one’s spirit before God; from that all outward actions will appropriately flow as rational, sacrificial service. (Romans 12:1ff)

If you come from a sacramental background, however, you’ve probably heard that the “worship in spirit and truth” means to “perform a set of acts sincerely and as dictated by the truth of God’s written Word.” That’s untenable given the “location, location, location” narrative, but it also relies on saying that truth comes from “Thy Word is truth” in John 17:17, and thus enabling a sacramental, rule-keeping regimen. 

I personally think that the truth spoken of here looks more toward the sincere heart, also being inwardly focused, much as it looks at the spirit. And I also think that a better passage for the truth described here is 1 John 3:18,

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 

It is not a set of rules on how to sing, how to give just the right amount, etc., in service of keeping one saved, which is described, but rather the sincerely prostrate spirit. 

Note: This important topic will be examined in a larger, separate post at a future date.


⤑The value of the assembly

None of this information is to discount our assembly. We very much NEED to assemble and have the Lord’s Supper, we need to edify one another and be joyous praising God. But when we start calling one hour “Bible study,” and 25% of the congregation shows up, and then at “worship” the other 75% shows up—well, we have a problem at our very core. However, I cover more on the importance of assembling in this post.


➤Excursus: The Five Authorized Acts of Worship


There are a variety of different words translated as “worship,” and the ones most related are the Aramaic “shachah” and the Greek “proskuneo.” These are very different from the related terms for service (mostly abad and latreuo). Primarily I’d like to talk about proskuneo worship, which is the type found “in spirit and truth.”

The simple way that I see it is this: worship is always denoted (when an associated action is given) as some sort of bowing/submission, including on a staff. If one’s spirit is prostrate (truly), then physical, rational service will result, which is a life given to being Christ in our generation.


But perhaps you’re interested in me expounding further upon this out of curiosity. Within the Body, we often talk about worship services, but they’re never mentioned in the Bible. This has led me to consider both of the words individually, since they do occur separately. So with that said, two words are important: worship and service.

Old covenant worship was in Jerusalem, and occurred when the non-priest presented himself to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem. Old covenant service was the activity of the priest in presenting offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. Hence the people of Israel collectively worshiped and served God. And if the hearts of the worshipers were not right, then the offering of sacrifices was in vain (see Isaiah 1). Acceptable service thus flows from worship.

But worship under the new covenant is not in Jerusalem, nor in any other physical location – it is internal; it is in Spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24). Just as old covenant service of the priests flowed from the worship of the people, new covenant service is derived from new covenant worship. Rather than flowing from people to priest, new covenant worship moves from external to internal. Worship is in spirit; in service the body is offered as a living and holy sacrifice. (Romans 12:1)

Worship is the internal devotion of the individual; service is the outward expression of that which flows from within. If the heart is not right, then that which is offered externally is in vain. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15)

With that considered, let’s think about five acts of service—spiritual sacrifices of a spiritual priesthood, which are misnamed worship in unscriptural terminology. (Ie, let’s call Bible things by Bible names, and thus understand Bible concepts—though I do not see “worship service” as being evil or anything.)


⤷Singing and Praying

These two can be considered together in that they are both audible expressions which ascend to God. “Through Him [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Sacrifice of praise is the offering of a priest; it is service.



⤷Giving

“Do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). Again, sharing or giving is a sacrifice; it is a service.


⤷Preaching or Bible Study

Paul wrote that he was “a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the Gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16). Preaching the gospel, as well as the fruit of that preaching, is an offering of a spiritual priest. It is a sacrifice; it is service.


⤷The Lord’s Supper

“Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (I Corinthians 10:16). The participation in the body and blood of Christ is compared to the Levitical priests sharing in their offering. “Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the alter?” (I Corinthians 10:18). Thus the participation in the Lord’s Supper is participation in a spiritual sacrifice offered on a spiritual altar. “We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Hebrews 13:10). Those who participate in the Lord’s Supper, participate in a sacrifice, it is service.

Worshiping in spirit and truth – internally and continually – results in spiritual service – external actions – from a spiritual priesthood. This is what is acceptable to God. “You also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5).

Understanding that worship occurs internally (John 4—in spirit, and when are you not in spirit?) and from Sabbath to Sabbath (Is 66:19-23, and thus every day), makes the strength that we get from assembly that much more important, and leads to us giving our entire lives as a living and holy sacrifice, which is our rational service. (Rom 12:1)

A total misunderstanding of “worship service” hindered my own ability to serve others for many years. While it is not evil, I do feel that it retards spiritual growth for many, including myself.

Feel free to let me know what you think. I’m here to serve you, and I often need correction.


+Suggested Additional Study

The above may not be fully convincing. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “faith,” pistis, primarily means “firm persuasion.” One good way to have more faith in what Jesus said about worship is to let God define the terms. To that end, I have complied a list of every time “worship/proskuneo” is used in the New Testament. This semi-inductive study will let you see the context in which “worship” is usually used, and in doing so, let’s God define the word the way He wishes.

  • It’s just like at a spelling bee. “Could you use it in a sentence?”
  • I also have a podcast/sermon on “Looking for Worship in All the Wrong Places,” which you can get here. The presentation to accompany the podcast is at this link.
  • How important is assembling on Sunday?
  • As it turns out, Wayne’s World understood worship.
  • Lastly, the wonderful Kent West, owner of the Westing Peacefully website (check it out, as he has great thoughts that have contributed to my own growth) took one of my sermons and made it into a video, so all the references you need are available as you listen. That’s just below:



4 thoughts on “Looking for Worship in All the Wrong Places. (Or: What is worship/service?)

  1. I am happy for your attitude. I try not to call it worship, but so many people call the assembly worship and it is understood what they mean. Perhaps it is one of many words that have evolved with time.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I definitely agree that the word has changed, and we sometimes read our modern understanding of words back into the Biblical text. I have a background that many are unfamiliar with (churches of Christ), and we often seek to capture the original meaning of words—baptism is immersion, a pastor is more akin to an elder, etc. These were a couple of ones that we might not have worked on yet. (Well, the assemblies I most often gather with!

      YMMV!

      With love!

      -Luke

  2. I believe worship is our whole life. But, obviously, from scriptures we can ascertain that Christians did assemble for various reasons. The Corinthians assembled to take the a Lord’s Supper. Jesus, we know, told us to eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine as a memorial to Him. Christians are also told to set aside a contribution every first day of the week, so that there be no collections when I come. We know that some collections were to relieve needy saints. We know from Paul, that some churches supported him. They must have taken up a collection to send to Paul. We know Peter preached the first sermon on the first day of the week and on that same first day Christians gathered to hear and study what the apostles were revealing. We know that elders are to oversee the flock. We know elders only do this in a given location. They cannot look out for us if they are not with us. We know Christians prayed together and apart. We know Christians in Troas gathered to take the Lord’s supper and then to hear Paul preach on the first day of the week.. So we have two examples of Christians assembling together to pray, hear the Word, and take the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week. The first day of the week is significant, in that Jesus arose from the grave on that day and that Peter preached the first sermon on that day. So it seems we have plenty of proof that we should assemble on the first day for a special formal worship. We also know disciples came together to hear the Word read and expounded upon on other days of the week. We have no example of them taking the Lord’s supper on any other day. No other day has the significance of the first day of the week. Most churches assemble on the first day of the week. Many also assemble on other days/nights to hear God’s word. I believe the 5 acts that we do on the first day of the week should be considered worship. We certainly are making spiritual sacrifices by doing so. We are edified by each other then and also other times as we serve each other’s needs. We are told to sing to one another. How could we, unless assembled? How could elders care for the flock among them without an assembly?

    1. I am humbled and delighted by your comment! It’s not often that people take the time to read such a long post and then comment in kind, so I can’t tell you how much this made my day.

      I’m sorry if I didn’t convey how important the assembly of the saints is to me, as well, I think, as to all of Christianity, and thus to the world. At the bottom of the above post is a link to the following note I’ve made on this related, highly important topic. I’m also attaching that right…

      https://hikinginthelight.us/christianity-for-best-outcome-some-assembly-required/

      There!

      While I don’t think that those acts you mention have any need to be called “worship,” which is itself effectively an action verb (much as one need not call sneezing some other action verb, such as running), I do find them all important for the various purposes they fulfill in our Christian lives.

      Wishing you many blessings in Christ!

      With love, always,

      -Luke

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