This very word has become a buzzword among churches, with many
claiming to have more relevant worship, contemporary worship,
traditional worship, reverent worship, exuberant worship, exciting
worship, and non-traditional worship. The list could go on and on.
Many of these worship services are focused on particular
age-ranges or demographics. Personal worship, apart from a corporate
setting, is a subject sometimes forgotten. I would suggest that the
question of worship should not be what we try and make it to be, but
rather what God has said that it is.
following examination will seek to answer the question what is
Biblical worship? Having come to an understanding of what God
wants it then become necessary for each of us to consider whether our
worship, individually or corporately, follows Gods standard.
the Old and New Testaments it can be seen that there are obviously
right ways and wrong way to worship God. Especially in the Old
Testament, God took issue with His people a number of times for
worshipping Him incorrectly. Apart from multitudes of examples, even
in the New Testament there is a Greek word used specifically for
incorrect worship. As we begin this study, keep this question in mind...
God be pleased with our worship if it is not in the way He commanded?
of Biblical words translated worship in English:
bow down (in honor & reverence) [shachah shaw-hhaw]
serve (service to, or to work for) [abad aw-bad]
prostrate oneself in homage (from root kiss the hand)
revere (to revere or adore) [sebomai seb-om-ahee]
serve (to minister to. From root a hired menial) [latreuo lat-ryoo-o]
word to take special note of is the Greek word used specifically to
describe incorrect worship:
Voluntary piety (arbitrary and unwarranted piety); as used in
Colossians 2:23 self-imposed worship [ethelothreskeia eth-el-oth-race-kiah]
summarize all these definitions of worship:
any action of the body or mind whereby a person reveres God through
bowing down in honor, adoration, and reverence showing
complete submission as though prostrated before a conquering King,
offering and giving ones self in service to their Master as He desires.
Scriptures a multitude of passages warn that worship (of God) is only
valid if it is in the manner God prescribes...
12:30b-31a ... Be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about
their gods, saying, "How do these nations serve their gods? We
will do the same." 31 You must not worship the LORD your God in
their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of
detestable things the LORD hates... [Consider also Numbers 3:4,
Genesis 4:3-7 pre-law and Colossians 2:23 post-law]
worship of God also includes that it must never be mingled with
worship of any other [so-called] deity...
34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is
Jealous, is a jealous God.
is (and/or was)...
basic sense, in which worship is described, is found in Genesis.
4:26 At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.
5:24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
26:25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD.
continues to be the act of calling on God and walking with Him.
[Believers have been doing this since the time of Adams sons
the giving of the law (pre-law), in Old Testament times, a number of
specific means were commanded or shown to have been used in worship
(Genesis 20:17, 25:21)
altars (Genesis 12:7, 26:25, 35:1)
(Genesis 22:13, 4:2-7, Exodus 18:12, Job 42:8) and Offerings [drink,
etc.] (Genesis 35:14)
memorial stones. (Genesis 28:18, 31:13, 35:14)
household (Genesis 18:19)
[from time of Abraham] (Genesis 17:11,14, 21:4)
Singing, Instruments, Dancing (Job 36:24, Exodus 15:1-21)
the establishment of the Old Testament Law, a list of means could
include all of the above, plus even more specifics.
the temple, which included...
gathering with all Israel (Exodus 23:14-17)
festivals and days of worship (Exodus 23:12-17, Deuteronomy 16:16))
of worship (Deuteronomy 16:5-7, 15, 2 Chronicles 6:6-11)
to administer offerings, lead worship, lead music. (1 Chronicles
9:13, 2 Chronicles 5:12-13, 7:6, 2 Chronicles 30:21)
[more instruments, more singing and choirs] (1 Chronicles 15:16-22, 2
Chronicles 34:12, Nehemiah 12:31-42)
Scripture [Deuteronomy 31:9-13, Nehemiah 8:2-6]
of Scripture [Deuteronomy 4:9, 11:19, Psalms 78:5, Nehemiah 8:7-8]
8:8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and
giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
New Testament worship?
Testament worship was decidedly Theocentric (God centered), New
Testament worship became even more Christocentric (Christ centered).
Some would say that rather than being Christocentric it could be
called Trinitarian (focused on the triune God), which is also
doctrinally true, but perhaps less so in practice. This is because
focus on Christ, specifically, is actually commanded in scriptures...
12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of
witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that
so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked
out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter
of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of
God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so
that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
has two primary classifications; individual and corporate (or in a
group). Family worship, while by definition being a group, will be
mostly considered in regards to individual worship. While not
necessarily exhaustive, the following will provide some Scriptural
detail on what each could include:
secret] Matthew 6:5-6 "And when you pray, do not be like the
hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on
the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have
received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your
room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then
your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
vainly repeated or memorized phrases] Matthew 6:7-8 And when you
pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will
be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your
Father knows what you need before you ask him. [Consider also Matthew 26:44]
prayer, all the time, in every circumstance] 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
... pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this
is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
meals] Matthew 15:36 Then Jesus took the seven loaves and the fish,
and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the
disciples, and they in turn to the people. [See also Acts 27:35]
God] 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a
workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of
be mature in your beliefs] Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the
elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity...
memorize] Psalms 119:10-11 I seek you with all my heart; do not let
me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
children] Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
teach wives] 1 Corinthians 14:35 If they want to inquire about
something, they should ask their own husbands at home...
Admonish, Encourage Individually:
admonish other believers] Colossians 3:16a Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...
other believers] Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur
one another on toward love and good deeds.
God when by yourself!] Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,
and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in
your hearts to God.
everything as service to God] Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
spiritual, sacrifices] Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Jesus, therefore, let
us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips
that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share
with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
together in prayer] Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the
apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread
and to prayer. Acts 4:24 When they heard this, they raised their
voices together in prayer to God.
meals] Acts 27:35 After Paul said this, he took some bread and gave
thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.
for...] 1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests,
prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- 2 for
kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet
lives in all godliness and holiness.
prayed] Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful
2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without
anger or disputing. (See also Exodus 9:29)
3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father... Acts 20:36 When he
had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. [Also Acts
7:60, Acts 9:40]
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if
possible the hour might pass from him. Matthew 26:39 Going a little
farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed.
no uniform position for praying. Some individuals and churches have
adopted a specific position, often based on one of the above
examples. The general idea of bowing your heads that is
taught in much of the western world, is a light version of bowing as
found in the Middle East; where a person bows right to the ground,
face down. Each of the acts or positions mentioned above has in
common that it illustrates submission or dependence on God.
13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy
Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to
which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and
prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
most associated with prayer throughout Scriptures, though not to say
that all prayer has to be accompanied by fasting. Fasting is a
voluntary time of refraining from food for the purpose of calling on
God. If the person who is fasting uses the urge to eat as a reminder
to stop and specifically pray, it serves as a great opportunity to
seek God specifically regarding something. When an entire fellowship
does so, consider how much petition is being brought before the Lord!
While there are examples in Scriptures of individuals fasting
(Matthew 6:18, Luke 2:37), including Jesus (Matthew 4:2), it seems
that in the early church it was often as a group, perhaps showing
their single-minded purpose (See also Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:33-34).
Even in Old Testament times, fasts were often called for all the
people (Jonah 3:5, Joel 2:15, Ezra 8:21). Fasting is not to be only
an external act. Along with using it as a time to call on the Lord,
it is as much for the purpose of focusing your mind on what God would
have you to do (and then doing it!).
58:3-9 'Why have we fasted,' they say,' and you have not seen it? Why
have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on
the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your
workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in
striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do
today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind
of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it
only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and
ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the
chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the
oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food
with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your
own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the
dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness
will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear
guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry
for help, and he will say: Here am I.
apart from obedience is a useless exercise.
4:13 ...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to
preaching and to teaching. Acts 6:4 ...and will give our attention to
prayer and the ministry of the word.
Preaching & Teaching (Study):
is to be the proclamation of sound doctrine from the word of God.
Teaching is to encourage the examination of that sound doctrine, to
answer questions, and to promote in-depth understanding of the Word.
4:13 ...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to
preaching and to teaching. Acts 6:4 ...and will give our attention to
prayer and the ministry of the word. Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were
of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the
message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to
see if what Paul said was true. Titus 2:15 These, then, are the
things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do
not let anyone despise you. 1 Timothy 4:15-16 Watch your life and
doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save
both yourself and your hearers. [See also 1 Corinthians 14:6]
suitable for a study by itself, note that the purpose of elders
overseeing corporate worship is to guard against unsound doctrine and
impurity in the fellowship. (See Acts 20:28-31, 1 Peter 5:1-3) It was
not considered a corporate gathering of the church unless the elders
5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving
thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 What then shall we say,
brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn
[psalm, normally sung]... All of these must be done for
the strengthening of the church. [Note: Passover meal included
singing of psalms, also called a hymn (See Mark 14:26, Matthew 26:30
known as the Egyptian Hallel]
2:38-39, 41 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of
you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is
for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom
the Lord our God will call." ... 41 Those who accepted his
message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their
number that day.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them,
saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance
of me." Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles'
teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to
prayer. Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to
break bread... 1 Corinthians 11:19-21, 33 When you come together, it
is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes
ahead without waiting for anybody else... 33 So then, my brothers,
when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 1 Corinthians
10:16-17 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a
participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we
break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one
loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
4:2-3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the
bond of peace. Eph 4:12b-13a ...so that the body of Christ may be
built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the
knowledge of the Son of God...
is to seek perfect unity in truth bound together by love (Colossians
3:14). Any unity that is not based on truth and sound
doctrine is a false unity (a lie) that can never come from the love
of God. Corporate division is necessary when it comes to the truth...
Corinthians 11:18-19 In the first place, I hear that when you come
together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some
extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among
you to show which of you have God's approval. [See also 2 Timothy 2:23-26]
Hebrews 10:25a Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in
the habit of doing... 2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth,
and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who
call on the Lord out of a pure heart. [Consider also Philippians 3:3]
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that
he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Acts 2:47b And the Lord
added to their number daily those who were being saved.
unrepentant professed believers] 1 Corinthians 5:2,11-13 And you are
proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put
out of your fellowship the man who did this? ... But now I am writing
you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a
brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a
slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are
you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.
"Expel the wicked man from among you." [See also Matthew
18:15-17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14]
eldership/leaders (those who administer church discipline)] Hebrews
13:7, 17 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken
unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of
their conversation. ... Obey them that have the rule over you, and
submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must
give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for
that is unprofitable for you. (KJV)
worship services focused on unbelievers, there remains a
fundamental question of where justification for such practice is
found in Scriptures. Witnessing one-on-one, as a group, or
participating in evangelism or missions outreaches, are all exampled
in Scriptures, but when it comes to the worship of the church, it is
always displayed as a gathering of the family rather than a mingling
of the sheep and goats. The holy (set apart) worship of the church
includes within it the purpose of strengthening and building up the
body, additionally preparing all the believers for service. With a
church full of sheep prepared and willing to go out into the world
with the gospel, many will subsequently be brought in... not as
goats, but new sheep! If an unbeliever is led by God to come in to
the worship service, they are not to be turned away, but nor should
the service be changed to focus on them; rather God will use the
clear proclamation of His Word and pure fellowship of His saints as a
witness to convict the unbeliever of their sin (consider 1
Corinthians 6:14b-15 ...what fellowship can light have with darkness?
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [Satan]? What does a
believer have in common with an unbeliever?
have Corporate Worship:
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the
disciples were together, [and John 20:26] Acts 20:7 On the first day
of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the
people... 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now about the collection for God's
people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first
day of every week...
meeting on Sunday became the common practice of the early church, it
is nowhere commanded in Scriptures that it be exclusively so. Some
have claimed Sunday to be the Christian Sabbath,
arbitrarily applying many of the Old Testament rules to the new.
Still others claim the need for the Christian Sabbath to
be in line with the Jewish keeping of that day [some Jewish believers
especially finding it easier to do so]. While there is much symbolism
for now using Sunday, as the day Jesus rose from the dead, there is
no absolute mandate that Sunday alone must be used. The only
condition of Scriptures is that there must be a time of corporate
gathering of the church (Hebrews 10:25). Setting one regular day each
week merely helps to facilitate it. While some call Sunday the
Lords Day, it is can be justly said that every day is the
Lords Day for believers (a day for worship and service to Him).
appears to be called the Lords Day only once in all
of Scriptures... Revelation 1:10 On the Lord's Day I was in the
Spirit... [Its interesting to note that this one reference
doesnt speak of the day in association with a gathering of
who would apply some [as very few apply all] of the rules of the Old
Testament Sabbath to what they called the Christian
Sabbath, consider that in the earliest days of the church, very
few had the luxury of having Sunday as a day off. It wasnt
until the church had been around for a few hundred years that Sundays
became as-such a day of rest with government sanction. Prior to that
time, the church often gathered very early in the morning (before
work) or after work was finished in the evening. [For what appears to
be one such example, of an evening meeting of the church on Sunday,
consider Acts 20:7-11].
In the Old
Testament, people were restricted as to when and where they could
gather for corporate worship. All such restriction is lifted in the
freedom of grace in the New Testament. In fact, the church is not
limited to only one gathering [or day of gathering] per week.
day] Acts 2:46-47 Every day they continued to meet together in the
temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with
glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of
all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who
were being saved.
no mandated special days or festivals] Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore
do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard
to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality,
however, is found in Christ.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in
the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more
as you see the Day approaching.
corporate gathering of the church is not limited to any particular
building. The only three examples of meeting places given in
Scriptures include one existing large public building [Acts 2:46],
homes [many!], and outside [Acts 21:5]. Again, the church was
hundreds of years old before it got the idea it needed to own
property and buildings. While a building may be a tool, it was never
to become the focus (or a New Testament temple). The only temple in
the New Testament is the living one built out of all believers (1
Peter 2:5, Ephesians 2:21-22), regardless of where it meets. Based on
this, should the large church in a building look down on, as somehow
inferior, the church that meets in a home?
Instructions on Corporate Worship:
Orderly] 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 What then shall we say, brothers?
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of
instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of
these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone
speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a
time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the
speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh
carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who
is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all
prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. Colossians 2:5 For
though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit
and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in
document addresses many issues of worship, additional questions
remain. Some can be answered from considering a few of the passages
already cited, other require wisdom in continuing to search out
Scriptures. The only thing we must not do is answer these questions
based on tradition (Matthew 15:3-11) or personal preference; the only
standard for worship must be Gods Holy Word.
worship be like in heaven? [Consider Revelation Chapter 4-5]
of music (versus words) affect worship?
horizontal music (versus vertical) wrong in worship? [Consider Psalms
1 and Psalms 8]. Quick definitions: Horizontal music is music that
expresses truth to people; vertical is that which is sung directly to God.
repetition wrong in song? [Some people have a problem with so-called
7/11 choruses, where seven words are repeated eleven times].
musical instruments beneficial to worship? [Some churches believe
that the New Testament church is not allowed to have musical
instruments in worship]. Are only some instruments wrong? [Consider
beneficial to worship? [Consider Matthew 22:37]
worship gatherings called Services in many churches?
[Should they be called Services?]
todays worship focused more on man or on God? [As you answer
this question, be willing to provide the basis for your answer in
regards to all aspects of the gathering, including the contents of
Is dance a
part of worship, or should it be? [Consider 2 Samuel 6:14,
Ecclesiastes 3:4, Jeremiah 31:4, 31:13, Luke 15:25, Psalms 30:11-12,