Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons






The English word “worship” comes from the Anglo-Saxon weorthscipe or wyrthscipe.  The root of the word refers to being worthy or honorable.  The suffix “ship” refers to a state or quality.  The English word originally referred, therefore, to a state of honor, dignity, or worthiness.  It then came to be applied to a religious activity, such as a prayer, church service, or other rite showing reverence or devotion for a deity. 


Bible Words for Worship


There are some Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, which, as all agree, refer to worship. 


Histachawah:  “To prostrate oneself” or “to worship”.  This is the primary O.T. term from the root word shachah.  The uses of this word reveal some truths about worship. 


Genesis 22:5  “I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you”.  This reveals that while worship certainly involves a humble and devoted attitude, worship can also be a specific act.  Here, offering up Isaac according to God’s command is called “worship”.  The Bible does speak in terms of “going to worship” (1 Samuel 1:3 “this man would go up from his city yearly to worship”; “come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27); “I went up to worship at Jerusalem” (Acts 24:11); “we have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2); 2 Samuel 12:20 “and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped”.  This verse is helpful, for later on we will learn that worship includes acts and attitudes in daily life (Romans 12:1), yet we need to be careful about going too far and saying that everything that we do is worship.  “Worship” in this context is clearly distinct from bathing and eating (2 Samuel 12:20).   Sacrifices in the Old Testament are associated with worshipping God or a false god (Numbers 25:2-3).


Genesis 24:26 “Then the man bowed low and worshipped the Lord”.  Often in the Old Testament, worship is connected with prostrating oneself before God (Exodus 4:31; 12:27).  This could include kneeling, but also falling face down on the ground(Joshua 5:14 “Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down”; 1 Samuel 24:8; 25:23).   Yet, bowing down is not the only posture that is associated with worship or that is called worship.  “All the people would arise and worship” (Exodus 33:10).  An aged King David worshiped while on his bed (1 Kings 1:47).  In the book of Hebrews, the writer notes that “By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).  He was either standing or sitting on his bed (Genesis 48:2), when this happened.  Hence, people kneeled while worshipping, lay completely prostrate on the ground, had their faces to the ground, and stood while worshipping. 


Proskuneo:  This is the primary verb for worship in the New Testament.  The word literally, means, “to kiss toward”.  The word sprang from the fact that in ancient times the worshipper would kiss the hand or feet of the object of his devotion, or possibly kiss the ground before him.  Some ancients are known to have thrown a kiss to their deity.  “The basic meaning of proskyneo, in the opinion of most scholars, is to kiss.  On Egyptian reliefs worshippers are represented with outstretched hand throwing a kiss to (pros) the deity.  Among the Greeks the verb is a technical term for the adoration of the gods, meaning to fall down, prostrate oneself, adore on one’s knees.  Probably it came to have this meaning because in order to kiss the earth or the image of a god, one had to cast oneself on the ground.  In addition to the external act of prostrating oneself in worship, proskyneo can denote the corresponding inward attitude of reverence and humility” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, pp. 875-876, Colin Brown Editor).  We can see this also in reference to false worship.  One can be guilty of worshipping an idol or a false god, even if one does not bow down to it, that is, by praying to it, trusting in it to deliver, obeying the precepts of such a false religion, or sacrificing to it would be worship as well (Exodus 34:14-15; Deuteronomy 4:19; 8:19; 11:16; 30:17).  


Sebomai:  The word means to “revere”, stressing the feeling of awe or devotion.  “A worshipper of God” (Acts 16:14; 18:7;13). Concerning the Pharisees, Jesus said, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:9). This verse infers that if vain worship is teaching and following the doctrines of men, then true “worship” includes teaching, following, and embracing God’s doctrines. 


Threskeia:  Signifies religion in its external aspect, religious worship.  This is the word, which is translated in James 1:27 “pure religion”.  Thus worship includes keeping oneself unspotted from the world and visiting the widows and orphans in their affliction. That is, when we do such things for God, we are worshipping Him. 


John 4:24



Here we are told that the worship that God accepts must have two essential elements, spirit and truth.  “In spirit” would include the idea that real worship must come from the heart or soul of man.  It is not enough to look grateful or reverent, one must be truly grateful and reverent (John 9:38; Matthew 28:9; 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:25).  The expression, “in truth” indicates that commands or rules do govern worship, that we cannot simply do something and call it worship because it pleases us, and that we need to read the Scriptures to see how God desires to be worshipped. 


Hebrews 9:1


“Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary”


The term translated “worship” in the above verse is latereia and means divine service or worship.  The necessary inference from the above passage is that the second covenant or new covenant has regulations that govern divine service or worship as well. Therefore, “worship” includes those times that we are involved in divine service, that is, when we pray, in fact, prayer in the New Testament is called a sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).  Remembering Jesus’ death in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), give of as we have been prospered (2 Corinthians 9:12), and singing from our hearts is giving praises to God(Ephesians 5:19; Romans 15:9).


Romans 12:1


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


“Which is your spiritual service”:  Presenting one's whole self in submission to the will of God, constitutes “spiritual service” or spiritual worship. 


“Spiritual”: “Reasonable” (KJV). “As an act of intelligent worship” (Phi).  The phrase means here "worship rendered by the reason (or soul). “Reasonable, not in the popular sense of the term, as a thing befitting or proper, but rational, as distinguished from merely external or material.  It is in harmony with the highest reason” (Vincent p. 154). “The spiritual service is service related to the mind, or the spirit.  It is conscious submission.  It is not mere ritual.  It is worship 'in spirit' (John 4:24)” (McGuiggan p. 348).All that Paul will describe in this chapter (i.e. specific ways in which the body is to be offered), are “reasonable” ways.  They are attitudes and actions that befit man, who was made in the image of God.  “The service of obedient lives is the only reasonable or logical response to the grace of God” (F.F. Bruce p. 226).


“Service”: latreia, ministration or God, or worship.  While there are acts of worship specified when Christians meet on the First day of the Week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3).  This verse reminds us that all worship is not confined to the assembly. Anytime that I offer myself in conformity to the will of God (or obeying what God says), I am “worshipping or offering religious service”. “Involved in that life of worship is a multitude of responsibilities toward God..involved in that life of worship is paying debts, providing for one's family, doing good, assembling with the saints, singing and making melody in the heart as we praise God, sharing the Gospel with the unforgiven, study of the Bible for sustenance, and on and on and on..Worship is the conscious giving to God in a pleasing way that which is pleasing to Him” (McGuiggan p. 353)  (James 1:27; Philippians 4:18).

“If we're not careful with this teaching we might just cause people to believe that Christ is really interested in what they watch on television; what they read; what they wear; how they complete their tax returns, how they dress; how much they eat; how they treat their partners and family; how they act on the job.  You never can tell, they just might begin to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord” (p. 354). “This act, however, must be followed by an activity.  This gift of self must issue in a life of service, this dedication of the body must result in a transformation of character and in doing the will of God” (Erdman p. 144).


In Romans 12:1 we see that the root idea of worship, prostrating oneself, a kiss towards God, is to be manifested in our daily lives, that is, when we bend our will to God’s will and keep His commands, whether that is contributing to the needs of the saints (12:13), or never paying back evil for evil (12:17), that such is worship directed towards God.  Thus, worship in spirit, is a disposition, a heart or mind that bows before the will of God in all things.  This is one reason why Jesus called the Pharisee’s “worship” “vain”.  They were submitting to human rules which violated God’s commandments (Matthew 15:9,6). 

The translation spiritual service of worship is very helpful for it emphasizes the same point stressed in the Old Testament, where the terms “service” and “worship” are found side by side in so many passages (Deut. 4:19;8:19;11:16;17:3, etc..).  I know that some have contended that “worship” and “service” are two distinct things, but I do not see any distinction, and such is a dangerous argument:  1.  Is serving the devil then not worshipping Him?  2.  The same passages speak of bowing down andworshipping, yet most would agree that the act of falling down or kneeling down is an act of worship.  3.  Jeremiah 16:11 speaks of following, serving and bowing down. 


Elements of True Worship


Submission/Reverence: Genesis 22:5; Revelation 14:7; 2 Kings 17:36


Acknowledging God’s Greatness/Giving Him the Glory:  Psalm 66:1-4


Gratitude:  Revelation 5:9-14; Psalm 95:1-6


Utter Dependence:  Psalm 95:6


Absolutely Impressed With His Greatness:  Psalm 95:3-5


Obedience to His Regulations:  John 4:24; Philippians 3:3


Eager and Ready to Serve Him with our lives:  Romans 12:1


Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017