The Concept of Worship

Nowhere in Scripture is worship actually defined. Prayer, praise, confession, sacrifice, faith, obedience, and many other terms describe different aspects of worship. But when three key word groups are examined in different contexts, it is clear that homage, reverence and service to God are central to the concept of worship.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together, 29

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Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participative. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration. . . . It is the celebration of God!

—Ronald Allen & Gordon Borror, Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel, 16,18

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For the reformed, worship is a lifestyle of humble service that culminates corporately at least once a week, where God’s chosen people join with the heavenly chorus to praise Him for His vast attributes, confess our inabilities, affirm His grace, yield to His instruction, celebrate His mercies and respond to His covenantal call.

—Bryan Chappell, “Worship as Gospel Representation”

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We may distinguish three uses of the word “worship”: (i) to denote a particular element of what is generally referred to as worship, namely, adoration; (ii) to denote generally the public worship of the religious community gathered together and also the private religious exercises of the family and the individual; and (iii), in a still wider sense, to denote the whole life of the community or of the individual viewed as service of God.

—C.E.B. Cranfield, “Divine and Human Action: The Biblical Concept of Worship,” Interpretation 12:4 (October, 1958), 387

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Any definition of Christian worship must be formulated within the framework of the Trinitarian nature of the faith.

Our worship must be God-centered. This should be obvious, but we often lose sight of it and focus our attention on people. If worship loses its God-centeredness, it ceases to be holy convocation and may become something akin to a common assembly, a rally, a theatrical performance, or an awards ceremony. This is not true worship. People should come away from a worship service with a fresh awareness of the majesty of God, with a desire to glorify God, and with renewed commitment to serve God.

Second, worship must be in Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world and brought salvation to us. Because He is the full revelation of the Godhead and the one way of access to the Father, He must be the focal point of worship. If He is not and we try to worship God without reference to the divine Son of God, then we have failed to follow God’s revelation through to its culmination in the plan of redemption. Believers should come away from a worship service with a renewed assurance of the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, of forgiveness through his blood, of acceptance into his eternal kingdom. And with a fresh commitment to give him the preeminence (Col. 1:18).

Third, because the Holy Spirit is the one who enables all spiritual service, all genuine worship must be by the Spirit. Without falling into the error of denying the physical part of worship, we must recognize that worship is to be spiritual—inspired by by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, genuine and life-giving because it flows from the Spirit. And as this happens, the Spirit will not draw attention to Himself but will point to Christ, will not lead into error but into righteousness, and will not produce responses that are foreign or out of harmony with the Word of God but will empower the Word to produce fruit in the lives of the worshippers.  When worshippers come away from a service that is truly spiritual, they will come away with zeal to love and serve the Lord. It will not be contrived or forced, and it will not be momentary enthusiasm; rather, the Spirit will continue to work in them to produce godliness.

—Allen P. Ross, Recalling The Hope Of Glory: Biblical Worship From The Garden To The New Creation, 66-67

Defining Worship 32 (Badly)

When Christians accept a consumerist culture’s definition at face value, they look to the church primarily to provide them with the means to improve their private lives, enhance their self-esteem, give them a sense of purpose. Worship becomes a form of therapy whose sole aim is to improve the emotional state of the individuals, and to energize them for the week ahead.  It is designed principally to make those individuals feel comfortable, and to justify the style of life they find most satisfying.

James V. Brownson, Inagrace T. Dietterich, Barry A. Harvey, Charles C. West, StormFront: The Good News of God, 7

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The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most.

That’s why worship is that thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Worship is about saying, ‘This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me . . . it’s the thing of highest value in my life.’

That ‘thing’ might be a relationship. A dream. A position. Status. Something you own. A name. A job. Some kind of pleasure. Whatever name you put on it, this ‘thing’ is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you. And whatever is worth most to you is—you guessed it—what you worship.

Worship, in essence, is declaring what we value most. As a result, worship fuels our actions, becoming the driving force of all we do.

And we’re not just talking about the religious crowd. The Christian. The churchgoer among us. We’re talking about everybody on planet earth. A multitude of souls proclaiming with every breath what is worthy of their affection, their attention, their allegiance. Proclaiming with every step what it is they worship.

Some of us attend the church on the corner, professing to worship the living God above all. Others, who rarely darken the church doors, would say worship isn’t a part of their lives because they aren’t ‘religious.’ But everybody has an altar. And every altar has a throne.

So how do you know where and what you worship?

It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.

Sure, not too many of us walk around saying; “I worship my stuff. I worship my job. I worship this pleasure. I worship her. I worship my body. I worship me!”

But the trail never lies. We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speaks louder than our words.

—Lou Giglio, The Air I Breath: Worship as a Way of Life, 12-13

 

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Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because He is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impusle in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers. Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered up in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.

—D. A. Carson, Worship by the Book, 26

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The first step towards forming sound ideals of worship is to get clear as to its essential nature. So we start by asking: what is worship? The history of the word gives us our answer. The noun ‘worship’ is a contraction of ‘worthship’ (Anglo-Saxon, ‘weorthscipe’). Used as a verb, it means ‘to ascribe worth’, or to acknowledge value. To worship God is to make recognition of His ‘worth’, or ‘worthyness’; to look God-ward, and acknowledge in all appropriate ways the value of what you see. The Bible calls this activity ‘glorifying God’, ‘giving glory to God’, and views it as the ultimate end and, from one point of view, the whole duty of man. ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name’ (Psalms 29:2; 96:6). ‘Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

—J.I. Packer, Tomorrow’s Worship, 5

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Throughout the Bible, acceptable worship means approaching or engaging with God on the terms that He proposes and in the manner that He makes possible. It involves honouring, serving and respecting Him, abandoning any loyalty or devotion that hinders an exclusive relationship with Him. Although some of Scripture’s terms for worship may refer to specific gestures of homage, rituals or priestly ministrations, worship is more fundamentally faith expressing itself in obedience and adoration. Consequently, in both Testaments it is often shown to be a personal and moral fellowship with God relevant to every sphere of life.

—David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship, 283