Defining Worship 28

Worship is the totality of our grateful, obedient response to God’s initiative in revelation and redemption.

—Ron Man


Defining Worship 27

Worship is our response to the glory of God:

Recognizing His glory with our minds
Cherishing His glory with our hearts
Proclaiming His glory with our mouths
Celebrating His glory in all of life

—Ron Man

Worship is . . .

Worship is the response of the redeemed life (Rom. 12:1) to the glory of God in all its facets (Rom. 11:36), as revealed in His works (Deut. 5:24; Rom. 1:19-20), His written Word (Ps. 150:2), and preeminently in His incarnate Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14,18).

True worship is Word-informed (John 4:23), heart-grounded (John 4:23; Mark 7:6-7), God-centered (Rev. 22:9), Christ-exalting (Rev. 5:12) and Spirit-empowered (Phil. 3:3).

“Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church” (William Nicholls), the ultimate goal of the Church (John Piper), and as such should be the final trajectory of all life and ministry. “The purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.” (J. I. Packer)

Worship has as its root unchanging biblical principles applied and played out in a rich diversity of culturally inflected manifestations. Worship should simultaneously be transcultural, contextual, cross-cultural and counter-cultural (Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture).

—Ron Man, from a grant proposal to the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship on behalf of the International Council of Ethnodoxologists, 2005


Why study the theology of worship? Why is a biblical understanding and foundation of worship important?

1. God’s Word tells us who God is.

God is the subject of our worship.
Worship is about Him.
We must worship Him as He really is.

2. God’s Word tells us what God wants.

GOD is the object of our worship.
Worship is for Him, for His pleasure.
We must worship Him as He wants to be worshiped.

3. God’s Word is our guide in every area of life

So certainly it is in this important area of worship.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

4. God’s Word tells us that all of life is to be worship.

“. . . present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

So a biblical understanding of worship has ramifications for our entire lives.

5. God’s Word is our only unchanging standard.

“Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.”
(Psalm 119:89)

Times change, people change, tastes change; only God’s Word does not.

6. Only God’s Word can give us a unified understanding of worship.

What are the essentials of worship, that do not change from denomination to denomination, place to place, age to age?

—Ron Man, teaching notes

Lavish Worship

MARK 14:3-9

We are in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life here, and we see the opposition mounting, and see the wheels in motion which will result in His arrest and crucifixion. (See 14:1-2; 10-11.) It is against that black fabric of hostility and treachery that Mark sets for us a diamond; a beacon of light that shines brighter because of the darkness surrounding it: Mark gives us an account of

  • absolute devotion in the face of opposition
  • utter adoration in the face of rejection
  • supreme love in the face of bitter hatred.

Mark has inserted this account here almost as a parenthesis, to heighten the contrast with the conspiracy beginning to close in on Him. As G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “There Jesus was, in a dark and desolate land; and lo! out of the heart of a woman, a spring of fresh water sprung for the thirsty Christ! He valued it.”

It would fulfilled all the demands of Middle Eastern hospitality for the woman to bring her alabaster vial and sprinkle a few drops on Jesus— but her heart was so full of adoration, her focus was so totally on Jesus, that she GAVE IT ALL: she broke the bottle, and POURED IT ALL OUT. She understood intuitively that “no sacrifice is too great, if made for Him.” She held nothing back; she gave it all.

You know why Mary’s act of total commitment and love meant so much to Jesus? BECAUSE IT WAS SO CHRISTLIKE— IT WAS SYMBOLIC OF WHAT HE HIMSELF WAS ABOUT TO DO: to hold nothing back, to give Himself completely for the sins of the world, to allow Himself to be “broken and spilled out,” as the Gaither song says, in an act of total selflessness.

“Worship comes from a heart that has been blessed by God, and says so in its own way.” This woman is a true hero of the faith, with her heart brimming and overflowing with grateful devotion to her Lord.”There are many mausoleums that crumble to decay. But this monument to Jesus fills the whole world still with its fragrance” (S. Lewis Johnson). We are fulfilling Jesus’ words in verse 9 even as consider this story right now.

May God help us to learn from this remarkable woman more of what it means to offer our worship, poured out lavishly and without measure from a full heart.

 —Ron Man