By Wayne S. Walker
“O come, let us worship and bow down before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:6). The Hebrew word translated “worship” in this verse (shachah) means to bow oneself down and is also translated to do obeisance or to do reverence (Young’s Analytical Concordance). The Greek word most often translated “worship” (proskuneo) means “to prostrate one’s self…to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence…to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence…hence in the N. T. by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon). It is found sixty times in the New Testament. Obviously, worship is very important. God wants us to worship Him. What is involved in worshipping God?
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). While it is true that certain aspects of our worship can involve private, individual devotions, there is an aspect of worshipping that requires assembling with the saints for that purpose. This would include every time the saints regularly meet—including Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and other services during the week (see Acts 2:42-46, 16:13, 20:7). One shows his support for a club to which he belongs by attending all the meetings possible. In like manner, we show our support for the Lord’s church by attending all the services we can. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Decently and in order
“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). The worship service must follow some kind of order to be edifying (1 Corinthians 14:26). I have been in assemblies where no one knew what to do or who was supposed to do it. Confusion reigned, and “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Likewise things must be done decently. There are some Pentecostal type services where everyone does just what he pleases. Here again confusion prevails. The worship services must be according to some order or pattern and must be done decently. Yet, at the same time, we must not become traditionalists and condemn all variations, such as when the song leader leads two songs after prayer instead of one. There is as difference between order and tradition (Colossians 2:20-23).
In John 4:24, Jesus said to a woman of Samaria that we must worship God in truth. What does this mean? “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). All that we say and do in our worship must be done according to the truth of God’s word, “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), i.e., by His authority (Matthew 28:18). This is one point where denominationalists often fail because they tend to incorporate into their assemblies ideas and concepts of human origin. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Jesus also told the Samaritan woman at the well that we must worship God in spirit (John 4:24). Having the proper disposition and attitude of devotion with reverence, respect, and awe for God would eliminate the cold and formal worship that prevails in many of the established denominations and can exist even among us. Some folks attend worship because of obligation rather than a desire for actually worshipping God. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Our heart determines what we do (Matthew 12:34, 15:19). And if our hearts are not right, our worship will not be in spirit. All of our Christianity, including our worship, must come from the heart (cf. Romans 10:9-10).
Fervor in worship does not necessarily imply the confusion that dominates the worship of many religious sects. But God does want us to display a joyful enthusiasm. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 66:1). We are worshipping the Lord, our Creator, in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He has redeemed us, remitted our sins, and saved our souls. What true Christian could not be joyful and enthusiastic over this? Worshipping God is certainly a good work, and Paul tells us to be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13). “Zealous” means on fire, eager, actively interested. We as Christians are to worship God enthusiastically, joyfully, and zealously. Let us seek to do it that way! “…Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
The Acts of Worship
There are five actions specified in the New Testament by which we can express our worship to God and be assured that it is acceptable to Him. We sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord to praise Him and admonish one another (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). We approach His throne in prayer together (Philippians 4:6-7, James 5:16). We teach and study His word that we might grow in grace and knowledge (Acts 17:11, 2 Peter 3:18). On the first day of the week, we eat the Lord’s supper to remember Christ’s death for us (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). And also on Lord’s day, we give of our means, as we have been prospered, for the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). This is the pattern. We must not go beyond it (1 Corinthians 4:6, 2 John vs. 9-11).
The only acceptable worship to God is in spirit and in truth, following the principles outlined in the word of the Lord. Each one of us needs to ask himself the question, “How faithful am I in my worship?” We live in a very affluent society where we can quickly fall into the habit of taking things for granted. Some have said that what the church in this age needs, more than anything else, is a good dose of persecution. It ought to be easy to be faithful when things are going well. Yet many are not as faithful as they should be. If one is not faithful when the going is good, what makes him think that he would be faithful if persecution does come? Let us be impressed with the importance of worship. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10).
—taken from Gospel Anchor; December, 1983 (Vol. X, No. 4); pp. 30-31