“The meaning of worship”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All men will worship someone or something. Our Creator made us to worship Him! There is a worship that is acceptable to God and worship that is rejected by Him. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts believers to offer acceptable worship to God, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28, 29.
One thing is clear. Biblical worship is an offering to God. God is the one to whom worship is given! He is the object of worship. He is the determiner of “acceptable” worship. Genesis 4 describes worship that God considered acceptable and worship that He rejected. God accepted Abel’s worship because he offered it by faith. Cain’s worship was rejected, Hebrews 11:4.
The secular world offers this definition of worship. It is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” The source of the word “worship” “is an Old English compound word, “worth-ship.” It described the loyalty and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.
In general, worship is foundationally about our primary relationship. It is about our relationship to God. He made us to worship Him. But because all men are born dead in sin, they seek to make their own gods in order to satisfy their need to worship. Even in the evangelical church, many have turned worship into a “felt need”. That is, worship is about us, entertaining us, having time with friends, or, purposed in making us “feel good.” John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413
Therefore, within the Covenant of Grace, God declared that He alone is the one to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.
“The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all… and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served… But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself…” (the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, par. 1)
Paul quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Romans 3:11. God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, yet men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Man is eager to fulfill his God-given desire to worship and often does by erecting idols. Idols are those things that control how we live.
Normally, we don’t see people bowing down to or serving carved images. Yet, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words, what things, experiences, or people do we love, honor or obey more than God?
When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational words that describe our primary relationship. In this primary relationship, God is the one who established its requirements. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
We know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. In applying the words of Jesus quoted above, God through the Apostle Paul, made the daily reality of worship clear to those who have experienced His saving grace. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
May you gather with others who seek to offer acceptable worship to God each Lord’s Day.