Adapted from Insincere, Irrelevant, Invalid 2022 Christian Publishing House. Releasing Soon!
Why should we Worship?
The answer is not as simple as it may seem. The answer to this question entails about the creator of the universe and His creation. It shows our relationship to Jesus and God the Father. It boasts all of God’s glorious attributes, stemming from the action of one word: “Worship.” But first, to understand these answers to the question of “Why should we worship?” we must define what is worship.
Proskuneo is the most common Greek word for Worship in the New Testament. It is used 60 times in the New Testament. (It is taken from two words toward [pros] and to kiss [kuneo] according to Vines Expository dictionary.) The literal definition of proskuneo is “to make obeisance, to make reverence to.” Or, to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand, to fawn or crouch to, homage (do reverence to, adore.) This humbling definition of this word hits home when put in context in the scriptures, and how we are supposed to “proskuneo” the being of God. Some examples are found in such passages as Matthew 14:33 where Jesus walks on water to the boat on which the disciples were and then proceeds to calm the storm. After seeing Jesus calm the storm those on the boat worshipped Him. There is also Jesus, being tempted by the devil in Matthew 4:10, which He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” And in Revelation 4 where John sees God sitting on His throne and the four living creatures and 24 elders are worshipping or “prokuneo-ing” Him. We are all also to give Jesus this same kind of Proskuneo in Revelation 5. (This passage further proves Christ’s deity as we are commanded to only worship the Lord alone in Deut. 6:13, yet Jesus receives this same worship in Revelation 5 where all creatures on heaven and on earth bow down and worship “To Him who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb.”)
Another Greek word used that is not rendered worship but means, “to bend,” especially of bending the knees in religious veneration, is kampto. This Greek word is used 4 times in the New Testament, all in the form of religious worship. Examples of this form of bending the knee towards the Father are Romans 14:11 in which Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23 saying, “Every knee will bow before me, every tongue will confess to God.” Then Paul also states this about Jesus in the Carmen Christi, Philippians 2:10 saying, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven on earth and under the earth.”
The word “Worship is also found littered throughout the OT as well and Vines Expository Dictionary explains the word for worship in Hebrew as this,
“(Sahah #7812), ‘to worship, prostrate oneself, bow down.’ This word is found in Modern Hebrew in the sense of ‘to bow or stoop,’ …The act of bowing down in homage is generally done before a superior or a ruler. Thus, David ‘bowed’ himself before Saul (1 Sam. 24:8). Sometimes it is a social or economic superior to whom one bows, as when Ruth ‘bowed’ to the ground before Boaz (Ruth 2:10). In a dream, Joseph saw the sheaves of his brothers ‘bowing down’ before his sheaf (Gen. 37:5, 9-10). -is used as the common term for coming before God in worship, as in 1 Sam. 15:25 and Jer. 7:2. Sometimes it is in conjunction with another Hebrew verb for bowing down physically, followed by ‘worship,’ as in Exod. 34:8: ‘And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.”
As we see in both the Old and New Testament the words used of worship are very physical. To kneel before someone is a very humiliating and humbling thing to do. When one person kneels to another, all the attention is focused on the other. Throughout these Old and New Testament references, we never see the focus being delivered both ways. When someone kneels towards someone, it is never for their own personal satisfaction or gratitude. The focus is always pointing to one certain person. Islam requires a ritual of prostration five times daily as one of the Pillars of their faith. And even Hindu’s bow down before their gods. It is an act of reverence and self-denial.
Now, I am not saying that every Christian should kneel while worshipping. But that we need be constantly reminded and conscious of what a humbling and submissive action Worship is. But yet, at its core Worship is of the heart, it is a mindset. Worship does not just merely equal physicality. Kneeling or bowing does not equal Worship, nor does kissing equal Worship. The focus upon the physicality inside these words is there for us to understand what a humbling thing Worship is and exactly who we are compared to the one we are “kissing towards.”
While worshiping we must turn all focus, all attention upon Christ and what He did for us, “kneeling and kissing” towards Him, “bowing and bending our knees” in complete adoration of Him and what he has accomplished on our behalf, whilst understanding exactly how terrible of sinners we truly are. To properly engage in any corporate worship service, is to correctly understand our Human nature, and God’s Holy, Just, Merciful, and Loving nature. It is never to point to ourselves or to simply entertain us.
Worship is The End
John Piper says, “Worship should never be pursued as a means to achieve something other than worship. Worship is never a step on our way to any other experience. It is not a door through which we pass to get anywhere. It is the endpoint, the goal.” Sometimes this is how we can view worship. Just a means to get us into a better mood, just a means for us to get hyped for the sermon, or just a means to get some sort of goosebumps out of the music. And that is totally wrong! Voddie Baucham says, “Our Worship is not a response to How Jesus makes us feel. Our worship is a response to Jesus’ worth regardless of how we feel.” Worship should never be a means to get people energized for the next part of the service or to get people to clap their hands, jump up and down and not fall asleep like some sort of pep rally, it should be the end! John MacArthur sums it best like this, “The idea of worship is that one prostrates himself before a superior being with a sense of respect, awe, reverence, honor, and homage. In a Christian context, we simply apply this to God and prostrate ourselves before Him in respect and honor, paying Him the glory due His superior character.” Worship is one of greatest privileges we can have as Christians, especially being able to share this experience of prostration and awe with our fellow brothers and sisters corporately.
In Hebrews 10:25 the believers are called to assemble together for worship. Corporate Worship is such a great privilege for the believer, and by sitting at home streaming a service on the internet each week we remove ourselves from that privilege and edification of gathering with other brothers and sisters. J Clyde Turner on Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “God has appointed worship in His churches as a means by which His people may grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and may impart spiritual benefits to others; and he warns against neglect of this sacred privilege and responsibility:” One of the most plain teachings about corporate worship and why we worship in the New Testament is Colossians 3:16, which states,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (ESV)
In this compact verse, we have a plain teaching of why we worship, to teach, admonish, and to give thanks to God. Who is the object our or worship? God. Who is the audience? Believers. And why do we worship? For teaching and admonishment of the saints. These are the very basics of what New Testament corporate worship was, and it seems that in some churches in America today that these basics are pushed to the back burner, as more and more focus comes upon feelings and production rather than teaching, admonishment, and thankfulness to God. Instead of focusing upon what we think unbelievers and even other Christians may enjoy in a worship service, the bigger question should be, “How does God want to be Worshipped?”
When speaking of regulating the corporate Worship service, we often see this as being a legalist affair. Just a list of things we can and cannot do during a service. But the aim is to not take away things we may enjoy during a service, it is to regulate the service to be as Biblical as possible and to help us grasp the goal of why we worship to begin with. We as Christians gladly admit that our walk should be founded and guided by the Bible, yet when questioned with how our Worship should be conducted on Sundays, the Bible is one of the last places we seem to turn. We seem to think with all the technological advances and flashing lights and big screens we have now, the Bible is just too outdated to tell us how we should be running our services now. The problem is God is very upfront on how he desires to be worshipped. When worshipping the focus is not upon what is pleasing to us, but what is pleasing to God. And although we may or may not add more instruments, lights, and other productions, we must differentiate between the elements of Worship and the circumstance of Sunday Worship.
The circumstances of Worship can be seen in technological advances through the years. Pews, microphones, lights and even wallpaper are all circumstances of worship. Just because the early church didn’t have an HVAC or even a sound system while worshiping doesn’t mean that we should sit around in the freezing cold yelling at the top of our lungs so that the people in the back can hear us, because that’s exactly how the early fathers conducted Worship. No, the circumstances surrounding corporate worship will always and constantly be changing throughout history. But the elements should never change.
There are clearly precedents set out for the believer regarding worship in the Bible. Paul regulates corporate worship in 1 Cor. 14:40 to an orderly and decent fashion. He also regulates the Corinthians again earlier in 1 Cor. 14 when limiting the spiritual gifts as to not cause confusion. He goes on to regulate the Colossians’ “self-made religion” and “worship of Angels” in Colossians 2. Elsewhere in the Bible we see places where improper worship is rejected by God. We see examples such as Nadab and Abihu’s strange fire in Lev. 10, Cains offering in Gen. 4, and the Pharisees worshipping to their will instead of His (Matt 15).
The passages we have already presented (Acts 2:42, Col. 3:16) contain the elements in our corporate gathering of worship that need not be changed or added upon. And these elements are constantly scattered across the Bible, as to confirm their need to be incorporated in any worship service. We are to read, teach and preach the Scriptures in 1 & 2 Timothy, sing hymns, Psalms, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19), pray and give thanks (Matt. 21:13), Baptize in Acts 2:38, Matt. 28:19 and partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Whenever we start to add or take away, or even cheapen or degrade the corporate service to something less than what God has prescribed how he be worshiped, we are not giving proper reverence and awe to Him. All the elements could even be there, just as in the Pharisaical Worship in Matt 15 or Saul’s offering in 1 Samuel 15:22, but without the right heart, we are creating a false idol, we are worshipping another God all the while lessening and being untruthful about the God who commands and deserves this worship in the first place.
Worship in the 10 Commandments
It’s interesting to point out that even in the first 4 of the 10 commandments God prescribes how He Himself should be worshipped. First being, no Gods before Him. Only He deserves this true Worship. Second, no carved images are to be made and worshipped of Him. No man has seen God, and any image or depiction we try to create or replicate Him will forever fall short. Third, we shall not take the Lord’s name in Vain. Using His name not only as a swear is wrong, but we are to treat the name of God with reverence and honor. And lastly the fourth, keeping the Sabbath Holy. God’s day of rest was to be remembered throughout all eternity. Not only for His rest after the creation of the universe, but for His redemptive work as well (Deut. 5:15). Although there seems to be a date change to the first day of the week in the New Covenant (Acts 20:7), the fact remains the same that the Sabbath is here to constantly remind us of our rest we have in Christ Jesus and the promises of God, looking forward to an eternal rest we will one day in God. When we gather together each week, we need be reminded to Worship the true God, not just a mere image we have created, treat His name with reverence and honor, and to use the day as a way to remind ourselves of the hope and rest that we may one day have for all eternity because of Christ’s work on the cross.
Conclusion: Fear and Trembling for the Believer
As you can see Worship is so much more than just merely singing for 30 minutes on a Sunday morning. It is for teaching and correction in corporate worship, it is thankfulness for what He has done for us, it is the reason we were created. Nothing brings more glory to Him than when we delight in his words and commandments and willfully treasure Him above all things. It is never about us or trying to impress the unbeliever so that perhaps he will come back the next Sunday.
The Bible states that as Christians we are fearers of the Lord. Are we really sending that message to the unbelievers when we gather for worship on Sunday mornings?
In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah is given a firsthand glimpse of what heavenly worship is like in the throne room of God. In verse 1 we see God filling the temple with the train of His robe. Indicating there be not any room left for any other gods. In verse 2 we see the seraphim covering their feet and eyes with their wings. Richard Phillips says this about the 2nd verse, “though they were beings of great glory, they covered their faces in awe of God. They covered feet in creaturely humility, just as Moses had to remove his sandals before the burning bush. They also were flying, indicating their readiness to perform God’s will without hesitation. Awe, humility, readiness to serve-this is the angels’ example of how the sovereign God is to be worshipped.” In verse 3 we see these angels proclaiming “Holy, Holy Holy!” Indicating the God-centeredness of heavenly worship. And in verse 5 Isaiah states, “I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips!” Phillips goes on to say again, “If Holy angels must cover their faces for the glory of God, how much more should men fall prostrate as sinners before so holy a Lord!” The fear Isaiah must have had to be present in such a holy place must have been astounding, and you can hear his fear and trembling being in the presence of the lord in verse 5. Was God trying to make His throne room “user friendly” or “easier to connect” in Isaiah 6? Or do churches now hold such a low view of God?
Another example in the Old Testament describing approaching God in worship is found in the Psalms where the Psalmist in chapter 2 verse 11 tells us to “Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” Is this how we are approaching our Sunday Worship? Is this type of reverence and awe and fear of the mighty and wondrous power of God flowing from us each Sunday morning? Jesus tells the woman at the well to worship in Spirit and Truth in John 4:24. In other words, is our mind and heart fully engaged in the reverence in awe due only Him? Are our emotions stemming directly from the knowledge of truth found and secured in Christ? Is our knowledge something so puffed up that it does not allow our heart to be pure in understanding and lavishing Him? Or is our Worship just simply a marketing tool used to reach the unbeliever, a tool used to merely engage the audience to get them primed for the next course in the Sunday Service meal?
The Worship of God on Sunday mornings is clearly to be tailored to that of the believer only. The problem with tailoring the Church service to unbelievers is that we then not only tailor the music, the lights, and entertainment to their liking, but it is also that we end up tailoring the message and ultimately the Bible to their liking as well. By trying to make Church as comfortable as possible, the church itself in turn has no choice but to make the preaching just as comfortable. It’s a slippery slope that one cannot help but slide down once we take the Gospel and try to turn it into a product that the consumer can easily purchase and digest. It seems as if most churches in this movement seem to rather focus on the “Wonderful Plans” God has for our life, as well as presenting the Christian life as something that comes with such ease and comfort. If you can turn the Church into something entertaining by giving the listeners something that doesn’t offend them, makes them feel good, and that they can tolerate, well then there’s a higher chance of them returning. Scratch them where they itch, and you will have a returning customer. When we cheapen the service to just mere flash and entertainment and treat the Gospel without being in awe of Gods power in how he draws men to him, treating the Gospel and Church just as a product that needs to be packaged a certain way, just adding some sugar so the medicine can go down, it’s no wonder these younger generations consider Christians to be Insincere, Irrelevant, and Invalid. It is because we are.
I leave this section with a quote from Jonathan Cruse,
“In true Christian worship, we actually meet with God. Let that thought sink in for a moment: we meet with God. When the saints gather on God’s appointed day and worship Him in the way that He has directed, God is actually there. We literally come into His presence… Because we meet with God, everything changes. Corporate worship becomes the greatest means of making us into what we were always meant to be: the image-bearers of God.”