What is Worship?

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A couple of people have mentioned that they’ve not only read though the entire Bible
this year but have (and are) spending extra time studying a particular Bible book. The
beauty of Bible study is that there is ALWAYS something new to be gleaned from rereading God’s word. Take time to read, study and pray today and every day.

Worship

Our last study looked at the most important part of worship. God says that it is living our lives the way He calls us to. That is a basic fact that God has repeatedly stated to His people throughout the ages. But that also begs another question: What is worship that can encompass daily life as well as various other aspects or elements?

The New Testament uses several words for worship where in English we use just one. But in each case the idea is very similar. The word thrēskeia is a more generic term for a religion and the various forms of worship that are involved. When we talk about our worship services and life of worship we are using this idea.

Latreia also refers to service but includes the idea of an ordered or specific worship much like our worship services together. Interestingly, especially when some claim there are no New Testament “patterns” for our worship to follow, this is the word used in Hebrew 9:1: Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.

The point clearly made by the Holy Spirit is that there IS some correct pattern for us to follow and that ought to be obvious to us because it was also true under the old covenant.

Another word often used in the New Testament is proskyneo and this word specifically relates to a formal, outward show of respect in worship to someone greater than ourselves. This is the formal bowing or kneeling or even face down prostrating before a king. It is often used of our humbling ourselves to God. Jesus accepted this kind of worship and in so doing acknowledged Himself as God (cf. Matthew 8:2; 9:18; 14:33). In our worship we are acknowledging God as our Sovereign Lord. That is a truly humbling experience made even more amazing when we realize that He is claiming us as His children and heirs!

If we honor and acknowledge Him properly then that is worship. But let’s back up a moment and look at a couple of negatives. Jesus described a kind of worship that even the prophets had spoken against when He said:And in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9).

We don’t even need to speculate what God is talking about here. Our worship is vain or useless if it is the teachings or doctrines of people rather than God. Christians are often labeled as intolerant because they don’t know or don’t teach all the humanistic based ideas of religion.

Odd, isn’t it? No one sees a problem with a cook not substituting dirt for flour in a recipe, do they? Of course not! We can no more substitute human ideas and doctrines for Godly ones than dirt substitutes for flour. Just as the resulting food is inedible, so is the resulting worship of God useless.

The second negative comes from Paul telling the people of Athens about their kind of worship:  For as I went around and observed your objects of worship, I found also an altar on which was inscribed, ‘To an unknown god.’ So what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23) They THOUGHT they were offering their worship to God, but they simply didn’t know what to do to make it right.

It is a sobering thought to imagine that we might even be doing the correct things and worshipping the correct God but yet be so ignorant so as to fail to honor Him at all!  There’s not really much difference between vain worship and ignorant worship. Both are useless and wrong and neither will be accepted by God.

So what is it called when we do everything right and for the right reasons? Jesus addresses this with the Samaritan woman: [23] But the hour is coming, and is here already, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for indeed the Father is seeking just such people to be his worshipers. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

Everything God says on this subject points to the fact that we have a right way to worship God in our everyday life, in our service to Him and in our formal “worship services.”

We often talk about the various parts of public worship services as involving singing, praying, reading and studying God’s word, partaking of the Lord’s supper and giving financially back to God and His work here on earth.

Each of those parts is important. Some are reserved for certain situations such as the tie between the Lord’s Supper and the First Day of the Week. Others are to be done frequently either alone with God or in partnership with fellow Christians. But ALL are only part of the life and worship of God’s people.

Since in previous studies we’ve looked in more depth at singing, prayer, Bible study and the Lord’s Supper, let’s take an extra moment to consider giving as worship. Do we truly honor God by giving back to Him?

Giving

Under the Old Covenant a specified amount had to be given. But it’s far more than we often realize. The tithe was, in short, one tenth of all your increase but there were actually three different tithes.

To begin with, if you gained 10 new lambs, then 1 belonged to the Lord. If you gained 1000 new wheat seeds at harvest, then 100 of them belonged to the Lord, if you grew 100 apples, then 10 belonged to the Lord, and so on.  Of the tithes of increase, all were reserved by the Lord for the priests (cf. Numbers 18:21). This was the Levitical tithe and the one we probably most often think of for Jewish giving.

However, this tithe did NOT cover a multitude of other obligatory gifts. The annual festival tithe (cf. Deuteronomy 14:22-27) was also required as was a tri-annual tithe for the poor (cf. Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

The short version of all this giving is that tithes averaged at least 23 to 25 percent each year. And that was BEFORE all the freewill offerings (at least three times a year) and the various sacrifices to the Lord. In addition, the first born of every animal belonged to the Lord and in farming you had to round the corners of the field and leave everything between the rows and anything that fell to the ground was required to be given to the poor.

As we come to the New Testament and our giving to the Lord let’s get it firmly in mind that tithing as used by God really meant giving at least 23 to 25 percent of income PLUS all the other required sacrifices and gifts. This is NOT the simple 10 percent that we often imagine!

Okay, so what standard does the New Testament call us to use for giving? It may surprise you to learn that the New Testament NEVER uses the word tithe for what Christians give. Never, not one single time. In fact the term tithe is only used six times in the whole New Testament (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Hebrews 7:8-9) and every one of those is referring only to Old Testament giving.

So what do Christians give? How much?

Let’s begin with the reminder of the book of Hebrews. Everything about the New Covenant is BETTER. We have a better lawgiver, better promises, better removal of sins, better love, better everything!

Given that we have everything better from God should we be given more so that we can be more stingy, more miserly, more grudging in our giving?

For our answer to that let’s look at Paul’s lessons to the Corinthian Christians on giving. In 1 Corinthians Paul instructs the church about giving: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)

Specifically in this case it is for helping fellow Christians (benevolence) in the area of Jerusalem. He also says that he’s given the same instructions to churches in Galatia and evidently Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8) and probably other congregations as well.

Did you catch the required amount for Christians with all their better and greater blessings? As you have prospered is a call to give as you have been blessed. If 10 or 20 or 25 or even more percent was suitable for those that God says have received lesser blessings than you, how much should you give?

As Paul writes a second letter to Corinth, he deals with a seeming reluctance to give. Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. The much poorer congregation of Macedonia was begging Paul to let them give more until they actually gave more than they could afford to give! And, in addition to their financial gifts they actually gave themselves to the Lord’s word. WOW!

Paul is now worried that the church in Corinth that he has bragged about as giving and loving may not live up to their poorer brothers and sisters. So how much should Christians give?

[6] Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. [7] Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

We give bountifully, purposely, cheerfully what we plan in our hearts. But we also give knowing that a stingy giver will get a stingy gift from God! Do you want that?

Come Judgement Day do you want God to announce to you that, cheapskate that you are, all you deserve is a quick peek at Heaven? Or would you prefer an abundant entrance into heaven (cf. 2 Peter 1:11)?

My All

God looks at how much of our time, energy, thoughts and money we give to Him. Can you picture Him being impressed by us cheating Him in ANY area of life?

In our look at the “most important act of worship” we ended up with God’s conclusion that what is MOST important is literally giving our all to Him in service. Doing God’s work of being the light of the world, of telling the Good News of Jesus and salvation is what truly honors and worships God.

We cannot cheat Him at anything. Give God your all that you might truly receive all of His blessings!

—Lester P. Bagley

One thought on “What is Worship?

  1. How I miss you all. How I long to see you again. When you have something taken away you learn how precious it is. Be safe and KNOW GOD is with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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