We live in an entertainment culture where everything is supposed to be fun and effortless. Many come to church and expect the same environment. Proper worship will eliminate the desire to be entertained and also will eliminate judging the preacher by how high of an emotional pitch he can create in the assembly.

The sign found in the foyer of some church buildings which admonishes, “Enter to worship, leave to serve,” gives the correct picture of Christianity. The Christian’s life is characterized by worship and service to God. The Christian must give diligence to make sure his worship and service bespeak the things authorized by God. He must not allow additions, subtractions or substitutions to take the place of authorized worship and service. Jared Moore was correct when he wrote, “Religion is a direct personal relationship between man and God; and unless the emotions which accompany it are based on true conceptions, it degenerates into a contemptible sentimentalism.“1
We would do well to contemplate what worship and service are and consider whether our worship and service is pleasing to God.


Moore observed, “Worship is based on belief in a personal Deity who is the source of all goodness, who loves mankind, and who rejoices in the love of his people.“2 Brewer wrote that “Worship is the calm, serene, purposeful, meditative emotions of the soul joyfully expressed in song, in prayer, and other scriptural acts.“3 In a broad sense, the worship of God “may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgment.“4
Worship is bowing oneself in respect. The first time “worship” is found in our English Bibles, it comes from a word meaning “to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God).“5 One is to bow himself down to God (Gen. 22:5). Nebuchadnezzar wanted Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to bow down before his image (Daniel 3:5,10,12,14,15,18,28). We learn further that “worship” is from an Aramaic word which means “to do homage (by prostration).“6 The Greek word proskuneo (the most frequent word rendered worship) means “to make obeisance, do reverence to (from pros, towards, and kuneo, to kiss).“7
Worship is adoring one. The Greek word sebomai means “to revere, that is, adore” (Rom. 1:25). “Worship is not an elective. It is an imperative, for without it our conception of the eternal Being will be distorted and untrue.“8
Worship is an individual action. “You must worship God yourself. No one else can do it in your place. ... It is correct that worship is also corporate. We do it with others, and it is from the entire people of God, but each one must worship God personally.“9 This indicates that one cannot please God and refuse to engage in the acts of worship authorized by God. The beauty of the congregational worship service is the blending of each Christian’s participation as he pours out his worship to God.


“Ought” (20) and “Must” (24) are from dei which means “to bind.” Thayer observes that it references “A necessity of law and command, of duty, equity.“10 This shows we have a moral obligation to offer proper worship to God.
“The ones (tous) worshipping (proskunountas)” God must (dei) worship (proskunein) in spirit. The word “spirit” addresses our inner attitude. The Psalmist described the proper attitude of those who would worship Jehovah when he invited the people to “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psa. 95:611). Joshua captured the importance of having the proper attitude before Jehovah when he exhorted Israel to “fear Jehovah and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Joshua 24:14). Worship offered with the proper attitude will be free of pretense, hypocrisy, pride and false piety. It will eliminate the desire to be entertained and also will eliminate judging the preacher by how high of an emotional pitch he can create in the assembly.
Boice observed that “We live in an entertainment culture where everything is supposed to be fun and effortless, so Christians who come to church on Sunday expect the same environment.“12 Frank J. Dunn wrote, “Practices that appeal to the physical senses rather than our spiritual understanding are of no value in Christian worship and are displeasing to God. Some examples are tongue-speaking, musical concerts, choirs, singing with instruments, hand clapping, foot stomping, songs that are not spiritual, devotionals in the dark, hand holding, soul talks, personal witnessing, story telling, responsive readings, preachers who entertain, song leaders who put on a show, weekend retreats and other additions to the divine pattern.” Dunn is emphasizing that if our worship has to be stimulated with physical things, something is missing on the inside.
Worship according to the Biblical pattern should encourage and excite us to greater service to God. Brewer correctly observed, “The primary purpose of worship is not how it makes one feel; not what one gets out of it, but what one gives into it... One should and will receive grace from God in true worship. This is one of those strange paradoxes where we get by giving. If we do not put our souls into the worship, remembering that ’worship is an act, not a passive state,’ we will get nothing out of the worship. ... Worship is a soul act. Spiritual energy must be expended.“13
“The ones (tous) worshipping (proskunountas)” God must (dei) worship (proskunein) in truth. The word “truth” (aletheia) shows that we have an objective standard by which we may determine what is to be offered to God in worship. Arndt and Gingrich point out that aletheia is used “of the content of Christianity as the absolute truth....“14 This will provide us with a “Thus saith the Lord” for all we do and teach in worship.


Proper worship is directed toward the proper object.
We must “worship God.” The first use of the word “worship” in our English Bibles points our worship toward God (Gen. 22:5). John was instructed to “worship God” (Rev. 19:10; 22:9). We must “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). When the ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem, David proclaimed that the people should “Give unto the LORD the glory [due] unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron. 16:29). We must “Exalt...the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; [for] he [is] holy” (Psa. 99:5).
We must worship God and “have no other gods.” The first four of the ten commandments directed the Israelites to worship God and to “have no other gods” (Exod. 20:1-11). Jehovah’s covenant with Israel involved their habitation of the land of Canaan. Instructions were given concerning the destruction of the idolatrous worship system of the Canaanites. Following the details concerning idolatry in Canaan, Jehovah stated, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God” (Exod. 34:10-14). In a statement concerning Jehovah’s power and dominion, the Psalmist admonishes, “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all [ye] gods” (Psa. 97:7). Zephaniah told of the time when Jehovah “will famish all the gods of the earth; and [men] shall worship him, every one from his place, [even] all the isles of the heathen” (Zeph. 2:11). Isaiah pointed to the time when people “shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem” (Isa. 27:13). Paul admonished the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14-22) and John wrote, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21).
Brewer observed, “If God is a personal Being who is related to us as a Father and who loves us and blesses us, we should seek to know him and to express our gratitude and love to him...the oftener we can commune with him, the better it will please us. Hence, there will never be the complaint from a true, intelligent worshiper that every Sunday is too often. ... Therefore, when men do not feel inclined to worship God and to want him in their lives, the cause is — call it what you will — atheism. They do not believe in God as a loving Father. They do not believe that ‘he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.’ If they did, of course, they would diligently seek after him.“15
Proper worship involves the proper actions. These actions must be authorized by God (Col. 3:17). There are five authorized acts to be used in worship to God. While some do not like the terminology “acts,” it is the case that each item of worship calls for action on the part of the worshiper.
Singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is authorized in worship to God (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). Instrumental music is not authorized nor is the imitating of the sounds of an instrument. Corporate worship involves congregational singing. Choirs, quartets, praise teams and solos are not authorized. No amount of wishing to please and appease people who are not interested in pleasing God will ever authorize those things which God has not authorized. The actions of “Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1 Kings 12:25-33) and Jehovah’s response (1 Kings 13) to those actions should remind all of us of the importance of worshipping according to Jehovah’s authority.
Praying to God by the authority of Jesus is authorized (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 2:8-15). Praying to or through Mary or the use of candles, and the like, is not authorized. All who pray to God should be aware of the awesome privilege of being invited to the very throne of God through our covenant relationship with him. We should never take this privilege for granted nor misuse it by being flippant in our approach to him. The principle of approach is still to be governed by the knowledge and respect of his hallowed name (Matt. 6:9). Those who lead public prayers should take special care to pray in a way that all who follow may make the prayer personal and be able to say the “Amen.”
Teaching/Preaching the truth is authorized (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Being able to learn more of God’s will is a privilege which is not equaled by anything earthly. When the word of God is taught, our hearts should be open to instruction and appreciative of revelation which made this wonderful word possible (2 Tim. 3:16,17). The spirit of reverence exemplified by the people of God when “Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people” (Neh. 8:5) should characterize us today when God’s word is studied. We still need to be reading “in the book, in the law of God, distinctly” and giving “the sense, so that” people may understand “the reading” (Neh. 8:8).
Giving on the first day of every week is authorized (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 9:6-7). This giving is “according as a man hath” (2 Cor. 8:12) and “as he purposeth in his heart” (2 Cor. 9:7). It is to be based on one’s prosperity (1 Cor. 16:2) realizing that, as God causes us to “abound in everything” (2 Cor. 8:7), we should “abound in this grace also.” One’s prosperity each week may cause his amount to fluctuate from week to week. One should always remember he is not “giving back to God” because God never relinquished ownership. One should give realizing he is but a steward of what God has given him and that “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Our giving is a using of that which God has loaned us in one of the ways God has authorized us to use it.
Observance of the Lord’s supper on the first day of every week is authorized (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-34). The authorized elements of the Lord’s Supper are unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:26-29). There is no authority from God to observe the Lord’s supper at any other time than the first day of the week. The Lord’s supper is to “proclaim the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). The emphasis is on the Lord’s death, not our pleasure or emotion. As I grow in my Bible knowledge, I grow in my appreciation of the Lord’s supper and what that really means!
Proper worship takes the proper precautions. This will avoid vain worship by not allowing human tradition to make God’s will void (Matt. 15:1-9). This will avoid false worship by recognizing God will not accept substitutes (Zeph. 1:2-6). This will avoid ignorant worship by learning and obeying the truth revealed in the Bible (Acts 17:16-31). This will avoid will worship which causes men to seek a “holy wow” instead of a “well done.” When men want “their” way in worship instead of submitting to God’s way, they are guilty of will worship (cf. Col. 2:23).


Service is different from worship, but worship grows out of service. The Bible encourages people to serve God. Joshua encouraged the Israelites to “fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Josh. 24:14). He recognized that in order for one to serve Jehovah properly, a choice would have to be made (Josh. 24:15). Solomon was encouraged by David to know “the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind...” (1 Chron. 28:9). Jesus told Satan that man is to “worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Jesus knew this would require a choice because “no man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). Jesus promised that those who served him would be honored by His father (John 12:26).
Paul described his work in Asia as “serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with many tears, and temptations” (Acts 20:19). Paul also told Felix that he served “the God of our fathers” (Acts 24:14). The one who has rendered proper service to God on the earth will have the opportunity to serve God “day and night in his temple” (Rev. 7:15).
Proper service to God will cause one to be a good soldier in the Lord’s army. Paul charged Timothy to “war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18). Involved in this warfare would be the necessity to “endure hardness (suffer hardship) as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). Good soldiers must use the proper armor which is described in Ephesians 6:10-20. Proper use of this armor will enable one to “stand against the wiles of the devil” and to “withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:11,13). The good soldier may conclude his life of service to God with the knowledge that he has “fought a good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7).
Proper service to God will cause one to be a good seeker of the lost. Andrew knew the importance of bringing people to hear Jesus. “He findeth first his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41,42). “Philip findeth Nathanael” (John 1:45). The woman from Sychar “...went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did” (John 4:28-29). The result of this action was that “many of the Samaritans...believed on him for the saying of the woman” (v.39). Jesus commanded that his servants go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The New Testament bears record to the work of first century Christians (Acts and Epistles). We must also take this commission seriously. When one is a good seeker of the lost, he imitates the example of Jesus who “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Proper service to God will cause one to be a good server of others. Paul concluded many of his epistles with lists of those who served God, Paul and others (Rom. 16; 1 Cor. 16; Col. 4). Phoebe is commended as a servant of the church that is at Cenchrea and is described as one who had been a helper of many as well as Paul (Rom. 16:1,2). Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and others who are not named ministered unto Jesus of their substance (Luke 8:2,3).
Jesus gave a simple illustration of how all can be servants of God when we serve others (Matt. 25:34-40).


In the record of the first example of the correlation between worship and service, one is able to see the principles involved in such relationship. “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Gen. 4:4). Notice that before Jehovah respected Abel’s offering, He respected Abel. Abel’s offering provided evidence “that he was righteous” (Heb. 11:4). His worship reflected his daily walk. Abel was not something different in worship than he was in daily life. Abel filled his life with righteous works (1 John 3:12). Jesus provided testimony to the righteous lifestyle of Abel (Matt. 23:35). What a recommendation! Abel shows that what one is in his daily service to God will be reflected in his worship.
It is not by accident that one who ascends into Jehovah’s hill and stands in Jehovah’s holy place is one who has “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psa. 24:3,4). Isaiah recorded Jehovah’s rejection of Israel’s worship based on a rejection of Israel’s lifestyle (Isa. 1:10-17). This is the same principle behind the rejection of Cain and his offering (Gen. 4:5; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11).
Jesus stressed the importance of one’s lifestyle when it comes to worship. He instructed one who was not in the proper relationship with his brother to “leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23). The lifestyle of early Christians is seen to correlate with their worship (Acts 2:42-47; 20:7-12; 1 Cor. 11:17-34). Emphasis is placed on proper service in view of proper worship in Revelation 7:9-17, 22:3. God intended for His people to take their lives and worship seriously!
Worship and service serve as two good words to summarize the Christian life. May each Christian give the needed attention to these areas of his life.
If an accountable person has not obeyed the Gospel Plan of Salvation (Rom. 10:17; John 8:24; Acts 2:38; 8:37; 22:16), he should do so now. Those who are Christians should live faithfully (Rev. 2:10).


1Jarred S. Moore, “Why I Go to Mass Every Sunday,” The Living Church, October 17, 1931, as quoted by G. C. Brewer, Contending For The Faith, (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1941), p.337
2Moore in Brewer, p.337
3Brewer, p.340
4W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, Co., 1966), Volume 4, p.236
5Word definitions are from Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc., unless otherwise noted.
6Francis Brown, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003), p.1104
7Vine, Volume 4, p.235
8George Arthur Buttrick, Ed., The Interpreter’s Bible, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1953), Volume 11, p.332
9James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), Volume 3, p.1259
10Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), p.126
11All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
12Boice, p.1259
13Brewer, p.341
14William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, “A Greek- English Lexicon Of The New Testament, (Chicago, IL: The University Of Chicago Press, 1974), p.35
15Brewer, p.340

By James E. Rogers

Return to the General Articles page

Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /