logo

Words of a Fether

Opinions on Faith and Life

Defining Worship

In a series of three articles beginning Here, the question is raised about the definition of Christian worship. There are two primary words in the Greek to focus on:

  1. proskuneo (lit. “to kiss the hand”) – to display great honor and respect through some physical gesture, along with words of praise and possibly also offerings; this word is never used to describe a meeting or gathering
  2. latreuo – to serve in a priestly and/or sacrificial manner; to act as an official servant to a divinity; this word is never used to describe a meeting or gathering (see also 2 Tim. 1:3, Paul describing his own service to God)

While proskuneo is more general because there are some instances where it was applied to human rulers, latreuo is narrow and restricted to the service of a deity. It should also be noted that the word leitourgos in Rom. 13:6 refers to secular service, but still narrowed in scope to be service to the needs of the government. Now for a list of typical references to worship in the New Testament:

proskuneo

  1. Matthew 14:33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
  2. Matthew 28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
  3. Luke 24:52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
  4. John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
latreuo
  1. Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
  2. Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship.
  3. Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,
  4. Luke 2:37 and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. (Note: Remember that this is divine service, not worship; she was serving in the temple in some official capacity.)
Note that the passage most commonly cited as referring to “Christian worship” is not in either list; it only speaks of when believers would “come together” and says nothing about worship:
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
The idea of the traditional “Christian worship service” is foreign to the pages of the NT. Instead, we see that we are simply to live the Christian life, give of ourselves out of a genuine love for God and others, and live in a state of praise and honor to God.

As with my previous post I issue this challenge: show me the traditional “Christian worship service” in the NT, in context. (And please note, per my Disclaimer page, that I do not endorse other teachings at the referenced site.) Show me buildings, props, professionals, rituals, sacraments, and list those required acts of obedience beyond the Fruit of the Spirit.

Posted 2010-06-16 under assembly, church, worship, witnessing, religion