IS ALL SERVICE TO GOD WORSHIP?
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Worshiping God in spirit and in truth is one of the most demanding, yet meaningful and rewarding, activities in which a Christian can engage. However, for worship to be meaningful and rewarding, it must be done according to God’s word, in both action and attitude (cf. John 4:24). If God has not authorized worship then there is no basis for it. However, if God has authorized worship, then it is to be regulated by His word.
Many in the denominational religious world and even some brethren are not aware of the grave consequences of affirming that everything one does is godly worship. However, the devil is fully aware of the great potential for leading men astray in this area. Our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8) has performed his destructive task well. He has convinced multitudes to stray from the pure pattern of truth that is set forth in the Bible.
The Old Testament was “written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). From it we learn that engaging in ungodly worship has long been an activity that has left man outside the fellowship of God. The first record of mankind’s attempt to worship God is found in the first book of the Bible. Able worshiped God by faith (Heb. 11:4) and his offering was accepted. Cain attempted to worship the same God as his brother, yet his offering was in vain (Gen. 4:3-7). Since “faith” comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), the implication is evident: at the dawn of time God told man how to worship. Abel worshiped the way God directed while Cain did not follow God’s instructions. Cain engaged in ungodly worship. His worship originated by his own will and was rejected by the Lord.
Nadab and Abihu were worship leaders, priests under the Levitical system (Num. 3:1-3). However, they offered “strange fire” in worship which God had not commanded. The result: they were consumed by that which they offered (Lev. 10:1-2). These worship leaders sinned presumptuously. They failed to follow God’s instructions in worship. The result was death. God has always told mankind how to worship. Jesus condemned some for worshiping in vain by following the doctrines/commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). There worship was directed to God, but it was not directed by God (cf. Mark 7:6-13).
The subject question is a doctrine that has seen an evolution in its development over the years. Initially, there were those who asserted that EVERYTHING a Christian does in his or her life is an act of worship to God. The foolishness of such an assertion would mean that lying, cursing, or even fornication would qualify AS ACTS OF ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP. If everything one does in life is worship, than that includes exactly that – everything. This false concept was later refined and cleverly affirmed that everything a person does is godly worship, except sin. We challenge this ungodly assertion with a few questions: “Do we worship God when we brush our teeth? What about while listening to a rap or country song on the radio? Do we engage in worship when we crank up the mower and cut the lawn?”
The newest twist to this false doctrine affirms that every act of SERVICE we render to God is worship. At first it was claimed EVERYTHING was worship, then everything EXCEPT SIN, and now everything is worship involving SERVICE to the Lord. Those who believe that all service is worship do not distinguish between worship and service. They contend that worship and service are one and the same. If their contentions are true, then no longer are there only five acts of acceptable worship to God. If their contentions are true there are literally thousands upon thousands of divinely sanctioned acts of worship in which a Christian can engage. This surely is a contradiction to what Jesus instructed the woman of Samaria regarding the nature of true worship (Read John 4).
If everything we do in service to God is worship, one could pass out a religious tract, cut the church building lawn, drive someone to the doctor, and on and on as claims of acceptable worship to God. While one must avoid the extreme that says worship includes everything a Christian does, one must also avoid the extreme that says worship is only that which takes place in the church building. However, if everything we do in service to God is worship; one could stay at home on Sunday in order to cook a pot of soup for a sick person and could claim that he or she has worshiped the Lord through their act of service. If such a doctrine is true, the rebuke of the Hebrew writer is presumptuous
Worship and service, although closely related, should not be confused as synonymous terms. There are many examples in Scripture where both terms are used in the same context, yet are not to be understood as describing the same exact thing. In Deuteronomy 11:16; 17:3; 29:26; and 30:17, God warns His people not to “worship” other gods and “serve” them. If all service is worship, why did the Holy Spirit make a distinction between worshiping gods and serving them? (cf. 2 Kings 21:20-21).
In the New Testament Jesus said, “…Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10; cf. Rom. 1:25). Why make a distinction between the two if all service is worship? The answer is because, although all worship is a type of service, not all service is a type of worship. Worship and service are not interchangeable terms. Paul taught that Christians are to “serve” one another (Gal. 5:13). If “serve” and “worship” are interchangeable terms, then it would be correct to teach that Galatians 5:13 demands that we “worship” one another. Consider Hebrews 13:10. It refers to those who “serve” the tabernacle. Did the priest worship the tabernacle or serve it?
It is not necessary that anyone learn Greek or Hebrew in order to understand what God wants a person to know. However, we will give a brief introduction to three of the thirteen Greek words that are translated by a form of “worship” in the KJV. The most common Greek word translated “worship” is from the compound word proskuneo. The literal meaning is to kiss (kuneo) the hand towards (pros) one. This term reveals the outward expression of the reverence paid toward the Creator (Matt. 2:2; 4:10; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 4:10) or a creature (Acts 7:43; 10:25; Rev. 22:8), by kneeling or prostration; to do homage or make obeisance.
The second most common word translated by a form of “worship,” with its accompanied forms, is the Greek word sebomai. From the root original meaning (to step back from someone or something, to maintain a distance), sebomai came to be used to denote an attitude of respect which was given to gods, people, or things. This word moved from the idea of respect to denote religious veneration – including acts of worship (cf. Rom. 1:25). The noun form denotes that the object of worship is to be revered, and thus honored in some way (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4). In the New Testament, sebomai is always associated with deity and involves a deep reverence for the object of worship (cf. Matt. 15:8-9; Acts 13:43, 50; 16:14; 19:27).
The third most common word translated by a form of “worship” is the Greek word latreuo. This word is only rarely translated “worship” in the KJV. The root meaning of the word is service rendered for hire; then any service or ministration - the service of God. It is used for the carrying out of religious duties by human beings. Latreuo is more often translated by “serve” than by any other term. Its primary usage relating to worship centers upon service rendered (cf. Matt. 4:10; Luke 1:74; Acts 7:7). This religious service may also include that rendered to false gods (Acts 7:42 ASV; Rom. 1:25). Because worship is a part of religious service, latreuo also carries the idea of “worship” in some contexts (Acts 7:42-44; 24:14; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 10:2). A way to explain the entire situation with latreuo and its forms would be the following: all worship may be said to be a vital part of our service to God, but not all of our service to God is worship.
In Summary: Latreuto reveals that worship involves service rendered to God. It shows that man is serving God when he worships Him. Worship is not merely an attitude, but involves specific acts according to the requirements of God (cf. Col. 3:17). Sebomai shows that man must have the right kind of heart when approaching God in worship. It involves an attitude of reverence and respect. God and God alone, is the only true, sublime and majestic One, and must be worshiped reverently (Ps. 114:7; Hab. 2:20). Proskuneo shows that worship involves an outward expression along with the inward frame of mind. It involves humility on the part of the worshiper (cf. James 4:10; Matt. 28:9).
Worshiping God acceptably involves the proper attitude and authority (John 4:23-24). The acts of worship are not worship in and of themselves without the involvement of one’s spirit, or attitude (cf. Isa. 1:11-15). Thus, worship is something done intentionally (cf. 2 Sam. 12:15-20). Unless one’s intention is to worship, any act or series of actions cannot be worship. One can be engaged in similar actions as those done in worship and not be worshiping, because the intent to worship is not present. For example, a person can eat unleavened bread and drink “fruit of the vine” for breakfast without violating God’s pattern for worship. The difference between eating breakfast and partaking of the Lord’s Supper is not found in the contents, but in the intent and manner in which it is consumed. For breakfast the intent is nourishment, but for worship the intent is to “shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). Being intentional, it follows that the worship of God is also momentary and not continual. It should be understood that we may worship at other times than on the Lord’s Day. However, the Lord’s Day is the only day authorized to take the Lord’s Supper.
Worship is also to be regulated by the truth – God’s word (John 17:17; 2 John 4). If worship lacks the proper attitude and/or the proper authority, it is “vain” – Matthew 15:9 (i.e., to no purpose), ignorant – Acts 17:22-23, or will worship - Col. 2:20-23 (i.e., self-chosen). God reveals “in truth” a set of approved actions for worship. The total teaching of the New Testament authorizes only singing, praying, teaching, giving, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper as acts of worship. Worship has always required specific action. Worship has always had a “starting" place and a "stopping" place (cf. Judges 7:15; 1 Sam. 1:19; 2 Sam. 12:20; Isa. 66:23; Zech. 14:16; Matt. 2:2; 15:25; Acts 8:27; 24:11; Rev. 3:9; 15:4).
The example of Abraham is perhaps one of the most convincing arguments against the doctrine that all service is worship. In Genesis 22 Abraham was commanded to take his son and go to a mountain to offer him as a sacrifice. Abraham collected wood and saddled his ass, and after coming near to the place of sacrifice, “…Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Gen. 22:5). Remember that Abraham had been traveling for three days, and had already been involved in acts of service. Yet he indicated that something special was about to occur…he and the lad would “go yonder and worship.”
If only some who teach that all service is worship had been there…! They could have straightened Abraham out on his “incorrect” view of “service” and “worship.” They could have enlightened Abraham to the fact that he had been worshiping God the whole time he was traveling, and he did not even know it. In fact, Abraham did understand the difference. He knew that although he had been engaged in service prior to coming to the place of sacrifice, worship was a unique and special type of service that was different than what he had been doing.
Before closing this lesson we also must note the fact that some in and out of the church seem to have worship confused with entertainment. While it is true that worship should be enjoyable to all worshipers (cf. Ps. 122:1), its focus is not upon pleasing the flesh. Worship is not a spectator/performer situation with the congregation in the spectator role while the preacher and song leader are performers. Every effort to honor, adore, and praise God in true worship demands the involvement of the spirit, the inner person (1 Pet. 3:1-4), the heart of a person. Without the involvement of the heart, “worship” becomes a type of performance. The performance may be appealing to people; it may indeed be entertaining, but God is neither honored nor pleased. True Christians need to know the difference between acceptable worship and entertainment.
The Bible does not support the doctrine that
one does or all service is worship. Christians who love the truth will
hold to such foolish assertions. Jesus makes it clear that one must
the object of true worship in order to worship correctly (Matt. 4:10).
only object of true worship is deity (Rev. 22:9). In true worship, our
connects to God who is Spirit. All worship may be said to be
God, but not all service rendered to God is worship.