In this study we will look into what Biblically constitutes the genuine ‘worship’ of Almighty God.
Many confuse genuine worship with attending a so-called ‘church service.’ Today many call it ‘worship’ for what is seen in the formal settings of the manmade organizations of so-called ‘Christendom.’ By contrast there are the emotional displays, especially in a gathering ‘acting out’ such as is so common in many Pentecostal, Charismatic, and neo-evangelical churches of these days.
First, consider these words of Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992, emphasis added in parenthesis):
“True worship is always a personal and individual matter, which while it may be done with a company (of other believers), it will not be (worship) at all unless it is done by an individual. True worship is heartfelt adoration of God because of … who He is, what He is, and what He does.
It (worship) is never dependent upon a place (a special building) or ritual. It needs no established forms or ceremonies. Whenever, because of revealed truth, a heart responds with adoration and gratitude … (it is) because of what God is or what He has done, that is worship.”
In addition to heartfelt expressions of gratitude and thankfulness, the Worship Life of a believer, as seen in Scripture, is demonstrated in these two aspects of life; 1) the study of the Lord’s “word of truth,” the Bible, and 2) obedience to the words of the Lord.
Regarding obedience to the words of the Lord, consider God’s word to Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-5, below) There we also see Abraham’s unusual use of the word “worship” God when he and Isaac were about to ascend the mountain where he planned to offer up the son he loved (v. 5).
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And 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.” Genesis 22:1-5
So, Abraham considered the possibility of offering up his son, Isaac, in obedience to God to be “worship.” The law of first reference as used in Bible Study suggests that the Bible’s first use of the word “worship” here defines ‘worship’ as a willingness to obey God no matter how one’s faith is tested. This is a good overall definition even for today. And since Abraham indicated that “the lad [Isaac]” was also going to worship, the willingness of Isaac to give his life up at his father’s behest suggests that when we willingly offer our lives as living sacrifices at our Father’s behest (Rom. 12:1), this too is an act of worship. As a young man, Isaac could have easily overpowered or outrun his elderly father.
Then also we find confirmation of this when the Lord equated worshipping God with serving God in Matthew 4:10.
“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou ‘serve.’” Matthew 4:10
Years later, when Abraham sent his servant to his homeland to find a bride for his son Isaac (Gen. 24:1-11), his faithful servant prayed for God’s help (vv. 12-14). When he received it (vv. 15-25), he “worshipped the Lord” by “thanking” Him (vv. 26,27), suggesting that each time we thank God for any and all the blessings that are ours as believers, we too are worshipping Him.
Many years later, the people of Israel “bowed their heads and worshipped” (Ex. 4:31) when they acknowledged that God was honoring His promise to visit and redeem them from Egyptian bondage (Gen. 15:13-16). This leads us to believe that it is a form of worship when we today acknowledge and thank God because He honors promises He has made to us, such as that found in Romans 8:28.
“And we know that ALL THINGS [even the negative happenings in our lives] Work Together For Good To Them That Love God, to them who are the Called According To His Purpose.”
The Bible also called it “worship” when the people of Israel brought “the firstfruits of the land” to God (cf. Deut. 26:10). Thus, we believe that God considers it worship when we put God first in our lives, recognizing that all blessings come from Him as our source.
In Judges 7 we see how Gideon “worshipped” God for the assurance He gave him that his little band of 300 would defeat the Midianites (7:9-14). Similarly, when we thank God today for all the assurances we find in God’s Word. God is thrilled with this kind of worship.
Then consider the patriarch Job. It takes our breath away to see how he “fell down upon the ground, and worshipped” after losing all of his children and possessions (Job 1:20). Here we see worship characterized as a firm resolve to maintain one’s ‘spiritual integrity’ (2:9) in the face of even the most horrendous ordeals of life.
Then David is also said to have “worshipped” God in the aftermath of his heart-wrenching loss of his child with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:18-20). Our own worship of God at times like these is a most powerful testimony to the lost souls around us witnessing to the fact that we have something they do not possess... and that they also may have.
Contributing financially or materially as the Lord’s directs us is probably not commonly thought of as worship, but the worship of the ‘three wise men’ is said to have included presenting the Lord Jesus with their gifts (cf. Mt. 2:11), suggesting that giving to the genuine work of the Lord as He may lead us to is an example of worship that is fit for a King.
We don’t always feel like worshipping God when a loved one is sick. But when the Lord refused mercy to the Syrophenician woman, she “worshipped” Him anyway (Mt. 15:21-25), exhibiting her faith and her understanding as to why He was refusing to help her touched His heart (vv. 26-28). Surely God’s heart is still touched when we are able to worship Him at such difficult times, understanding that when He forbears to bestow such help, it is so that we will “rather” learn to rejoice in His all-sufficient grace, and that He is perfecting of His strength within us though our weakness (2Cor. 12:9).
During today’s dispensation of the indwelling “grace of God” by Christ in us, God has also “appointed” that we suffer “afflictions” for the cause of Christ (I Thes. 3:3). There is perhaps no time when our worship is more pleasing to God than when we worship Him in the face of trials and afflictions, still saying “Thy will be done.” We can do this because we can look past the times of difficulties to when we will dwell with Him “eternal in heavens (2Cor 5:1b).
What constitutes a Worshipful ‘gathering’ of believers?
Consider when Joshua is said to have worshipped the Lord, asking, “What SAITH MY LORD unto His servant?” (Joshua 5:14). This worshipful attitude of seeking ‘the words of God’ is the same mind-set we display every time we gather with other believers to study or hear God’s Word taught. Of course, it is only when the studied Word is rightly divided that we hear the Lord’s words to us today. (2Tim. 2:15).
Then too, remember how the Lord said of the Pharisees, “in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9). Well, if teaching the commandments of men constitutes vain worship, then teaching God’s word of grace for today must be considered true worship!
When we are studying, emphasizing and savoring the ‘words of God’ given to us through Paul (I Cor. 14:37; I Thes. 4:2) as they apply to us today during this dispensational age of “the grace of God” we are genuinely worshiping the Lord.
This does not mean, of course, that we throw away the four Gospels, Old Testament ‘the law and the prophets’ that God gave regarding Israel. For Paul himself professed that his “worship” included “believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” actually did occurred (Acts 24:14) and are the truth for the believing remnant of Israel. Thus, we see that we worship God when we simply believe His Word, His entire Word.
But of course, it is only when we recognize the dispensational differences and changes that are found in His word that we today are “worshiping God in the spirit” (Phil. 3:3) as applies to us today as Gentile grace-age believers.
We as a grace believers worship God in ways that are far more pleasing to Him than those who attend ‘services’ which is typically characterized by mere showing up and possibly acting out in emotionalism. If Jeremiah were to visit a gathering of believers studying the word today he might post a sign above the door that read: “Hear the word of the Lord, all ye…that enter in at these gates to worship” (Jer. 7:2). Studying and hearing and meditating upon “the word of the truth” is the highest form of worship. When we recognize just who it is that is speaking to us through the Scriptures, we see how this is a vital form of worship (cf. John 9:35-38).
When gathering we study His word and we relish the truth of it by worshiping in song flowing from our hearts, giving thanks as Paul describes here.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with [under the influence of) the Spirit; 19 [by] Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:18-20 (KJV)
Finally, once we draw our last breath on earth and later enter His presence by our Rapture to heaven, we can look forward to worshipping the Lord in a very unique way. Think of what a thrill it will be when we stand someday at the ‘Judgment Seat of Christ’ we see Him accept every genuine sacrifice that we have ever made for Him, and rewards us accordingly. It will be our highest honor and deepest privilege to worship Him in that day.