Is there a biblical theology of worship?

It is good to ask what worship is and how it is to be done. Is there a worship style that is both biblical and pleasing to God? Has God ordained a certain type of worship? If He has, then the church that does not operate under the biblical theology of worship is in danger of both failing to give God glory and of offering worship that is not pleasing to Him.

The doctrine of worship is sometimes misunderstood. Worship does not begin and end with the singing portion of our church services. Worship is also not limited to bowing in reverence before God or lifting our hands. Also, not everything we do is acceptable to God as worship simply because we are sincere or it makes us feel good. In fact, worship in the Bible never has to do with the emotions of the worshipper.

God Himself defines worship in Scripture. We should "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28 NKJV). In this verse, the Greek word which is translated "serve" is a form of the word "worship" and is used 21 times in the New Testament in the contexts of service and worship. That means worship and service (the offering up of oneself) are intertwined in Scripture. Other Greek words translated "worship" are prokeneuo meaning "paying homage" (1 Corinthians 14:25), sebazomai, meaning "to render religious honor" (Romans 1:25), and sebomai meaning "to revere or adore" (Acts 16:14). Jesus used the Greek word sebomai to describe the vain, hypocritical worship of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 15:9) leading us to the conclusion that not all "worship" is acceptable to God.

True biblical worship is to be first and foremost reverent (Hebrews 12:28), and offered with the understanding of the nature and attributes of the God being worshiped. God is holy, just, righteous, perfect, powerful, loving, wrathful, etc. If we want to worship biblically, we must worship God as He is revealed in Scripture.

Second, we must worship in truth (John 4:24). Personal expressions of worship are not indicated anywhere in Scripture and can actually lead to activities that are not God-honoring. Third, true worship is worship in Spirit. Because God is Spirit, true worship is a pure, holy, spiritual worship, the offering of the soul and the homage of the heart rather than merely words or emotions of the moment.

Finally, true worship always accompanies a change in the heart of the worshipper, causing a greater desire to love and obey God. If worship does not propel us toward greater obedience, it isn't really worship. Many today come out of emotional worship services with a greater feeling of love in their hearts for God. But Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Unless our worship leads to a greater commitment to obedience, it isn't worship and the feeling it generates isn't love.

True biblical worship is a lifestyle, not a moment in time (1 Corinthians 10:31). Worship is not meant to occur only at church. Instead, it encompasses our entire lives. Our working, serving, relating with others, eating, sleeping, all that we do in our daily lives should be done in a spirit of worship of God. True worship is given to God from the depths of our inner being. It is given in song, in praise, in prayer, in giving, in learning, in living in obedience, etc., and should always be offered in spirit and in truth.

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