To so teach, in the view of this writer, shows a lack of information about the true nature of worship. While physical external actions nearly always accompany worship, such actions in and of themselves do not constitute worship. Worship is intrinsic, it is an emotion, a thought of the mind. In worship we render respect and homage to God. The worshiper expresses what he feels inwardly by some type of outward expression. In the old testament the most used Hebrew word for worship (shahah) means to bow down. However merely bowing down would not necessarily indicate that the person so doing was worshipping God. Abraham, for example, bowed down when he was buying a burial sight for Sarah (Gen.23:7).
But in Gen.22:5, Abraham said that he and Isaac “would go yon der; and we will worship (shahah) and come again to you.” Here his intentions were made clear. In the new testament the most commonly used word for worship is (proskuneo) and carries the meaning of “to make obeisance, do reverence to, kiss.” Ancient Persians would bow down on their knees, seeking to kiss the hand of the king. Through usage the physical act of proskuneo was transferred to the mental act of worship (see John 4:24).
Obviously one can “bow down” or “kiss” someone with no thought of worship involved. (Note Mark 15:19 and Mt.26:48 as examples) The essence of worship takes place in the heart, and may not be explained or defined by mere outward actions. Those advocating the idea that everything we do is worship usually contend that the life of a Christian is not compartmentalized into religious as opposed to secular activities, and since everything we do should glorify God (lCor.10:3l), then everything we do is worship. I believe these people are confusing worship with service.
While worship is service to God, all service is not worship. To contend that plowing a field, sewing a garment, eating a hamburger etc. etc. constitutes worship, seems far-fetched to say the least. It may be that some have been misled by some of the new translations that have removed the word “service” from Romans 12:1 and replaced it with the word “worship” (RSV, NASV, NIV). On this point Hugo McCord makes the following observation “It is true that in certain contexts that the Greek word in Romans 12:1 (latreuo) is properly rendered as worship (as in Romans 9:4). But in itself the word only means serve, whether the service is toward God or men (cf. latris, a hired servant; latron, hire, pay). Sometimes the word refers to a lifetime of service to God (Acts 24:14; Heb. 12:28), and the con text of Romans 12:1 shows ones offering his body as a living sacrifice is a lifetime of service, not of meditation (which is what worship is).” The scriptures indicate that worship is not continuous.
For example Abraham climbed a mountain to worship on its summit, and then after the worship, returned to his camp at the foot of the mountain (Gen. 22:1-5). If Abraham did not worship until he reached the summit of the mountain, then everything he did (the going and coming down from the mountain) was not worship. David (2 Sam. 12:20) learned that his baby was dead. He then bathed, changed clothes, and went into the house of Jehovah “and worshiped.” When he had worshiped, he returned home and ate a meal.
It is obvious that the bathing, changing clothes, and eating a meal were not considered worship. Luke declared that the Ethiopian officer had come to Jerusalem to worship, then returned to Ethiopia (Acts 8:27), distinguishing between that which was considered worship and that not so considered. From these examples we can see that not everything a person does is worship. As someone has noted, worship is perpendicular–up to God; service is horizontal– outstretched hands to help mankind. Perhaps the following outline will help us better understand the difference between worship and service.
Worship is toward God, John 4:24 Acts 17:25
Worship is internal, Acts 17:25
Worship is vertical, Psa.95:6; John 17:1
Worship is punctuated, Gen.22:5; 2 Sam.12:20
Worship is accompanied with five actions singing, praying, giving, communing, and teaching or studying the Scriptures, Acts 2:42, Eph.5:19
Service is toward mankind, Gal. 5:13; Hebrews 6:10
Service is external, Luke 10:33
Service is horizontal, Mt. 10:42
Service is durative or punctuated, Acts 6:2; 1 Tim.5: 10
Service consists of unnumbered deeds, Titus 3:1, Gal.6:9
Both worship and service are important areas of the Christians life. To conclude, however, that everything one does is worship, is to assume something the Scriptures do not teach.
Published in the OPA July 1, 1998