Scholarly Conclusions about the Biblical Definition of Worship

“Worship” is one of the most misunderstood words of the Bible. Many believers have confused the word “worship” confining worship to assemblies. The following are the conclusions of scholars who clarify a biblical concept of worship.

In the book published by Gospel Advocate, The Church of Christ (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1997. p. 135), Edward C. Wharton exhorted, “We should not think of worship as confined to praise or a worship activity in a church house.When Christians use the word “worship”, many err by thinking that only the assembly and spiritual meetings of Christians are “worship”. “Worship” and “assembly” are not
synonymous in the Scriptures. Assemblies are a form of worship but not the whole of worship.

David Lipscomb addressed the difficulty of understanding worship. In the text Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell (Nashville: McQuiddy Printing, 1957. p. 749), Lipscomb observed,

Worship more specially refers to praise, prayer, adoration, and thanksgiving; service, to obedience to the law of God in carrying out His will in the world. It has always been difficult to draw the line between service and worship. It is especially difficult under Christ, inasmuch as all service must spring from faith in and love to God, and so becomes an expression of praise and honor to Him.

In Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman, 1976. p. 333), Guy N. Woods is asked the question, “Would you please comment on the difference between serving God and worshipping God?” Woods commented,

There is not nearly as much difference between these concepts as many today apparently believe. Occasionally, we see over the entrance to a church auditorium these words, ‘Enter to worship and leave to serve.’ This concept results from ignorance of what the New Testament teaches about service and worship to God. [emp. added]

Guy N. Woods clarifies on acts of worship stating,

When, for example, a basket of food is carried to a needy family, the act is grounded in the concept of service, but it is done out of regard to our relationship to God, and to this extent involves an act of worship. Therefore, we worship God in serving others! [emp. added]

In Everett Ferguson’s work, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1996. p. 226), Ferguson referring to worship and assembly states,

Modern usage applies the word ‘worship’ to the assembly of believers gathered for corporate acts of devotion. As the passages about spiritual sacrifice and the word studies above show, the New Testament usage of the words for worship is much broader, including the Christian moral life and acts on service on behalf of people. The common meaning of worship today represents a narrowing down of the New Testament meaning of worship. It selects one aspect of worship and applies the word exclusively (or almost so) to that aspect. Worship properly understood, however, covers the Christian life as well as the Christian assembly, all acts of service and devotion to God. This does not make the assembly less important but serves to make Christian existence in all of its expressions sacred. It would be better to speak of ‘assembly’ or some such word to describe the congregational gatherings of Christians. Worship to God occurs in the church meetings, but not exclusively there. (emp. added)

The context of Ferguson’s writing on this matter reveals that he does not believe that all of life is worship though he does believe that the Christian life is full of worship in and out of assemblies. The Scriptures that Ferguson refers will be further presented. For a head start, read Hebrews 12:28, 13:15–16, and 1 Peter 2:5 about spiritual sacrifices, offerings unto God. These are acts of worship and the extent are “doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb 13:16). Also, see more in the articles, “Is Benevolence Worship to God?,” “The Greek Words for the Biblical Definition of Worship,” and “Cultic Worship in the Old Testament and the Biblical Definition of Worship.”

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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5 Responses to Scholarly Conclusions about the Biblical Definition of Worship

  1. Henrry ezugbor says:

    Sir, my question is to know the clear definition of following are 1, worship in bible. 2, hair covering as bible stated 3 woman in the bible

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    • (1) Worship is an act of reverence and honoring God as God. Honor and reverence are the closest in Greek to worship. Simply, every good deed is an offering to God (Heb. 13:16). Hebrews 13:16 is the key passage my understanding of the definition of worship. See the 3 article in this series. Consider that worship is now spiritual according to 1 Pet. 2:5 with a spiritual temple and spiritual priests offering spiritual offerings.

      (2) The head-coverings consisted of hair and garment for short hair (1 Cor. 11:5-6, 13-15). No matter the head-coverings is not to be a matter of contention being a social custom of respect (1 Cor. 11:16). First Corinthians 11 is not speaking of women speaking over men in the Assembly, which is not mentioned until verse 17.

      (3) Regarding women, women worked in Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-3), but only men were His 12 apostles (Matt. 10:2ff). Jesus built His Church (Matt. 16:18), and by His Spirit, He established church elders to govern each church autonomously (Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17ff, 28ff, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1, 1 Pet. 5). These church elders were men (1 Tim. 3, Titus 1), and so were the deacons (1 Tim. 3). They were to be married (1 Tim. 3). These are the family men who are to lead the Church. With this said, women can teach and prophesy (Acts 18:24ff, 21:8-9, 1 Cor. 11, Titus 2), but they are not to teach or rule over these Christian men considering that those leaders include church elders, deacons, ministers and evangelists like the Apostles (1 Tim. 2:11ff). Wives are instructed not to speak in the Assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-37). This speaking is public open speaking like leading prayer and teaching. Yet, Priscilla with Aquila taught Apollos (Acts 18:24ff).

      Women are very capable of these things, but God gave by birth-right of creation that men lead (1 Tim. 2:11ff), and yet women were blessed being made in the image of God and also in glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7). Yet, of church elders and speaking in the Assembly, God has instructed men to lead. To some men, this is a unwanted responsibility, and for some women, this is a desired role. Yet, God knows best.

      May God bless you in your studies of His Word.

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  2. Derrick Penner says:

    “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

    To me this verse seems to suggest that worship should be included in every area of our lives as we live in right relationship with God and others. It seems strange to me to think that when we become Christians there are only some areas of our lives that should be considered worship. It makes more sense to me that we should strive to give God glory in every area of our lives rather than only some areas. I’m not totally sure if this is contradictory to what you were saying or not, but what are your thoughts on it?

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    • You are right that we should give glory to God in every area of our lives.

      We also must keep in mind Romans 14:17, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Eating and drinking are not worship. It is the righteousness accomplished through such that is worship.

      See for yourself the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31. The context is about doing everything to God’s glory by not offending any brother or appearing to be eating meats offered to idols or judging others about such. The point is not that everything we do is worship, but that everything we do should be done to God’s glory. The Scripture does not say that eating and drinking is to glorify God, but rather there are times when eating and drinking must be consider in righteousness to the glory of God. We may already be in agreement on this.

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