Scholarly View of Biblical 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 worshiping God?” Woods answered,

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]

On acts of worship, Guy N. Woods clarified,

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 described worship and assembly noting,

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). 

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