Sacrificial Worship to God and the Biblical Definition of Worship

Some say that worship consists of everything that a Christian does including involuntary actions such as sleeping, blinking, or breathing. Some say only praise is worship to God. Others say only a certain actions in the assembly consist of worship.

In another article “The Greek Words for the Biblical Definition of Worship“, this study observed the definition of worship according to the Greek words used in the Bible. The study affirmed the basic premises for worship in reverent actions. What is an act of worship? Is worship limited to a few specific acts? Are acts of worship as broad as everything that one does? With the definition established for worship, every act of reverence directed toward God could be considered an act of worship.

Christians must not overlook a very important passage of Scripture. This passage is John 4:23–24 where Jesus stated, “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers [proskuneo] shall worship [proskuneo] the Father in spirit and truth: for such does the Father seek to be His worshipers [proskuneo]. God is a Spirit: and they that worship [proskuneo] Him must worship [proskuneo] in spirit and truth.” The brackets contain the Greek word proskuneo that scholars translate “worship”.

Clearly, worship was to change with Christ, and worship has changed from that of the Old Testament sacrificial proskuneo worship to the proskuneo worship of the New Testament. In the pretext of this verse, Jesus uses the Samaritan woman’s comment about the places of worshiping God to note that “the hour comes, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship (proskuneo) the Father”, but that worship will be in spirit and truth. The place has changed to spirit and truth.

Worshiping in spirit must refer to the spirit of the person (1 Cor 14:15), and this is where true worship is to take place in the heart. Worship in truth is worship in God’s Word for God’s Word is the truth (John 17:17). As seen before in Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman, 1976), Guy N. Woods commented on acts of Christian worship. He said,

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 for our relationship to God, and to this extent involves an act of worship. Therefore, we worship God, in serving others! (P.333).

Guy Woods affirms that there is a misunderstanding about worship and service, and he shows that the definition of worship extends beyond the assembly and the acts of worship there.

The sacrificial system of worship from the Old Testament to the New Testament clears up the definition of what is an act of worship. The physical sacrificial worship of the Old Testament holds vital information for understanding the whole of New Testament worship. The priestly worship of the Scriptures essentially consists of the temple, the priesthood, the offerings, and temple services both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The connection of sacrificial worship between Old Testament and New Testament worship is continuously present in the Scriptures. The physical Old Testament elements of worship are essential spiritual elements of New Testament worship.

The temple of the Law of Moses is an example of the temple of the Law of Christ. According to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19, and Ephesians 2:21; the temple of God is now the church of Christ. God dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (Exo 25:8), and 1 Corinthians 3 and 6 and Ephesians 2 also point out that the Spirit of God dwells within the temple of the New Covenant, the church of Christ. This is stated not to deny the personal indwelling of the Spirit in individual Christians. According to the Law of Moses, no one was to defile the temple (Lev 15:31; Num 19:13, 20; Ezek 5:11, 23:38), and this command still stands in 1 Corinthians 3 and 6 which stress not defiling the temple of the New Testament.

In the temple of the Old Testament, the priests of the Law of Moses accomplished services (Heb  9:6), and the priesthood of the New Testament now does the same in a spiritual fashion (1 Pet  2:5). What is the service of the New Testament priests? The priests of the Law of Moses and those priests that came before are certainly a spiritual pattern for the priests of the New Testament and give greater insight into New Testament worship. As early as Genesis 14, a priest of God by the name of Melchizedek lived in the time of Abraham. According to the order of Melchizedek, the High Priest of the New Testament is Jesus Christ (Heb 6:20). Hebrews 5:1 and 8:3 affirm that every high priest are from among men and ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. With this in mind, the book of Hebrews expands on the duty of Jesus Christ as High Priest, and how He spiritually fulfilled the services of the High Priest by sacrificing Himself (Heb 7:27, 9:24-26, 10:8-14). The High Priest of the New Testament, Jesus, also made Christians into priests (Rev. 1:6, 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

According to 1 Peter 2:5, Christians are priests who are to offer up spiritual sacrifices. These spiritual sacrifices define Christian worship just as Jesus referred to true worship that was to come. These spiritual sacrifices are acts of worship. The Scriptures define these acts of worship. This is not to deny the acts of the worship in the assembly, which are the Lord’s Supper, teaching, praying, singing, and giving (1 Cor 11:17–34; 14; 16:1–3)

Sacrifices are an essential part of worship. As far back as Cain and Abel, sacrifices have been a form of worship to God. In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering (22:2), and in verse 5, the Scripture described Abraham’s offering as worship (cf. Isa 19:21). Abraham’s worship was intentional. He went to worship (Gen 22:5).

Certainly, sacrifice is worship as Jesus affirmed in John 4:20–24. To know what Christian worship consists, one may simply know what spiritual sacrifices Christians are to offer to God. The answer is clear in Hebrews 13. Hebrews 13:15–16 state that Christian sacrifices consist of praising God, doing good deeds, and sharing with each other. In Romans 12:1, the sacrifices of Christians also consist of the sacrifice of one’s body as a living and holy sacrifice. Sacrificing one’s body is worship, but this does not infer that all of life is worship or that involuntary actions are worship.

Notice that these two passages are not the only verses that address the sacrifices of the Christian worship, but these serve best for the most comprehensive understanding of the worship of Christians. Worship does not extend beyond our good deeds done with reverence and awe (Heb 12:28). Again worship is clearly defined within the sacrificial service of the New Testament, Christians are to worship God with spiritual sacrifices consisting of doing good deeds, like praising God, sharing with each other, and ultimately giving oneself as a living sacrifice.

Doing good is the most comprehensive definition for acts of worship. Yet, the intentions and decision to worship must come from the Christian. Worship is not involuntary. Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve (latreuo) God pleasingly with reverence and awe.” Every good deed that Christians offer to God with reverence and awe is an act of worship.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
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9 Responses to Sacrificial Worship to God and the Biblical Definition of Worship

  1. Marc Taylor says:

    Since prayer is a form of worship I was wondering what people here believe about praying to/worshiping the Lord Jesus. Let me say that I believe that the Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus was prayed to/worshiped.
    1. Here is a member of the church of Christ that is for it:
    2. And here is a member of the church of Christ that is against it:


    • You’re blending 2 different questions. Worshiping Jesus includes praying to Jesus. We all worship Jesus in all of our assemblies and we pray in the since of praise and thanks to Christ. The question is whether one should direct all their requests, “prayers”, only to God the Father rather than to Jesus. I find that all requests are to God the Father in the name of Jesus, but I have not closed my study on this subject.


      • Rudy Schellekens says:

        John 17 is a good example of how Jesus views prayer… But the question that needs answered is, Why do we worship Jesus, and leave out the Father? Jesus points us to the Father, all the way through the gospel of John. Paul points to the Father in many of his letters – pointing to God as the source of our salvation, as our savior. Especially in Ephesians and Corinthians Paul make it clear that God…
        We should focus more on God, rather than on the Son. That, after all, was the purpose of the Son – to restore the relationship between human and God!
        Even in the first “gospel proclamation” in Acts the message is focused on God, who…
        So, if Jesus is focused on God, who… And if the Apostles are focused on God, who… Why are we not focused on God, who… but rather on the way God chose to restore the relationship?
        Should our attitude not be on, Thanks be to God, who… Rather than, Thanks be to who… God used?
        Or, to quote Paul… “The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
        Our ministry is to proclaim the reconciliation between man and God! A restored, healed, perfect relation (made possible through the sacrifice of the Son – or, ins shorter words, ‘In Him’) with the God of the universe! Scary – but true! Our worship should be focused on the father – just as Jesus’ worship was focused on the Father.
        And before someone “says” it – No, the Father and the Son are not the same!


        • I have not noticed such an imbalance, but I will be more aware. The praise of the Father and Son appear to be equal to me throughout Acts to Revelation. I expect Christ to glorify the Father throughout the Gospels.

          Do you have any studies on this?


      • Marc Taylor says:

        The Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of requests, “prayers” which proves that not all must be directed to God the Father.


  2. Pingback: The Biblical Definition of Worship – Part 2 « Equipped by God's Breath

  3. Paula Fether says:

    John, here is a good site:

    Please note that there are at least 3 different ways to pronounce koine Greek: modern, classical, and ‘seminary’ (Erasmean), the latter being an artificial one invented to facilitate the reading of scripture to a room full of copyists. I believe the audio files at the link I provided use modern Greek pronunciation, which from what I’ve read, is believed to be the closest to koine.


  4. john brett says:

    this looks like an enjoyable site which I have bookmarked, have you any blogs whereby the Biblical Greek words are pronounced audibly, or available as mp3 files. thank you


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