The Bible uses the term “worship” about 250 times. The transliteration of this word from the Hebrew language in the Old Testament is most often “shachah,” and from the Greek language in the New Testament, it’s “latreia.” In both cases, the following ideas seem to best define “worship:”
1) service; divine service; service rendered for hire; the service of God; to serve; to perform sacred services; or, ministry
2) to render religious homage; prostrate in homage to God; bow down; fall down; stoop; humbly beseech; or, to do reverence (from Webster’s dictionary: respect or reverence offered to a divine being)
Of the 250 occurrences of the word “worship” in the Bible, over 50 of them have to do with the idea of bowing down, or falling down in worship. Most of the other occurrences are free-standing; i.e., they are not used in a context which helps us to understand the definition of worship.
Most of us tend to identify worship with a particular section of a Sunday morning church service; usually the period of time between the announcements and the sermon. This time is usually filled with singing, but it may also include some drama, prayer, and testimonies. Although this may be a valid description of worship, it seems to only scratch the surface of the true Biblical meaning of worship.
I get excited in those rare moments when the Bible actually defines a term for us, such as “grace” in 2 Corinthians 8 – 9, or “love” in 1 Corinthians 13. Fortunately, this is also the case with the word “worship,” in Romans 12:1-2, “…to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. ”
So, the true definition of worship is:
– Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God
– Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world
– Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
– Be able to test and approve what God’s will is
Worship isn’t just singing, although we can certainly worship through song. Worship is a way of life–of service, where we daily surrender our bodies (prostrate ourselves) to God for his service; we ignore the pattern of this world; and, we renew our minds through His Word. Once we are in this state of temporal fellowship with God (with all sins confessed–1 John 1:9), then we will even be able to successfully determine what God’s will is for every move we make.