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2/18/13 at 11:15 AM 0 Comments

The Essential: What Is Worship?

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This is the 24th installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, righteousness, faith, pride, election, revelation, atonement, adoption, sanctification, incarnation, idolatry, the church, holiness, salvation, judgment, heaven, and hell.

“Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.” —D. A. Carson, Worship by the Book

If you do a word search in the ESV for worship, you’ll find almost 200 occurrences of some form of the word. Scan through these and you’ll soon learn what the biblical authors meant by worship. Here are the most common ones I see:

1) Worship is about giving glory to God by responding to his self-revelation.

“All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Psalm 86:9).

2) Worship is about bowing down, literally or figuratively, to show subservience to God.

“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 4:9-10).

3) Worship is about offering sacrifices to God.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

There is a progression:

  • worship is most essentially the glorifying of God by responding to his revelation of himself;
  • we glorify God (and therefore worship him) by bowing down and obeying him; and
  • we obey God (and therefore glorify him, and therefore worship him) by offering all that we have and all that we are as a sacrifice to him.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss says it well: “Worship is a believer’s response to God’s revelation of Himself. It is expressing wonder, awe, and gratitude for the worthiness, the greatness, and the goodness of our Lord. It is the appropriate response to God’s person, His provision, His power, His promises, and His plan.”

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