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What is the definition of worship?

video definition of worship

In the Bible, the Hebrew word translated as “worship” is shachah and literally denotes the act of bowing down. The Greek word proskuneō, rendered as “worship,” means “to encounter God and praise Him.” Both terms seem to define worship as an activity or an action. However, an accurate depiction of biblical worship extends beyond mere activity. A better, more comprehensive definition of worship can be summarized in this statement: “Worship is the reverential response of creation to the all-encompassing magnificence of God” (McCaulley, E., “Worship,” Lexham Theological Wordbook, ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Press, 2014).

In his book Real Worship, Warren Wiersbe submits this definition of worship: “Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is—mind, emotions, will, and body—to all that God is and says and does. . . . It is a loving response that is balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better” (Wiersbe, W., Real Worship, Oliver Nelson, 1986, p. 27).

Worship is the ultimate purpose for which humans were created. God said, “I have made them for my glory” (Isaiah 43:7, NLT; see also Psalm 29:1–2; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:3–6; Philippians 2:9–11). Worship is the believer’s way of life (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). Everything we say and do should be an act of worship before God.

Worship cannot be defined solely by physical observances because true biblical worship is centered on God and His unparalleled greatness. It’s not attending a church service, singing, playing an instrument, lifting hands in praise, and bowing down. These acts are all elements of worship (Psalm 95:2–3; Acts 13:2; Hebrews 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11–14; Ephesians 5:19–20; 1 Timothy 4:13) but not the totality of it. They can also be evidence of worship, but authentic worship reaches beyond outward demonstrations or corporal performances into myriad expressions of the human heart replying to God’s revelation of Himself, His purposes, and His will. Worship originates with an inward posture of the heart that is always bowed down in humble, awe-filled recognition of God’s worthiness, honoring and revering Him at all times as the supreme authority over one’s life (Psalm 51:17; 95:6; Revelation 4:11).

Jesus told the Pharisees and scribes they were like the people in Isaiah’s day who honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:7–9; cf. Isaiah 29:13). According to Jesus, such worship was a farce. True worship can only come from a heart that has been redeemed and in right relationship with God. We must be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit before we can know God and respond to Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23; see also Isaiah 59:2; Hosea 6:6; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Timothy 3:5).

Worshiping God in spirit and truth involves loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The apostle Paul’s definition of worship reflected this all-encompassing devotion of one’s life to God: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

True worship is God-focused. He is the only appropriate object of our worship. To worship anything or anyone else is idolatry (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7; 1 Chronicles 16:25; Isaiah 2:8). Genuine, God-centered worship exalts the Lord only; it is offered for His pleasure alone because He alone is worthy (Exodus 34:14; 1 Chronicles 16:25–19; Psalm 86:9–10).

A simplified definition of worship can be stated as a continual heart attitude of bowing down in reverence and humility before the supreme Lord and Creator of the universe. Worship is the heartbeat of the believer’s existence, a lifelong celebration of the worthiness of God. To worship is to respond with one’s whole being in adoration, exaltation, humble submission, and obedience to God (John 4:24; Mark 12:30).

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.”
(Psalm 95:6–7, ESV)

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This page last updated: June 7, 2024