In the Bible, worship describes both a way of life and a specific activity. Praising, adoring, and expressing reverence for God, both publicly and privately, are specific acts of worship. In a broader sense, worship refers to an overall lifestyle of serving and glorifying God and reflecting His glory to others.
When the Old Testament prophet Jonah said, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (Jonah 1:9, NLT), he was speaking of a lifestyle wholly dedicated to glorifying God. The apostle Paul also defined worship as an all-encompassing way of life: “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).
Believers participate in specific acts of worship whenever they celebrate God’s worthiness and greatness by giving honor and glory to His name. Worship can be expressed in words, shouts, singing, bowing down, raising hands, and many other ways. The psalmist urges the faithful to enter into acts of worship: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:1–2).
The word Greek word for “worship,” proskuneō, means “to encounter God and praise Him.” For centuries the Jewish people had encountered God in the temple for worship. But when Jesus arrived on the scene, He spoke metaphorically of Himself as the temple (John 2:19–22). Through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus became the spiritual dwelling place where God and His people would meet (see Matthew 12:6 and Hebrews 10:19–20).
In John 4:23–24, Jesus made it clear that the physical location of our worship is no longer relevant: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24). True worship takes place on the inside, within our hearts or spirits, which is the dwelling place of God (Psalm 103:1–2; Ephesians 2:22).
Humans were created to worship God (Psalm 29:1–2; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:3–6; Philippians 2:9–11). The purpose of the church, beyond serving the Lord and spreading the gospel, is to worship God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4–6; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 5:6–14).
God is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of worship (1 Chronicles 16:25; Psalm 96:4–5). Worshipping God means crediting to Him the absolute worth that He alone deserves. He is our Creator (Acts 17:28; James 1:17; Revelation 4:11), Redeemer (Colossians 1:12–13; 1 Peter 1:3), and Lord (Psalm 22:27). The Father and the Son receive worship (Matthew 14:33; 28:17; Luke 7:16); the holy angels worship God and refuse to be worshipped themselves (Revelation 19:10; 22:9).
A biblical concept of worship involves praising God and giving Him glory with our lips and our lives, with our words and our deeds, with our physical bodies and our spiritual hearts. Worship that pleases God is authentic, offered with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3–4; Isaiah 66:2).