Worship is a central theme throughout the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, we see examples of worship given to God by His people. But what exactly is worship according to Scripture? What does true worship look like? In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine what the Bible says about worship and key principles for worshipping God.
Worship is more than just singing songs at church on Sunday. It encompasses our entire response to who God is and what He has done for us. The Bible shows us that worship starts with awe, includes surrender of our will to God’s will, and results in a life of obedience and service.
Here are some key takeaways about worship we will explore in more detail:
- Worship originates from God and is directed back to Him.
- Worship involves reverence, awe, and deep respect for God.
- True worship engages our entire being – mind, emotions, and will.
- Worship includes both private and corporate expressions.
- Worship is a way of life, not just something we do on Sundays.
- God seeks worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
As we dive into Scripture, let’s keep these principles in mind as we seek to understand the true meaning of worship.
The Origin and Object of Worship
Where does worship come from? And who or what is the object of our worship? According to Scripture, God alone is worthy of our worship. He created us to worship Him.
In Exodus 20, as God gives the Ten Commandments, the first commandment establishes who alone is worthy of worship:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3 NKJV)
God alone is to be the object and recipient of our worship. Earlier in Exodus, when Moses encounters God at the burning bush, he responds in worship, removing his shoes on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).
Throughout Scripture, glimpses of heaven reveal constant worship around God’s throne. The four living creatures in Revelation 4:8 proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” Worship emanates from who God is – the almighty, eternal, holy Creator and Sustainer of all things.
Because God alone is worthy of worship, the Bible strictly prohibits idolatry – worshipping anything else including false gods, nature, money, celebrities, self, etc. God demands exclusive worship. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 when confronted by Satan’s temptation, saying, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).
The Attitudes of Worship
More than just outward expressions like singing or raising hands, true worship engages the heart. Our worship flows out of awe, gratitude, love, and reverence for God.
After witnessing God’s power and might through the plagues in Egypt, the Israelites responded in worship with musical instruments and dancing as they sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” (Exodus 15:1). When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he “danced before the Lord with all his might” in joyful worship (2 Samuel 6:14).
The psalmists frequently express the attitudes of awe and thanksgiving that characterize worship:
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3 NKJV)
“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100 NKJV)
Worship flows from recognizing God for who He is and responding accordingly. We worship Him for His holiness, power, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness.
The Actions of Worship
While worship starts in the heart as awe and gratitude for God, it necessarily leads to action and obedience. Jesus emphasizes this truth in John 4 when He declares, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Our worship engages both heart and action.
Both private and corporate worship are key parts of the believer’s lifestyle according to Scripture. Jesus gives us a model of private worship through His own habits of withdrawing to pray (Mark 1:35). The book of Psalms provides us with many examples of individual prayers, praises, and expressions of worship towards God.
At the same time, coming together as the corporate Body of Christ forms a key element of worship in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews instructs us:
“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). As the Body of Christ, we worship together through prayer, listening to preaching and teaching, baptism, communion, giving tithes, and singing spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).
Yet worship encompasses all of life, beyond Sunday gatherings. Paul exhorts believers, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship” (Romans 12:1). We worship God through stewardship of our bodies, pursuing holiness, and walking in obedience to Christ. Our work, service, and care for others can all constitute acts of worship when done with a faithful heart of gratitude to God.
Worshipping in Spirit and Truth
While worship can include outward rituals and practices, God makes clear He desires inward devotion matched with outward action. When Israel multiplied religious rituals without repentant hearts, God declares,
“I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies…Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:21, 23-24 NKJV)
Jesus reinforces this message when He confronts the woman at the well on where true worship occurs – in spirit and truth, not confined to a physical location (John 4:21-24).
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 ESV)
We worship “in spirit” through our heart posture of awe, love, and sincerity towards God Himself. We worship “in truth” when our beliefs, words, and actions align with Scripture. Righteous living and pure motives matter more to God than empty rituals or eloquent prayers.
Call to True Worship
If worship means awe, surrender, and obedience towards God, how should we respond? Here are some key applications from Scripture:
- Repent of idolatry: Remove anything stealing worship from God alone – your idols of money, relationships, entertainment, success.
- Renew your mind in truth: Fill your mind with Scripture and biblical truth about who God is. Reject lies from the world about God’s character.
- Cultivate private worship: Develop regular habits of prayer, Bible reading, and expressing your personal worship to God.
- Engage in corporate worship: Attend church services ready to actively participate and build up others. Contribute your unique gifts and talents.
- Offer your life as a living sacrifice: Yield your thoughts, time, talents, and treasures to honor God in everyday life. Obey God out of love and gratitude.
The majesty and glory of God compels us to lives of worship. May we respond to the truth of who God is and what He has done for us with awe, love, obedience, and sacrifice. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Worship encompasses our entire response to God – His character, activities, and blessings in our lives. We worship God for who He is. True worship begins with an awe and reverence for God’s glory and love for us, provoking grateful obedience, service, and praise. Worship springs from the heart, transforms the mind, and ultimately leads to righteous living. As people created to glorify God, may we become true worshippers who “worship the Father in spirit and truth” through every moment of our lives (John 4:23).