The Meaning of Worship
August 20, 2022, 8:00 AM

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What would you say is the most important activity of life? I believe that it is worship. Our Creator made us for worship. We will worship someone or something. For a believer, a biblical definition of worship is to love, honor and obey God (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:36-38). There are two verbs that are demonstrative in the activity of worship. They are to submit and to engage. Worship is an act of total submission to God as we reverently engage Him.

Worship is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” The source of the word is an Old English compound word worth ship. It described the devotion and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing, the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.

Worship is fundamentally about our primary relationship. It is about our relationship to God. God made us to worship Him.  But because of sin, we naturally seek to make our own gods to worship. The great reformer John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” (Acts II:413[HP1] , cited from Calvin’s lectures on the Acts of the Apostles).

Therefore, in view of man’s sinfulness, God by His grace declared that He alone was to be worshiped (Exodus 20:1-3). God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God (Exodus 20:4-5). He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God (Isaiah 45:18). Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false, unacceptable, and idolatrous (John 4:23-24; Hebrews 12:28-29).

The only object of true worship is the God who has revealed Himself in His word written (the Bible) and His Word Incarnate (Jesus Christ). To make things even more direct, Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers (John 4). Even though we have been made to worship God, we often substitute our own gods in place of the One True God.

The Apostle Paul quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God (Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11). Even though God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18ff). We are eager to fulfill our God-given desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Our idols are the things that control our lives.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing down or serving carved images as part of their acts of worship and devotion. But we do well to honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words, are we loving, honoring, and obeying things more than God?

When God is truly worshiped, the lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words love, honor, and obey are relational words that describe our primary relationship. In our primary relationship to God, He is the one who established the requirements for that relationship. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

God spoke by the Apostle Paul and made the daily reality of worship clear to all those who have experienced His saving grace. “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).

Finally, worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every day of our lives. Weekly worship on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, is the gathering of God’s people who worship Him every day. Weekly worship is the desire of one who has been changed by God to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ in submission to Him.

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Psalm 122:1).