On Worship

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you may wonder what Christians mean by worship and praise. You may have been to a church or seen a service on television and heard a musical segment of the service described as praise and worship.

Strictly speaking, worship is honoring God by prostrating one’s body. Praise is honoring God verbally or audibly. In Old Testament days, these were distinct acts, though often performed in the same place, the sanctuary, which was the area in Israel’s tabernacle and later within Solomon’s temple, where offerings were given and sacrifices were performed.

Worship was often preceded by a gift (offering) to God, or followed by a sacrifice, or both. When a sacrifice was offered, the priest would raise his hands toward heaven as the smoke and aroma went up before him. Bowing or kneeling often accompanied worship.

Worship is to be done in the presence of God, in reverence of that presence, and in holiness. Worship is to be directed toward God alone, and never to any other spirit, or idol, or work of man’s hands, or to the sun, moon, or stars.

There is a reason I preceded this topic with the Two Most Important Questions of Life. Worship is a physical posture adopted by one who recognizes who God is, and who he is in relation to him. The better a person understands his relationship to God, the greater the inclination toward worship. Likewise, the act of worship helps reinforce this understanding.

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians provides an example of a man’s thought process in coming to worship.

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. [1Co 14:23-25, KJV]

The context here is Paul advocating prophecy as preferential to speaking with tongues in the believers’ assembly, the near-equivalent of our modern church service, because it is most beneficial to visiting unbelievers and unlearned believers. In so doing, he also contrasts a man’s cynical reaction to what appears to him as a bunch religious people freaking out, versus a sudden recognition of the presence of God among them and his own position in relevance to that presence. This recognition compels him to worship.

Next time, I’ll talk about praise.

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