Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Worship Becoming Watered Down? - Part 3

In the last post, I talked about how the common philosophy of worship today is to define worship as a lifestyle - that we worship God by living for Him. Many authors and teachers today muddle worship and service (serving God), and mix them together. This dilutes true worship. Although living for Him is absolutely crucial, is that really what true worship is? In a quest to try to be better at worshiping God, I've come to a different conclusion over the years. In the next several posts, I will lay the foundation for my own philosophy and definition of real worship.

First, I think we need to understand some probable reasons why today's common philosophy of worship is so prevalent. I'm going to list one reason below.

In my desire to be a better worshiper, I found myself asking questions like, “What does the bible really say about worship?”, “Where can I find specific examples of people worshiping God in the scriptures?”, “Where is the word ‘worship’ used in the bible?” Questions like these made me put aside all the books on worship and go back to the bible for answers. I had read plenty of scriptures concerning the topic of worship but this time I wanted to go back and look at scriptures with the intention of coming up with my own definition of worship.

Unfortunately the bible doesn’t give a clear one sentence definition of worship. It doesn’t say, “Worship is .................... .” We can, however, find all the places in the bible where the word is used and then get an overall concept of what worship is through all the teachings and examples we find. So my first step was to do a word study on ‘worship‘.  I looked up everywhere in the bible where the word ‘worship’ was found.

I used the New International Version (1984) and discovered that there are 250 places in the bible where ‘worship’ is used (175 times in the Old Testament and 75 times in the New Testament). I began to look up each one. When combined, all the talk about worship would surely give a well rounded concept of worship. Then one day, I picked up another translation - the old King James. What I found was an eye-opener - instead of listing 250 places in the bible where ‘worship’ was used, like the NIV, the King James used the word worship only 188 times. So I checked the New Living Translation. Worship is found 495 times! The Message: 544 times!

Then something really hit me - I realized that anyone's concept and understanding of worship is directly dependent on which translation of the Bible they use! Yes, someone’s theology of worship can be contingent upon the translators of a particular Bible version. After all, the translators decide when and where to use the particular English word ‘worship’ to express a particular original language Hebrew or Greek word.

What this means is that someone who uses the Message or the New Living Translation will have a much more generalized view of worship compared to someone using the King James or New King James versions. These translations using the word 'worship' liberally have contributed to today's diluted philosophy of worship.

Below is a listing of how many times the word ‘worship’ is used (including any derivative such as worshiping, worshiped, worshiper, worships) in a sampling of different translations (reference:;

The question becomes: who is right? Which translation more accurately defines what worship is? Is the Message translation too liberal in its use of the word 'worship'? Is the King James too restrictive? I wanted to be sure of one thing - my philosophy of worship was not based on a particular group of men who decided when and where to use the word worship. I needed to look at the original Greek and Hebrew words. Not only that, I needed to look at Biblical examples of worship as well, combined with the principles of worship, found in the Old and New Testaments.

A lesson to be learned here:  When doing a Bible word search - for any word, not just worship - be aware that the number of search results depends on what translation you use. For example, you can't simply say that the word worship is found 250 times in the Bible. You can only say, "The word worship is found 250 times in the NIV."

Next post: a look at some Greek and Hebrew words for worship. Then, in a later post, I will share what I believe is the one major contributing verse that has, in my opinion, erroneously led to today's common philosophy of watered-down worship: Romans 12:1.

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