As shown in the last post, it’s plain to see that some translators have been much more broad minded than others in equating original root words (Hebrew or Greek) with the English word ‘worship’. It's dangerous because when the word worship is used too liberally, it clouds any distinction between worship and service, and leads to a philosophy of watered down worship. It takes away from worship.
I believe one of the characteristics of real worship is that it is intentional. Real worship must be deliberate. When you worship God, you are aware of it. It's a moment when you are spiritually engaged. If worship is simply living for God, that means that you could be worshiping God and not even realize it! Common sense tells us that can't be right. Yet it's a common philosophy today.
Worship and Service Are Different
Worship leads to service
but is not service in itself. If we truly are worshipers, then we will
be motivated to serve God. Service is a byproduct of worship. In this
sense, they go together but they are not the same. Sure, it is possible
to worship and serve at the same time, but it is also possible to
serve God without being in the spirit of worship. Our act of worship must be much more focused and intentional than simply living a Christian lifestyle.
Actually, there are many scriptures that clearly distinguish between
worship and service. One is found in the book of Matthew where Satan
tried to get Jesus to worship him. Matthew 4:10 (NIV), “Jesus
said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: "Worship the Lord
your God, and serve him only."'"
The word ‘worship’ in this verse is derived from the original Greek word ‘proskuneo’ which means to bow down. The word ‘serve’ in this verse is derived from the original Greek word ‘latreuo’ which means to serve or to do God’s work. It is to be in God’s service. In this verse, there is a clear distinction that we should worship God and that we should serve God. We should devote time to bow to him, and we should devote time to serve him.
I personally feel the word 'proskuneo' is the most accurate portrayal of worship. This
word essentially means to bow down. The physical orientation of one bowing down signifies that nothing is
more important, more cherished, and more honored than the one being
worshiped. Bowing is a personal admission of personal submission. It is a
physical demonstration that the one falling down is inferior and the
one being worshiped is superior. It is in a sense an official
recognition of who is King and who is the obedient, loyal and loving servant.
This is the reason Satan wanted Jesus to fall
down at his feet. "All this I will give you," Satan said, "if you will
bow down and worship me." (Matthew 4:9). If Jesus would have done that,
he would have exalted Satan and put himself in an inferior position. It
would have been a proclamation of who was the superior one. It would
have showed that Satan was above all things, including Jesus.
Regardless of whether our worship is planned or is spontaneous, it is done with a conscious effort. There is an awareness in worship; an awareness first of all that we are worshiping God, an awareness of God’s presence, and awareness of our expression to God. It is a spiritual experience, just as prayer is a spiritual experience (I will talk about this more in an upcoming post on John 4:24). Worship occurs in a specific, focused, purposeful moment. It happens for a reason, and for a particular time period.
A Major Source Of Confusion - Romans 12:1
The fact that the
different translations of the Bible apply the word 'worship' with
varying frequency (see the table in the previous post), leads us to
confusion when trying to define worship. Perhaps some versions of the Bible simply do not make the best use of English words when translating from the original Hebrew or Greek languages. One such example is found in Romans 12:1. I suspect that this one verse has contributed the most to today's erroneous philosophy that worship is simply our life style, instead of an intentional, spiritual encounter. Several bible translations of this particular verse, including the NIV, imply that worship is our whole life.
Romans 12:1 NIV: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.”
If you are reading the NIV and take this verse at its face value, then you would conclude that this verse defines worship, that worship is living a righteous life is worship, that living for God = worship. It says it in the "Bible", right? However, is this really what Paul, the writer, intended this verse to mean?
The problem with the NIV version in this verse is that it implies
that our service is a ‘spiritual act’. (I'm not against the NIV version -
I use it all the time - it's just that I believe the translators did a
poor job on this particular verse). This implication that service =
spiritual act of worship is not based on the original language. In this verse the Greek
words for the phrase 'spiritual act of worship' are ‘logikos’ (reason or logic) and ‘latreia’
(service or ministry that involves God’s work). Literally, this verse is talking
about 'reasonable service' not 'spiritual worship'. It's interesting that the Greek word, pneuma, which means
spirit, is not used at all in Romans 12:1. The phrase used by several
Bible translations, “spiritual act”, is not founded on the original language. Remember the verse above
"Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only" from Matthew 4:10? In
that verse, it distinguishes between worshiping and serving (‘latreuo’).
on the Greek, the phrase "reasonable service" is a more accurate
translation of Romans 12:1 than “spiritual act of worship”. It more clearly conveys the idea that it is reasonable for worshipers to
serve or minister to others because of what he has done for us. It is
reasonable to simply be available for whatever God needs us to do to
advance his Kingdom. In other words, it is logical for worshipers who
profess to live Godly lives to be the ones who do good deeds for him –
who are devoted workers for him.
There are several Bible translations this give a more accurate wording of Romans 12:1. In this case, the New King James Version:
Romans 12:1 NKJV: "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.
In conclusion, Romans 12:1 is about service or how we should give our lives to God, and is not a definition of spiritual worship. Worship and service are different. Let me repeat what I said in an earlier post:
True worshipers will be compelled to serve the Lord and be driven to
live their lives for God. One who
worships God will naturally serve Him. We need to serve, but it
is not the same as true, intimate worship. We need to worship, but it is
not the same as serving. We can’t simply be worshipers alone, and
likewise, we can’t simply be servants alone. We must be worshipers. We
must be servants. There is a time for worship and there is a time for
In the next post, I will start to focus more specifically on defining worship, and begin looking at the three conditions which must be in place for worship to be 'worship'. I'll reveal those three conditions next time.