Appendix 3. What is Worship?
Modern Christians have come to believe that the worship of God consists of weekly songs and prayers and the orations and sermons of preachers before large crowds in cathedrals, churches, and halls. But what does that word “worship” mean in the Bible?
In England, during the first exodus from Europe to America, it was common to use the word “worship”, “as a form of address for magistrates, mayors, and certain other dignitaries”1 ,which were called “gods” in the Old and New Testaments.
In Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary, the word “worship” is defined, “homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being (Ex. 34:14; Isa. 2:8). Such worship was refused by Peter (Acts 10:25,26) and by an angel (Rev. 22:8,9)”.
Unlike Peter, there are men who accept the homage and worship of the people and exercise judgment upon those people, demanding their allegiance and service. Easton clarifies this obeisant homage by explaining that it was also the, “ceremonial acknowledgment by a vassal of allegiance to his lord under feudal law.”
The affiliation of bowing toward the ground, as a form of worship, is simply a ceremony that demonstrates the superior and inferior rank, which is the essential quality of homage. The Aramaic word seg-eed’ corresponding to saw-gad’, to prostrate oneself, is translated into “worship” in Daniel, but means “to prostrate oneself, do homage.”
We also find the word “worshippers”, as in “worshipers of Baal” in 2 Kings, to be from abad, meaning “to labor”, but more in the sense of “to be compelled to work” or “ to be enticed to serve.” Even the word, Baal, means “lord”. It expresses a superior rank requiring a compelled subordinate service as a form of worship. “Baal” takes or taxes a man’s labor, collecting tribute. In the New Testament, the word latreuo is translated “worship” and “worshipper”, but is from latris, meaning “a hired menial, employee”. The word, latreuo, is defined “to serve for hire” and includes the concept of homage.
In the Ten Commandments, God also associates the idea of bowing down with the act of labor and service in Exodus 20:5, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…”
The most common word translated into “worship” in the New Testament is proskuneo, which was used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank. It literally means “to kiss the hand”. Among the Orientals, it did include the idea of falling upon the knee and is simply a token of reverence by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance.
Rank, homage, service, and labor are political and governmental concepts. Of course, Abraham was leaving the City -States of Ur and Haran. Moses was leaving the civil jurisdiction of Egypt and Jesus was preaching a Kingdom at hand under the perfect law of liberty, not oaths of allegiance to Rome. What the word “worship” means has a common theme and meaning in the Bible. Worship has to do with homage, allegiance, service, and the rank of the superior and inferior citizens of a political state.
At the time of Christ, there was a complaint of the Hellenization of the Hebraic traditions. In Plato’s Laws On Musical Worship, for Apollo, he states:
“In order, then, that the soul of the child… obey the law… I say, to produce this effect, chants appear to have been invented, which really enchant, and are designed to implant that harmony of which we speak.”
“And similarly the true legislator will persuade, and, if he cannot persuade, will compel...”2
I suspect that the modern transformation of the word “worship”, from a political act of homage, allegiance, and service in recognition of superior rank, is conformity to the Greek philosophers and not Christ. Certainly, the modern preaching has more in common with the Greek orators than the question and answers coming from the New Testament sermons of Christ, to say nothing of His doctrine of public service and liberty in the Kingdom of God.
Israel was a kingdom, not merely a religion. Judea was the remnant of that kingdom, with usurpers and apostates occupying the seat of Moses, or offices, of that government. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God at hand. He was its King and appointed that Kingdom to public ministers of His government, who were not to exercise authority, compel contributions, nor require homage and allegiance. Worship in the Kingdom of Heaven is not merely lip service with repetitious idle praises and singing, but it is a manifestation of the homage and service owed to Christ the King and His Father, with obedience and service to His ways, under the perfect law of liberty.
As we have seen in chapter 4, the word “liturgy” comes from the Greek, meaning “public service”. In the early Church, it was the prescribed form of public worship that was faithful to the set pattern of service, established by the precepts and doctrines of Jesus Christ. It was His prescribed manner of worship in the Kingdom of God for those men he appointed as its the public servants. Of course, His basic laws applied, which consisted of having no other gods, and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Having no other gods before God means that we apply to Him only, that we call no man on earth “father”, in word or deed, but our Father in Heaven. And in taking His Name as His children, we must remain true to His ways and character with all that we do and say.
Loving our neighbors means that their rights and property are as important to us as our own. We must not harm our neighbor or allow others to harm them. We must not take from our neighbor, nor allow others to take from them. We must not violate our neighbor's house or family in any way. We must not even desire nor covet anything that is our neighbor's or anything that might come to us by the loss or deprivation of our neighbor.
The public service prohibition, stated by Jesus to His ministers, was that they were not to exercise authority like the princes and rulers of the other nations.3
A godly administration is not a kingdom or government where service is compelled by men who make laws, demanding homage and allegiance. God’s ministers and all those people of His Kingdom do not exercise authority nor compel the service and labor of the people, in accordance with the liturgy of Jesus Christ and the worship of God.
1The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
2Translated by Benjamin Jowett
3And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But it shall not be so among you Luke 22:25... Mtt 20:25 Mk 10:42