Man is obligated to worship his Creator. Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water (Revelation 14:7). You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11). You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve (Matthew 4:10).
What is the difference between worshiping God and serving God?
The Greek word for ‘serve’ in Matthew 4:10 (LATREUO) means to serve religiously. For serving in general, DOULEUO is used.
The word here for ‘worship’ (PROSKUNEO) means to express, by words or by bowing down, profound and submissive respect and adoration for God.
The two activities, worshiping God and serving God, are complementary because worship is vain unless it is supported by a life of dedicated service to God.
Paul writes: 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 (LATREIA) (Romans 12:1).1
Also under the Old Covenant, worship was to be verified by a life of daily service to God: And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 10:12). The word here for ‘serve’ in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament is LATREUO.2
Serving God involves all that we do, walking in all His ways, both in the prescribed religious exercises and in a godly life, whereas worship (PROSKUNEO) is an expression of submissive adoration on specific occasions.3
Only God may be worshiped.
When the devil tempted Jesus to bow down and worship him6 Christ told him to go away, For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’ (Matthew 4:10 // Luke 4:8).
Neither men,7 nor angels,8 nor anything created9 may be worshiped. Angels, however, are commanded to worship Christ10 which proves His deity. In the Gospels various people fell down at the feet of Jesus and worshiped Him.11
True worship is in spirit and truth.
Jesus defined genuine worship when He spoke with the Samaritan woman: The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23, 24).12
A common error is to suppose that rituals have value, regardless of the attitude of the heart. Jesus teaches that worship is genuine only if it is in spirit and in truth.13 Both the inner and the outer aspects must be correct.
What is worship?
Worship (PROSKUNEO) is a conscious glorification of God flowing from an inner attitude of lowly submission to His authority and awe at His majesty.
This glorification can be expressed by bowing down and by words. Since God can hear the thoughts of the heart, the words do not have to be audible.
The gospel commands all people on earth to worship God: ‘Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth - to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people - saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’ (Revelation 14:6, 7).14
Majestic examples of worship are found in Revelation.
We can learn how to worship from the heavenly host!
And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’ Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created’ (Revelation 4:8- 11).
By falling down and casting their crowns before the throne, the elders show their submission. They worship ... saying, and then follows a beautiful and majestic verbal expression of adoration. By definition, worship is directed to God, yet the glorification of God is magnified when words of adoration are heard by others.
Next we hear the saints worshiping Christ in song: And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God’ (Revelation 5:9, 10).
Then expressions of adoration follow in the third person, proclamations intended for others to hear. Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’ Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 5:11-14).
The praise of the saints is confirmed by the amen of the heavenly host! After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen’ (Revelation 7:9-12).
Worship includes thanksgiving: And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned’ (Revelation 11:16, 17).
They who overcome the beast, sing the song of Moses and the Lamb: Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for your judgments have been manifested (Revelation 15:3b, 4).
These thrilling examples in Revelation demonstrate that worship is a conscious glorification of God flowing from an inner attitude of lowly submission to His authority and awe at His majesty.
Let us worship the Lord! Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive