A few weeks ago I preached on Romans 12:1-2, a really well-known passage on worship. To watch this sermon, click here.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
At one point in the message I mentioned that there are 4 different Greek words that most English translations render “worship” throughout the New Testament. There is actually a 5th one that a few scholars translate “worship” in a couple of contexts.
The word “worship” appears in the New Testament 52 different times in the English Standard Version. The 5 Greek words that are translated “worship” are:
Proskuneo: (31 times, verb) “to bow down, fall down”
Latreuo: (11 times, verb) “to serve”
Phebo: (8 times, verb) “to worship, venerate, adore, honor”
Eusebeo: (1 time, verb) “conducting oneself with reverent regard for God—fulfilling one’s duties.”
Threskeia: (1 time, noun) “religion”
Fifty-one of the fifty-two occurrences are verbs, and the one time “worship” is translated as a noun, it means “religion.” That same noun is translated in a couple other contexts as “religion.”
In Romans 12:1 the verb used is latreuo, which means “to serve.” The point I made in the sermon is that “worship” isn’t just an experience we have occasionally through music; rather it is a lifestyle that every Christian is called to 24/7. It’s also not an adjective, it’s a verb. Christians at times use it as an adjective to describe a genre of music or a type of conference or gathering. While this isn’t necessarily a major theological issue, it can become and theological and practical issue if we listen to “worship music” and attend “worship services” and go to “worship conferences,” while neglecting a worship lifestyle.
I’ll confess that I struggle mightily with the fact that we Christians often limit the word worship to a 25-minute musical experience that we take part in on a weekly basis “at church.” I struggle with that in the same way that I struggle with us “going to church” or “doing church” instead of “being church.”
I have no doubt that I probably bother people close to me at times by insisting on speaking theologically sound language, but if we in the church consistently lived a worship lifestyle, I don’t think I would have as much of an issue with us using the term “worship” interchangeably to refer to our “musical expression of corporate worship.” It certainly is food for thought. A good question for all of us to ask ourselves (and God for that matter) on a daily basis is: “How’s my worship?” Everything you and I do is worship. It’s what we were created to do, and we do it constantly. The quality of that worship really depends on the object. At all times we are worshipping, the question is “Who, what, and why?”