A Discussion On Worship

Worship – The adoration of Deity.

Worship was, in its earliest form, the act of prostrating ones self at the feet of the object of worship. Over time its usage was transferred from an outward gesture to the inward attitude.


Romans 12:1 (ESV) 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.

The cultic religion of Israel focused on the place to which one went for the act of worship and the prescribed method of worship.  By location and by ceremony the worshipper is comforted that the duty of deity worship had been realised. [1]

Indeed it was a means of controlling the worshipper. Fear of not ‘appeasing’ the deity through worship gave the priests or, in Jesus day, the Pharisees power over the people.

John 12:42 (ESV) Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;

Freedom in Worship

Jesus radically redefines worship as He speaks with the Samaritan woman. She raises the issue of location in worship:

John 4:20 (ESV) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

His response abolishes the notion of worship as a ceremony, at a sacred or holy site, and presents spirit worship:

John 4:21 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

John 4:23–24 (ESV) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The S/spirit worship of the early church was radically different to cultic worship – both Jew and Gentile worship. No longer was worship dependent on a location, or cultic ceremony, or on the leading and administration of worship by an elite group. Worship was decentralised so that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, was worshipped freely. So to the worshipper was free to worship his God with out human mediation or control and without fear.

The early Christians had no fear of being excommunicated from the synagogues for they were able to worship in spirit and in truth anywhere, anytime, however the Spirit led. The form was less important than the attitude or heart.

True Christian worship was freedom in Christ to worship God in spirit and in truth without fear of rejection.

Worship in Modern Church Gatherings

Modern church gatherings have not evolved freely and unaffectedly from that early Christian worship. Rather its form has been handed down by the same systems that Christ’s death delivered the worshipper from.

What persecution was unable to do the Constantine/Roman Catholic religion did by manipulation re-establishing the control and fear of cultic worship. The true worshippers freedom was deceptively replaced by controlling cultic religion.

Control and fear is the order of religion. Freedom in Christ is the true worshippers portion. The religio-political system that was the roman church, ensured the establishment of control and fear; the building, rather than ‘where two or three are gathered (Mat 18:20)’, became the place of worship; the priests were the mediators between God and the worshipper not Jesus Christ (1Tim 2:5) and the mass became the form of worship and the rite of acceptance by the deity over faith in christ.

Displease the ‘church’ and the worshipper is no longer able to worship. Excommunicated, mass is withheld, separation and damnation the punishment.

Each proceeding religious form has come from that system. The protestant reformation and other movements became God’s vehicle through which Scripture and theology were again freed and placed into the hands of the worshipper. But the mistake so often made is to then deify all and every act of these reformers.

Luther, Calvin and others used the ‘power of the church’ to control would-be worshippers who disagreed with them. And so today, denominational and non-denomination leaders or pastors or CEO’s – regardless of title – feel a sense of authority and power over the worshipper.

Not to simply criticise, couldn’t we carry on the spirit of reformation into every aspect of this freedom into which Christ seeks us to enter in the fulness of ‘worshipper in spirit and truth’?

If we are truly free in Christ, why do worshippers feel obligated to participate in the religious service of a legally constituted religious body?

If worship is the living act of obedience to God through the worshippers life, why do we ‘go to worship’ and why are we ‘led in worship’ and how is it that we enjoy a ‘worship service’?

Summation – Is Worship Led Or Done?

of course the question is deeper than that. Whereas we may conclude that in the cultic worship of Israel they had directors or choirmasters, is Christian worship meant to be the same?

Church-gatherings as we know it, have evolved, not from the early church and its organic life, but from the religion of Constantine and the protestant reformation etc.

Whereas music plays a significant part when the church gathers (something worthy of further consideration) why has it become “Worship” to be led or conducted by the “worship leader”?

Music is certainly a divine gift as means to aid in the communication of Scripture and theology and is an effective aid in memorizing it. It also plays a significant role in the worshippers ability to address the ‘mood’ of the day and bring a more focused response to it. Has it become, is it really meant to be, a cultic ritual through which worship is defined?

To communicate to one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:18-20) is to build and encourage each other in the faith (Jude 20f). Rather than the domain of the professional clergy/musicians it could perhaps be a family and friends celebration rather than a structured religious form? And perhaps its significance as a prelude to prayer is to be embraced over its power as an entertainment form or emotional manipulation.


[1] Greeven, H. (1964–). προσκυνέω, προσκυνητής. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 6, p. 758-766). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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