Question: How does the Bible define worship?
Our English word “worship” comes from the Old English worthscipe, “worth” + suffix “–ship” – acknowledging one in the condition worthy of reverence and honor. The Bible does not give an explicit or formal definition of worship. The biblical view of worship must be discerned from the teachings on the subject throughout the Bible.
Some positive aspects (True Worship)
Some negative aspects (False Worship)
- Idol worship; Isaiah 2:8 - their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: (Cf. Psalm 96:5-6)
- Ignorant worship; John 4:22 - Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (Cf. Romans 10:3)
- Vain worship; Matthew 15:9 - But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Cf. Isaiah 29:13)
- Will worship; Colossians 2:23 - which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.[i] (Cf. John 1:13)
- Disorderly worship; 1 Corinthians 14:40 - Let all things be done decently and in order. (Cf. v. 33, et al.)
- Disobedient worship; Leviticus 10:1-2 - And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. (Cf. Ephesians 5:6)
We cannot worship God any way that we please. False worship displeases God. True worship is what pleases God. What pleases God is that which is revealed in Scripture and comes from the heart/spirit.
[i] “Will-worship” is from the Greek word ethelothreskia (ἐθελοθρησκίᾳ). It is a compound word of two roots – ethelo (to will; used numerous times in the NT) and threskia (religious worship, especially external; used in Col. 2:18; James 1:26-27; Acts 26:5). Will worship is “worship which one prescribes and devises for himself” – originating in or chosen according to men’s own depraved wills, as opposed to the will of God – self-contrived, not bidden by God. All false worship is in a sense “will worship,” but this one perhaps exalts the will itself into the place of an idol.