Basics of Worship
Worship, by definition, is acknowledging God’s worth. While the Bible occasionally uses the word in a broad sense of one’s service to God, it is mostly used in the narrower sense of specific acts of devotion to Him. It is something He both deserves and requires. Let’s review some basics about it.
Not all worship is acceptable to God. That is evident in the first recorded example of it. Cain and Abel both worshiped the same God, but “the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4:4b-5a; cf. Hebrews 11:5). God, not man, is the judge of the quality of one’s worship. He is not pleased with just anything one might do in the name of worshiping Him.
Nadab and Abihu learned the hard way that acceptable worship must be done as the Lord commands. These two Old Testament priests “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded” (Leviticus 10:1). God responded by sending His own fire from heaven and consuming them! Moses rightly observed that their failure to worship as God had instructed was a failure to treat Him as holy (v. 3). Elevating our own worship preferences above God’s revealed will actually dishonors Him.
The people in Isaiah’s day worshiped often, and they evidently did so using the right forms. Nevertheless, God said their worship was worthless and a burden to Him, something He hated (Isaiah 1:10-15). What was the problem? They may have offered formal worship as God directed, but they were ignoring His instructions for everyday life (vv. 16-17). This was a common complaint of the prophets (Jeremiah 6:16-20; 7:1-15; Amos 4:1-5; 84-6; Micah 6:6-8). Right living is essential to right worship.
Motive in worship is important too. Some people just “go through the motions” as we say (see Isaiah 29:13). Some may think of it as a means of obtaining God’s favor. Jesus warned against making a show of it (Matthew 6:5-6). Worship requires sincerity and humility (Psalm 51:16-17).
To worship acceptably we must be in Christ. “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
Jesus summarized these points when He said, “But an hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).