Your Reasonable Worship: 3 Frequently Forgotten Aspects of Worship
Your reasonable worship, your true and proper worship, your spiritual worship – these are terms which Christians take from the Bible verse, Roman 12:1, to talk about worship on a regular basis. In a recent small group discussion on what your reasonable worship should be like, I realised that the discussion generally revolved around the act of singing in our personal and public worship.
This is not surprising, as we often call the segment of singing praise in our congregational gathering “praise and worship”, with praise being called the fast-paced songs, and worship being the slower paced ones. It doesn’t help that churches sometime have what they called “worship services” where the singing of “praise and worship” becomes the focal point of the service. It is even more troubling when preachers in such services claim that worship encompasses more than songs but in the end turn the focal point back to the songs again. The discussions, therefore, brought me on an investigation to clarify what worship really is.
Your reasonable worship is definitely more than singing
The first and most obvious point that I would like to highlight is that your reasonable worship is more certainly more than just singing “praise and worship” in a church service on a Sunday. There are several ways to look at this. For those who read the English translations of the Bible, I would turn to a less travelled way and look at the words that the Bible translates as “worship,” as what I have done in previous studies. For brevity sake, I will just stick to the New Testament for now, while making references to the Old Testament whenever necessary.
In the NIV translation of the New Testament, the word “worship” is generally translated predominantly from 3 Greek words, “proskyneo,” “latreia”/”latreuo” and “sebo.” We will discuss the first 2 words here.
For the first word, it occurs about 60 times across the New Testament, and about 181 times in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This is the word that translates as “worship” in the famous passage in John 4:19-24. It generally connotes the act of bowing down and venerating a divine object. In the New Testament usage of the word, it does not necessarily means the worshippers literally bowed down but it definitely involved some form of physical actions towards the visible physical manifestation of a divine being.
For the second word, “latreia” or the verbal form “latreuo,” these words occur a total of 26 times in the New Testament and about 89 times in the Septuagint. This is the word that translate as “worship” in Romans 12:1. The word has the connotation of service and it is interesting to note that the word is often used in the context of ministering/serving God in the context of temple.
Take for example, in Romans 12:1, one will certainly notice that the language that Paul used are cultic language used to describe the temple worship system that the priests are a part of. These words, on top of “worship”, include “offer” and “sacrifice.”
Therefore, when one puts together the data that we have, we find that in these words that were used to translate as “worship,” singing is almost not a core component, although one might argue that “proskyneo” or the veneration of the physical presence of God might have comprised of singing, as evident in the scene seen by John in Revelations.
Nevertheless, worship is more than that. If we just think about the meanings of the word, we find that “your reasonable worship” would involve even service to God in the many different areas of our lives, as the word “latreia” suggests.
Your reasonable worship stems from what God has done for you on the Cross
Taking a closer look at Romans 12:1, we can see that Paul mentioned that the offering of our bodies as living sacrifice is “in view of God’s mercies.” The context here is that Paul has spent a good portion of Romans 1-11 to explain the Christian gospel. He made clear that the gospel is not only about God’s forgiveness of our sins on the Cross, but also the implications – such as freedom from bondage of sins and becoming more than conquerors. These are the “mercies” that God has given us in the gospel. And the implication is to worship Him by offering our bodies as living sacrifice.
What this means is this: your reasonable worship is not a result of the worship team playing your favourite worship songs during the Sunday service. It is the result of understanding what God has done in our lives and hence living out the implications in our daily lives.
This brings me to my last point.
Your reasonable worship encompasses your whole life
If your reasonable worship is more than singing in the congregation and if it is the outcome of truly understanding what God has done for us on the Cross, then it does imply that it encompasses our entire life, be it personal or corporate.
What this means is this: what we do in our personal lives must necessarily constitute as our act of worship onto God, and what we do as a corporate body, i.e. the church, must also constitute as worship. It is not about singing songs alone. In our personal lives, such as in the family or work, honoring God is worship. As a church, coming together to listen to the word of God, and to partake the Holy Communion together, is an act of worship. A good example that I have found online comes from this person who realised that caregiving of her husband is an act of worship by itself.
Perhaps another way of thinking about this is to relook at Romans 12:1. The imagery references the temple sacrificial system of Judaism. If one reads the book of Leviticus, one will realise that the item that was to be offered as a sacrifice and the one who offers the sacrifice on behalf of the congregation (aka the priests) have to meet a long list of requirements in order for them to be acceptable to God. Moreover, theologically, the body is considered the integral part of God’s creation. That means that we need to offer up our entire being as the only reasonable response to what God has done for us – that itself would be worship.
That is why Paul immediately followed up in Romans 12:3 onwards to exhort the Roman church to think about themselves as part of the overall body of Christ but also more importantly in Romans 12:9 onwards for them to love one another in a sincere manner. These are the manifestation of our reasonable worship to God.
So how would you worship God, given that we already established that it is not just about singing. Share with me your thoughts in the comments.