The Word brings with it all sorts of ideas and opinions and convictions. For decades the church has
listened to various teachers, musicians and leaders expound on their personal convictions of what worship is and what constitutes biblical worship.
Some may say, “Worship is music and experience that makes me feel the presence of God.” Others may
say, “Worship is when we sing of deep theological truths in the songs of our tradition.” Still others may
say, “Worship is when we come together and read from the Scriptures or the liturgy,” or “Worship is
when we listen to the sermon.” Which definition is right? Each of the above can be worship and yet none
of the above constitute worship in and of themselves.
The study of biblical worship from Genesis to Revelation is a worthwhile and exhaustive study, the scope
of which cannot even be properly outlined here. We must, then, for the purposes of this article, settle for
brief definitions. The Ultimate Bible Dictionary defines worship as, “The term used to refer to the act or
action associated with attributing honor, reverence, or worth to that which is considered to be divine by
religious adherents. Christian worship is often defined as the ascription of worth or honor to the triune
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1, gives us a concise and applicable definition of worship:
“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.”
With this statement Paul makes it clear what worship truly is: Worship is the offering or surrender of the
worshipper to God.
This definition, then, must inform all our discussion regarding worship. Worship then can no longer be
understood as simply the playing of music, the singing of songs or even participation in a religious
service. These things are simply meant to be an outward expression of an inward work of the Holy Spirit.
The believer is not called to simply listen or participate in times or practices of worship, rather they are
called to live in the state of worship.
True spiritual worship then, is not meant to be a “some of the time” thing. It is meant to be, rather, the
very way the Christian lives every aspect of their life. Our lives in every aspect, from what we see as
mundane to that which we hold as sacred, are to be offerings to our God. This indeed is what Paul means
by “living sacrifice.”
What then of our cherished music, our meaningful traditions? Do we leave them behind because they
themselves do not constitute worship? By no means! We ought not abandon these things. For they are
given to us in order to guide us into the act of meaningful praise of and to our God. These things are
meant to draw us to the place where we are enabled by the Spirit to truly and progressively surrender
ourselves unto the Lord, thereby living lives of true worship.
This clarification of the definition of worship ought also to serve to refine our thinking as we contemplate
traditional and contemporary praise music and, indeed, as we consider our involvement in any corporate
or individual religious act. Whether we are sitting down to family or individual devotions, whether we are
in prayer, or singing praise privately or publicly. Indeed, whether we are sitting in a church service or
driving to work, the question we must answer is simply, “Am I worshipping God in this?”
Ancient Israel, prior to their exile, made the mistake of thinking that religious services and offerings
would appease the Lord. However, what God was interested in was not a people who would live as they
pleased and attempt to appease him with offerings of song and sacrifice. Rather, God desired and desires
loving, devoted relationship. God desires a people who will gladly give unto Him all of themselves
because He has, in Christ, given us all things.
“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. 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” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).
Pastor Brian Torres
1 Holman, Bible Publishers. Ultimate Bible Dictionary: A Quick and Concise Guide to the People, Places, Objects, and Events in the Bible, B&H
Publishing Group, 2019.