Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. – Romans 12:1 (NIV)
What is worship? Music? reverent silence? attending some spiritual gathering? taking part in certain religious activities? These are all things that are commonly associated with worship, and for most world religions they are how followers worship their god(s), but what does Scripture say about worship?
Let me state up front that I am no expert on the topic of worship so please feel free to correct/add to whatever I say here.
The passage from John seems to indicate that there is a significant difference between worshipping in “spirit and in truth” as opposed to worshiping in the temple or on the mountain. What could this difference be? Well if you read on it seems that the Messiah is key, and what did the Messiah do? He made a way for sinful people to interact with Holy God, so maybe worshiping in spirit and in truth has to do with our ability to connect with God through Christ without the need for special buildings or spiritual leaders… honestly I don’t know. Feel free to share your thoughts.
The passage from Romans seems to indicate that worship is about surrendering one’s life to God. To serve Him? How? It seems that Paul is talking about a life of service, not a special time and place. I have to admit I used the NIV to quote this passage because it lines up better with my point. Other translations use the word “service” but based on a quick glance at other places where this word is used we see it referring to service to God in the Temple, so I think it is safe to say that this may be a comparison between temple worship and true worship, much like Jesus talks about in John.
It seems that a major theme in the New Testament is how humanity can now interact with God through Christ. There is no need for special places, special times, special people, or special sacrifices to appease God. This is something that is constant and universal for those who have surrendered their lives to Christ. Does this theme play out in worship? Has worship gone from a special act in a special place led by special people to a constant act, anywhere, all the time, by all God’s children?
I would greatly appreciate any comments, thoughts, disagreements, or direction in further study of this topic. I believe it has very weighty applications to Christians, because when we determine what we believe worship IS, we then must ask are we doing that.