True Worship According To Paul’s Gospel
Part 1 of 6
As I study the Scriptures I often find the things that are omitted or not addressed in certain portions of Scripture to be very interesting and revelatory. In this way we can learn about things that differ between the dispensations of “the law” and that of “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2) that we live under today. “Worship” is one of the things that has changed greatly for we who live according to the dispensation of the grace of God. The worship of the Old Testament is virtually absent from Paul’s writings. Since Paul is the one Apostle to the Gentiles we should take note of this. Romans 11:13 (KJV) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES…
Have you ever considered how few times the Apostle Paul mentions the word “worship” in his epistles? Below I have listed all (4) four mentionings of the word “worship” as they appear in the KJV of Paul’s fourteen epistles, including his letter to “The Hebrews.”
- 1 Cor. 14:25 (KJV) And thus are the secrets of his (the unbeliever’s) heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship (Gk. proskuneo, prostrate to) God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
- Hebrews 1:6 (KJV) And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship (Gk. proskuneo, are prostrate to) him.
- Philip. 3:3 (KJV) For we are the circumcision, which worship (Gk. latreuo, minister or serve) God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
- Col. 2:23 (KJV) Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in “will worship” (Gk. ethelothreskeia, sanctimonious, self-righteous worship), and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Let’s now examine each of these verses to see if “worship” means what many Christians presume it to mean.
First, we should note that twice (see 1. and 2. above and below) the word “worship” is transliterated from the Greek word “proskuneo,” meaning “to prostrate.” This means to be in a genuine “prostrate or bowed position,” as in “submission,” to render one helpless or defenseless before a greater one.
1. Hebrews 1:6 “the angels of God worship (proskuneo, are prostrate to) him.” Here this is outward worship, as something the angels do.
2. 1Corinthinans 14:25 “thus are the secrets of his (the unbeliever’s) heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship (Gk. proskuneo, prostrate to) God.” Here we see worship spoken of as an act of genuine reflexive humility of heart by one who was an unbeliever and unlearned (v25). Paul is hypothetically speaking of one who has now come to be convicted by what he has heard at a meeting of the believers. We all must bow our heart to the Lord when we see so great a salvation. Any spontaneous genuine bowing of the heart to the Lord is genuine worship.
This is an individual’s response and in no way is it related to the orchestrated worship by whole congregations, as seen in so many Christian gatherings today. Paul never mentions externally demonstrable worship as something to be done by believers – but he does speak of “thanksgiving” and “service” to the Lord, repeatedly.
3. Philip 3:3 “we (Christians) are the (true) circumcision, which worship (Gk. latreuo, serve) God in the spirit,” Here the word “worship God in the spirit” would be more properly transliterated as “to serve God in the spirit.” Paul encourages all believers to “walk in the Spirit,” under the influence of the Spirit, so as to serve the Lord to the fullest as their true worship, offering their very selves as a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:2). This would agree to the new idea that Jesus presented to the Samaritan woman at the well when He said worship is not concerned with which mountain one should approach or
(v20-21), but rather… they that worship him must WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT and in truth (reality). (John 4:24b) Jerusalem
4. Colossians 2:23 “will worship” (Gk. ethelothreskeia, sanctimonious, self-righteous worship) is spoken of disapprovingly, as from one who is self-righteous.
Paul does write these words concerning “singing” as part of his instructions regarding “the charismatic gifts” found in his First letter to the Corinthians (one of his earlier epistles, AD57), still during the time of the Acts period when the miraculous external gifts were in operation. This time has however ceased as Paul had said it would. 1 Corinthians 13:8 (AMP) Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and CEASE; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth].
Thus, we have not one instruction from the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, to tell the members of “the body of Christ” today that they should outwardly worship in what many would call “congregational worship services.” Rather, Paul goes on to guide us in the inward matter of our heart relationship with the Lord. In Paul’s latter epistles written after the Acts period has closed we see a transition to the inner matters of the heart – appreciation to the Lord by the inward union and relationship. Ephesians 5:19 (KJV) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody IN YOUR HEART to the Lord; Thus we see there has been a transition from the “outward worship” to an “inner, heart relationship and worship.”
There is nothing wrong or evil about outward expressions of thankfulness to the Lord, but the element that is required for worship to be genuine is that it must emanate from the inner man of the heart (1Cor 13:1-3). Actually, the external things are irrelevant. Paul speaks of the “heart” 29 times in 28 verses. Everything Paul guides us to is genuine and found in the believer’s inner relationship with the Lord. Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.Later we will examine what Paul does consider to be genuine worship.