What does the Bible say about worship?

Welcome! This is the first article in the series “Practical Theology of Worship”.

First, let’s recognize the study of worship is a huge and inexhaustible subject. It’s like trying to study God himself.  This, of course, is an overwhelming endeavor because our minds are much too limited to comprehend God and His ways.

Nonetheless, God is in the relationship building business and worship is His love language.

That’s good news, because scripture clearly articulates we can relate to God in a manner that He desires and that blesses Him.

The Psalmist encourages us to “Bless the Lord, oh my soul” (Psalm 103:1).

There is a benefit for the worshiper, too – for God blesses those who worship Him. “Taste and see, and know that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34).

So, what are biblical principles of worship that are relevant and applicable in any context?

To answer that question, let’s examine what I consider to be the three primary or organizing scriptures related to understanding Biblical worship. 

1. Worship is about All Of Life (Romans 12:1)

All of Life Romans 12:1

First, worship is about how we live all of life, every aspect of living. This is the big “W” of Worship, it is a worldview and lifestyle based on Romans 12:1-2

a. 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. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  (NIV)
b. So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

Key principles from this scripture:

  • Worship is a lifestyle of obedience, not religious performance or ritual.
  • Worship expands far beyond the activities of the sanctuary, it encompasses the entirety of our lives. This involves our private lives, our family relationships, and our vocations – the “work of our hands.” It includes everything from the mundane to the significant.
  • We do this by having a “God awareness” in every thing we do, realizing that He is there, He sees it all and He cares. So whatever we do, we do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

2.Worship is to be in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24)

Spirit and Truth John 4:24

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4:23-24 (The Message)

Key principles from this scripture:

  • God is looking for worshipers. He is seeking those with whom He can have a close personal relationship. He is actively pursuing people, desiring to draw them to Himself.
  • God is Spirit. The essence of God is spirit. This is totally foreign to the logic of our sensory perception. We can not see, feel, smell or taste God. The spirit is invisible and totally unlike what we know. We have to relate to Him with our spirit. This is a mystery.
    • We can think of truth as being God’s word recorded in scripture. (John 17:17, Psalm 119)
    • Jesus proclaimed to be the living word. (John 1:1)
    • Jesus is declared as the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)
    • Additionally, there is the Spirit of Truth that “will make sense out of what is about to happen” (John 16:13)Truth is revealed as the word of God and the life of Jesus Christ.

3.Worship is the First and Greatest Commandment. ( Mark 12:30)

Love God, Love People Mark 12:30

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 NIV

Key principles from this scripture:

  • Jesus affirmed the Jewish call to worship as the most important commandment (Deuteronomy 6:4 The Shema,). To love God with everything you’ve got -  wholeheartedly, is the First and Greatest Commandment. Loving God is to be the highest priority.
  • The second priority is the golden rule,  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”
  • Theology made simple: Love God, Love People.
    • Many churches have a variation of this as a mission or vision statement.
    • If we do those two things, we’re doing pretty good.

These four primary areas encompass everything you are and have:

  1. Heart: your passion, affections, emotions, desires, zeal,  your burn
  2. Soul: your unique personality expressed by word and deeds, who you really are, your emotions
  3. Mind: your intellect, contemplation, thought patterns, your self-talk, the things you meditate on
  4. Strength: your energy, resources, time, talents & treasure

The Big Picture: Worship is loving God wholeheartedly in spirit and truth, and living for His glory in every aspect of life.

In this section we’ve outlined three scriptural pillars for understanding biblical worship. These are great verses to memorize and principles to internalize. In our next article in this series “Practical Theology of Worship“, we’ll look at personal worship.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage wholehearted worship worldwide.

So, What do you think are the foundational scriptures to understanding worship? Are there others you feel are essential? I’d love to see what other people think and for this to be a dialogue. So, please leave a comment with your thoughts.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Comments? We love comments!