Vol. 3, No. 5
(Bible Light, Frank Starling, ed., Paducah, KY:
Sunny Slope church of Christ, Vol. 19, No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 2000, p. 3.)
This title raises an interesting and heavily discussed question, and to answer it one must define what is meant by "worship." The most common word in the New Testament translated "worship" is PROSKUNEO. It is always translated "worship." Thayer defines this word, "To kiss the hand (toward) one, in token of reverence….In the New Testament by kneeling or prostrating to do homage to one or to make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication." Out of the 72 times the word worship is found in the King James Translation, 59 of those come from the original word, PROSKUNEO. A clear illustration of the word is found in Matthew 4:9-10: "…and saith unto Him, All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship (PROSKUNEO) me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, thou shalt worship (PROSKUNEO) the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
While PROSKUNEO is the Greek word most commonly found translated "worship," it is not the only word translated "worship." SEBOMAI, occurring ten times, means, "To reverence, hold in awe." While PROSKUNEO emphasizes the outward show of reverence, this word emphasizes the inward feeling of reverence or awe.
LATREUO is sometimes translated "worship." It occurs 21 times, and means "To render religious services or homage, to worship." It is a broader, more general word than the other two, in that it refers to all of Christian service, not just worship. It is true that all worship is service, but not all service is worship. All that a man does in his Christian walk is service to God and glorifies him, but not all a man does in that life is worship. LATREUO can be translated "worship" correctly if the context permits the usage.
That brings us to Romans 12:1. Consider three different translations of this verse: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (King James)
"Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- which is your spiritual worship." (New International)
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (New American Standard)
I have bolded the key words for our consideration. This informative and precious verse describes the Christian lifestyle as a "living sacrifice." That is, all we do in our lives as Christians is in service to our Maker. As Paul wrote later, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Greek word in question is LATREUO.
Now, remember that LATREUO can be translated "service" or "worship," depending on the context. The translators of the KJV believed that to take a context that obviously depicted the whole Christian life and call it worship would contradict what they knew from other passages about the nature of worship. Their translation is the right one. All of Christian living is to the glory and service of God. All of Christian living is not worship!
Read through the Old and New Testaments where worship is discussed, and note the fact that where details are given, worship is punctuated by a beginning and an ending. For example, Abraham said, "I and the lad will go yonder and worship" (Genesis 22:5). The wise men said, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). Paul said, "Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship" (Acts 24:11).
Because worship must be "in spirit and in truth," (John 4:24), it is important that we understand the difference between Christian service and Christian worship. There are many things which would be suitable for me to do in my private life, which would be wholly inappropriate in worship to God.