BLOG POST

by Phillip Vanwinkle
APRIL 1, 2016

Is All of Christian Life Worship?

 Is all of Christian life worship? No! The simple answer to the question is no, all of Christian life is not worship. Everything that people do in their lives is not considered worship to God. If all of life was worship, then when we sin, we would be worshiping God. So that idea is simply foolishness.

So now the question is: Is everything we do except sin, worship? The answer again is no! Not everything we do in life (except sin) is worship to God.

The Greek word for worship carries with it the idea of bowing in sub­mission, kissing the hand of, or giving homage and humble sub­mission to God. We are told in John 4:23-24 that we must worship God in spirit (the right attitude) and in truth (the prescribed way). That tells us that there is a proper way to worship God, which is with the right spirit, and in the correct way, according to the pat­tern laid out in the Bible.

When a person is working at his job, his mind should be focused on what he is doing. His mind is to be upon his work. God intended it to be so. When a person is wor­shipping, he is to have his mind completely on God. He is to worship with the right state of mind. Therefore, when a person is focused on his job, rather than his God, he is not worshipping. Or at the very least, he would be worshipping in vain (which would be impossible if all of life were worship).

When a person is in the store, testing equipment for a swimming pool, or perhaps trying on new clothes, he is not worship­ping God. In fact, we will go one step further and say that not all service is worship. There are some who say that anything a person does, as long as it is in "service" to God, is automatically "worship" to God.

When Abraham was getting ready to offer Isaac on the altar to God as worship to God, he said to those traveling with him, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you (Genesis 22:5)

Abraham understood that there was a difference between serv­ing God and worshiping God. They had been traveling for days. In their travels, no doubt, they had been serving God along the way. But the service they were rendering to God was not worship. That is why he said, "You stay here, and the boy and I will go over there and worship.” If all of his service was worship, there would be no reason for him to make the distinction to the men that they were leaving to go worship.

Misunderstanding of latreia (service)

What clouds the issue for many is a misunderstanding of Romans 12:1. 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.

The Greek word translated "service" here is the word latreia, and it is translated 4 times in the New Testament as "service." In one instance it is translated as "divine service." But in none of those instances is it referencing actions of worship. Unfortunately, the NIV has mistranslated this word from "ser­vice" (what it actually means) to “worship” (which it does not mean).

Another point of confusion about this word is that latreia does, at times, describe actions of service which are associated with worship, but not the act of worship itself.

In the Old Testament, the Levites were in charge of serving God in various ways assigned to individual families (Gershon, Kohath, Merari, etc.). Each was to serve God and the people, so that the people could come and worship God. Their service was necessary, and their service was commanded. However, their service itself (preparing the tabernacle/temple, etc.) was not necessarily worship. The priestly sacrifices were part of the worship which God commanded, yet all of Israel was instructed to worship God.

How about us, today? Let's look at some examples.

Before our wor­ship begins on Sunday morning, some person or people must go in and clean the building, and put the songbooks in their proper place. If the songbooks are not in their proper places, then the worship will be hindered because many of the people might not know the words to the songs we sing. So, someone serves God by putting the song­books in their proper places.

However, that action (putting songbooks in the proper place) is not worship to God. The same could be said about preparing the Lord’s supper, etc. These actions are service to God, but not worship.

The point to Romans 12:1 is not that all of life is to be worship. It is, in fact, an instruction to people to live their lives as sacrifices, holy, and pleasing to God. We are the called-out people of God. We have been called out from the world to serve God. But the point in Romans 12 is that we are to serve him as holy sacrifices. We, as his church, are to be spot­less, without blemish, and washed in the blood of the lamb (Ephesians 5:27).

The simple fact is that we are to spend our days serving God to the best of our ability. But not all service is worship.

A Bible example to demonstrate the difference

When Daniel was taken into captivity by Babylon, he was put in the service of Nebuchadnezzar. He served him willingly. However, we must ask: was his service to the king worship? If there is no difference between worship and service, we would have to conclude that Daniel was worshipping Nebuchadnezzar.

When Darius then became king over the people, Daniel also served him. However, when instructed not to worship God, but only Darius, Daniel refused to obey. Why was this? Why did he refuse to stop worshipping God and only pray to Darius? Did Daniel understand that there was a difference in worship and service? Indeed he did!

The same argument could be made of Joseph, and other prophets throughout the Old Testament who served kings, but would certainly never worship them.

Today, may a person living in a coun­try which is ruled by a king serve that king? Suppose the king calls you to be his cupbearer or someone he truly depends on. Is it OK for you to serve the king of that country? Of course it is! Is it then okay to worship that king? Absolutely not! So we can see clearly that there is a differ­ence between serving and worshiping.

Going back to the original question, is all that we do in service to God worship? Is everything a Christian does, even if it is to the "glory of God" considered worship? The answer is no!

A logical implication

If it is the case that everything a person does which may be considered service to God is actually worship to Him, then any Christian "service" is worship.

  • Any person who goes to play golf on Sundays, and hands out a religious flyer (in service to God) is therefore pleasing God in proper worship.
  • If a person goes fishing on the Lord’s Day, and while at the bait shop hands a beggar a dollar (in service to God), he is pleasing God in proper worship.
  • Any person who goes to the church building on Sunday morning, and vacuums the floor (in service to God) may then go home before the "worship service" begins, as he has already met the command to worship God on the Lord’s Day.

The logical implications to this idea that service to God is the same as worship to God, show that this idea is simply inconsistent with the teaching of all of Scripture. Jesus said that God was seeking true worshipers (John 4:23). If the implication is true, then Jesus was mistaken. God did not need "true" worshippers, because there would be no such thing. I could worship God any way that I want, so long as I attach the name of Jesus to it, and in my mind find a way to claim service to God.

Worship then becomes completely arbitrary, and is left up to each individual to choose how he wishes to "worship/serve" God, thus dismantling any idea of "true worship." Yet this very idea is condemned throughout scripture (1 Sam. 15; Col. 2:23).  

The logical implication, then, would be that if all of Christian service is worship, then there is no such thing as “true worship.”

  • If God is seeking true worshipers to worship in spirit and truth, then there must be a truth for the worshiper to follow.  
  • God is seeking true worshipers to worship in spirit and truth,
  • Therefore, there must be a truth for the worshiper to follow.  

 But if all service to God is considered worship, then worship becomes various and different, and is up to each individual to decide how to worship. This is how we arrive to that conclusion:

  • All Christian service is worship
  • Christians serve God in various and different ways (depending upon the individual)
  • Therefore, worship is various anddifferent for every individual.

 So in the final analysis, we either:

  1. Obey God and worship as He has instructed in His Holy Word (in truth)
  2. Or, we choose to "worship" however we like, doing whatever we wish, explain it as "service" to God, and satisfy our minds that we have obeyed.

The problem with the second option is that it is sinful, and has been shown to be rejected by God throughout scripture (1 Sam. 15:22; Col. 2:23).

Again, to answer the question: Is all that we do in service to God considered worship? Is everything a Christian does, even if it is to the "glory of God," considered worship? The answer is no!


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