What is Worship, Anyway?
What is worship? Our word worship is an elided form of the Old English, worth-ship. We ascribe ultimate worth and worthiness to the One we worship. He is worthy of the honor we bestow upon Him. We find biblical support for this idea in the following verses.
“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created”(Revelation 4:11). “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
The Creator is worthy of all praise and honor. He willed everything into existence. Jesus Christ is worthy of all honor and glory. He is the slain, resurrected, ascended, reigning Lord. Who can compare to Him? The mentioned scenes end with the words, “And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:14). At a bare minimum, worship is the act of paying homage and giving honor to the One worthy of such adoration.
The word translated worthy also stands behind our word axiom. An axiom is a self-evident truth. To all believers it is self-evident, axiomatic, that God is worthy of all praise and honor. Every Christian knows, in his or her heart, that Jesus Christ deserves our worship. He alone is worthy. This is not self-evident to those who deny Christ. They honor other gods.
For decades, the path to success in our culture has been education. A good education is essential. Statistically, failure to earn a high school diploma means living in poverty. However, we are in danger if we ascribe ultimate worth to education. We begin to venerate education and the educated. The educational process becomes sacred. We honor it rather than God. Education becomes an idol, a false god. To those so inclined it is an axiom. Education is the ultimate good.
Let me be clear. I am not opposed to education. I urge young people to study for advanced degrees. Such study opens doors in our society. At the same time, those who deny Christ may indeed honor and glorify education and the educational process. They engage in worship. It is false worship. They will always praise and honor something or someone other than God.
God must change hearts oriented and inclined to false worship. He must reorient them. This internal reorientation or spiritual rebirth means people suddenly realize the nature of their false worship. Where they turned, for example, to education for ultimate answers, they now turn to God through Jesus Christ. Where they once venerated education, they revere God. Where they once glorified education, they now honor God. Education is no longer an end in itself. It provides tools and means to serve God.
The apostle Paul was highly educated. It was a matter of pride for him. Paul was a Pharisee educated under Gamaliel (Philippians 3:5, Acts 22:3). This is in part why he was so mightily used of God. However, the principle thing was that God realigned and reoriented his heart. Christ changed him. Paul exalted in Christ. He saw Jesus Christ as the One worthy of honor.
What is true worship? True worship is the creature’s act of giving honor and glory to God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit because the Triune God is worthy of such praise, honor, and glory.