Our family has had an interesting year filled with joys, frustrations, and wonderful moments of ministry. As one heavily entrenched with a passion to equip the body of Christ in the context of the defense of the faith, I have been reflecting upon the subject of worship in the life the apologist.
What sparked this reflection is a church change that has demonstrated what it means to put hands and feet to our message. And I believe that worship is the catalyst to putting hands and feet to the truth of our Christian faith.
As apologists, we can really be headily enamored with the arguments we give in our polemical defenses of the faith. We love facts that defend the existence of God. You know facts like, nothing physical is able to explain its own existence; and the fact that we see intelligence all around us which improves that there is an intelligibility behind the intelligence. These facts are true and wonderful. But as true as they are, they only point us in the direction of a personal God and do not address personally that God.
In this piece, I wish to briefly discuss some thoughts on worship in the life of the apologist. Though not exhaustively, I hope to engage two questions. The first is, how do we define worship? The second is how is worship demonstrated in the life of one who claims to be a defender of the only true faith and worldview? In this last question I will bring in the some passages that have really been written indelibly on my heart and mind over the years and share how they flesh themselves out in life.
What is worship? With all the differing “schools of thought” on worship, the answer to the question depends on who is answering the question. With all the worship albums coming out, one would think that was all about music. Personally, as much as I like a lot (not all) of the worship music being put forth, I believe that music is a key ingredient that could prove the reflection of our worship; whether we are worshiping the music, the beat, or the object of the One in the song’s message.
Whether your church incorporates hymns, praise choruses, contemporary praises, or blend of any of these genres, the music only makes up a part of real worship. But worship is not about stirring up the emotions and feelings into some existential sense of awe in preparation to hear the Word of God preached. It is much more than that as we see from some of the words and their usage from the Old and New Testaments.
What about the meaning of the words for worship?
It is not my intent in this section to do a full blown word study on the usage of “worship” in the Old and New Testaments. Our English dictionaries define “worship” etymologically as being derived from an Old English meaning worthiness or meritoriousness and thus giving God the recognition He deserves. There are some problems with this English translation, however, because the Greek and the Hebrew terms do not mean precisely the same thing.
Digging back into some of my seminary language studies, and for the sake of brevity, there are two common words translated as “worship” in the Old and New Testaments: ‘aboda’ in the Hebrew (also seen as ‘abad’ or ‘asab’) and the word ‘latreia’ (or ‘latreuo’) in the Greek text.
When ‘aboda’ or a derivation of the word is used, it generally refers to the kind of service that is associated with work that is done in the temple. The word ‘latreia‘ can refer back to the Old Testament temple, but it has also been used to refer to the false belief that killing the disciples would be regarded as service to God (John 16:12) or as an Old Testament allusion that Christians should offer their bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1,2).
There are two other words, ‘proskyneo’ (Grk)  and ‘shachac’ (Heb.)), which are often found in passages that reference one, who is placing themselves in a posture of “bowing down and worshiping” in submission and thus acknowledging sovereignty in an attitude of obeisance. Obeisance requires the attitude of reverential fear and is seen in the Scriptures where these postures are demonstrating such an attitude in petitioning God, gods, or a man.
A final word that is often associate with worship is the word sacrifice (thusia). The reason for sacrifice being connected to worship is its connection to the thank offerings seen in the Old Testament. Exodus 29:39-41 gives an example of a thank offering. However, it isn’t until we get to Paul’s epistles where we see a personal application with this word in reference to the self-sacrifice in service to others in the body of Christ and outside the church.
Tying together the understanding of the usage of “worship” in the Old and New Testament, we can see that worship involves the subordination of our will and goals to God’s will by making service a priority toward the Kingdom of God. Worship is not just all about music, but it is an expression of gratitude, self-sacrifice in action, and praise toward God.
So is worship just about being in a congregational setting church service? Or does worship show itself in a lifestyle? I believe that is not just in our polemics, but in the outward demonstration of our lives, as we we are persuading people to encounter the life of Christ in their lives and in a local church.
Demonstrations of Worship.
So often we are led to believe that worship is only in the context of the church service. But I really believe that it is a lifestyle. The very fact that we have been created to worship God is reinforced in the Westminster Catechism, where our chief end is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Carrying this thought further, I believe that there are three key passages that have shaped my life and ministry, which reflect what worship entails. I am sure that you have been impacted in some way by these same passages.
The first two passages are dovetailed together. The first is from Deuteronomy 6:4,5, which says,
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The second is shown in Jesus’s response a question from a teacher of the law, in Matthew 22, where He responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, but then adds the second commandment in Matthew 22:37-40,
“And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The last passage is that of Romans 12:1,2 which says,
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (latreian). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
How do they “flesh” themselves out?
In Deuteronomy 6:4,5 and the Matthew 22 passage, I see the full summation of the Ten Commandments. When God says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, He is talking about the first four of the Ten Commandments which detail loving and worshiping God with our whole being. When Jesus said that “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, He was referring to the last six of the Ten Commandments and the outward interaction that we have with our “fellow fallen creatures.”
As I look at Romans 12:1,2, I see that that I am to outwardly present myself as a living and holy sacrifice that is acceptable to God. Tying together loving God with all our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves puts us in the position, enabling us to present ourselves as living sacrifices that are acceptable to God in the marketplace of ideas and those specific arenas where we serve.
When we get among people who need to see Jesus, we live out the gospel in our life, our words, our actions. We are in essence demonstrating the worship that we participate in on a Sunday morning worship service, or from reading the Word. But that worship is not confined to one to two hours on a Sunday morning. It is getting out among the people, inside the church and outside the faith, and living the life we defend with a heart of worship. We live out worship, because we are subordinating of our will and our goals to God’s will by making a life of serving God a priority as we move forward the Kingdom of God.
As apologists we worship by reaching people inside the church as we participate in their equipping; we also worship when we share with the homeless as a local outreach of our church. We worship when we assist a fellow saint struggling in their walk, or in a relationship with a loved one. We worship when we give the reason for the hope within us to a skeptic pressing us for answers. We even worship when we minister to the homeless person asking what life is all about and how can God allow all the problems of the world to continue on.
It is when we touch the heart and mind of the person, by holding a hand and praying for a person or just listening that we are also worshiping. Because we are now bringing down another truth of God’s existence. That truth is that God came down in the person of Jesus Christ to reach out to those in need of salvation. We are His ambassadors, being His hands and feet.
As we love our neighbor as ourselves, we demonstrate that He can change the heart and the mind of the skeptic and the one who is hurting and downtrodden. When we bring the mind into our worship, we are more equipped to answer the questions of the heart and the mind from those who are hurting in life, not just with our words, but also with our actions.
In closing, I would be remiss if I did not include a famous quote that I think sums up worship. It is from William Temple’s book, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, where he gives a wonderful descriptive of worship,
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”
 In his book, Putting an End to Worship Wars, Elmer Towns asked the questions: What do you do in worship? How do you worship? What motivates you to worship? and What are the results of worship? From the responses he identified six worship styles in America: Evangelistic – winning the lost; Expositional – teaching the word; Renewal – excitement, revival, ‘touching God’; Body-life – fellowship, relationships and small groups; Liturgical – serving & glorifying God through liturgy and Congregational – worship expressed by the laity. But is worship just delegated to the worship services of our respective churches on a Sunday morning.
 Found in John 4:20ff; the meaning of this word is not entirely clear but is thought to be related to the word ‘kiss’ or ‘to kiss forward’ and is connected with the Greek practice of kissing the ground in deference to earth deities. Thus, the notion of prostration or obeisance is captured by the term. This term is never used outside of the gospels & Acts except once in reference to an unbeliever (1Cor.12:45). In the gospels obeisance is done to Christ repeatedly.
 This word means ‘bow down’ e.g. Genesis 22:5
 See Romans 12:1, 7.