- Published: 12 December 2010
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The first occurrence of the word worship in the A.V. is in Genesis 22:5, the significance of which will be appreciated by all who realize how near to the heart of all doctrine is the great offering therein set forth in type. While the word worship does not appear earlier, the student of Scripture is very conscious as he reads Genesis 3 that the words of the Serpent, ye shall be as gods (God), would have been no lure to our first parents had true worship and its central significance been understood by them. Moreover, had Cain entered into the meaning of worship, as did his brother Abel, he might have enjoyed like acceptance with Abel, and have avoided the murderers curse.
Those who see in Ezekiel 28 something more than a reference to an ordinary King of Tyre, may perceive that an attack upon true worship, a usurpation of Divine prerogative, lies behind the judgment that caused the chaos of Genesis 1:2. Coming to the end of the Sacred Volume and viewing the crisis and conflict there depicted, it can be truthfully asserted that it is mainly a conflict between true and false worship. Worship lies in the forefront of the ten commandments and is found in every section of the inspired Scriptures. The heart of the redeemed responds to the call: O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psa. 95:6). Redemption, the gospel, prophecy, dispensational truth, are the outer court of the Temple of Truth, but the inner shrine, the goal towards which the whole purpose of the ages leads, namely, that God may be all in all, is the summing up in word and in fact of all that acceptable worship means.
A theme that is so near the center of all truth should therefore receive from all who love the Lord the most earnest and prayerful attention, for if we are right here, we have a corrective against all other evils, doctrinal, dispensational and practical. On the other hand, if we are wrong here, we may be wrong all along the line. In every argument or study it is a necessity that terms be defined. We must arrive at a clear, Scriptural understanding of what the word worship means and all that the term connotes. The inspired Scriptures were not given in our mother tongue, but in Hebrew, Chaldee and Greek, yet, upon examination, the English word worship itself will yield its quota.
The reader will not need a long explanation concerning the qualifying suffix, ship, which is used in such words as fellowship, discipleship, or in the less familiar form as in landscape. The word worship comes from the Anglo -Saxon weordhscipe, worth, or worthy, with the added suffix, and primarily means acknowledgment of worth, wherever found. Formerly the word worship was not so restricted as it is now, e.g., Wycliffe gives a startling rendering of John 12:26, If any man serve Me, My Father shall worship him! a usage of the word that would now not be tolerated. In our A.V., however, we still read, thou shalt have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee (Luke 14:10). The Church of England marriage service contains the words, to be uttered by the bridegroom, with my body I thee worship, yet, not idolatry, but recognition of the high place of honor in which the husband holds the woman who has given herself so wholly into his keeping is intended. We still speak of a magistrate as your worship, and of certain Guilds as a worshipful company, without transgressing either Bible teaching or good taste. In all these usages the primary meaning, worthy-ship, is retained. In every act of worship there is either expressed or implied the sentiment, Thou art worthy, and, commensurately with the advancing ranks in the scale of being and holiness of those to whom this recognition is addressed, will the worship offered grow richer, fuller and more exclusive.
All this however but skims the surface of meaning. The only words that can unfold the mind of God in this, and all other matters of truth, are the inspired words of Holy Writ. As we have commenced with the English, let us go back to the Hebrew by way of the Greek of the New Testament.
(1) Proskuneo. There is a superficial resemblance in this word to the Greek kuon, a dog, and some have given the primary meaning of the word as to crouch, crawl, or fawn, like a dog at his masters feet. But there is a sense of degradation about this figure, and it is entirely contrary to any Scriptural conception of worship that the Father seeks those who will crouch, crawl, or fawn to Him like a dog.
There is another word, unused in the Scriptures but used in classical Greek, namely kuneo, to kiss, and it is from this root that Cremer, Thayer, H. J. Rose in his footnote in the later edition of Parkhurst, and other lexicographers derive this word for worship. Proskuneo means properly to kiss the hand (towards) one, in token of reverence, to make a salaam (Thayer). Liddell and Scott give instances where kuneo, to kiss, is used in the sense of proskuneo, to worship. The Scriptures moreover associate kissing with worship. And Moses went out to meet his father-in -law, and did obeisance, and kissed him (Exod. 18:7). The word translated do obeisance is translated worship ninety -nine times in the Old Testament. Again, there is no doubt about the close association of the kiss with worship in the following passages: Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18). Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves (Hosea 13:2). If I beheld the sun ... moon ... and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand ... I should have denied the God that is above (Job 31:26-28). The marginal reading of Genesis 41:40, too, is suggestive. The A.V. reads, Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled. The word translated word here is mouth, the cause put for the effect, and be ruled the verb nashaq, kiss as in Genesis 48:10.
Omitting therefore the sense of the fawning of a dog, we can adopt the remainder of the definition given in Dr. Bullingers Lexicon: To prostrate ones self, after the eastern custom, to do reverence or homage to any one, by kneeling or prostrating oneself before him; (LXX everywhere for shachah, to bow down, to prostrate ones self in reverence.) Used therefore of the act of worship.
(2) Sebomai, sebazomai, eusebeo. The word just examined is used of the act of worship, whereas, these three words are used rather for the feeling associated with it. The meaning of sebomai is to stand in awe. It is never used in the epistles. Sebazomai occurs but once and that in connection with the worship of the creature (Rom. 1:25). In the Acts, sebasma is used once of the devotions of the Athenians (17:23), and once in all that is called God or worshipped (2 Thess. 2:4). While eusebeia, godliness, is used in the epistles, neither eusebeia nor eusebeo is there translated worship. Their bearing upon the question of present-day worship must be examined later.
(3) Latreuo means to serve for hire, and when related to God means to worship. It is used by Paul in Philippians 3:3.
(4) Therapeuo is generally associated with medical service, and is derived from therapeuein, to wait on. It is from an old Sanskrit root meaning to maintain or support. It occurs but once, namely, in Acts 17:25, neither is worshipped with mens hands which the R.V. translates serve.
(5) Threskeia. This word refers rather to ceremonial and ritual than the inner meaning of worship. It occurs in Colossians 2:18, where the word is used of the worshipping of angels and, in combination with thelo, it is found in Colossians 2:23, where it is translated will-worship. The Old Testament uses three words, two of which need not detain us long. Segad is Chaldee, and is used in Daniel 3, where it means to bow down, do obeisance, and abad, which is Hebrew, and found translated worship only in 2 Kings 10, where it speaks of the worship of Baal. The third word, shachah, is the equivalent of proskuneo. Just as tubes of oil-paint do not produce on the mind the same effect as a picture, so these words supply the material, but do not teach the true meaning of worship.
It must be our delight as well as our duty to use these materials, and under the guidance of the Spirit, to learn something of what is meant by the worship of God. The Hebrew words ebed, a servant, and abad, to serve, are familiar in such names as Obadiah (servant of Jah), and Obed (serving), the son of Ruth, and the father of Jesse. The prophet Isaiah, also, has much to say of Israel, the servant of the Lord, and of the Coming One, Who is called My Servant, Whom I uphold (Isa. 42:1). Ebed is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek doulos, a bond-slave, as in Romans 1:1.
The word shachah, worship, occurs upwards of one hundred and seventy times in the Old Testament while abad occurs upwards of two hundred and eighty times. With numbers of this magnitude, the amount of labor involved in determining the number of references in which serve and worship come together can only be appreciated by those who have actually carried out investigations of this kind. We will not, therefore, be dogmatic, but so far as we have investigated, it would seem that there is not a single passage in the Old Testament where serve and worship come together when the context is concerned with the worship of God. On the other hand, there are nineteen references where the two words come together in connection with the worship of other gods. We will not quote these nineteen passages in full, but the reader may like to have the references: Commands in the Law concerning serving and worshipping other gods Exod. 20:5; Deut. 4:19; 5:9; 11:16; 17:3; 29:26; 30:17. References to serving and worshipping other gods in the Prophets: 1 Kings 9:9; 16:31; 22:53; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chron. 7:22; 33:3; Jer. 13:10; 22:9; 25:6. In one passage a discrimination is made between worshippers of Baal, and servants of the Lord (2 Kings 10:23).
While these references were being considered, we had at the back of our mind the well-known words, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve. And yet these words did not appear in any of the passages we had collected! The reader will hardly need to be reminded that the words concerned occur in Matthew 4:10 in connection with the Lords temptation in the wilderness, but although the Saviour used the words, It is written, it must be admitted that no such text occurs in our Old Testament Scriptures. When we turn to the Septuagint Version, however, we find that Deuteronomy 6:13 is quoted word for word from that version, except for the one word worship.
In Matthew 4:10 the Greek word is proskuneo, but in the LXX of Deuteronomy 6:13 the Greek word is phobeo, fear, a correct translation of the Hebrew yare. We have here a problem of the first magnitude, but it comes more appropriately under the heading of Quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament rather than under the simpler heading of Worship. It will perhaps suffice for the moment if we quote the words with which Appendix 107 of The Companion Bible opens: It is a fact that in quotations from the Old Testament the Greek text sometimes differs from the Hebrew.
The difficulties found in connection with this subject arise from our thinking and speaking only of the human agent as the writer, instead of having regard to the fact that the Word of God is the record of the words which He Himself employed when He spoke "at sundry times and in divers manners" ... denying the Divine Speaker and Author the right that is claimed by every human writer for himself.
Matthew 4:10 is included in a list of twelve such passages where the words of the quotation are varied by omission, addition, or transposition. In dealing with Satan, the Saviour adopted the LXX version with the substitution of proskuneo for phobeo, and the addition of the word only for His own wise purposes.
Coming back now to the general question, we must try to discover why the words serve and worship should be used together when idolatry is spoken of, but not so used when the object of the service or the worship is the true God. Can we truly worship God, if we do not serve Him? Can we hope that any service we render can be acceptable to Him if worship is absent? These are our problems, and we have found no solution to them in the writings of men. The answer, if it comes at all, must come from the same source that has provided the problem, the Word of God itself.
In Psalm 105:42 Abraham is called a servant of the Lord, but Melchisedec, who was a priest, and so connected with worship, is not so described. Moses, too, is called a servant (Josh. 1:1,2), but not so Aaron the priest. Joshua, the Captain of the Lords host, is referred to as the servant of the Lord (Josh. 24:29); but not so Eleazer the priest. David is given the title servant of the Lord (Psa. 18, title, and 89:3), but not Abiathar the priest. Eliakim, the master of Hezekiahs household, is called a servant (Isa. 22:20), as also is Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 20:3), but not Hilkiah the priest. The people themselves, both as Jacob (Isa. 44:1) and Israel (Isa. 49:3) are called the servant of the Lord, but their priestly office is reserved for a future day (Isa. 61:6). And even in the case of Christ Himself, Who is spoken of prophetically as My Servant (Isa. 42:1) and My Servant the Branch (Zech. 3:8), we have the testimony of Scripture that If He were on earth, He should not be a priest (Heb. 8:4).
Why, then, is there this consistent exclusion of service from the realm of worship? In spite, however, of this evident separation of the words worship and service when used of the Lord, it is clear that when the Lord promised Moses, ye shall serve God upon this mountain (Exod. 3:12), and when He commanded Pharaoh, let My son go, that he may serve Me (Exod. 4:23), the service concerned was largely an act of worship, for we read that Moses demanded of Pharaoh sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God (Exod. 10:25).
Again, the memorial of the Passover is called a service (Exod. 12:25,26), and the feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod. 13:5), but these are also called ordinances (Exod. 12:14, 17,24,43; 13:10). The care of all the instruments of the Tabernacle (Num. 3:7,8), and the ministry of Aaron and his sons were all service (Num. 18:7), as were the individual elements of this ritual such as the vessels (Exod. 27:19), the things of gold, silver, and brass, and the skins, linen, incense and oil (Exod. 35).
We have, therefore, to keep in mind two facts:
(1) Worship is not used with the word "service" when that worship is directed to God; it is only so allied when used of idolatry.
(2) On the other hand, the work of the Priests and Levites in connection with the sacrifices, prayers and other ceremonials relating to the tabernacle are freely called "service". The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah have some searching things to say in connection with the service of the Temple.
In Jeremiah 7 we read: Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these (Jer. 7:4). And in the first chapter of Isaiah: Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them (Isa. 1:13,14). And yet every item mentioned, temple, oblation, offering and feast, was Divinely appointed. Why then this revulsion? The answer is found in the chapters themselves. Israel had departed from the truth, and so in the eyes of the Lord their clinging to the externals of religion was but empty mummery. False gods did not demand purity and spirituality from their worshippers, and so their worship and their service could be named together; but with the true God, even a Divinely appointed ritual was all in vain apart from uprightness of heart. Even when the apostle acknowledges that to Israel pertained the service of God, this is limited to things according to the flesh (Rom. 9:3,4), and the epistle to the Hebrews, when speaking of ordinances of divine service under the Old Covenant, adds the words and a worldly sanctuary (Heb. 9:1). These things signified that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest. They were figures, shadows of good things to come: That could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings (baptisms), and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation (Heb. 9:9,10).
The mere observance of days, months, weeks and years, even though offered to the true God, is not far removed from the weak and beggarly elements of pagan worship (Gal. 4:8 -10). And the epistle to the Colossians associates the worshipping of angels and will-worship with ordinances that were cancelled at the cross, such as meat, drink, holy days, new moons, and Sabbath days.
Returning to Galatians, it is impossible to understand the apostles teaching in this mighty epistle, without a realization of the fact that the believer is free. Jerusalem on earth with its children is in bondage, but Jerusalem which is above is free. Perhaps we are at last drawing near to the solution of our problem. The word serve (abad) gives us the word bondage (Exod. 1:14), bondmen (Gen. 43:18), bondservice (1 Kings 9:21), servitude (2 Chron. 10:4), and servile (Lev. 23:7).
The reader will remember that in the observing of the feasts of the Lord and the Sabbaths, it is reiterated that ye shall do no servile work therein (Lev. 23:7,8,21,25,35,36). Servility and worship cannot be thought of together; servility is only fit service for the darkened heathen. So when the Lord demanded the release of His people that they might serve Him, He speaks of them as His son. This service of a son was hidden under a mass of observances, in connection with a covenant with which the Lord Himself found fault, a covenant which was imposed until the time of reformation, and destined then to pass away for ever. Is Israel a servant? is he a home born slave? asks Jeremiah (2:14). Alas, he was, and is, and will be, until the veil is taken away.
Worship, therefore, as practiced by such a people cannot be the real thing. The secret of true worship is revealed in the words of Christ. It will be neither in Samaria, with its mixed motives, nor in Jerusalem, with its Divinely appointed ritual. The true worshipper worships the Father. He worships in spirit, and in truth, and the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
It is entirely foreign to the thought of reverencing a Father that the sons should be cumbered with ceremonials and ordinances. Tabernacles, temples, sacrifices, priests, vestments, holy days, and the like all indicate that the worshippers are at a distance. Those that have access to the Father need none of these things.
We are grateful to have seen at least this amount of light upon the nature of true worship, even though much may still be hidden from our eyes. Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem (John 4:21).
It is extraordinary at first sight to think that the Saviour condescended to discuss the matter of worship with a poor sinful Samaritan woman, but said nothing about it to the master of Israel, Nicodemus, who would have been so much better qualified to discuss the matter. When, however, we remember that the flesh profiteth nothing, that Nicodemus was no more able to appreciate the nature of true worship than the Samaritan woman, we recognize the workings of grace and with bowed hearts prepare to read once more concerning true worship in a truer frame of mind. The revelation of the Samaritan womans private life caused her to pause and to say Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet, but whether the sudden introduction of the highly controversial subject of worship was made by her in an attempt to prevent any further reference to her private life, or, whether being convinced both of her own sinfulness and the fact that she stood in the presence of One Who could enlighten her on such a subject, we may never know; possibly the womans motives, like so many of our own, were mixed.
Whatever be the truth of the matter, the Saviour most graciously allowed the new subject full scope, and the subsequent record made by John has provided us with, perhaps, the most comprehensive statement as to the nature of true worship that the New Testament contains. The thought uppermost in this womans mind was the correct place where worship should be offered. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship (John 4:20).
As readers of the New Testament unconsciously adopt the attitude of the Jew when thinking of the Samaritans, it may be useful to record a few outstanding features concerning them, especially those bearing upon the matter of worship. The Samaritans had four basic tenets of belief:
(1) That Jehovah alone is God.
(2) That Moses alone is the Law-giver.
(3) That the Torah (the five books of Moses) is the only divine Book, and
(4) Mount Gerizim is the only house of God.
The Samaritans observed the Sabbath and the rite of circumcision. They did not observe all the feasts of Israel, only Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost; the rosh hashanah, the commencement of the civil year (Lev. 23:24); yom kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Mount Gerizim was the holy place in the estimation of the Samaritans, and was spoken of with reverence, and always with some such title as the house of God, the house of Jehovah, the mountain of the world, Gods mountain, the Sanctuary, the mountain of the Divine presence. We can perhaps the better understand the words of the woman of Samaria when she said our fathers worshipped in this mountain. She had already claimed Jacob as her father (John 4:12), and knew of the coming of the Messiah (John 4:25). Before discussing the relative merits of Samaria and Jerusalem as the place where worship should be offered, the Saviour set both aside by saying: Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father (John 4:21). By so replying, the whole matter was raised to a higher plane. It would have been easy to have cited passages from the Old Testament to prove that Jerusalem had been chosen by the Lord, but the Samaritan woman would have refused to accept this authority, for her Bible consisted only of the five books of Moses. The Prophets and the Psalms were rejected by the Samaritans.
Here, in the Lords attitude, we have a divinely given method when dealing with parallel problems. The principle is true in dealing with such subjects as the gift of tongues, the various modes of observing the Lords supper, the controversies as to infant sprinkling v. adult believers immersion; into these controversies we have no call to enter, they lie on the other side of Acts 28, have no place in the present dispensation, and are legitimate controversies only among those that practise them. However, after having taken this high ground, the Saviour can now descend to details without adopting the attitude of a partisan. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). In this utterance the Lord brings to light two essential elements in all true worship. First, knowledge which stands in severe contrast with blind tradition, superstition and unreasonable practices. Now knowledge in such matters as worship must come as a revelation, and while the Samaritans possessed the five books of Moses, they were denied the light and leading of the rest of the Old Testament.
Here therefore emerges another essential principle. True worship must be based upon revealed truth. This we can see is expressed negatively in Matthew 15, in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). Secondly, the Lord associated together worship and salvation implying that worship could not be understood, and would not be acceptable, apart from salvation. This salvation, said Christ, was of the Jews, because to them had been committed the oracles of God, to them pertained the promises and the covenants and the service of God, and most important of all, from them must come, as regards the flesh, the long promised Saviour.
True worship therefore is regulated according to Divine Revelation, is at the heart evangelical, and is intimately associated with the Person and Work of the Saviour. Judaism itself drew all its power from these sources. It was a divinely given religion of types and shadows, it was given only to one people Israel, it found its fulfillment in the Person and Work of the Saviour, Whose Person and Work alone made its rites, ceremonies, sacrifices and observances of any value.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him (John 4:23). On two occasions the Gospel of John records the statement the hour cometh and now is (John 4:23; 5:25), and once in a slightly different form the hour cometh, yea, is now come (John 16:32)Weymouth (New Testament in Modern Speech, Third Ed.) rightly translates John 16:32, the time is coming, nay, has already come, for eleluthen is the perfect of erchomai. In John 4:23 and 5:25, the original reads kai nun estin, which unfortunately Weymouth translates exactly as he does the different words of John 16:32. Kai nun estin can only be translated correctly by the words and now is.
How are we to understand this expression, and now is? In John 5:25 it is seen to be the present spiritual equivalent of the future physical resurrection. In John 4, however, the Temple at Jerusalem still stood, and the prophetic words your house is left unto you desolate had not been pronounced. In chapter 2 the Temple had been referred to as My Fathers house and even in the period covered by the early part of the Acts of the Apostles, it was not inconsistent, evidently, for Peter and John to go up to that Temple at the hour of prayer. It is therefore possible that what the Saviour said when He spoke to the woman of Samaria, was the hour cometh when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, but when John came to write this gospel, he was able to interpolate for the benefit of the reader the information that this hour had now come. For us today, the question of place so far as worship is concerned, has no meaning. Chapels and Churches are convenient meeting places where the saints can assemble, but if they know the Truth, whatever the architecture, and whoever it may be who made the building sacred, one of the hymns they will surely sing will be:
Saviour, wherever Thy people meet, There they behold Thy mercy seat; Wherever they seek Thee, Thou art found, And every place is hallowed ground. For Thou, within no walls confined, Inhabitest the humble mind; Such ever bring Thee where they come, And going, take Thee to their home.
What are we to understand by true worshippers? What are we to understand by worship that is in spirit and in truth? Alethes is used when truth as opposed to falsehood is in view. Thus in John 4:18 where it is translated truly. Alethinos is truth when opposed not so much to a lie, but as substance is opposed to a shadow. So we have such expressions as the true tabernacle (Heb. 8:2); the figures of the true (Heb. 9:24) obviously in contrast with the typical tabernacle and its furniture. So in Johns Gospel we read of the True Light, the True Bread and the True Vine as fulfillments and contrasts with their respective types. So true worshippers are not placed in contrast with idolaters, worshippers of false gods, but they are contrasted with Old Covenant worshippers whose worship was typical and shadowy which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation (Heb. 9:10).
The expression in spirit and truth without the preposition in repeated, should be taken as a figure of speech, known as hendiadys, where one thing is meant, but two statements are made, hence hen one, dia by means of, dys two, the one-by-means-of-two figure, truly, i.e. antitypically in Spirit.
Two reasons are given for thus worshipping the Father:
(1) He seeks such worship. This is a unique passage. No other passage of Scripture uses the word seek in this way. It is a common thing for worshippers to be bidden to seek the Lord, but here, it is the Father that seeks! If He thus seeks, shall He not find? If He thus finds shall He not be pleased? If He thus finds, must not blessing be the result? Is not therefore true worship near the heart of all true, acceptable and fruitful service?
(2) The second reason resides in the very nature of the God we would worship. God is Spirit. Pneuma ho theos. It is no more necessary to insert the indefinite article here and read God is a spirit than it would be to translate the similarly constructed passage of John 1:1 and read The Word was a God. To this Samaritan woman a statement concerning the essential Being of God is made that transcends every other revelation found in the Scriptures! All titles under which God is pleased to make Himself known in the Old Testament Scriptures are really gracious accommodations to our finite capacity to understand. The God Who is Spirit is beyond our powers of experience. We do not know the mode of being of One Who is not conditioned by time and space, Who is invisible, inaudible and intangible (John 1:18; 5:37).
Now if our Saviour had intended to teach this woman the essential nature and being of God, our comments would constitute a criticism of His Words, and we should stand condemned. He was teaching this woman, and all who will learn, not the nature of the Absolute and Unconditioned, but what the nature of that worship must be that is offered to, and is acceptable to, a Being of such a nature. To obtain but a glimpse of the Divine nature, is to forego for ever all the trappings of ceremonial, all rites and all observances as being essential to true worship.
A God who is spirit must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. In the Old Testament worship is offered to The Lord who is referred to as The Lord thy God. In the New Testament (The Revelation), worship is offered to God, and to Him that made heaven and earth, but here in John 4 it is the Father that is worshipped, it is the Father that seeks worship, and surely none but children can worship the Father, none but children can offer to Him His due. And will children who seek thus to render homage to a Father feel under any necessity to pay such reverence in a temple? Need such adopt priestly vestments? Need such perform an elaborate ritual? No title of God is so intimate, so near to the heart, so far removed from ritual and ordinances as the title Father and worship that is offered to Him in that capacity must of necessity participate in the same essentials.
The Service of a Son with the Father If we rigorously restrict our New Testament studies in connection with worship to the occurrences and usage of proskuneo, our task is practically ended. The reader however naturally expects that such passages as that of Philippians 3:3 or of Colossians 2:18,23 will be included. We must give these passages a consideration, for they are the only references to worship found in the epistles of Paul written after Acts 28, and so have distinct bearing upon the worship offered by the church of the Mystery. Before we consider these passages, let us pause and consider what lesson is intended for us, particularly in the fact that proskuneo is never once used in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 2 Timothy.
In the first place, Paul, the writer of these epistles, was fully acquainted with the use and occurrences of this word; for a reader of the Septuagint as he was, would be aware of its presence throughout the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. In that version of the Old Testament proskuneo occurs nearly two hundred times. The omission of this word therefore is deliberate and inspired, and consequently both the fact of its omission, and the change suggested by the words substituted, challenge our deepest consideration.
First let us cite the passages that speak of worship in the Prison Epistles.
We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3).
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels (Col. 2:18).
Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility (Col. 2:23).
Two out of the three references to worship in the Prison Epistles are seen to be negative; only one positive statement appears, namely Philippians 3:3, and even that in a context that is negative in intention and character. Having cited the passages, and knowing that proskuneo is not employed, we must now acquaint ourselves with the actual words in use.
The word employed in Philippians 3:3 is latreuo from a word that means in secular usage to serve for hire, but no such word is employed in the New Testament where hired servants are referred to. Some derive latreuo from la very much and treo to tremble, according to which see Malachi 1:6: If I be a master, where is My fear? or in Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling.
It is bad theology however that attempts to build doctrine upon Greek mythology, for Greek was a language employed by pagans before it was adopted by the Spirit of God as a medium for the Gospel. We are safe however if we use the LXX version to perceive what Hebrew words are translated by latreuo, and foremost among them we find the words abad and abodah. This word (latreuo) is employed in Exodus 3:12; 4:23 and similar passages. The Hebrew word means to serve as did Jacob (Gen. 31:41), and Israel (Exod. 1:14) to till and to dress the ground (Gen. 2:5,15), and the service connected with the Tabernacle (Num. 3:7). Moses is many times given the title Moses the servant of the Lord. Is Israel a servant? is he a home born slave? (Jer. 2:14) shows that service of a lowly and menial character can be intended as is the case where the word is used of Israel under Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar.
With this insistence upon service, we turn once again to Philippians, and notice that it opens with this very thought: Paul and Timotheus, the Servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the Bishops and Deacons (Phil. 1:1). In this same epistle Paul uses the figure of service when he said of Timothy that as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel (Phil. 2:22). It is moreover revealed in this epistle that Christ Himself took upon Him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7); and Paul himself speaks of His willingness to be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith (Phil. 2:17).
Different words are used in these passages to speak of service, but whether it be latreuo, douleuo or leitourgia, they but emphasize various aspects of this common act. It is in Philippians that the exhortation comes to work out salvation with fear and trembling, and it is in Philippians that the Prize is in view. When we turn to the references in Colossians, we note at once that this reference to the Prize is before us. In Philippians 3:14 the word translated prize is brabeion and this word occurs in combination in Colossians 2:18, where the words let (no man) beguile you of your reward translate the verb katabrabeuo. The Colossians were warned that their reward would be in jeopardy by voluntary humility and by worshipping angels, which thought recurs in verse 23, where the apostle speaks of will worship, humility, neglecting of the body, yet of satisfying at the same time, the flesh.
The word used here in both Colossians 2:18 and 23 for worship is threskeia. This word is elsewhere translated religion, once by Paul when he referred to his past, saying that after the most straitest sect of our religion he lived a Pharisee; and twice by James (Jas. 1:26,27). We do not intend spending time in pursuing the meaning of Colossians 2:18 and 23 here, simply because when all is said and done these passages tell us what to avoid. Had the translators of the A.V. followed their usual practice they would have translated Philippians 3:3 We ... serve God in the spirit, which would have brought the passage into line with the emphasis upon service already noted. Again, had the translators followed their usual practice, we should have the words religion and religious observance in the second chapter of Colossians instead of the word worship. The Prison Epistles then, would not have contained the word worship at all, any more than they contain one single reference to a priest! This observation is a mere matter of fact, but such facts demand explanation.
If we ask why is worship (proskuneo) entirely absent from the epistles of the Mystery? we may hesitate to give an answer. If worship be worthy-ship it is possible that to walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1), to have ones conversation worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27) and to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing (Col. 1:10) may take the place of the worship prescribed for earlier dispensations. Worship as presented in this epistle to the Philippians seems to be summed up in the words found in that epistle, serving, as a son (Phil. 2:22).
Wherever a true evangelical spirit has been manifested during the history of Christianity, it has been associated with the pulpit rather than with a priest, with the Opened Book rather than with altars, incense and ceremonial, and such by the mercy of God must our worship of the Father be and remain. With Unveiled Face
We have seen that proskuneo conveys the idea of obeisance, whereas latreuo (Phil. 3:3) does not of itself contain any idea of obeisance, but simply that of service. Latreia occurs five times in the Greek New Testament and each occurrence is translated service in the A.V. These are John 16:2, think that he doeth God service, Romans 9:4 and 12:1, the service (of God), your reasonable service, and Hebrews 9:1 and 6, ordinances of divine service and accomplishing the service (of God). Latreuo occurs twenty-one times, and is translated worship four times, and serve seventeen times.
Threskeia, the word used in Colossians 2:18,23, in the expression worshipping of angels and will worship, is best expressed by religious ceremonial and ritual. Suidas derives the word from a Thracian, Orpheus, who introduced religious mysteries among the Greeks. If this be true it would be very apposite, seeing that it is used in antagonism to the true Mystery divinely revealed to Paul as the prisoner of Jesus Christ. This derivation however we cannot press, it may be but an ancient speculation. It is evident from the Canon of the Council of Laodicea, held about a.d. 367, that some superstition regarding the naming of angels had crept into the church, and Theodoret maintained that this superstition had infected the church at Colosse. Whether the Colossians actually worshipped angels or whether the words of Colossians 2:18 mean that they adopted the religious attitude of angels remains to be seen. While threskeia is used outside the New Testament with a genitive, it is never so construed in the New Testament to denote the object of worship. Consequently Colossians 2:18 may mean the worship which angels offer, that is, that the Colossians were affecting such humility, that they did not approach God with the boldness of access and confidence which was theirs through Christ (Eph. 3:12). This presupposes that angelic worship was not characterized by such holy boldness.
We have, admittedly, little ground to work on here, but if we agree that the Seraphim of Isaiah 6 are at least as high in the spirit world as angels, if not higher, we shall be struck with the fact that when these holy beings stood in the presence of the Lord they used two of their six wings to cover their faces and two to cover their feet (Isa. 6:2). In contrast with this, as also in contrast with the veiling of the face of Moses under the old covenant, we have: Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with Unveiled face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:17,18). Here, the words open face of the A.V., are better translated unveiled face in order that the very real connection with the veil of verses 13,14,15 and 16 may be perceived (kalumma veil anakalupto open).
The law of Moses was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator (Gal 3:19); the law was received by the disposition of angels (Acts 7:53); the word spoken by angels was stedfast (Heb. 2:2). These passages are well known to every reader, but what may not be recognized is that these, and Colossians 2:18, are linked together by references to the transient character of the worship that is essentially associated with that law given by angels.
The worship that is acceptable under the terms of the dispensation of the Mystery is unrelated to time or place. We serve as sons and with unveiled face, having access with boldness. We cry Abba Father, the worshipping and privileged utterance of sons and we serve Him in with emphasis on service as sons. This is in line with the true goal of Dispensational Truth and with the principle of Right Division, for they lead to where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, and to our blood-bought access, acceptance and future manifestation with Christ in glory.