Summary: In order to understand what is acceptable worship we need to understand the purpose of worship, what is not acceptable worship, and what constitutes acceptable worship.
Confusion and controversy surround the topic of what is acceptable worship. For many how we worship is not a critical matter. They feel that how one worships is a personal matter and that the individual determines what is appropriate or not. In Christ’s encounter with the woman at the well He tells her that God has set the standard for worship when he said, “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” In order to understand what is acceptable worship we need to understand the purpose of worship, what is unacceptable worship, and what constitutes acceptable worship.
I. What is the Purpose of Worship?
A. The definition of worship
1. One dictionary definition defines worship as meaning: a) to show profound religious devotion; b) to have intense love and admiration. The English word literally means to ascribe worth to something.
2. The primary Hebrew word for worship is Shachah - "to depress, i.e. prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship."
3. Three Greek words are used in the New Testament for worship:
a. Proskuneo - "meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand), to fawn or crouch to, homage (do reverence to,
adore): worship." It occurs 59 times in the New Testament. It originally carried with it the idea of subjects falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.
b. Sebomai - "to reverence, hold in awe." It is used 10 times in the New Testament.
c. Latreuo - "to render religious service of homage." It is used 21 times in the New Testament.
B. The first purpose of worship is to glorify God
1. Revelation 4:11 “"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."
2. To glorify God is to exalt Him, to recognize Him as supremely worthy of honor, and to acknowledge His divine attributes. Since the glory of God is also the sum of all the attributes of His being, of all He has revealed of Himself to man, to give God glory is to acknowledge His glory and extol it. – John MacArthur
3. 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
4. To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and, to have a revered respect of Him.
5. Psalm 86:12 “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.”
6. J. S. Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub.” He headed his compositions: “J. J.” “Jesus Juva” which means “Jesus help me.” He ended them “S. D. G.” “Soli Dei gratia” which means “To God alone be the praise.” (Kingdom Conflict, J. Stowell, Victor, 1985, pp. 77ff).
7. 1 Chronicles 16:29 “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
C. To give Honor to God
1. 1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen”
2. The Hebrew word for honor is KABOD meaning "weighty" or "heavy". It is that which gives a person importance, and which makes a person impressive, deserving recognition and praise.
3. The Greek word for "honor, glory" is DOXA, which comes from a word meaning to form an opinion or an estimate of something or someone. Hence to have high regard or to show respect.
4. As Moses was tending his father-in-law's sheep in the desert, his attention was drawn to a strange sight. A bush was burning without being consumed. When Moses turned to look more closely, God said to him, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). Joshua had a similar experience when he approached the captain of the host of the Lord. As Joshua drew nearer, he was given this command: "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy" (Joshua 5:15). The experiences of Moses and Joshua teach us that a holy God demands our reverence and respect. True, we are encouraged to "come boldly to the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16). We can enter the presence of God with confidence because Jesus has opened the way for us through His death on the cross. But never are we to approach God with disrespect. Never are we to profane His name. Our heavenly Father is not "the man upstairs." He is God, the One who is high and lifted up. And because of His majesty and holiness, we are to exalt and worship Him. As the one true God, He is worthy of our adoration. Let's give Him our highest praise.—Richard De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)