I love studying the Bible. Now, I realize that I’m a nerd. My little sister often points out particular evidence for this by reminding me that I enjoy buying religious text books and reading them for fun. She’s right. I do. But, who doesn’t love learning more about God? Who doesn’t love growing closer to God? Who doesn’t enjoy digging deeper and gaining a deeper understanding? Okay, you get my point.
Here’s a topic/issue that I have looked at a little deeper. I have heard many people refer to the “five acts of worship.” In the sense that there are five separate acts of worship that must be completed each time the church assembles in order to have a worship service. Those five “acts” are preaching, praying, sharing communion, singing and taking up a collection. Let me start off by saying that this is a man-made term and is not in any way a Biblical term. I’ll try to explain why.
The writers most often use four different Greek words that we (English speaking people) have translated as “worship.” The most frequently used (by far) is proskuneo. Here’s a little deeper info on this word. It’s a compound word. The first part of the word is pros. It’s a preposition that means or is translated as “to, towards or with”. The second part of the word is kuneo which is a verb that means “to kiss.” So combining the words you get the definition of kissing towards something or someone. This explains the word was originally used to describe the act of kissing the outstretched hand of a King. Much like the Catholics will kiss the ring of the Pope when he stretches out his hand.
This word began to be used to also include prostrating yourself before a person. In other words, physically bowing down lowly or lying face-down on the ground in front a person (like a King or idol) and kissing their feet or the hem of their robe or even the ground. Most all of the ancient cultures did this. Mostly because ancient cultures deified their kings.
From this point until now, the word is thought to mean an expression of a person’s attitude through a gesture of that person’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure. More literally, to fall down and worship, to do obeisance to, to prostrate oneself before or to do reverence to.
So when we talk about worship in the context of the New Testament, we have to consider all this information when we talk about the “five acts of worship.” It doesn’t make much sense to talk about a word or idea that was generated almost 2 thousand years ago and used our current definitions for the terms. But when we talk about the “five acts of worship,” that’s what we’ve done. I’ll let you consider this on your own as I conclude with two more thoughts.
The Bible does not ever refer to a collection of acts of worship, ever. No NT writer ever said, “you have to do these five things or else you are not worshiping.” But this is exactly what many Christians contend. So for example, on Wednesday evening Christians sing and pray together prior to or after going to Bible class, this would not be considered worship.
In this case it seems like we have taken an idea and run with it. Unfortunately, when we ran, it took us away from the Bible. This seems to be another example of tradition taking precedent over scripture. One last thing, given this definition (an accurate definition that Paul would have been using), is it possible that worship is so much more than what we have turned it into?
Thanks so much to Albert T. for sponsoring my blog! He’s a wonderful friend, brother in Christ and a pretty good businessman too.