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Several years ago a preacher in the Christian Church made the argument to me that if we cannot play an instrument in worship, we cannot play one anywhere, because “everything we do is worship.” Though it may be difficult to distinguish the difference between worship and service in some passages, the fact that not all service to God is worship is obvious from the words and from the way they are used in Scripture.
Some have used: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31), to argue that if you cannot use instrumental music to praise God, you cannot use it at all. That is the result of ignoring the context and twisting the Scripture. The context begins in verse 14, when Paul warns against participating in idolatry. He said when Israel ate sacrifices to idols, they were having fellowship with idols, and Paul urged believers in Corinth not to participate in the fellowship of demons (v. 20). Yet, they could “eat whatever is sold in the meat market” (v. 25), if they understood that such action was not worship to an idol. If the action were done as worship to an idol, it was wrong, but if done for a different purpose there was nothing wrong with it.
The same principle is true of eating bread and drinking grape juice. Those foods may be eaten for food, or for worship to God. If we are worshiping God and eating those foods as a social meal, we are not “discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:29); if we eat other foods as a social meal, we are not worshiping God.
Jesus cleansed the temple twice because men had failed to distinguish between service and worship (Jn. 2:14-16; Mt. 21:12,13). The services of selling doves and making change were good works, but Jesus said they were being done in the wrong place. The “house of prayer” had become “a den of thieves.” Maybe they thought that if they could sell doves and exchange money anywhere, they could do it in the temple. Jesus did not agree with their reasoning!
Worship is defined as: “broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgement” (W.E. Vine). Thayer commented: “Among the Orientals, especially the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence…hence in the New Testament by kneeling or prostration, to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication.” Regardless of how obedient subjects were, they had not worshiped until they had performed acts of reverence that were required by the kings.
The Bible confirms this definition of worship. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were faithful servants of Nebuchadnezzar, when the order was given that all must “fall down and worship the gold image” that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up (Dan. 3:5). These Jews knew the difference between serving the king and worshiping his image. If all service is worship, they had already worshiped the king and should have avoided the fiery furnace.!
In the first century those who refused to worship the Roman Emperor were not permitted to buy or sell (Rev. 13:17; 14:9,10). Those Christians knew the difference between serving the Emperor and worshiping him, and it cost them dearly.
Service is a more general word and may be used to describe worship, but not all service is worship. Abraham told the young men with him that “the lad and I will go yonder and worship” (Gen. 22:5). After David’s son died, he “went into the house of the Lord and worshiped,” then he went to his own house and ate food (2 Sam. 12:20). The Ethiopian had gone to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27). The trip was not worship, but he went to worship. True worship has both an inward and outward dimension. It involves the attitude and the acts performed. If the worship was to the Emperor, it involved reverence expressed in whatever actions he required. If the worship is to God, it must be “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24).
It is not true that if you can serve the Emperor, you can worship him. Neither is it true that if you can play an instrument anywhere, you can play it in worship to God. Nor is it true that if you wash feet anywhere, you are worshiping God, or if you can eat meat anywhere, you can add it to the Lord’s supper and do it in worship.
Copyright Midway Church of Christ 2014 This page last modified July 03, 2014