The Proper View of Worship

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

John recorded the occasion in which Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman. Among the topics He discussed with her was worship (John 4:19-24). He told her that God is seeking people to worship Him (John 4:23). Those who do worship Him “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We often talk about worshiping in truth – doing what God has said to do when we gather together to worship. Worshiping in spirit refers to our attitude and mindset. This will be our focus in this article. How should we approach our worship to God?

As Something Special

We should view worshiping God as something special. However, some have the idea that everything we do in service to God is worship. The result of this concept is that worship is no longer special, but common. There are two different Greek words that are translated worship in our English Bibles – proskuneo (used in John 4:24) and latreia (used in Romans 12:1). Proskuneo means “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). Latreia means “to serve, to render religious service or homage” (Vine’s). This meaning does have some overlap with proskuneo. We might say that all worship (proskuneo) is service (latreia), but not all service is worship. The things we do in praise to God, directed to Him, are worship. The things we do in our lives as Christians, our acts of obedience, are service.

Right before Jesus spoke of the need to worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), the woman made the statement, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus replied, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father” (John 4:21). Some may read these verses and point out that the Jews and Samaritans would go somewhere to worship, but Jesus said the time was coming when they would not have to go anywhere to worship because we worship God all the time with everything we do. This is not what Jesus was saying. Jesus did not say that we do not go somewhere to worship; He said the place is irrelevant. We are not limited to certain places to offer worship to God. We can worship Him anywhere. When we do, we must realize it is a special occasion.

With a Prepared Heart

On this point we can look to the example of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The Lord gave Moses instructions for the people to make preparations for “the third day [when] the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Exodus 19:11). Moses consecrated them and told them to wash their garments and not go near a woman (Exodus 19:14-15). The people were going to be before the Lord; because of this, they were to make certain preparations.

We must also prepare to worship God. [As a side note, this would be unnecessary if all we did was worship (see previous point).] We must prepare mentally and remove all distractions. Jesus spoke of leaving a gift at the altar in order to first go and be reconciled to one’s brother (Matthew 5:23-24). Preparations also include our schedule. The Hebrew writer encouraged his audience to “not [forsake] our own assembling together” (Hebrews 10:25). We need to make appropriate preparations in order to worship God acceptably.

With Gladness

David demonstrated this proper attitude when he wrote, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We ought to view worship as a joy, not a chore. Why? There are three reasons given in the following passage: “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). We should view our worship together as a joy because (1) we have the opportunity to be with brethren, (2) we can encourage one another, and (3) we look forward to the day of the Lord. All of these should cause us to rejoice.

The improper attitude is pointed out by God through the prophet Malachi. With regard to worshiping God, the people would say, “Oh, what a weariness!” (Malachi 1:13). Not only was this the wrong attitude, but it led to corruption in their worship (Malachi 1:6-14). It will do the same in our worship today. Instead of doing what pleases God, people with this attitude will do what pleases themselves.

Some people can only worship in gladness when they have their own way. They talk of “traditional” worship as being glum and depressing. But the problem is with their attitude, not with the worship. We need to have the proper attitude and look forward to occasions to worship God.

With Reverence

We must serve God with reverence and fear because “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29) We must also recognize our place before Him. The prophet Isaiah reminded us that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s greatness, specifically compared with man, prompted the psalmist to write, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). Our place before God should cause us to worship Him in reverence.

Failure to reverence or fear God leads to disobedience. Paul quoted from various Old Testament prophets in order to demonstrate the sinful state of all men (Romans 3:10-18). Notice a few of the phrases he highlighted: “There is none righteous, not even one…all have turned aside…there is none who does good…whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood.” How do people reach the point in which they are like this? Notice the last verse in this section: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

The wise man said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). If we do not fear God, we will turn away from Him. Remember Jesus said we “must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). If we do not have the proper spirit in this regard, we will not worship in truth.

Realizing that God is Worthy

God is deserving of our worship for many reasons – His work in creation and sustaining life (Colossians 1:16-17), the blessings He has given us (James 1:17), the salvation He has provided (Ephesians 2:8), and His patience toward us (2 Peter 3:9). The list could go on. All of these reasons show that God is worthy of our worship.

In addition to being worthy of being worshiped, God also desires people to worship Him (John 4:23). However, we need to remember that even though God desires us to worship Him, He does not need our worship. We do not serve God “as though He needed anything” (Acts 17:25). Therefore, He will not accept just any worship we offer Him. He will only accept that which is done “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). If God is worthy of worship, He is worthy to be heeded with regard to how we worship. We cannot worship God any way we want and expect to please Him. We must worship Him in the way He wants.


It is a privilege to be able to come together and worship God. As in everything we do, we must worship in the way He has prescribed. We must have the proper view of worship so we can worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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