Thursday, March 16, 2017
What is worship? The primary Greek word used in the New Testament is proskuneo. It is translated “worship” in all sixty occurrences. Strong’s Greek-English Lexicon states that the word means, “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand. To fawn or crouch to; prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore).” Vine says it means “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneo, “to kiss”). He continues by saying it is the most frequent word rendered “to worship.” It is used of “an act of homage or reverence (a) to God” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words). Proskuneo is offered to Jesus as well as the Father (Matthew 2:2; John 4:24). When is the last time we have fawned, crouched, or been prostrate in homage to God? Have we redefined proskuneo and substitute other actions in the place of those definitions?
The search through the New Testament reveals that it is silent in mentioning the expression “five acts of worship” as well as attaching that phrase to proskuneo. Neither does it state that “worship” (proskuneo) is singing, preaching, giving, Lord’s supper, or prayer! The only time an inspired writer used the word proskuneo in a church assembly, he was not referring to the church’s performance, but one who was an unbeliever entering their assembly and proskuneo being attached to what he did (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). Few would agree with the Spirit’s definition. Neither would we approve of the man’s actions if he did in our assembly what he did in the Corinthian’s meeting! In fact, if someone performs a practice that is commanded in scripture, but isn’t the tradition of the congregation, isn’t the excuse of negligence, “That’s what that group down the street does”? Doesn’t human nature motivate one to attach the biblical act with that group’s erroneous actions as if it too is not scriptural? Isn’t the attitude manifested that if the person doesn’t conform, they need to go down the street?
Ask the man on the street what “worship” is and you will receive varied responses. Most simply parrot what their favorite pastor has spoon fed them. Others believe if it was good enough for their parents and grandparents, it is good enough for them. These are honest and sincere folks but many of them don’t have a clue.
Some will be engaged in a heated family squabble until they drive onto the church parking lot. Expressions change, words are filtered, and halos are straightened. The pious facade remains until they leave “church.” Then it disappears as the fuming and fussing resumes. For them, “being in church is being in God’s presence.” Once the last “Amen” is said, “worship” is over and what is left of their 168 hour week now belongs to them. If business calls for a foul mouth on Monday, a foul mouth it will be. It’s okay because we aren’t “in” church! For some, to worship “in spirit and in truth” means to softly and quietly enter the sanctuary. Being reverent is required because we are on “holy ground.” One must respect God’s “dwelling place.” But, walk out the door and God is left behind! Out of sight and out of mind. That is, until next Sunday.
If one wishes to proskuneo, he goes “to church” to sing specific church songs, pray to the Father, pass the collection plate, listen to the preacher, and partake of the Lord’s supper when served. Each church has its specific forms and guidelines to perform acceptable proskuneo. These forms are either written in their discipline, manual, catechism, or verbally handed down by respected teachers. The majority are not found as such in the New Testament, but tradition has given them life and clothed such forms in holy garments. Each is cherished and defended as a holy action or expedient. Most describe their proskuneo as being what Jesus taught (John 4:23-24; 17:21).
Different rules have surfaced in the past two thousand years concerning how, what, and where proskuneo may be performed. Some believe it is primarily an “in church” action. If a prayer is offered at a civic club, it may be considered proskuneo by one individual, but as something entirely different by another. A lot of verbiage is thrown around by sincere and honest folks who talk about proskuneo. Yet, very little if any of it is found per se in the New Testament scriptures. Some is located in the Old Testament, but never in the New. We are not under the Law of Moses, but under the freedom of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1-4). Our justification is not in keeping the old law but in living and walking by faith. So, what is proskuneo? What does the New Testament actually say?
* In the picture, is the slogan on the person’s shirt grammatically correct?