Gaylon West

"And he saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:9, 10 , KJV).

    Many are confused between the words "worship" and "service." Translations of Romans 12:1 seems to complicated understanding between the two words so that readers wonder if one is to worship God 24 hours/7 days. Whereas, we are to worship and to serve God through Jesus Christ faithfully, these obligations are different and should not be switched. One is continual and the other continuous.

    "While both adjectives (continuous and continual) describe duration, "continuous" indicates duration without interruption. For example, The continuous humming of the fluorescent lights gave him a headache. "Continual" indicates duration that continues over a long period of time, but with intervals of interruption. For example, The continual street repair disrupted traffic for nearly two years. The distinction between adverbs continuously and continually follows the same pattern." (English words differentiation via


    Our study considers the question whether the two words, "worship" and "service" are the same. When we consider the New Testament's teaching on worship versus service, we can look at how the word is used in the entire Bible. I say this because Jesus reaches back to Exodus and brings the ancient words of worship and service into the first century AD.

    The devil tempted Jesus to 'fall down' and worship him. Jesus answered that we are to worship the Lord our God and Him only should we serve. This was not a new requirement but one that Jesus as a man was born under.


    "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Galatians 4:4). The Law referenced is the Law of Moses which includes the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 4:13). The Ten Commandments begin with this prohibition against "other gods": "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

    The phrase "bow down" in the Greek Septuagint Version of the Old Testament is the same word "worship"[proskuneo ]i used by the devil and Jesus.

    Popular commentaries say that Jesus quoted from such passages as Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20 that says, "Fear the Lord". The Ten Commandments are not referenced by them although the First Commandment uses the exact words that Jesus uses. The words are "worship [proskuneseis]ii and "serve" [latreuses]"iii in the (Greek) Septuagint Version of the Ten Commandments. Although the word "only" is not precisely there, neither is it in Deuteronomy 6 and 10. However, the context of the Commandments demands "only" because it eliminates all objects of competition. "Thou shalt have none other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).

    That Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments is bolstered when we observe that Jesus is responding to the devil's tempting Jesus to "worship" [proskuneseis] him. The devil does not say "Fear me" [phobethese] but says "Worship me." This difference is fundamental in this lesson as we comment on the current controversial issue of the meaning of "service." Are the two words "worship" and "service" synonymous? Can the word "worship" be substituted for the word "serve" and vice versa?


    The intent of "worship" determines meaning

    The original Hebrew word used by God to Moses is sha^cha^h (Strong's number H7812) which means "to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively [to self or for self] in homage [show respect or allegiance] to royalty or God)."iv The word is used in Genesis and Exodus for a person's obeisance before people, visitors, angels, Esau, sheaf, Joseph, father-in-law, a golden calf, as well as to God.

    The first time it is used in respect to God is with Abraham in Genesis 22. His intent is indicated by his actions. He "clave the wood for the burnt offering" before the young men and his son Isaac.

    The prohibition of worship in the Ten Commandments is toward gods (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) which we can call a religious or spiritual worship. Obviously, we can deduce that bowing before a man or thing, as if he/it were a god, is forbidden.

    In other cases such bowing for respect is excepted. For examples, under the Ten Commandments, there's the obeisance ("worship", shachah or proskuveseis) of Abigail to David; David to Saul; Mephibosheth to David; Cushi to Joab; Solomon to Bathsheba; the sons of the prophets to the prophet Elisha; and the ones bowing to a king: woman of Tekoah, Joab, Absalom, Araunah, Nathan, Bathsheba. We know from the examples they are accepted because prophets of God are listed as doing it. Hence, the intent of obeisance (worship) is important. In other words, "Why are you bowing before this person?" The problem comes when one "takes hold upon other gods and worship (bow down to) them and serve them" (1 Kings 9:9).

    A young man kisses a girl's hand during the Middle Ages or prostrates himself before a king or lord; this would be proskuveseis yet without sin. A President bows and kisses the Pope's ring or bows before a Muslim king religiously would be a violation the 10 Commandments. One's intent of the bowing is apparently important. Intent.


    The devil precedes the word "worship" with the action verb of "falling down and..." This follows the pattern of the use of the word "worship" in both Testaments. It is a visible and overt act. The word "worship" [proskuneo ]v is preceded by an action towards doing it; for example, "come to or come up to", "fall down or bow to", "ran to", etc. Never is this true with the word "serve" (or "fear" for that matter).

    Abraham heeds the test of God to offer his son as a sacrifice at a certain place in Moriah. When he and his company arrive, Abraham tells his servants to stay with the donkeys and "I and the lad will go yonder and worship" (Genesis 22:5). The action verb "go" precedes the word "worship."

    This is also true in the first century. Matthew 2:2 illustrates that the Magi say that they "are come to worship Him." Some other passages are John 12:20, "came up to w."; Revelation 15:4, "shall come and w." ; Acts 8:27 "[Ethiopian eunuch] came to Jerusalem to w." ; 24:11, "went up to Jerusalem to w."; 1 Corinthians 14:25, Revelation 4:10, 19:10, 22:8, "fall down to w." ; Revelation 3:9, "come and w." There are few passages in the New Testament where this "worship" is used alone; in such cases it could be argued that the verb is implied.

    What about the word "service"?


    Latreuo is the Greek word translated as "service" by Jesus during His temptation and in the Ten Commandments and it means to "minister to the gods or man, like a slave."vi The word that the devil, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord uses for "worship" does not mean this. A different word entirely.

    Under Moses, the Priests and the Levites served at the Temple (and before that, at the Tabernacle). Their daily work to God was a religious work. "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary" (Hebrews 9:1). This service in Greek is latreuo, a religious service of labor; e.g., the priests' work at the tabernacle. The Hebrew source is aw-bad meaning "to work (in any sense); by implication to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc."vii Although their service involved maintaining and preparing the temple for the people to worship, it was certainly not the bowing down "worship". But it was obedient service to God.

    Jesus' mission is not to be distracted or derailed. He tells the devil that not only will He not "worship" him but His decision is to obey (serve) the Father's destiny for Him on the earth. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience [to God, the Father] by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5;8,9). Jesus follows God's plan even to the cross.


    Paul implored the Roman brethren, "...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). This doesn't cause a problem in the King James Version, but when versionsviii are published with "worship" instead of service, confusion results over when one actually "worships." Worship and service in the Ten Commandments were different and our Lord Jesus confirms that they were and are different words. The translators can legitimately use the English word "worship" because it has so many definitions in our society including "respect", "dignity", "divine honors", "civil deference", etc.ix

    Did the apostle mean to refer to the "bowing down" type of worship or to the "work" of service? Did he imply that he was referring to a specific culminating act of "falling down" and/or "going to"?

    The context bears out that he did not. The apostle elaborates by urging the reader to be faithful in their daily lives to the Lord. In the verses which follow, we are to keep ourselves from the way of the world (verse 2), use the diverse gifts with which we have been blessed (verses 6-8), show kindness to all (verses 10-16), and overcome evil with good (verses 17-21). Such exhortations deal with our every day service before the Lord, not acts of "bowing down" or "going to" worship.


    "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 ).

    The thought of Romans 12 is expressed in 1 Corinthians 6 about our body and spirit being the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we are obligated as a slave to God. The command is to honor Him by appropriate behavior in the use of our bodies.

    Since we each are a temple of God, our control and use of our body is considered "service" (Romans. 12:1) just as the Levites and Priests labored to care for the Jerusalem Temple and its vessels.

    Even so, we are to dedicate our vessel to the Lord. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21).

    Jesus paid the sacrificial price for our redemption from our lost state, i.e., by His death on the cross. Therefore we are redeemed, bought and paid for, as a slave is purchased. We belong to God; hence, we are expected to "glorify" God in our body (and in our spirit). That is, we are to serve God daily by keeping our bodies pure for the master's use; e.g., sexual purity. We are to treat our body as it were, indeed, a "temple of the Holy Spirit" by glorifying God.

    The word "glorify" (1 Corinthians 6) is doxazo , a form of which is translated "worship" in the sense of honor in a public sitting (Luke 14:10, KJV). We honor our master by our behavior. The same thought is in Romans 12:1. We live not to shame but to honor our family's head.


    In John 4, the woman at Jacob's well did not inquire of Jesus whether one should live at Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem, but where one should go and "do" worship. When the Ethiopian eunuch went to Jerusalem, it was to "do" an act of worship, not to live (Acts 8:27). Likewise, the apostle Paul had gone to Jerusalem to worship ["to do"](Acts 24:11), but clearly his life's service to God was elsewhere (Acts 9:15; 13:47; Romans 11:13; 15:16). Each of these reveals a distinction between our daily life of service and "doing" as an act of worship.

    Before going to the cross, Jesus warned the apostles, "...the time is coming that whoever kills you will think he offers God service" (John 16:2). Jesus employs the same Greek word (latreia) which Paul used in Romans 12. Surely, the Jewish leaders didn't consider putting men to death a act of worship, but they believed they were serving God (Deuteronomy 13:1-11; Acts 6:13-14; 7:57-58). They would certainly have differentiated this "service" from their "bowing" acts of worship.x


    It is reasonably noted by a teacher that all robins are birds, but not all birds are robins; all canoes are boats, but not all boats are canoes; and all sneakers are shoes, but not all shoes are sneakers. Equally, all ["bowing down"] worship is service to God, but not all service to God is worship. The Bible makes a recognizable distinction between the two words. The context identifies whether an overt action of worship is referred to or if it's a person's daily living.


    What is the intent of your labor? Is it religious in intent?

    Daniel faithfully served Darius (6:1-4). However, the prohibition of the Ten Commandments is that among "gods" one is to serve the only true God. Although Daniel served the King (as we would serve on any job or trade), he did not serve him as a god. "But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Daniel 3:18 ). Service is like worship. Intent is decisive.xi

    Daniel and his friends served king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:3-7, 19) before serving Darius, but they would not worship him or his gods (Daniel 3:12-18). In this case we see that there is a distinction between their service and their worship. They were commanded before hand by the prophet Jeremiah to serve the Chaldeans for their advantage. God's prophet Jeremiah commanded "Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you" (Jeremiah 40:9). Their service intent to the captors was a physical service and their religious intent was to God.

    Christians are to serve religiously at all times. They serve their God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has directed them to serve their earthly masters.

    "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:5, 6).

    Today the best employee is a Christian because he is working, not to please man who has limited sight, but to please His Master in Heaven.

next > #2: Acts of Worship

iStrong's G4352:< proskuneo Strong: Probably a derived from kuwn' (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): - worship.
ii Strong's G4352
iii G3000 latreuo Thayer Definition: 1) to serve for hire 2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen   2a) in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship 2b) to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship 2b1) of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office
ivH7812 Worship, Strongs: Hebrew. A primitive root; to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): - bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
vStrong's G4352
vi G3000 latreuo .
viiAs used in the Ten Commandments;: aw-bad (definition, Strong's H5647).
viiiBible in Basic English; Easy-to-Read Version; English Standard Version; Good News Bible; God's Word; International Standard Version.
ixWebster's 1828 Dictionary
xThought given in -Sept 11 2005
xiThe major problem is that the Hebrew word for "serve" is the same word for the menial slave (such as serving in Egypt or Babylon in bondage), a political subject, and religiously "serving" God or idols. Since in the Greek language there are different words that help one to identify the type of service, the Septuagint translators did take advantage of this and chose to use ergasasthe (toiling in labor or trade) instead of latreuo , which to the Greek referred more to a religious service (Hebrews 9:1).

"Throw Out the Lifeline"