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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Proskuneo and Other New Testament Words for Worship

The language of worship in the New Testament uses words that denote the same physical actions as the words of the Old Testament.

For example there is proskuneo which the lexicons tell us connotes a servile groveling of an inferior before a superior. The example given is that of a dog licking the hand of its master.

Often there is a physical action connected with the use of this word, such as falling down on one’s face, or at the feet of the one worshiped. The acts of worship mentioned in the New Testament usually have that physical quality or imply it. Some examples are found in:

And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and be sought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. (Matthew 15:22 25)

Strong’s lexicon informs us that proskuneo is a verb meaning to kiss the hand of one of superior rank. Or like a dog licking his master’s hand, fawn before him. It is a sign of reverence, of homage. It also has the meaning of laying flat upon the ground, to crouch down in homage and submission to one of higher rank. This is done either in civil homage as to a person of rank and postion (think of Haman in the book of Esther), or religiously as to God, or false gods, or worse. This is adoration or reverence, or even out of fear. It is a form of worship.

Thayer’s Lexicon has this to say, … in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication and that it is … used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank: to the Jewish high priests; to God; to Christ; to heavenly beings; to demons …

A passage in Psalms reflects this type of homage or adoration:

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.(Psalms 2:12)

Kiss the Son. The Father, worthy of homage and reverence, demands the same for His Son, He demands adoration from us for His Son. This is worship. Picture if you wish an oriental potentate presenting his son to his court. He expects the courtiers to express the same reverence to his son as they would to him. They must "kiss the son" lest the potentate become angry with them for their disrespect.

Other words are also translated as worship. John 9:31 speaks of a pious worshiper, the Greek word is, theosebes.

The word, sebomai which is the root of theosebes and eusebeo refers to reverence and adoration of God.

Eusebeo also means reverence.

Doxa refers to worship by giving glory and honor and praise, for example in Luke 14:10.

There is one instance in the New Testament where we find the idea of self willed worship, ethelothreskeia, which is a misdirected and self invented form of worship. Paul’s example is in Colossians 2:23.

The populace of Ephesus were called temple servants, they were worshipers of a Greek goddess. The word is, neokoros.

Religious service, or serving, is also worship, the word latreuo which means a temple servant is tied to liturgy, which is a transliteration of latreia. Latreia means service, it particularly is used of performing religious service. This word gives us a very informative concept behind worship in the New Testament.

We find it used in these four passages:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; (Romans 9:4)

Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. (Hebrews 9:1)

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. (Hebrews 9:6)

The vocabulary used for worship in the New Testament is the same as that used in the Old Testament. What this tells us is that the essence of worship remains the same. Worship is seen in the light of sacred service to God. It is done in humility before our Lord, it is not the praise of one equal to another equal, it is submission by one who is inferior to one of higher rank. There is also the explicit fact that worship by falling down is our involuntary reaction to a true vision of the Lord as He is. Yes we have the teachings that we are no longer called servants, but friends, brothers, co–heirs, children of God, but our worship is always that offered by those who have been created, to our Creator and Savior, Lord and God, King of Kings, to the Eternal Father, to the Ancient of Days. There is never any sense of worship that is less than that of religious dread and awe. Our God is a consuming fire as well as our loving Father. Our Lord is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as well as our friend. Never is presumption upon relationship permitted to interfere with worship. The attitude of worship is only properly expressed by falling down and declaring, My Lord and my God! Worship is our due to God. It is our reasonable service.

So how then should we worship given these thoughts? Should it be ceremonious, and physical, falling down and uttering words? It must be said that at some times that is entirely appropriate. But the Lord Jesus spoke of a new kind of worshiper that the Father is seeking. John Chapter Four tells us. I suggest one read the passage before continuing here.

We see that the Father seeks worshipers who will worship in spirit and in truth. And that that worship is not limited to a locality, it is to be worldwide. It is a new kind of worship, given to the Lord Himself.

This spiritual and true worship begins within ourselves. Paul makes this clear in Romans12.1:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

Our reasonable service is put in terms of the religious duties of a priest performing sacred service in a temple. The word service is that Greek word, latreia. This is our reasonable worship, to submit ourselves to God, to be obedient to His command to be holy like He is holy. This isn’t the activity of ritual, it is a manner of living. It is conforming ourselves to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is living, and walking in the Spirit, manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. This is where worship in spirit and in truth begins. This is the kind of worshiper the Father seeks. The temple in which we are to serve is our own body, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Worship primarily refers to this lifestyle. But there is also worship when Christians join together in congregation as the body of Christ, the Church. Spiritual and true worship then arises from our individual worship. And, because we are joined in assembly our worship must needs take on a more formal and ceremonious character.

The Church comes together to pray, to praise, to teach the mystery of the faith, and to celebrate in the Breaking of Bread, the Lord Jesus Christ, giving Him the preeminence in all things.

But in all aspects of worship, which in spirit and in truth gives worship to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father, whether individually or as the Church, the character of worship is always that of humility, the inferior to the superior. However, it is conditioned by the love that we receive from God, learned of through Christ: He explained and proved His love by sacrificing Himself for us, and we wish to love Him in return.

In conclusion we can see how our thoughts about worship are conditioned by the vocabulary of worship used in the New Testament.

©FH 2012

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