This post continues the discussion of worship – see my post “Worship again“. In Romans chapters 1-11, Paul tells his readers, among other things, that both Jews and Gentiles alike are justified, sanctified, and glorified by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Beginning in Romans 12:1, we find that Paul uses several “priestly” words in association with followers of Jesus – “present/offer”, “sacrifice”, “worship/service”:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
These followers of Jesus are now priests of God. The word “worship/service” (Î»Î±Ï„ÏÎµÎ¯Î± – latreia) along with the verb form is especially interesting because that word group is used to indicate the work of priests in the Old Testament.
There is another cluster of “priestly” words found towards the end of the book of Romans:
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:15-16 ESV)
In this passage, Paul explains that he is a priest of God as well. Just the Roman believers were to work as priests of God, so did Paul. But, what does this “priestly service” look like? I think we find this described in the passages between Romans 12:1 and Romans 15:15-16.
What does “priestly service” look like for a follower of Jesus? It begins by recognizing the grace of God, and serving others through the gifts that he gives to all his followers through the Spirit. (Romans 12:3-8) “Priestly service” continues through the way we interact with one another – beginning with genuine love, but including hospitality, blessing and rejoicing, etc. (Romans 12:9-21)
“Priestly service” for the follower of Jesus also includes responding correctly to government authorities. (Romans 13:1-7) To emphasize the importance of love, Paul again instructs us to love one another – this is not just a feeling, but a manner of living. (Romans 13:8-14) Our worship/service also includes accepting one another and not judging one another – even concerning “religious” concepts. (Romans 14:1-15:7)
How do we “worship” God? We worship God in the way that we serve, submit to, love, and accept one another. When do we worship? Well, we worship when we serve, submit to, love, and accept one another. What if we’re not doing these things? Then we’re not worshiping.
What if we’re singing and listening to preaching, but we not demonstrating love to those around us? Then we’re not worshiping. What if we’re demonstrating God’s love to those around us, but we’re not singing nor listening to preaching. Then, we’re worshiping.
Looking at Romans 12-15, we see how worship to Paul has very little to do with what Christians often call worship today. Can singing and listening to preaching be beneficial. Sure. But, we should not confuse these with worship.
If we wish to express worship/service to God in ways that he finds pleasing and acceptable, then we will take Paul’s instructions to the Romans seriously: we will demonstrate genuine love, submit to governmental authorities, love through the way that we live, and accept people just as they are – the way that Christ accepts them. Of course, its easier to attend a “worship service”.