Worship means to bow down.
The first occurrence of the word “worship” in the Bible is Genesis 22:5. Genesis 22 is the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar to GOD (and GOD stopping Abraham from killing his son).
Today, Christian culture defines worship as:
- A church assembly (“Let’s go to worship services.”)
- Completion of a specific ritual or set of rituals (ex: pray, take up a collection, sing, communion, preach)
- Music meant to praise GOD (worship music; “I’m the worship leader at Main Street Church.”)
None of these modern uses aligns with the biblical concept of worship.
In the Bible, to worship meant to bow down, most of the time by changing physical posture.
The Greek word that is most often translated “worship” is προσκυνέω (proskuneó). It means “to do reverence to” and is often used with going down to one’s knees.
One passage that illustrates this truth perfectly is Mark 15:19, which is where the Roman soldiers abused Jesus before His crucifixion:
16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. 17 And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, 18 and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. 20 And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.Mark 15:16-20 NKJV
In this passage, the soldiers “worshiped” Jesus with zero intent of honoring Him. What did they do? They bowed the knee in mockery. But it was worship (proskuneó) nonetheless.
I have written a detailed post on what it means to worship here. I highly recommend it. We need to understand what worship really means and behave (and talk) in a way that reflects that understanding.