Worship is essentially doxology, a giving of glory, praise, honor, and homage to God. In the broadest sense of the word, all true piety is worship. “Godliness is a worship,”
Worship comprehends all that respect which man owes and gives to his Maker…It is the tribute which we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him…All that inward reverence and respect, and all that outward obedience and service to God, which the idea of godliness conveys, is included in this one word worship. – Swinnock
Usually, however, the Puritans used the word in its narrower and more common sense, to signify simply all our direct communion with God: invocation, adoration, mediation, faith, praise, prayer and the receiving of instruction from his word, both in public and in private.
Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of his majesty….It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reveres his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraces his goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object, and places all his affections upon him…God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with deepest humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit glorious, we therefore must acknowledge his excellency…he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying mediator and intercessor – Stephen Charnock
In worship we must seek to reflect back to God by our response the knowledge that we have received of him through his revelation….That the saints love public worship is a constant Puritan theme. Why their delight in it? Because in worship the saints do not merely seek God; they also find him. Worship is not only an expression of gratitude, but also a means of grace, whereby the hungry are fed, so that the empty are sent away rich…And men honor God most when they come to worship hungry and expectant, conscious of need and looking to God to meet them and supply it.
Many of the better sort of professors (i.e., believers) are too negligent in this matter. They do not long and pant in the inward man after renewed pledges of the love of God; they do not consider how much they have need of them…; they do not prepare their minds for their reception of them, nor come with the expectation of the communication unto them; they do not rightly fix their faith on this truth, namely that these holy administrations and duties are appointed of God in the first place, as the way and means of conveying his love and a sense of it unto our souls. From hence springs all that luke-warmness, coldness, and indifference to the duties of holy worship, that are growing among us. – John Owen
Separate from Packer’s article, another definition of worship that’s helpful comes from James Torrance: “Worship is the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.”
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