The Barnabas Ministry

Worship, Ministry and Sacrifice

The ideas of worship, service (or ministry) and sacrifice are important in understanding the differences between the apostolic and post-apostolic church.  To the Jew, these had very precise meanings centered around the temple and obedience to the Law of Moses.  The application of these concepts in the apostolic church was far different from their Jewish counterparts, yet in time the post-apostolic church came to understand these in ways inconsistent with the apostolic age.  Let us consider the Jewish and apostolic-age meanings of these concepts.

“Worship” is the common translation for the Greek verb proskuno (proskunw). It is defined as “the custom of prostrating oneself before a person and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc.” (Bauer, p. 716).  In the New Testament, it is used in a Jewish context with a direct link to the temple at Jerusalem:

Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast (John 12:20).

27 And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27).

Since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 24:11).

Such worship was only due to God himself.  This is seen in the discourse between Satan and Jesus:
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY (Luke 4:7-8).'"
During his life on earth, Jesus was often worshipped:
And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son (Matthew 14:33)!"

And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him (John 9:38).

In the book of Revelation, the worship of God is one of the most obvious activities in heaven:
...the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying (Revelation 4:10),...

And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:14).

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God (Revelation 7:11).

And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God (Revelation 11:16).

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen. Hallelujah (Revelation 19:4)!"

In the Christian church age, worship took on a slightly different meaning compared to the Jewish concept of worship.  A central aspect is that of paying homage or respect to God.  This worship is due from all men:
... and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters (Revelation 14:7)."

"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before Thee, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed  (Revelation 15:4)."

And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God  (Revelation 22:9)!"

Though the hearer is told to worship God, the means is not specified other than the fact the worshiper is in willful and reverent submission to God.  This would be expected from a book like Revelation.

Christian proskuno worship is not dependent upon the place of the worship, but the spiritual nature of the believer in worship.

Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." [21] Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. [22] "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. [23] "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. [24] "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:20-24)."
In his teaching on Christian proskuno worship, Jesus testifies to a paradigm shift from Judaism to Christianity.  He rejects the idea of worship in a particular place (which was central to temple worship), insisting that worship is by the spirit and not the location.  He sets forth the teaching that true worship will be different than that which was in practice in Jerusalem and Samaria.  Such worship must be in spirit and truth; that is, without regard to physical location and sincere.  The idea here is an inward submission of the spirit similar to the physical submission inherent in proskuno worship.

Another term used in the New Testament to refer to worship is sebomai (sevbomaiv).  It was most often used to refer to “God-fearers, worshippers of God...pagans who accepted the ethical monotheism of Judaism and attended the synagogue, but who did not obligate themselves to keep the whole Jewish law; in particular, the males did not submit to circumcision” (Bauer, p. 746).

 Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43).

 But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district (Acts 13:50).

And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women (Acts 17:4).

So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present (Acts 17:17).

And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue (Acts 18:7).

Since all of these instances refer to places besides Jerusalem, the Jewish practice of sebomai worship is more closely (if not exclusively) related to the synagogue compared to the temple.  Supporting this suggestion, it was the failed obedience to an ethical aspect of the Law to which Jesus associated Jewish sebomai worship and applied the rebuke of Isaiah:
This statement is a rebuke to the prevailing practice of Judaism at the time and not a prescription or authorization for sebomai worship in the church age.  There is no example of sebomai  worship in the apostolic church.

However, a cognate of sebomai, eusebia (eujsebeiva), is usually translated “godliness.” It is used most often in the pastoral epistles  and 2 Peter, and denotes “a manner of life” (From W.  Foerster, “Sebomai,” Theological Dictionary of New Testament, p. 1012).  A representative sampling is included below.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, [2] for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity  (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; [8] for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. [2] For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, [4] treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; [5] holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 2:12).

Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness— (Titus 1:1).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, [12] instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11-12).

... seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. [4] For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. [5] Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; [6] and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; [7] and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:3-7).

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness (2 Peter 3:11).

The eusebia worship expected from Christians is entirely wrapped up in a moral and ethical lifestyle which pays respect to God.  There is no ceremonial aspect to this type of worship.

Having considered proskuno, sebomai and eusebia worship, it is evident that proskuno worship finds its place in the church and private devotional life in prayer, praise and a life of honest submission to God.  No form of sebomai worship finds a place in the New Testament church.  However, eusebia worship, consisting of a moral and ethical lifestyle which reflects knowledge of the true God, is commanded.  Thus, Christian “worship” of God in the first century consisted of a lifestyle of obedience and submission to God and not a set of ceremonial actions.

Service and Ministry
“Serve” is the common translation for the Greek verb latreuo (latreu/w), and “ministry” is the common translation for the Greek noun latreia (latrei/a). The verb is defined as “carrying out religious duties”  (Bauer, p. 467) and the noun is defined as “service of worship of God” (Bauer, p. 467).  In the New Testament, it is used to describe Jewish temple worship:

 Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY (Luke 4:8).'

... and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers (Luke 2:37).

 the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews (Acts 26:7).

... who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises (Romans 9:4)...

... who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN  (Hebrews 8:5)."

 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary  (Hebrews 9:1).

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  (Hebrews 9:6).

... which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience (Hebrews 9:9).

 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins (Hebrews 10:2)?

 We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat (Hebrews 13:10).

In Revelation, heaven is a place where service of some kind takes place:
"For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them (Revelation 7:15)."

And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him (Revelation 22:3).

In the church age, latreo ministry or service consists of several things: The primary act of service is in preaching the gospel to the lost.
But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets (Acts 24:14).

"For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me (Acts 27:23).

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you  (Romans 1:9).

However, this service also consists of various aspects of discipleship.  Consider the following passages.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

... for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day (2 Timothy 1:3).

... how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14)?

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; [29] for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Here latreo service to God is defined as consisting of the evangelistic preaching of the gospel, self-denial, Spirit-filled living with reverence and awe.  While Christian latreo service consists of these, the idea of ceremonial latreo service for Christians in the church age is foreign to the New Testament.

Another word translated “serve” in a religious context is leitourgia (leitourgiva).  It (or its various cognates) is used to specifically describe Jewish temple worship in the following passages:

When his time of service was completed, he returned home (Luke 1:23).

In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire" (Hebrews 1:7).

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).

…and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man (Hebrews 8:2).

But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies (Hebrews 9:21).

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins (Hebrews 10:11).

Leitourgeia worship is used to describe Christian service in the following passages:
And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:2).

... to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16).

Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things (Romans 15:27).

 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God (2 Corinthians 9:12).

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all (Philippians 2:17).

 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need (Philippians 2:25).

… because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me (Philippians 2:30).

In a Christian context, leitourgia service is used interchangeably with prayer in Acts 13:2 (notice the following verse says that after they “prayed and fasted”; thus prayer was used interchangeably with leitourgeia  service.  Bauer, p. 470.),  and also was used to describe preaching the gospel or serving others.  As in the case with latreuo service, there is no ceremonial leitougia service in the church age.

“Sacrifice” is the translation for the Greek verb thuo (quw) and noun thusias  (qusiva").  In the New Testament, it is used to describe the ritual killing of animals for presentation to God as a part of the Law of Moses:

 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 5:1).
The same term is used to describe the death of Jesus:
... but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD...  (Hebrews 10:12).
In the church age, the concept of sacrifice appears in several ways.  Let us consider these:
 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all (Philippians 2:17).

But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18).

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. [16] And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:15-16).

 And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, [5] you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5).

In the church age, sacrifice consists of living a life of self-denial, giving of money to help mission work, praising God, doing good and sharing with others.

In radical contrast to the practice of the Jewish religion, there were no ceremonial aspects to worship, ministry and sacrifice in the apostolic church.  Each of these ideas consisted of living lives of prayer and praise, self-denial and furthering the work of God on the earth in the specific ways that have been identified.

Adapted from Appendix A, "Keeping the Faith" (Great Commission Illustrated, 1997)
Copyright © 1997 John Engler. All rights reserved.

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