What is the difference between praise and worship?

Howard Coles, Coleford, England

Category: Question Box

Praise is an act of worship or acknowledgment by which the virtues or deeds of another are recognized and extolled. It can be applied in three ways:

  1. The praise of one human being toward another. Although this is often beneficial, 1 Cor. 11. 2, it can be a snare, Matt. 6. 1–4.
  2. The praise of God toward people. This is the highest commendation they can receive, Matt. 25. 21.
  3. Praise toward God. This is the means by which we express our joy to the Lord. We are to praise God both for who He is and for what He does, Ps. 150. 2. Praising God for who He is is adoration; praising Him for what He does, is thanksgiving. Praise of God may be in song or prayer, individually or collectively, spontaneous or prearranged, originating from the emotions or from the will.

Worship when properly expressed is directed towards God. It is a wide term, which includes praise, but with an emphasis on reverent devotion to God and the practices by which this reverence is expressed. The English word ’worship’ comes from the Old English word ’worth-ship’, a word that denotes the worthiness of the one receiving the special honour or devotion.

Worship is characterized by joy and adoration being the response of those that are in the good of God’s gracious redemption in Christ. It is only truly possible through the leading of the Holy Spirit, John 4. 23–24; Phil. 3. 3.

At the very centre of the early New Testament church worship was the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper. It was instituted by the Lord Himself. Although not used in connection with the supper, worship can be the only real outcome of participation. Coming together on the first day of the week, believers sought to remember Him as He had commanded.

The elements of their worship appear to have been:

  1. Praise and thanksgiving, either by individuals or in hymns prayed or sung together, Acts 4. 24–30; 1 Cor. 14.15.
  2. Prayer, 1 Cor. 14. 15, 17.
  3. Teaching and reading of the Scriptures, Acts 20. 7; 1 Cor. 14. 19, 26.
  4. Offerings, that of money or substance, regularly on the first day of each week, 1 Cor. 16. 2.

Worship can include any act of devotion as Romans 12 verse 1, states, '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'. These last words could be translated 'worshipful service'.

Unlike Old Testament worship, New Testament worship is nowhere identified with a building, ritualistic performances, musical instruments, dancing or the presentation of material sacrifices. New Testament worship is often silent, always a matter of the exercise of one’s spirit and centers on the divine Persons as to who they are and what they have done, rather than any blessings we have received. The Holy Spirit always leads and directs worship. Anyone acting as a 'worship leader' would certainly put themselves in danger of usurping His authority amongst the people of God. A careful reading of John 4, verses 21-24, helps to clarify these issues as one of the fullest expositions of God’s will in the matter for His people today.

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