10 Key Bible Verses on Worship

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. John 4:21–24

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Read More

neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. Jesus is inaugurating a new age in which people will not have to travel to a physical temple in one city to worship but will be able to worship God in every place, because the Holy Spirit will dwell in them, and therefore God’s people everywhere will become the new temple where God dwells (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16–17; Eph. 2:19–22).

God is spirit means that God is not made of any physical matter and does not have a material body but has a more wonderful kind of existence that is everywhere present (hence worship is not confined to one place, John 4:21), is not perceived by the bodily senses (cf. John 3:6, 8), and yet is so powerful that he brought the universe into existence (cf. John 1:1–3, 10; John 17:5). Because “God is spirit,” the Israelites were not to make idols “in the form of anything” in creation as did the surrounding nations (Ex. 20:4).

2. Romans 12:1–2

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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Read More

Therefore points back to the entire argument from Rom.1:18–11:36. mercies of God. Christians are to give themselves entirely to God because of his saving grace, as shown in Rom. 3:21–11:36. Sacrificial language from the OT is used to denote the new life of Christians, and this means that the word bodies here refers to Christians as whole persons, for both body and soul belong to God. They are a living sacrifice, meaning that they are alive from the dead since they enjoy new life with Christ (Rom. 6:4). “Living” also means that they will not be put to death as OT animal sacrifices were (see notes on sacrifices in Leviticus 1–7), for Christ has fulfilled what was predicted by those sacrifices. Whereas OT worship focused on offering animal sacrifices in the temple, Paul says that spiritual worship in a broad sense now includes offering one’s whole life to God (cf. Heb. 13:15–16). Elsewhere, however, the NT can also use the word “worship” in a narrower sense, to speak of specific acts of adoration and praise (Matt. 2:2; John 4:20; Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 14:25; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 11:1).

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3. Psalm 63:1–4

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
      my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
      as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
      beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
      my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
      in your name I will lift up my hands. Read More

Remembering Past Worship. The song opens with passionate expressions of longing for God: earnestly I seek, my soul thirsts, my flesh faints. (No doubt the arid conditions of the wilderness of Judah provided the image of a dry and weary land where there is no water.) Clearly the singer misses God; but in particular, he misses his experience of God in public worship: the sanctuary is the place of corporate worship, and God’s glory is his special presence with his people, which is given and enjoyed in the sanctuary (see note on 26:4–8). People are said to see (or look upon or behold) this glory (e.g., Ex. 16:7; 33:18; Num. 14:10; Deut. 5:24).

Confidence for Future Worship. The past tense recollection of v. 2 becomes a future expectation: my lips will praise you, I will bless you, I will lift up my hands. This activity of praising, blessing, and lifting up hands (cf. 28:2; 134:2) takes place in the sanctuary. Lifting up hands is a sign of directing one’s prayers and praise toward God, and helps the worshiper to focus his thoughts on God. The ground of this expectation is 63:3: because your steadfast love is better than life.

4. Exodus 20:1–6

And God spoke all these words, saying,
      “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
      “You shall have no other gods before me.
      “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Read More

You shall have no other gods. Yahweh demands exclusive covenant loyalty. As the one true God of heaven and earth, Yahweh cannot and will not tolerate the worship of any “other gods” (cf. Ex. 22:20; Ex. 23:13, 24, 32); in other words, monotheism, the worship of the one true God, is the only acceptable belief and practice. before me. This Hebrew expression has been taken to mean “in preference to me,” or “in my presence,” or “in competition with me.” Most likely, “in my presence” (i.e., worshiping other gods in addition to the Lord) is the intended sense here, in view of (1) the creation account (Gen. 1:1–2:3), which makes any “other gods” irrelevant (since only the Lord is active); (2) the events in Egypt, in which the Lord displayed his superiority to “other gods” (cf. Ex. 12:12; 15:11; Ezek. 20:7–8); and (3) the persistent call to worship Yahweh alone (Ex. 22:20; 23:13, 24, 32–33; cf. Deut. 6:13–15). Even though this commandment does not comment on whether these “other gods” might have some real existence, Moses’ statement to a later generation makes clear that only “the LORD is God; there is no other besides him” (Deut. 4:35, 39; see also Ps. 86:10; Isa. 44:6, 8; Isa. 45:5, 6, 18; and 1 Cor. 8:4–6).

5. Luke 4:5–8

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

      “‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
      and him only shall you serve.’” Read More

And the devil took him up introduces another temptation but does not imply that the temptations occurred in this order (Matthew has a different order, and more indications of chronological sequence). This temptation involves being shown kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. To you I will give. Though Satan claims that all this authority and their glory (of the kingdoms) has been delivered to me, and though in some sense Satan is the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; cf. 1 John 5:19), the claim should not be accepted as fully true. Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), and in the final analysis, all authority belongs to God (see Rom. 13:1–4; cf. Ps. 24:1; Dan. 4:17). Because of common grace (see notes on Matt. 5:44; 5:45), even a fallen world still gives glory to God (Isa. 6:3). This is a temptation to break the first commandment (Ex. 20:3). Jesus replies that worship belongs to the Lord your God alone.

6. Psalm 42:1–5

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
      so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
      for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
      day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
      “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
      as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
      and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
      a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
      and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
      my salvation. Read More

My Soul Pants for God. The song begins with a poignant expression of longing for God himself, using the image of thirst: As a deer pants for flowing streams. For the pious, the answer to this longing comes in public worship; this is clear from the phrase appear before God (i.e., at the sanctuary; cf. Ex. 23:17), and from Ps. 42:4, which recollects the former participation in sanctuary worship. The singer represents himself as separated from this worship and subject to taunts from those who despise his faith. The singer closes the stanza by encouraging himself that God will return him to worship. (Observe that the first words of Psa.42:6, “and my God,” belong with the refrain.)

7. Hebrews 12:28–29

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Read More

Gratitude and worship are due in light of salvation. Acceptable worship takes into account (in reverence and awe) God’s holiness and his position as a judge to whom alone worship is due (see the context of Deut. 4:24, quoted here). Some say that this “acceptable worship” is depicted in the conduct described in Heb. 13:1–19 (cf. Rom. 12:1–2).

8. Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
      Serve the LORD with gladness!
      Come into his presence with singing!

*Know that the LORD, he is God!
      It is he who made us, and we are his;
      we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
      and his courts with praise!
      Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
      his steadfast love endures forever,
      and his faithfulness to all generations.
Read More

The title declares that this psalm is “for giving thanks.” That is certainly fitting, as the worshipers thank the universal Creator for the privilege of being “the sheep of his pasture.” The term “giving thanks” (Hb. todah) can also be the name for the thanksgiving offering, one kind of peace offering (Lev. 7:12–15).

gladness . . . singing. Awareness of the goodness of God (Ps. 100:5) and of the great privilege of worshiping him produces joy in those who know they are welcome in his presence.

For the Lord is good. Full of generosity (cf. 23:6; 25:7–8). steadfast love . . . faithfulness. These terms evoke Ex. 34:6; the foundation of joy for God’s people is his enduring character of gracious love, of keeping his promises. to all generations. Exodus 34:7 says that God keeps his steadfast love “for thousands,” which, in view of Deut. 7:9, is probably “generations in their thousands.” The worshipers delight to think of the people of God being preserved forever, and of the prospect of their own descendants being members of that people (cf. Gen. 17:7; Ps. 103:17–18); this, too, is the measure of God’s enduring love.

9. Revelation 4:9–11

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

      “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
            to receive glory and honor and power,
      for you created all things,
            and by your will they existed and were created.”
Read More

The chorus of four living creatures swells as the twenty-four elders fall down and cast their crowns before the throne, offering worship and expressing submission to God’s authority. The elders extol God as worthy of threefold tribute (glory, honor, power) because he exerts his sovereign will in creating and sustaining all things. God receives “power,” not in the sense that an omnipotent being can become stronger, but in the sense that the strength of his creatures is used to honor him. These praises of God for his eternal perfection and creative achievement are the prelude to a “new song,” which will laud God and the Lamb for redemption, the climactic display of their divine worthiness (Rev. 5:9–10).

10. Psalm 95:1–9

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
      let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
      let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
      and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
      the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
      and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
      let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
      and we are the people of his pasture,
      and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
      as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
      and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
Read More

The Lord Is King. The members of the congregation singing these verses invite one another to the great privilege of worshiping the LORD, the great God, the great King above all gods. On the kind of kingship attributed to God here, see note on Psalm 93. God is King over creation: it is his, he made it, and he rules over it all (it is in his hand, i.e., under his authority). The marvel of being Israel is that such a majestic King has pledged himself to his people, making them the sheep of his hand (cf. note on 74:1–3). It is no surprise, then, that worship offered to him would be both exuberant (sing, make a joyful noise, thanksgiving, songs of praise) with astonished wonder, and humble (bow down, kneel) before such majesty. The whole person, body and soul, must offer this worship.

We His People Must Heed His Voice. Since worship includes the priests reading and expounding the Scriptures, the worshipers will hear his voice (v. 7b), and in the rest of the psalm the congregation reminds itself that they must take it to heart, believing and obeying their great King.

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