I am trying out a new format for discussing the intersection of worship and politics. This will free up the Cole Center for Biblical Studies site to focus on questions of theology and biblical studies. So, the name:
Latreia is a Greek term referring to worship and service. The term occurs several times in the Septuagint of the Old Testament and a few times in the New. The cognate verb latreuo is more common, with 21 occurrences in the New Testament alone. Together, they point to human worship of God and other gods. Some key uses:
- Romans 12:1 – “Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship [latreia].”
- Hebrews 12:28-29 – “Therefore, receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve [latreuo] God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
- Romans 1:24-25 – “Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served [latreuo] the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
- Luke 4:8 – “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve [latreuo].’”
Latreia suggests for us this question – whom shall we worship and serve? Will we worship God or pervert our worship by serving the creation or its destroyer?
Politeia points to politics and to our citizenship. In Greek, politeia refers to the ordering of the city (polis), and in a nod to Augustine’s City of God (my reason for blogging in the first place and the subject of roughly 90% of the posts so far over at the Cole Center blog), I want this site to deal with the politics of the Kingdom, or the City of God. We are citizens of the New Jerusalem (the great City of God) and God intends that our engagement with His creation and the world reflect the politics of that City. In the midst of the current City of Humanity – a city that worships and serves self and Satan the dragon – God invites us to live out the politics of the great future City that already has victory over the powers of the world by the blood of the Lamb, our King and Bridegroom. There are only two uses of politeia in the New Testament and only one more of the related politeuma:
- Acts 22:28 – “The tribune answered, ‘I bought this citizenship [politeia] for a large sum.’ Paul said, ‘But I am a citizen by birth.'”
- Ephesians 2:11-12 – “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the citizenship [politeia] of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
- Philippians 3:20-21 – “For our citizenship [politeuma] is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself.”
Politeia invites us to ask whether we are living out the politics of the Kingdom of God or the politics of the world? Are we dwelling as citizens of the New Jerusalem or as citizens of Babylon?
Our worship – our latreia – is the set of citizenship rites that forms our politeia. As every citizen of Rome would have known in the time of Christ, right worship is a requirement of citizenship. Roman citizens performed various worship rituals in order to participate in public life. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are called to worship and to live as His loyal subjects, rejecting the kingdoms of the world and participating in public life as worshippers of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And so, welcome to the conversation. Feel free to let me know if you have things you want to contribute – I’d love your input. My heart for this site is that it be a place where we can seek the Kingdom of God together in worshipful unity – as the Father, Son, and Spirit are One, let us be one. And yet, we will disagree on all of this. I take disagreement as a chance to get to work to love one another, not as a sign of division. Let us be a people that lives out the Kingdom of God by reconciling, loving, and bearing one another’s burdens.
Blessings in Christ our King,