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Monday, July 25, 2011

What is “Ministering to the Lord?”

The phrase that is sometimes heard among those leading worship is that we must come and “minister to the Lord,” and since the word “minister” can bring to our minds the idea of “meeting needs,” we need to think seriously what we are saying. This is particularly interesting since God is self sufficient and needs nothing. The following found its spark from discussions in our Bible Study last Sunday, as well as a followup conversation with my wife, Kathy.

To be able to talk about the subject, I’ll list the more prominent passages that deal with ministering to the Lord as well as ministering before the Lord, which is similar. The goal here is not to provide commentary for each passage, but see the common elements that exist.

Old Testament:
Psalm 101:6
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me.

Isaiah 56:6
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—

Judges 20:28
with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?” The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

1 Samuel 2:18
But Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod.

1 Chronicles 16:1
[ Ministering Before the Ark ] They brought the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God.

Jeremiah 33:21
then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
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 New International Version (©1984)
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

New Living Translation (©2007)
One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them."

English Standard Version (©2001)
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Numbers 18:2
Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law.

1 Samuel 2:30
“Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.

1 Samuel 2:35
I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

1 Chronicles 15:2
Then David said, “No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the LORD chose them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister before him forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:4
He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to extol, thank, and praise the LORD, the God of Israel:

1 Chronicles 23:13
The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses. Aaron was set apart, he and his descendants forever, to consecrate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices before the LORD, to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in his name forever.

2 Chronicles 29:11
My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.”

Jeremiah 33:22
I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’”

Ezekiel 40:46
and the room facing north is for the priests who guard the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who are the only Levites who may draw near to the LORD to minister before him.”

Ezekiel 43:19
You are to give a young bull as a sin offering to the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok, who come near to minister before me, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Ezekiel 44:15
“‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Ezekiel 44:16
They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards.

Ezekiel 45:4
It will be the sacred portion of the land for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and who draw near to minister before the LORD. It will be a place for their houses as well as a holy place for the sanctuary.

Joel 1:9
Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the LORD. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the LORD.

Joel 1:13
Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

Joel 2:17
Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

There is an interesting addition in two passages in 1 Chronicles 16:4 and 1 Chronicles 25: 6-7. The first passage were to lead the praising of God through music, while the other describes their particular work was that of leading, being “trained and skilled” in music.

Old Testament Summary:
1. It was restricted to the priesthood.
2. It was tied to the carrying out of their responsibilities to offer sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the people.
3. It was done in recognition of who God was and what He had done for them.
4. It was done in obedience to what God had commanded.
5. It was tied to worship.

New Testament:
The passages related to “ministering to the Lord” in the New Testament are limited.

The Acts 13:2 passage [“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." NASB ©1995] might equally be translated “while they were worshiping the Lord” [NIV, NLT, ESV].

There are few instances where Jesus is “ministered to:” the first is after the temptation account in the wilderness and he was ministered to by angels [Matthew 4:11]. Another is Jesus being anointed in the house of Simon the leper by the adulterous woman [Matthew 26:6-13], and a general reference to the women that offered help to Jesus and the disciples [ Matthew 27:55-56] and the anointing of the Lord’s body after the crucifixion might be considered in this same light [Mark 16:1]. With the possible exception of the adulterous woman, which might be considered worship as well as service, the instances revolve around meeting the physical needs of Christ. The motivation for doing so was no doubt out of love.

In the Apostle John’s Revelation, the idea of ministering seems to center around a constant recognition of the character and nature of God, from the angelic beings that proclaim His holiness [Revelation 4:8-11], and His work of salvation, who in response bow down before the throne saying “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” [Revelation 5:12-14].

General Summary and Conclusions:
The common thread seems to be an awesome recognition of the greatness and majesty of the character of God and the recognition of His gracious redemption of His people through His great acts. Ministering to God would then involve an obedient response to God’s character and work, or how worship itself may be defined: “The obedience response to the revealed nature, character, and work of God.” As we worship God then, we are ministering to Him. The more that we understand about who God is and what He has done, the more that we can allow Him to renew and remold our minds and our thinking, the more that we will be better able to minister or worship Him.

God needs nothing, so there is no need in Him that we might possible meet, however God does have desires: He desires to have a relationship with us. He knows that the most satisfying relationship that meets our inmost needs is found in our recognition of who He is and our submission to the plan that He has for us. We can only come to that relationship through the confession of our sins and recognition of God’s saving act of redemption through His Son, Jesus. We must come to realization of the absolute power and authority of God over everything, and begin the process of grasping the depth of His love for us in what He did through Christ in redemption.

Our submission and obedience are tied to our understanding of who God is and what He has done. As we live our lives allowing His love and work as our point of reference, we joyfully submit our wills and lives to Jesus, the One who loved us enough to give His own life to reclaim us, rising from the dead, showing His power and authority over even death itself. We respond in obedience to His nature and work. We can do nothing less than worship Him.


  1. Well said my friend in the Lord Jesus Christ. God is coming back for the true followers of Jesus Christ. I hope that I am one of them as well. God bless you and your ministry!

    1. This portion of the last paragraph is incorrect. "One who loved us enough to give His own life to reclaim us, rising from the dead,"

      God gave His Son's Life, NOT HIS.

      PLEASE CORRECT. Thankyou.

    2. I have clarified the paragraph and appreciate your sensitivity to accuracy. Blessings.

    3. Jesus was God in flesh. I find no fault in using "His own life". It was a powerful statement. Touched my heart deeply.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. As the Apostle John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." [I John 5:13]

  3. Thank you, Dr. Steele. I am going to use some of this (with attribution!) in Sunday's message.

  4. No problem, Tim! Glad it could be useful!

  5. am happy about this message learning may you help me understand the difference between serving and ministering?

  6. As we live in obedience to God's desires we grow in our understanding of His greatness and our need of Him. Service that comes as a result of the gratitude of our hearts to God is ministering to Him.

  7. Great insight! More grace to you sir.

  8. Thanks for your encouragement, Arowolo!

  9. Very insightful and Spirit filled explanation , best I've taken into my heartful,wisdom of Spiritual awareness in years! Blessings with BLESSINGS Sir!

  10. So well articulated Dr.Steel . A wonderful blessing to me and the Bible study group.God bless you Paul

    1. Thanks, Paul, I pray God's blessings on you as well!

  11. Thank you for your insight and helpful summary.

    Ministry to The Lord an essential pre-requisite to then minister Him as He directs.

    1. Thank you for your comments. May God bless you as you seek to fulfill His plan for your life!

  12. Thank you, Hope, for posting. May God bless you and your ministry.

  13. Nice piece. Ministering to the Lord precedes effective ministry to people. More grace to you sir.

  14. Thank you, Felix, for your comments; God Bless!

  15. A useful read. Thanks for sharing. I found it as I was researching the phrase 'ministering to the Lord' as it is used by Chip Brogden in his book 'The Church in the Wilderness'

  16. Thanks for your comments and I'm glad the information was helpful. God Bless!

  17. Truly a deep research on the scripture. Thank you!

  18. Thank you, Oreva, for your kind words. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

  19. Ministering to the Lord means God is always first... Utmost Importance personal love relationship with Christ Jesus!

    Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness....

  20. Thank you so much for this! I read my bible everyday and I'm ashamed to say I didnt know what ministering to the Lord meant for many,many years so I decided after reading Samuel's first prophecy to look "what it meant to minister to the Lord" I couldn't find much, then I found your post and I want to thank you! Now I understand, if it's in our heart with gladness, to our Lord to do something then its ministering to the Lord!and to worship him through the spirit and not by the flesh. Ty! For your spiritual insight may the Lord continue to give you discernment and bless you!

  21. Does it say somewhere that we minister to Jesus, i thought it did

    1. Scripture records that some of the women ministered to Jesus, however in the context it would appear that the idea was for physical needs as in food, etc.

  22. God bless you Dr, this great insight not just useful to me but I'll make sure I share with others. More grace Dr.

  23. God bless you Dr, this great insight not just useful to me but I'll make sure I share with others. More grace Dr.

  24. This is a wonderful place to come for encouragement and find explanations that help expand the knowledge of God and our relationship with Him. Thank you so much for sharing your Spiritual Wisdom! I noticed a question - "Do we minister to Christ?" - it is my understanding that we worship a triune God who is not and cannot be separated. Wouldn't that mean we minister to Jesus our Lord when we obey His commands and serve His Church? It seems to me that if we can persecute Him (Saul of Tarsus) then we can minister to Him (Zacchaeus).

  25. Worship is our obedient response to the revealed nature and character. If there is no obedient response, I don't believe we can call it worship. Worship is how we minister to the Lord.

  26. This is so helpful; thank you. The Lord has been speaking to me about ministering before/to Him for the last couple of years, while I was 'hidden' with Him in severe illness then healing. Now He's saying it's time to step out into the light, with ministering before Him as my focus. So good to have this summary - I was going to find all the verses and try to write one!

  27. Great piece of information. This was a confirming and comforting revelation for me.

  28. Thanks for opening up my mind. That ministering to God is more of worshipping him & doing his work here on Earth.

  29. Thanks for the comments; I pray your understanding and relationship with God continues to grow.

  30. Thank you for this. I have been pondering what ministering to the Lord meant and found your article. God is so good. He is most worthy to be praised!

  31. Thank you for your comments; more certainly could be said and I trust this has been helpful!

  32. Humbly, might I petition to add only a small piece of truth to this beautiful truth?

    While worshipping and meditating upon the Lord a little over a year ago, I asked what worship looked like to Him…not how I or others define it to be but what He defines it to be as I desired to give to Him what He desired. Weeping before Him, He spoke to me and said “Intimacy”. As I absorbed this and meditated more, I asked Him what worship did for Him (3 questions I asked over a 3 day period) again I stayed before Him in worship, weeping. As I kept the question before Him, He spoke to me and said worship “Ministers” to Him. I wept at this revelation. To think that I could do such a thing for Him. My Savior and God of all. Again I stayed before Him, meditating upon His words. As my mind began to travel through the OT I paused and said to Him “I know that You said worship looks like intimacy to You and that it ministers to You, what then do you accept as worship?”
    I asked this as not all sacrifices were accepted by Him in the OT.
    Again, as I stayed before Him worshipping and loving Him in meditation, I kept the question there. Not for the mere sake of knowledge but so that I might “know” Him and give to Him, the One I love, what He desired.
    When He answered, it was like a quiet, though clear whisper - yet in thundered in my being. “Truth!”. Truth is all that He will accept from us. Then the scripture that says those that worship Him, worship Him in Spirit and Truth blazed through my mind and heart.

    He defines worship as: Intimacy, Ministry to Him and only Truth is accepted.