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Six Hebrew, two Aramaic and four Greek words are so rendered:

Old Testament Vocabulary

  • In the Old Testament the word most used for "service" is `abhodhah, from `abhadh, which is the general word, meaning "to work" and so "to serve," "to till," also "to enslave." The noun means "bondage," "labor," "ministering," "service," "tillage," "work," "use." The word is used in describing work in the fields (Ex 1:14, et al.), work in the tabernacle (Ex 27:19, et al.), sanctuary service (Nu 7:9), service of Yahweh (Nu 8:11), Levitical or priestly service (Nu 8:22), kingly service (1Ch 26:30), etc. Reference is made to instruments, wood vessels, cattle, herbs, shekels for the service in the house of Yahweh.

  • `Abhadh itself is translated "service" in Nu 8:15; 18:23; Jer 22:13.

  • Seradh means "stitching," i.e. piercing with a needle; it occurs only 4 times, and in each case in the Revised Version (British and American) instead of "service" is translated "finely wrought garments" (Ex 31:10; 35:19; 39:1,41).

  • Sharath means primarily "to attend" as a servant or worshipper, and to contribute to or render service, wait on, and thence service; occurs only 3 times (Ex 35:19; 39:1,41 the King James Version) and in the American Standard Revised Version is rendered "for ministering."

  • Tsabha’ is found 7 times, used in the same connection each time, and refers to those numbered for service in the tent of meeting. Its primary root meaning refers to service for war, campaign, hardship (Nu 4:30,35,39,43; 8:24).

  • Yadh means literally, an "open hand, indicating direction, power, and so ministry as in 1Ch 6:31, where David appoints certain ones to have direction of the music, translated in 1Ch 29:5, the Revised Version (British and American) not service, but "himself."

  • `Abhidhah means "business," "labor," "affairs"; Ezr 6:18 is the only place where it is found.

  • Polchan, from root meaning "to worship," "minister to," and so in Ezr 7:19 vessels given for service.
  • New Testament Vocabulary

  • Diakonia, from root meaning "to run on errands," and so attendance, aid as a servant, ministry, relief, and hence, service; compare English word "deacon"; Paul: "that I might minister unto you" (2Co 11:8); also found in Ro 15:31 ("ministration") and Re 2:19 ("ministry").

  • Douleuo, literally, "to be a slave," in bondage, service (Ga 4:8, "bondage"; Eph 6:7, "service"; 1Ti 6:2, "serve").

  • Latreia, from root meaning "to render religious homage," menial service to God, and so worship (Joh 16:2, "service"; Ro 9:4, "service"; Ro 12:1, "spiritual service"; Heb 9:1, "service"; 9:6, "services").

  • Leitourgia, from root "to perform religious or charitable functions," worship, relieve, obey, minister, and hence, a public function, priestly or charitable (liturgy) (2Co 9:12, "service"; also in Php 2:17,30).
  • Secular service

    Ritual service

    Spiritual service

    As revelation progressed, service acquired a new and broader meaning. Service required horizontal action. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve” (Matt 20:28), and thereby set an example for His followers. He set the example in life, death, and drama (John 13:3-17). He said, “If any one serves me, he must follow me... the Father will honor him” (12:26). Early Christians soon grasped Jesus Christ|Jesus’ concept of total religious service, including evangelism and missions. Paul said, “there are varieties of service” (1 Cor 12:5). He thanked Jesus Christ for “appointing me to this service” (1 Tim 1:12), and was proud of fellow workers in this service (2 Cor 8:23). Appropriately, the highest order of church laity are called Deacon|deacons, from the Greek diakonous (1 Tim 3:8-13).


  • E. Russell, “Chapel Talks” (1935), 211f.

  • W. L. Poteat, “Youth and Culture” (1938), 43-47.