The homage rendered to God (Exod. 20: 1–6) in gestures and appropriate words, but also, the prophets insisted, in ethical conduct (Amos 5: 21–2). Sacrifices were offered to God not as food but as gifts that were costly to the offerer; animals for sacrifice had to be unblemished.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the centre of the nation's worship from the time of Solomon. There was a daily sacrifice of a lamb in the morning, and a second lamb, together with cereal offerings, was offered by the high priest on the Sabbath. After the Exile the Day of Atonement was added to the ritual in the Second Temple. There were in addition voluntary offerings made by lay people; the main condition for participation in this service was to be in a state of ritual purity.

Prayers and singing were part of the Temple worship (1 Chron. 16: 4–6), and people used many of the psalms. They were also used in worship in the synagogues which began to spring up in the Dispersion as centres for Jewish immigrants and were very soon places of religious instruction. Early Christian worship took over features of Jewish synagogue worship, including appropriate furnishings, though according to Acts the early followers of Jesus joined in Temple worship (Acts 3: 1) and much that became characteristic of Christian worship was rooted in the practice of the Jerusalem Temple; the message of atonement recalled the ritual at the heart of Temple life; Christians could think of themselves as stones, not like those of the destroyed Temple but living (1 Pet. 2: 5). But former rituals were soon given radically new meanings: sacrifice was no longer bloody—the whole Temple institution was obsolete (Heb. 9: 13–14). Circumcision was replaced by baptism, laying on of hands was associated with special commissions (Acts 13: 2–3). Above all, there was a new form of sacramental worship with bread and wine in commemoration of the sacrifice of Jesus and in anticipation of the joyous Messianic banquet in the age to come (1 Cor. 11: 26). The first day of the week was set aside for this communion, which was accompanied by prophesying, reading, singing, and prayers, all in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving (1 Cor. 14: 26; Col. 4: 16; 1 Thess. 5: 16–18). Justin Martyr in the early 2nd cent. says that on Sundays ‘memoirs of the apostles’ (i.e. a gospel) were read also.