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Note: This article continues a series of studies about Jesus' Deity: His names, character, works, and honor. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.
Just as only God deserves to wear certain unique names, possesses certain unique characteristics, and do certain unique works, so there are certain unique forms of worship and honor that belong only to God. Because God created and rules the whole creation, it follows that all created things must honor and worship Him. No man or other created being may rightly receive such worship. To give such honor to men or created beings constitutes blasphemy or idolatry.
The New Testament word for worship (proskuneo) means to do obeisance, reverence, or acts of homage (see Thayer, Vine, and Arndt & Gingrich). This word is often used to describe men worshiping God: John 4:20-24; Revelation 4:10; 7:11; 11:16; 14:7; 19:4; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 14:25.
Many verses forbid worshiping men, angels, or any created thing.
Acts 10:25,26 - Cornelius fell down to worship Peter. Peter forbade it saying that he himself was just a man. God deserves worship, but men do not. (Cf. Acts 12:20-23; 14:8-18.)
Revelation 22:8,9; 19:10 - John sought to worship the angel, but the angel forbade it because he was a "fellow servant." "Worship God."
Romans 1:25 - People who worship and serve created things, rather than the Creator, have left the truth of God.
To worship any created thing - whether man, angel, heavenly body, or some other object in nature (mountain, ocean, etc.) - constitutes idolatry.
Only the true God deserves to be worshipped.
Matthew 4:9,10 - Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.
Revelation 9:20 - Idolatry is forbidden because it constitutes worship of someone other than God (Exodus 20:3-6; Deuteronomy 6:13-15; Revelation 14:9-11). [See also Exodus 34:14]
Note: proskunew is forbidden when used for obeisance to men from a spiritual or religious motivation or purpose. The word is sometimes (but rarely) used in the New Testament non-religiously to refer to bowing in obeisance to a king, master, or other person in authority (see Matthew 18:26 - this usage is more common in the Old Testament).
When used for religious honor, however, worship is forbidden toward any except God. In this sense, "worship" is like "lord," "father," "master," etc. The words may be acceptably used for earthly, physical relationships (Ephesians 6:1-9; Colossians 3:21,22), but we are forbidden to use such as religious honor to men or created things (Matthew 23:8-12). [On Revelation 3:9, cf. to 1 Corinthians 14:25]
The concept of Deity distinguishes the Creator from the creature. Things which are created do not have the unique characteristics of God, do not do the unique works of God, and therefore should not be addressed by the unique names of God nor should they be worshipped.
He was often worshipped while He appeared on earth before His resurrection.
Matthew 8:2 - A leper came and worshipped Jesus. [9:18; 15:25; Mark 5:6]
Matthew 14:33 - After Jesus had calmed the storm, the disciples worshipped Him saying He was the Son of God.
John 9:38 - After Jesus had healed the blind man, He revealed Himself to be the Son of God (v35). The man said he believed, and he worshipped Jesus.
Note that such religious worship would have been blasphemy and should have been forbidden as it was in the case of Peter, the angel, etc., if Jesus had been just a man on earth.
Created beings also worship Him after His resurrection.
Matthew 28:9,17 - After His resurrection, His disciples worshipped Him. [Cf. John 20:28,29]
Luke 24:52 - Even after He had ascended back to heaven, they worshipped Him.
Hebrews 1:6 - Angels are instructed by God to worship Jesus.
Note that men were rebuked for worshipping men, angels, or created beings, but they were never rebuked for worshipping Jesus. Angels are even instructed by the Father to worship Jesus. The context of the above passages cannot fit the idea of obeisance to an earthly king or ruler. They refer to honoring Jesus as a religious authority - the very thing forbidden when offered to Peter, angels, etc.
Hence, Jesus accepted worship as an act of religious honor. The Scriptures, including Jesus' own teachings, would absolutely forbid this unless He possesses true Deity.
"Glory" (doxa) means "...praise, honor ... magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace ... majesty" - Grimm-Wilke-Thayer.
"Honor" (timh) means "...honor which belongs or is shown to one; the honor of one who outranks others, pre-eminence ... veneration ... deference, reverence..." - Grimm-Wilke-Thayer.
Like the words "power" and "wisdom," both these words can properly be used to refer to men in the physical realm (Matthew 6:29; 1 Peter 1:24). But they are also used to describe a special degree of glory which no one but God can possess.
Psalm 24:7-10 - Jehovah is the "King of glory."
Psalm 29:3 - He is the "God of glory." [Acts 7:2; cf. Isaiah 60:19; Galatians 1:5; etc.]
Revelation 4:9-11 - God deserves this glory because He created all things. Note again the distinction between the creature and the Creator. [Revelation 5:13; Romans 11:36]
Isaiah 42:8; 48:11 - This glory is unique to God in that He refuses to share it with anyone else. Idols and created things have no right to receive this glory.
It follows that it would be blasphemy for anyone but God to receive this unique kind of glory. If anyone does receive this glory with God's approval, then that one must possess Deity.
John 5:23 - All men should honor the Son "just as" they honor the Father. To fail to give this honor to the Son is to fail to properly honor the Father.
"Just as" (kathos) is translated "even as" in KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV (cf. Thayer and Arndt & Gingrich). Other examples of its use in comparisons is found in Luke 6:31; 11:30; 17:26; John 3:14; 2 Corinthians 10:7; Colossians 3:13; etc.
The significance of the word, when used in comparisons, is that one item or action is just like the other regarding the aspect in which they are being compared. Hence Jesus rightly receives honor just like the honor the Father receives. And if we refuse to give such honor to the Son, then we are refusing to honor the Father!
John 17:5 - Jesus prayed to the Father to "glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (NKJV, cf. NASB, NEB; others are similar - ASV, KJV). Jesus asks to be glorified together with the Father with the glory He possessed "with" (para) the Father from eternity.
The clear implication is that Jesus and the Father both possessed the same glory before the world began. Jesus, in coming to earth as a servant, did not then appear to possess that glory but appeared as a man (this is part of what he gave up on coming to earth - Philippians 2:6-8). But having nearly completed His work on earth (John 17:4) and being ready to ascend to the Father, Jesus anticipated receiving this glory again (Philippians 2:9-11).
However, we have already learned that no one but God can receive the glory God has (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Jesus did receive that glory with the approval of the Father. Therefore, Jesus possesses Deity.
Revelation 5:12-14 - Both the Father and the Lamb (Jesus) were praised by the created things, who attributed to them "blessing and honor and glory and power." Note that the same glory and honor belongs to both Father and Son.
Hebrews 1:3 - Jesus is the brightness of the Father's glory (or the effulgence or radiance of His glory). That glory which shines from the Father also shines from Jesus because He is the creator (v2), upholds all things (v3), and is the express image of God (v3).
1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1 - Jesus is called the "Lord of glory," just as God in the Old Testament is called the "King of glory" (Psalm 24:7-10).
Note that the glory Jesus possesses is not just the glory possessed by men or angels. His glory is above that of angels (Hebrews 1:6,13). He is above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9-11). No created being possesses the glory and honor Jesus does.
We have seen, however, that Jesus deserves the glory, honor, and worship of Deity even as the Father does. God forbids this to be given to any but Deity, but Jesus does receive it. This would be blasphemy if Jesus were not God.
If Jesus is not Deity, then who is He? To understand God we must realize that God is not part of the created things. God is the Creator, separate and far above the creatures. This distinction is made again and again in the passages we have studied. Jesus must be classed on one side or the other. Either he is a created being or else He is Deity. To say He is not Deity is to say He is a created being. To say He is not a created being is to say He is Deity. There are no other alternatives.
Men are creatures; angels are creatures that are above men. But Jesus is above the angels and is not classed with them (Hebrews chap. 1 - see especially vv 5,6,13). We have seen that He is not an angel nor an exalted man, but the Bible attributes to Him that which can only be said of God. We have learned that:
* Jesus is expressly stated to be God or to possess Deity.
* Jesus is called by names that may only be used for God.
* Jesus possesses characteristics that only God can possess.
* Jesus does work that only God can do.
* Jesus deserves worship and honor that only God deserves.
In all these areas Jesus is described as the Creator, not a created being. He is eternal, has the power, and did the work of creation. He deserves honor as the Creator. Clearly He is not to be classed with the created things but with Deity.
But we have also proved that there is only one true God who made the universe. If Jesus is "god," He is not an idol nor a false god. Since He possesses Deity and there is only one true God, then He must possess true Deity, not some lesser form of deity. He must be included in the one true God or Godhead along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Finally, if Jesus is God then He always has been God and always will be God, since God's unique nature cannot change (Hebrews 13:8). God cannot cease to be God nor can God lose the characteristics of God. He can take on non-Divine characteristics as Jesus added the characteristics of a man when He came to earth, and He can limit the use of His powers in order to accomplish His Divine purposes as Jesus did on earth. But He cannot cease to be God and He cannot lose the power and characteristics of God.
Jesus possesses Deity.
Note: All Scripture quotations are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.
Two works that have been of special assistance in this study have been:
Jehovah's Witnesses by Maurice Barnett
Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ by Bruce M. Metzger
Many other works were consulted and have been credited where appropriate in these notes.
This completes our study of the Deity of Jesus. If you have not read the previous articles, then please click here to start at the beginning.
Copyright 1995, 2005, David E. Pratte
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.