Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If Jesus Christ Is Not God, Then Why Was He Worshiped As Deity In Scripture?

  • Discussion:
          -If critics of the Trinity are correct about Jesus Christ not being God, then how do they account for the multiple occasions throughout Scripture where He is worshiped as one who has divine status? Consider the following texts from the Gospel of Matthew:

          "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

          "And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!" (Matthew 14:33)

          "And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him." (Matthew 28:8-9)

          The problem for folks who reject the deity of Christ is further enhanced as one considers how the Old Testament Scriptures expressly condemn idolatry (Exodus 20:4-6; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13; 32:29; Isaiah 42:8). Only God is to be worshiped. If our Lord Jesus Christ is not God, then He cannot rightly be the recipient of worship. This excerpt provides us with necessary backdrop:

          "To enter into this debate, you must understand the Greek term for worship: proskuneo. Groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses are quick to point out that proskuneo can refer to the act of bowing low to the ground before someone. This act was used to express respect or reverence towards a superior (e.g. a king). In these situations, proskuneo is better translated or bow down, not worship. However, when proskuneo is used in a religious context, it is an act of acknowledging deity. Therefore, context is key in determining whether or not Jesus was actually worshiped."

          The four gospels clearly indicate that Jesus Christ was revered as a deity. His triumphant arrival into Jerusalem and praise from a crowd on Palm Sunday especially brings this point into light (Matthew 21:15-16). The people had called Christ hosanna, which is an utterance of adoration and recognition of His Messiahship. When confronted by Jewish leadership about this incident, He quoted Psalm 8:2. That context indicates the type of honor that only God is worthy of receiving. Yet, Jesus Christ applied to Himself that passage from the Psalms which was originally addressed to Yahweh. This proves Christ to be God in the flesh. 

           It is also telling to note that the New Testament records angels and the apostles always refusing the type of honor that Christ accepted (Acts 10:25-26; 14:13-15; Revelation 4:10; 19:10; 22:8-9). Neither would it have made any sense for the Father to say that He was pleased with His begotten Son (Matthew 3:16-17), if He were acting disobediently. Christ never once in Scripture rebuked anybody who worshiped Him.

           If Jesus is not God, and accepted worship in violation of Jewish Law, then the New Testament must be in error for telling us that Jesus lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:14-16). He would not even be a good moral teacher. If Jesus Christ is not co-eternal with the Father, then He is not really much different from the rest of us. Would anybody say, "Lord, save me," to a mere prophet (Matthew 14:28-30)?

           It is evident from Scripture that Christ is the second Person of the triune God. Revelation 5:13-14 describes the same amount of worship being given to the Lamb and God. The Greek term "latreuo" is applied both equally to the Father and Son in Revelation 22:3. In this passage, the throne of the Lamb is made equivalent with the throne of God. This excerpt from Dr. Thomas Constable's expository notes is pertinent here:

           "[Revelation] 22:3 There will no longer be a curse because the tree of life will heal (redeem?) the nations. The curse in view is probably the curse that God pronounced on the old creation at the Fall (cf. Zech. 14:11; Mal. 4:6). God will have intimate fellowship with His people because this curse has now been lifted. Evidently believers (His bond-servants in the new creation; cf. 1:1) will occupy themselves serving God and the Lamb in the new earth. The Greek word for “serve” (latreuo) suggests priestly service in view of its other uses in this book (cf. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). “His” and “Him” present God and the Lamb as essentially one being."

4 comments:

  1. How can you say that proskuneo is an act of acknowledging deity.
    What is there in the text to differentiate it from simply reverence?
    Recognition of his messiah-ship is not the same as accepting him aa a deity.

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  2. Moksha,

    I believe that the article itself answers your questions regarding the meaning of proskuneo.

    Moreover, people who truly accept Jesus Christ as the promised Jewish Messiah will accept everything that He affirms. That would include His claims to deity and also the completion of miraculous deeds which only God Himself can do.

    Therefore, recognizing Him as the Messiah requires believing that He is God in the flesh.

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  3. Yes! A pretty convincing argument against people like Jehovah's witnesses and the gang of Unitarians. If Jesus is truly good, he could never accept this worship due to God. We can recall Lewis's three options for Christ: liar, lunatic, or Lord. Jesus could not be a good man or a truthteller if he is to say all these things, and imply all these things through his actions, unless he is indeed God. Otherwise He is a liar or a lunatic, in either case unfit to be followed.

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  4. Hello Sean,

    Speaking of C.S. Lewis' Trilemma, you might find this article to be interesting:

    https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2017/09/presentation-of-cs-lewis-trilemma.html

    ReplyDelete