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What is Worship?

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Study of Worship
By

Paul Abenroth

Jesus told Satan, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Jesus quoted that from Deut. 6:13-14. This divine law is so basic that it is the first of the ten commandments, Deut. 5:7, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The New Testament makes clear two principles about worship:


 

Principle Number One: Men should not accept worship.

Acts 10:25-26 shows that Peter did not accept worship. "And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man."

Acts 14:8-18 shows that Paul and Barnabas did not accept worship. The Lycaonians became so excited and awed when they saw Paul heal a lame man that they cried out, "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men." However, when their pagan priest began preparation to worship Paul and Barnabas with sacrifice, the apostles restrained them. "And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them."

Acts 12:23 demonstrates God's immediate judgement against Herod, who did "And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost."


 

Principle Number Two: Jesus did accept worship.

Matt. 2:2 tells that the wise men came "Saying, ... we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him." Then, Matt. 2:11, "They fell down, and worshipped him." All this was done at the direction of God, who guided them by the star.

In Matt. 8:2 a leper came and worshipped Jesus. Jesus accepted his worship. In Mark 5:6 the man known as Legion came and worshipped Jesus. Jesus accepted his worship.

In John 9:35-38 the blind man, whom Jesus had healed, worshipped Jesus. Jesus accepted his worship.

In Matt. 28:9 The women who had been at the tomb "held him by the feet and worshipped him."

In Matt. 28:17 At the mount of ascension the eleven disciples "worshipped him, but some doubted."

Heb. 1:6 -- God said of Jesus, "when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him."

Philippians 2:10-11, "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This demonstrates that all people should worship Jesus.


 

An obvious question now comes to our attention.

Question: If Jesus said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," then --Why did Jesus accept worship?

There are many scriptures which deal with the answer to this question. Following are four of the most forceful.

Isaiah 9:6 -- "His name shall be called ...The mighty God."

John 1:1 -- "the Word was God."

John 20:28 -- Thomas addressed Jesus, "My Lord and my God."

Heb. 1:8 -- God the Father said to Jesus, "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever."

The answer is very plain:

If Jesus said, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," then the only possible justification for Jesus accepting worship from men and angels is this: JESUS IS GOD.

Little did the Lycaonians know what they were saying when they cried out, "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men." The only problem was that they had in mind the wrong gods and the wrong men. They were thinking of Jupiter and Mercury who are not gods and who are merely the product of pagan man's imagination. Little did they know that the true God did "come down to us in the likeness of men." That was Jesus Christ, the one of whom it was said, "they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."(Matt. 1:23)


To think of Jesus as God might at first seem to us a contradiction of the
basic Biblical truth that there is only one God. However, there is no contradiction when we understand that the three Persons in whose name we are baptised, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are still one God. Though our finite mind cannot understand our infinite God, yet Paul the Apostle, a Jew who grew up under the strict teaching that there is only one true God, also understood that this one God is three Persons. He demonstrated his understanding of this fact when he enjoined to the Corinthians "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost...." (II Cor. 13:14)


John implies this understanding by writing, "For there are three that bear
record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (I John 5:7); and when he wrote in Revelation 1:4 "...from him which is, and which was, and which is to come (God the Father); and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne (God the Holy Spirit); and from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead...(God the Son)"

Peter implies this same understanding in I Peter 1:2. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."

Likewise, Jude implies this same understanding in Jude 20: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

Finally, our Lord himself refers to the three Persons in Matt 28:19, just before he ascended to heaven, when he commanded the Apostles to baptise "in the name of the Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

All life is either Creator or creature . The creature is the creation of the Creator. We are warned against worshipping any creature. The Creator only is to be worshipped, as indicated by Rom. 1:25, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." However, Jesus is not a creature. According to John 1:3, "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." Since The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (one God, though three Persons) is our Creator, the Son is therefore worthy of worship, just as the Father is our Creator and is therefore worthy of worship.

So, the redemption of men from sin was not delegated to men or even to angels. Our redeemer was none other than God the Son. Our redeemer is therefore worthy of all honor, praise, gratitude, and worship. Worship is not optional. Jesus said, "Thou shalt...." We dare not knowingly withhold from him any recognition due to him, including the recognition that he, JESUS CHRIST IS GOD.

 

I might add that two or three times in Sunday morning meeting I spoke the above, before we left the fellowship -- once in Spokane, once in Union meeting here in Walla Walla, and once in the Sunday Morning meeting in our home. I could discern no visible reaction from anyone.

Paul Abenroth
Walla Walla, Washington

August   5, 1996