Both Testaments teach that only God may be worshiped. Yet, Jesus was worshiped on earth by the magi from the east, after He walked on water and after His resurrection. Jesus was also worshiped in heaven after His ascension. God commanded all angels to worship Jesus. All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.
Only God may be worshiped.
God commands us to worship only Him (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 8:19). There has always been one sin which God did not and will not tolerate, and that is worshiping any god other than the Creator. This is confirmed by the New Testament:
Peter (Acts 10:25–26) and Paul (Acts 14:14–15) both corrected others for trying to worship them. In the book of Revelation John twice attempted to worship an angel, and each time the angel’s response was:
“Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (Revelation 19:10; compare 22:9).
Earlier in Revelation we are told to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (14:7).
Jesus similarly said to the devil, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8).
Yet, Jesus was worshiped on earth.
When the magi from the east “saw the Child with Mary His mother; … they fell to the ground and worshiped Him” (Mt. 2:11).
After He walked on water “those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’”(Mat. 14:28-33).
After His resurrection “His disciples … came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (28:8-9). “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:16-17).
Jesus didn’t correct them. He accepted their worship.
Heavenly beings worship Jesus.
Revelation 5 describes events in heaven when Jesus ascended (see Introduction to the Seven Seals). In that chapter heavenly beings worship Jesus:
The “four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus see John 1:29), each one holding a … golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8-9).
The combination of falling down before Him and the prayers of the saints seems like worship.
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’” (5:11-12)
The Lamb is Jesus. In these quotes Jesus was worshiped, but in the next quote God and the lamb are worshiped together:
Then John heard “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them … saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever’. And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped” (5:13-14).
The word “worship” appears in 5:14. However, that verse does not specifically mention the Lamb. But the context of 5:13, where God and the Lamb receive equal honor, implies that they worship Lamb in 5:14.
Support for this conclusion is that 5:13 reads very similar to 4:10-11 and to 7:11-12, where the heavenly beings “worship” God.
Worship Jesus equal to God.
God commanded all created beings to worship Jesus:
God commanded all angels to worship His Son (Hebrews 1:6).
“God highly exalted Him … so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:5-11).
These statements make a distinction between God and His Son, yet created beings worship Jesus equal to God. Jesus said, “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).
The Bible teaches that only God may be worshiped. “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8). The Bible also maintains a clear distinction between God and Jesus. See Jesus is not the same Person as God.
Yet, Jesus was worshiped as a baby by the magi from the east, and by His disciples after He walked on water and after His resurrection. In Revelation 5 heavenly beings fell down before the Lamb with the prayers of the saints and gave equal honor to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. God commanded all angels to worship His Son and highly exalted Him so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).
This is difficult to understand. Although He is not God, that we must honor Him equal to God. In our admiration and worship we must not distinguish between God and His Son.
We can explain the distinction made between God and Jesus. Gabriel said to Mary that Jesus will be called the Son of the Most High. When the New Testament uses the title God, it refers 99% of the time to the Most High. In this usage of the title “God,” Jesus is not God.
But then the question remains, why is the Son of the Most High worshiped? Many Christians will respond that He is co-equal with the Father (the Most High), but the Bible teaches that God (the Most High) is the Head of Christ (1. Cor. 11:3).
It is proposed here that we must worship Jesus because He is the only begotten Son of the Most High (John 3:18, 16). As argued elsewhere, He is not a created being, but has been “begotten,” which is something we also find hard to explain. He is not a created being, but He created all things and still maintains all things. We must worship Him because in Him the fullness of Deity dwells (Col. 2:9).
Articles in the series: Is Jesus God?
1. The three views of the Son
2. Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
3. Jesus in Colossians
4. Did Jesus empty Himself of equality with God?
5. Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6. Jesus is not God.
7. God is the Head of Christ.
8. In the Bible Jesus is called God.
9. He is the Only Begotten Son of God.
10. God created all things through His Son.
11. We must worship Jesus. Current article
12. Jesus has equality with God. NEXT
13. Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles
14. Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?