Worshipping Jesus

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 19, 2007 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

A visitor to our website asks:

“If, in Exodus 20, we are forbidden from worshiping any other gods but the one true God, then is it wrong to worship Jesus?”

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Dear friend,

In Exodus 20 – the passage in which we find the ten commandments (along with Deuteronomy 5), God gave this as the first commandment: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:2-3). And He also gave this as the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

These commandments, of course, forbid us from ever bowing down and worshiping any god but the one true God; and they forbid us from ever making an image of the one true God and bowing down to it as if it were God. Your question, as I have understood it, is asking if that commandment forbids us from giving worship to Jesus.

I suggest that behind your question is another question: Is Jesus the one true God? That’s the question to answer first; because if Jesus is God, then it is not only in keeping with the commandments to worship Him, but it would also be an act of disobedience to the commandments NOT to worship Him!

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One of the doctrines that is clearly impressed upon us from the Bible – although not stated by name directly – is the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine teaches us that there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4); but that the being of this one God exists in three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This is not to say that there are three Gods. There is only one God. But this God is not one Person, but three.

This doctrine is tough to express; but here’s my best attempt. The doctrine of the Trinity acknowledges what the Bible teaches about the nature of God: that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and that all three are equal in power and divine glory, sharing the same essence of being as one God. But the three are distinct in the state of their individual existence. In other words, the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. They exist in perfect tri-unity as one God; but they exist in this tri-unity as three distinct Persons. (A good passage to demonstrate that is Matthew 3:16-17. There, we see Jesus – the Son of God – being baptized; and present at His baptism was the Father and the Holy Spirit.) It’s important to point out that as Christians, we do not worship “three Gods” – as some unbelieving people say; but rather, that we worship “one God in three Persons”.

This is, I admit, a great mystery. There is nothing on this earth that is in any way analogous to the triune nature of God. We can’t think of anything that is “one” in essence and at the same time “three” in individual subsistence; so I never feel badly about the fact that my puny little mind can’t “understand” the Trinity. But it is what the Bible teaches us about the nature of God; and it is what Bible-believing Christians – including myself – believe.

And the importance of this doctrine to your question is that it reminds us that Jesus – the incarnate Son of God, who walked upon this earth in human flesh – exists as the Second Person of the Trinity. He is every bit as much “God” as the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that He existed as God with the Father and the Holy Spirit before the worlds were ever made (John 1:1-2). In fact, the Bible tells us that it was BY Him that the worlds were made (John 1:3). It tells us that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consists. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:15-20).

Jesus presented Himself to the world as God in a very clear and unmistakable way. In Exodus 3, God introduced Himself to Moses by the name, “I AM” (Ex. 3:14). The Jewish people have always revered that name (YHWY in the Hebrew language); because it was the sacred, covenant name of God. But when Jesus was once confronted by those who opposed Him, He said this very amazing thing: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). The Jewish people who heard Him say this immediately picked up stones to stone Him to death, because they believed He had committed a great act of blasphemy – daring to call Himself by the name of God. And though He escaped from their hands; He did not correct them as if they had misunderstood His claim. He meant what He said.

On another occasion, He was again talking to those who opposed Him. He told them, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). The people who heard Him say this understood Him to mean that He was as much God as was the Father; and they again picked up stones to execute Him. Jesus asked, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” And they answered, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (vv. 32-33). They clearly understood Jesus’ words to be a claim that He was God – and again, Jesus didn’t correct them as if they misunderstood. There are other passages that show this; but the point is that, plainly, Jesus claimed to be God. And if His claim is true, then we owe Him our worshiped.

Those who followed Him also understood Him to be God – the second Person of the Trinity. Jesus was once walking along with His disciples; and He turned to them and asked who people said that He was. The disciples told Him of many of the different things that people said about Him; but when He asked, “But who do you say that I am?”, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus didn’t correct Peter. In fact, He assured Peter that the answer He gave was the authoritative answer from the Father (v. 17).

I believe that we have been given the greatest proof of all that Jesus was God in human flesh by the fact that He was raised from the dead. The apostle Paul said that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). In fact, after Jesus was raised from the dead, and the apostles watched Him ascend bodily to the Father in heaven, we’re told, “And they worshiped Him . . .” (Luke 24:52).

Because these passages teach us that Jesus claimed to be God (and there are many others), and because He gave proof to that claim in many ways (including and especially the resurrection), then Jesus should be worshiped as God. We would only be breaking the first and second commandment in worshiping Jesus if He was NOT God; but because He is the Second Person of the Trinity – every bit God as the Father and the Holy Spirit – than it is not only ‘okay’ to worship Him, but would be a sin not to. As Philippians 2:10-11 teaches us, every knee will bow to Him, and every tongue will confess “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

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How should we begin to worship Jesus? Let me share a story with you that, I believe, teaches us how. Jesus once healed a blind man and then slipped away into the crowd. And after He had healed the man, and the man could see, Jesus met Him again. The man had never seen Jesus; but he had surely come to love Him, because He had given him his sight. Jesus found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” And the man said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” And the man said, “Lord, I believe!” (John 9:35-38). And then the Bible tells us, “And he worshiped Him.” (v. 38). I believe the first step to worshiping Jesus – and we all SHOULD worship Jesus – is by believing all that the Bible teaches us about Him. You can’t worship Him and disbelieve in Him at the same time.

I would recommend that you read through the Gospel of John. Read it very carefully, and in a translation of the Bible that you can understand easily. And every time it tells you something about Jesus, and reveals yet another proof to you that Jesus is the Son of God, stop right then in your reading and pray. Say something like this in your own words: “Father in heaven, I believe what this is telling me about Jesus. Thank you for showing me the truth about Him. I place my faith in what it says.” Do that as you read through the Gospel of John. It was written specifically “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). As you do this faithfully, you will soon find that – in reading, believing, and praying in this way – you will be worshiping Him. He is alive; and He loves you, and wants you to know the truth about Him so that you can indeed worship Him as you should.

Sincerely, and in Christ’s love,
Pastor Greg

(All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)

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Creation for the Birds

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 8, 2007 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

Creation Question for the Birds

A visitor to our website asks a questions about Creation:

He reads these words in Genesis 1:20-21; “Then God said, ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.’ So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Then, he asks this question:


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Dear friend,

Thanks for your question. We’re not given the details of how God created the different forms of life. We’re simply told that He did it; and that He created them ‘according to their kind’ – that is, according to their differing species. But you were right to notice some details.

In Genesis 1:20-21, there are two separate acts of creation being described. On the fifth day, God created the two forms of life that corresponded to His creative act on the second day (vv. 6-8). We’re told that on the the second day, He divided the waters below (the seas that covered the earth) from the waters above (the “firmament”; that is, the sky and the canopy of clouds that covered it). And then, on the fifth day, He created the life that corresponded to those two spheres: the waters below (marine life); and as a separate act, He created the life that corresponded to the “waters” above (the birds). In the one case, He said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures” (that is, marine life); and in the other, He said, “. . . and let bird fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens”. These were two separate acts in God’s creative work; and they seem to be stated as such in verse 21. And in verse 22 He seems to issue two separate commands to “multiply”.

In other words, though the creation of marine life and bird life are mentioned as occurring on the same fifth day, they are really two separate acts (broadly speaking) of creation; both corresponding to the two separate spheres created on the second day. When God says, in verse 20, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures”, He is speaking of marine life – not bird life. There is no indication that bird life was created in the waters.

Genesis 2:19 is consistant with this. God, as that verse tells us, created bird life from the ground, the same as He created the animal life that lives on the land. So I would answer your question to the negative: God did NOT create the bird life from out of the water; but on the land, from which they multiplied and filled the sky . . . although I have to admit that that’s all the details we are given.

God is a God of great order; isn’t He? He didn’t create the bird life in the water; in which birds would have drowned before they could multiply on the land or fly in the sky. Nor did He create the marine life on the land; across which fish would have to flop, in order – hopefully – to fall into the sea before they would dry out and perish in the open air. Last of all, God created man from the ground and upon the land; so that he could name the animals and the birds that God brought to him. God created all living things in an environment consistant with the individual natures of each. How wise He is!

Your question was an interesting one. I commend you for taking the words of scripture seriously and making such careful observations. If you would like to read a commentary that may help, I recommend “The Genesis Record” by Dr. Henry M. Morris (published by Baker Books). Dr. Morris is a scientist as well as a very knowledgeable Bible teacher and Christian; and his commentary is a very informative and spiritually enriching guide. May God bless your further study of His word.

Pastor Greg

(All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)

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Unforgiveable Sin

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 7, 2007 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

A visitor to our website asks this question about the “unforgivable sin”:

“I’ve been told by different people different things about the “unforgivable sin”. Some say that it’s the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ when the Holy Spirit reveals Him to be the Savior. Others say that it’s the sin of attributing the miracles of Jesus Christ to Satan. While the latter is really bad, is it unforgivable? What would make it unforgivable? I can see how rejecting Christ becomes unforgivable; but what about the other?”

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Dear friend,

The question of the unforgivable sin comes up in Matthew 12:31-32 (also Mark 3:28-30; and Luke 12:10).

The setting is very important to notice. It was at a time when Jesus was experiencing the growing pressure of opposition against Him from the Pharisees. He had healed a man on the Sabbath day in the Synagogue; and this greatly intensified the opposition of the Pharisees to Him. He had healed many people, of course; but as far as the Pharisees were concerned, this was the last straw. Clearly, He was proving Himself to be the Son of God; but they would not believe in Him or receive Him; and so, they began to plot together how to destroy Him (Matthew 12:14).

In this particular passage from Matthew (12:22-24), Jesus healed a demon-possessed man. People were beginning to believe on Him; but the Pharisees quickly jumped in to accuse Him of being able to cast out demons “by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (v. 24). In other words, they saw Him perform a miracle of healing by the power of the Holy Spirit; and they also saw that people were begining to ask, “Could this be the Son of David?”; and lest anyone should believe on Him any further, they attributed that act to the power of the devil.

It’s important to remember that this was an accusation they were making repeatedly; see Matthew 9:32-33). On this particular occasion, Jesus answered their accusation in many ways–proving that it was a ridiculous and untenable thing to say (vv. 25-30). But it was then that He lays it on the line and says; “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32, New King James Version).

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How should we understand this? I tend to see it within the whole context of Matthew’s Gospel. He wrote this Gospel for Jewish people; and he intended in it to show them that Jesus was their long-awaited King (1 Samuel 7:12-16). But, as it says of Jesus in John 1:11, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” The religious leaders saw Him; but did not receive Him. They rejected Him as their Messiah, and would eventually crucify Him.

Given that this was the response of the Jewish leaders to Him as their Messiah, Jesus was then offered instead to the Gentiles (see Acts 26:15-18). In this case, the opposition of the religious leaders had finally brought them to a point of no return. Their opportunity to receive their King was, in that respect, now lost. But even then, we should see the grace of God at work in that their rejection resulted in salvation being offered to all people–Jews and Gentiles; whoever would receive Him (Romans 11:11-32).

My point, then, is that whatever this sin was, it must be understood in that particular context–that is, in the context of the religious leaders of the Jewish people seeing the work of the Holy Spirit being exhibited through the bodily presence of Jesus; but then, after being an eyewitness to that work, attributing that power to the devil. If we understand the “unforgivable sin” in any other way than that, we’re understanding it out of its context.

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So, what about us today? In my opinion, the sin being described in this passage was a unique sin, committed at a unique time, by a unique people–which was why it received such a unique condemnation The leaders of that day rejected their King; which, of course, was terrible. But these particular Pharisees did even worse than that alone. They rejected Him AND blasphemed the Holy Spirit who was revealing Him.

We should remember that it’s the Holy Spirit’s ministry to shine the spotlight on Jesus (John 16:14); and if these Pharisees were to have simply spoken against Jesus in His humanity alone, that could have been a forgivable matter of spiritual blindness and ignorance (see Acts 2:36-39). But these Pharisees not only rejected the One on whom the spotlight shined, but also cursed and blasphemed the spotlight for having revealed Him to them. In doing so, they were displaying a hardness of heart that knowingly and deliberately shut the grace of God out of their lives. They refused to even receive the witness of Christ from the Holy Spirit; and they even sought to prevent others of their own people from receiving the witness of the Spirit through the miracles that Jesus performed before them. (In fact, I believe Jesus spoke later of them when He said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” [Matthew 23:13].) That’s far beyond just the usual ‘hardness of heart’! What hope was there for those who would so uniquely resist the grace of God?

Personally, then, I don’t believe this passage is describing a sin that can be committed today–certainly not, at least, in the same way. Many people have become very distraught and fearful over this matter–worrying about whether or not they have said some certain set of words at some time in their life that constituted “blasphemy against the Spirit”, and thus committed the unforgivable sin. But the issue is not the saying of a set of words. The issue is that of a persistent, unrepentant attitude of heart toward the divine revelation of Christ. It was, strictly speaking, a sin that was committed when Jewish religious leaders continually witnessed the actual work of Jesus Christ in performing miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit in an undeniable way over and over again–and yet, out of hatred for Him, persistently attributed those miracles to the power and working of the devil. (See also Mark 3:30–where it says that Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’”. The verb there translated “they said” is in the imperfect tense; which suggests an ongoing practice. It can be translated as it is in the New American Standard version: “. . . because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit’.”)

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When you really think about it, people who are fearful that they may have committed this sin, and worry that they will now never be forgiven, actually prove that they haven’t committed it at all! A man or woman who has such a fear about that sin–or any other sin, for that matter–is experiencing the gracious work of God the Holy Spirit; because apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t even feel the conviction of sin at all (John 16:8). This, it seems to me, proves that their heart is not hardened against God, and that they are open to the Spirit’s revelation of Christ.

As you suggest, some people have said that the “unforgivable sin” is that of rejecting Jesus; and that so long as someone continues to reject Jesus, they cannot be forgiven. There’s certainly a sense in which this is true. I can be forgiven of any sin; but NOT so long as I persist in rejecting the only Savior from sin! If I reject Him; what hope of forgiveness can I possibly have? But I don’t believe that that’s what this passage is talking about. Jesus was quite clear–He was talking about a sin that can never be forgiven, “either in this age or in the age to come”. I myself lived for many years as a young man who rejected Jesus. But I repented and believed; and I was forgiven for that sin. I am forgiven today!

Truly, any sin can be forgiven if we will turn to Jesus and believe on Him.

Blessings in Christ’s amazing and gracious love,
Pastor Greg
Bethany Bible Church

(All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)

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