The Worship of the Son of God

M. S. Staveley, Bradford on Avon

In view of evidence that some believers have difficulty in accepting that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is to be worshipped, and that the practical denial of worship to Him in collective assembly response may be becoming more extensive, it may be timely to review the scriptural teaching on this most important aspect of Christian truth. In the light of the New Testament, and particularly the Lord's own words in John 5. 23, as to the will of God the Father, ('that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father which hath sent him',) it would hardly be too severe to describe a deliberate refusal to worship the Son as heresy.

In fact, both the Old and New Testaments contain abundant evidence that Christ the King of Israel and the Son of God is to be worshipped in His own right. He was so worshipped by the apostles. In Psalm 45, which undoubtedly refers to Christ, and is cited by the Spirit of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews, both as to His deity and His manhood, Heb. 1, 8, 9, we read, 'he is thy Lord; and worship thou him', Psa. 45. 11; while Hebrews, referring to the Son says, 'And again, when he (i.e. God) bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him'. (|ND's note to this reads, 'the reference is to Psalm 97, where He (i.e. Christ) is just coming in, in His kingdom glory . . . the glory of the Person of Christ is before the writer').

But, sufficient though these passages are in themselves to establish that the Lord Jesus Christ is to be worshipped, this vital truth is evidenced in several other contexts. The Greek word chiefly used for worship in the New Testament is proskuneo, which occurs as applied to the Lord Jesus in the following passages: Mat. 2. 2, 11; 8. 2; 9. 18; 14. 33; 15. 25; 20. 20; and 28. 9, 17; Mark 5. 6; Luke 24. 52; John 9. 38; and Heb. 1. 6 already cited. It is also the word used for the worship of God, both specifically and generally, Matt. 4. 10; Luke 4. 8; John 4. 20-24 and 1 2. 20; Acts 8. 27 and 24. 1 1; 1 Cor. 14. 25; Heb. 11. 21; and Rev. 4. 10; 5. 14; 7. 11; 11. 1, 16; 14. 7; 15. 4; 19. 4, 10; and 22. 8. The significance of proskuneo for Christians is perhaps most evident from John 4. 20-24, where our Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman of the worship of God the Father.

Other words sometimes, though much less frequently used in the New Testament in the sense of worship are:
Latruo, Acts 7. 42; 24. 14; Phil. 3. 3; Pleb. 10. 2 ('the worshippers'). More generally rendered as 'serve'.
Sebomi, used more in the sense of formal (outward) worship, Matt. 15. 9; and Mark 7. 7 ('in vain do they worship me'); Acts 16. 14; 1 8. 7, 1 3; 1 9. 27.
Therapeuo, normally means 'heal'. Translated as 'worshipped' once only, Acts 17. 25.
Usebeo, only found in Acts 1 7. 23, and in I Timothy. 5. 4 as 'show piety', is not used in respect of divine Persons.

The passages in which proskuneo is employed in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ may be collated as follows:-
In His lifetime on earth: all those in Matthew's Gospel mentioned above, except those in chapter 28.
After His resurrection: Matt. 28. 9, 17; Luke 24. 52.
In His present and future glory: Heb. 1. 6.

Apart, however, from the formal use of the term 'worship' there are the other passages where Christ is viewed as being worshipped, both collectively (notably Rev. 5. 9, 12, 13) and individually (for instance John 20. 28). Here W. E. Vine's remarks on the Greek words mentioned are helpful. He says, 'The worship of God is nowhere defined in scripture. A consideration of the above verbs shows that it is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God of His nature, attributes, ways and claims whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgement'. It is clear beyond doubt that Christ was accorded, and accepted, worship personally in His lifetime on earth, and by the disciples after His resurrection; and that as the slain but risen and glorified Lamb. In Revelation 5, He is, and is to be, worshipped by the heavenly company represented by the elders (that is, both the church and the Old Testament saints), vv. 9, 10, 14; by angels, v. 11, and ultimately by 'every creature', v. 1 3.

How, therefore, can anyone deny it to Him now? The subsequent references to worship in Revelation, which refer to the worship of God (not specifically of the Father or the Son), are not inconsistent with this; and the doxology of the apostle John in Revelation 1. 5, 6, 'Unto Him that loved us', is clearly worship addressed to the Son of God.

Many well-known and much used hymns (though uninspired), ascribe worship as well as praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be altogether inconsistent to sing such hymns and not address the Son in worship. Let not the blessed Lord be deprived of His proper due from His saints. Let us remember the words of Malachi 3. 8, and humble ourselves accordingly.