This is a very important question. If Jesus is God then to worship Him is right, but if He isn’t then to worship Him is idolatry and breaks God’s commandment to worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).
So does the Bible teach that Jesus is God and should be worshipped? For reasons of brevity, we’ll consider one passage from the Old Testament and then we’ll then look at Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, the book of Acts, some of the New Testament letters and lastly Revelation. The aim will be to show that the whole Bible (Old and New Testaments) shows that Jesus is God and that He is therefore to be worshipped.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
The background to these verses is a promise God made to King David in 2 Samuel 7. God promised to establish David’s kingdom forever. At this point in Israel’s history the kingdom is in decline and Israel has begun to be exiled out from their land by Assyria (Isaiah 9:1). In chapter 9, God is promising a reversal, a restoration, that instead of decline there will be enlargement, and great joy (Isaiah 9:3), and defeat of their enemies (Isaiah 9:4-5). But how will this come about? By the birth of a child, a son (Isaiah 9:6), who will rule and will be called “mighty God!” This child will be a descendant of David, that’s why he’ll reign on David’s throne, and he’ll reign for ever and ever – an eternal King (Isaiah 9:7). So God is promising a son who’ll rule for ever on David’s throne and who’ll be called mighty God!
At this point it’s also significant to note that Jesus is David’s descendant (Matthew 1:1-17). Therefore, it seems that Jesus is this “child [who] is born,” this “son [who] is given,” and who is mighty God, particularly when you consider the King theme in the Gospel accounts (see for example, Matthew 2:2; 21:5; 26:29, 37, 42; 27:42; John 18:33, 37, 39; 19:3, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21).
Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)
Each of the synoptic gospels tells of Jesus’ baptism. At His baptism, a voice is heard from heaven (God speaking): “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
This is also the testimony throughout the gospel accounts, for example, Mark 1:1 (although some, not all, manuscripts omit the phrase “Son of God” here); 3:11; 5:7; 15:39. In Mark 2:23-3:6, there are two indicants regarding Jesus and the Sabbath. Jesus says in Mark 2:28: “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” In other words, Jesus says that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and yet in the Old Testament it is God who gives the Sabbath and gives instruction about it. How can Jesus here claim to be “Lord of the Sabbath” unless has the same authority as God? No wonder the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus for this claim (Mark 3:6).
In Matthew 16:15, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Peter replies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Now instead of Jesus refuting it, He says to Peter: “Blessed are you … for this was revealed to you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Jesus acknowledges Peter’s assessment of who He is, as the Son of the Living God.
Another place where we see Jesus’ identity clearly portrayed is at His trial. Just why was Jesus killed? According to Matthew 26:63, the high priest asks Jesus: “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” And what is Jesus’ response: “Yes, it is as you say” (Matthew 26:64). Jesus Himself claims to be God’s Son.
John starts His gospel with the words:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2).
From verse 14, it is very clear that “the Word” is Jesus Himself. Therefore, in verses 1-2, John describes Jesus as “with God” and says that Jesus “was” God right back in the beginning. (Note: In the Living World Translation (produced by the Jehovah’s witnesses) it reads “the Word was a god.” However, this translation is flawed, since to be consistent they should also translate 1:6 “there was a man sent from a god,” 1:12: “right to become children of a god,” etc. Indeed there are good grammatical reasons for translating John 1:1 as above.)
In John 1:34 John the Baptist testifies “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” Nathaniel testifies similarly in John 1:49. In John 5 Jesus heals an invalid on the Sabbath, as a result the Jews persecute him (John 5:16). Jesus’ answered them:
“‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18).
Jesus has made an implicit claim to be God, which the Jew’s clearly recognize. As a result they seek to kill Him for perceived blasphemy (from their point of view). So the Jews themselves testify that Jesus claimed to be God.
Jesus’ claim to be God reaches its climax in John 8:56: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this point the Jews again want to stone Jesus (John 8:59), clearly what Jesus has said angers them greatly. But why? Because “I AM” is the name by which God reveals himself in the Old Testament. (Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”)
Therefore, given what Jesus has revealed of Himself, it is not surprising to read that when Jesus has been resurrected Thomas says to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas recognizes what Jesus has been teaching about Himself throughout His ministry – that He is God.
We’ll just consider one reference in the book of Acts. Saul was persecuting the church, and putting people in prison for following Jesus (Acts 9:1-2). He is someone who clearly did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet after he meets Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-9), he starts teaching in the synagogues that “Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Clearly, this is a very dramatic turnaround regarding Paul’s understanding of who Jesus is.
New Testament Letters
We’ll look at a few key references to Jesus from some of the different letters.
1 Corinthians 8:6: “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
Here Paul affirms that there is one God and one Lord, as the Old Testament affirmed. Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one”. He explains that God is our Father, while the Lord is Jesus Christ. Therefore, in this verse Paul has refashioned Deuteronomy 6:4 to include Jesus within monotheism. Therefore, again Jesus is seen to be divine.
The book of Hebrews as a whole exalts Jesus as the majestic Son. He is greater than Moses, the Old Testament priests, priesthood and all sacrifices. We’ll just look at chapter 1. In Hebrews 1:6 it says: “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’” (which is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:43). The fact that God commands His angels to worship Him (Jesus) suggests strongly that Jesus is divine and is (obviously) to be worshiped!
Or consider Hebrews 1:8-9: “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (quoting Psalm 45:6-7). Here we see Jesus directly addressed as God, and again that He will rule for ever and ever (as we saw in Isaiah 9).
In the book of Revelation we see the glorified and exalted Jesus as He rules history. Revelation 1:8 says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” And yet by the end of the book in Revelation 22:13 these words are on the lips of Jesus – both God (the Father) and Jesus are eternal, the Beginning and the End.
This identification between the Father and the Son is also very clearly seen in Revelation chapters 4 and 5. In chapter 4, John shows us God’s throne, with four living creatures and twenty four elders worshiping God (Revelation 4:6-11). In chapter 5, the focus shifts from God to Jesus. However, the living creatures and the twenty four elders also worship Jesus (Revelation 5:9-10, 12). Indeed the climax is in Revelation 5:13 where they sing: “To Him who sits on the throne [God, cf. chapter 4] and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Both God and Jesus (the Lamb) are equally to be praised and worshpped, for they are both God.
Why do Christians worship Jesus? Because the consistent testimony of Scripture is that Jesus is indeed divine. He is God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity. And therefore Jesus should be worshiped with God, just as the living creatures and twenty four elders do in the book of Revelation.