The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is It Proper to Worship Jesus?
THROUGHOUT the centuries, many in Christendom have worshiped Jesus Christ as if he were Almighty God. Jesus himself, however, directed attention and worship only to Jehovah God. For example, when prodded to do an act of worship to the Devil, Jesus said: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matthew 4:10) Later Jesus instructed his disciples: “Do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”—Matthew 23:9.
To a Samaritan woman, Jesus described the type of worship that individuals must give to God. Their worship must be based on spirit and truth. Indeed, “the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23, 24) Yes, reverent adoration should be expressed only to God. To render worship to anyone or anything else would be a form of idolatry, which is condemned in both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures.—Exodus 20:4, 5; Galatians 5:19, 20.
‘But,’ some may counter, ‘does the Bible not indicate that we must also worship Jesus? Did Paul not say at Hebrews 1:6: “Let all the angels of God worship him [Jesus]”?’ (King James Version) How can we understand this scripture in the light of what the Bible says about idolatry?
Worship in the Bible
First, we have to understand what Paul meant here by worship. He used the Greek word pro·sky·neʹo. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that this word literally means to ‘kiss the hand of someone in token of reverence or to do homage.’ An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, says that this word “denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to man . . . or to God.” In Bible times pro·sky·neʹo often included literally bowing down before someone of high stature.
Consider the parable Jesus gave of the slave who was unable to repay a substantial sum of money to his master. A form of this Greek word appears in this parable, and in translating it the King James Version says that “the servant therefore fell down, and worshipped [form of pro·sky·neʹo] him [the king], saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” (Matthew 18:26; italics ours.) Was this man committing an idolatrous act? Not at all! He was merely expressing the kind of reverence and respect due the king, his master and superior.
Such acts of obeisance, or expressions of respect, were fairly common in the Orient of Bible times. Jacob bowed down seven times upon meeting his brother, Esau. (Genesis 33:3) Joseph’s brothers prostrated themselves, or did obeisance, before him in honor of his position at the Egyptian court. (Genesis 42:6) In this light we can better understand what happened when the astrologers found the young child Jesus, whom they recognized as “the one born king of the Jews.” As rendered in the King James Version, the account tells us that they “fell down, and worshipped [pro·sky·neʹo] him.”—Matthew 2:2, 11.
Clearly, then, the word pro·sky·neʹo, rendered “worship” in some Bible translations, is not reserved exclusively for the type of adoration due Jehovah God. It can also refer to the respect and honor shown to another person. In an effort to avoid any misunderstanding, some Bible translations render the word pro·sky·neʹo at Hebrews 1:6 as “pay him homage” (New Jerusalem Bible), “honour him” (The Complete Bible in Modern English), “bow down before him” (Twentieth Century New Testament), or “do obeisance to him” (New World Translation).
Jesus Is Worthy of Obeisance
Is Jesus worthy of such obeisance? Most decidedly, yes! In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul explains that as the “heir of all things,” Jesus has “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places.” (Hebrews 1:2-4) Thus, “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:10,11.
Outstandingly, Christ will soon use this exalted position and the extensive executive powers that go with it to transform this earth into a global paradise. Under God’s direction, and as a result of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, he will rid the world of all sadness, pain, and sorrow for the benefit of those who submit to his righteous rule. Is he therefore not worthy of our honor, respect, and obedience?—Psalm 2:12; Isaiah 9:6; Luke 23:43; Revelation 21:3, 4.
“A God Exacting Exclusive Devotion”
The Bible clearly indicates, however, that our worship—in the sense of religious reverence and devotion—must be addressed solely to God. Moses described him as “a God exacting exclusive devotion.” And the Bible exhorts us to “worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”—Deuteronomy 4:24; Revelation 14:7.
Jesus certainly occupies a pivotal role in true worship, one worthy of honor and respect. (2 Corinthians 1:20, 21; 1 Timothy 2:5) He is the only way through which we are able to approach Jehovah God. (John 14:6) Accordingly, true Christians do well to direct their worship only to Jehovah God, the Almighty.