Worship the Creator, Not The Creation
“It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”—LUKE 4:8.
1. How is the expression “to worship” defined, and how is true worship to be rendered?
THE expression “to worship” is defined in a dictionary this way: “To regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.”* Who should be given such worship? Jesus Christ said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Also, when offered all the kingdoms of the world if he would perform just one “act of worship” to Satan, Jesus refused, declaring: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:7, 8) From Jesus’ words and actions, it is clear that only Jehovah God is to be worshiped. This worship includes “sacred service,” for “faith without works is dead.”—James 2:26.
2. Why is it proper to worship the Creator only?
2 Such worship of Jehovah is proper because he is the Supreme Sovereign of the entire universe, the Creator of the awe-inspiring heavens and the earth with all its life-forms. As such, he alone is worthy of being regarded with “great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” on the part of humans. The Bible states: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Surely, no mere human, no animate or inanimate object, could be worthy of such “respect, honor, or devotion.” Jehovah alone is deserving of “exclusive devotion.”—Exodus 20:3-6.
A Special Urgency
3. Why is there a special urgency for us to worship God?
3 Because we live in a judgment period, there is now a special urgency to worship God properly. Eternal destinies are being determined. God’s prophetic Word tells us that in these “last days” of the present system of things, Christ Jesus has arrived in heavenly glory “and all the angels with him.” For what purpose? Jesus himself foretold that purpose, saying: “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” The sheep will depart “into everlasting life.” The goats will depart “into everlasting cutting-off.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 25:31, 32, 46.
4. (a) How does Paul identify those who are to be permanently destroyed at this world’s end? (b) What attitude is shown by those who are to gain everlasting life?
4 The apostle Paul wrote about “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) Thus, everlasting destruction is the destiny of stubborn, goatlike people who do not want to know about God’s purposes or who refuse to act when they have the opportunity. But “everlasting life” is the destiny of humble, sheeplike people who want to know about Jehovah, who listen to his instructions, and who then submit to his will. The Bible says: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17; see also 2 Peter 2:12.
5, 6. (a) What must a person do to find the truth about Jehovah and his purposes? (b) Why can we be confident that truth seekers will come in contact with the truth regardless of their situation in life?
5 Sheeplike people are willing to sacrifice time, energy, and material resources to search out the truth. They do what Proverbs 2:1-5 says: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”
6 The willingness to search for Jehovah is what separates sheeplike people from goatlike ones. “If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) Thus, no matter what a person’s race or nationality, whatever his education, whether rich or poor, if he sincerely searches for the truth about God, he will find it. From their heavenly vantage point, Christ and his angels will see to it that the searcher comes in contact with the truth, no matter where that person lives. How rewarding will that search be? Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3; see also Ezekiel 9:4.
Avoiding Creature Worship
7, 8. (a) What danger is there in worshiping humans? (b) Describe the “extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” with which Mary is regarded.
7 Many people throughout the earth regard humans—alive or dead—with “extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” While they may feel that this is part of their worship to God, it actually diverts them from true worship. This opens the way for them to believe doctrines and engage in practices that are contrary to God’s will. One outstanding example is the way in which Mary, the mother of Jesus, is viewed by millions of people in both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Catholic lands.
8 Images and icons of Mary are bowed down to in a worshipful attitude, and in official church doctrine, she is referred to as “the Virgin Mary Theotokos.” The word the·o·toʹkos means “God-bearer” or “mother of God.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Mary is the mother of God. . . . If Mary is not truly the mother of God, then Christ is not true God as well as true man.” Thus, as part of their Trinity doctrine, these religions teach that Jesus was Almighty God in human form, making Mary the “mother of God.” The same source adds that devotion to Mary includes: “(1) veneration, or the reverent recognition of the dignity of the holy Virgin Mother of God; (2) invocation, or the calling upon our Lady for her motherly and queenly intercession; . . . and private prayers [to Mary].”
9. Does the Bible teach that Mary was the “mother of God”?
9 However, the word the·o·toʹkos does not appear in the inspired Scriptures. And nowhere does the Bible say that Mary was the “mother of God.” Jesus did not teach it, nor did first-century Christians. Furthermore, the Bible plainly shows that Jesus was not God Almighty in human form but was God’s Son.* Indeed, when Mary was notified by an angel that she would bear a son, she was told: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35) So Jesus was God’s Son, not God himself in human form. Hence, Mary was the mother of God’s son Jesus, not the mother of God in human form. That is why neither Jesus nor his disciples ever called Mary the “mother of God.”
10, 11. (a) What examples show how Jesus viewed his mother? (b) How did the apostles and disciples of Jesus view his mother?
10 The way Jesus viewed his mother indicates her relative position. At a marriage feast in Cana, the Bible account tells us: “When the wine ran short the mother of Jesus said to him: ‘They have no wine.’ But Jesus said to her. ‘What have I to do with you, woman?’” Here the Roman Catholic Douay Version of the Bible reads: “Woman, what is that to me and to thee?” (John 2:3, 4) On another occasion, someone said to him: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that you sucked!” That was a fine opportunity for Jesus to give special honor to his mother and to show that others should do the same. Instead, Jesus said: “No, rather, Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—Luke 11:27, 28.
11 Such references show that Jesus took care not to give devotion or undue honor to Mary or to address her by any special title. He did not allow their relationship to influence him. And the apostles and disciples followed his example, for nowhere in their inspired writings is Mary given any undue honor, title, or influence. While they respected her as the mother of Jesus, they did not go beyond that. Certainly they never referred to her as the “mother of God.” They knew that Jesus was not Almighty God in human form and, hence, that Mary could not possibly be God’s mother, a position far beyond what God’s Word allows for Mary.
The Cult of the Mother-Goddess
12. Where and when did the idea develop that Mary was the “mother of God”?
12 Where, then, did this idea originate? It gradually crept into apostate Christendom in the third and fourth centuries of our Common Era. Especially was this the case after the year 325 C.E. when the Council of Nicaea adopted the unscriptural doctrine that Christ was God. Once that erroneous idea was accepted, it became easier to teach that Mary was the “mother of God.” Regarding this, The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “The title [‘mother of God’] seems to have arisen in devotional usage, probably in Alexandria, sometime in the 3rd or 4th century . . . By the end of the 4th century, the Theotokos had successfully established itself in various sections of the church.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the doctrine was accepted officially “since the Council of Ephesus in 431.”
13. What likely influenced the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. officially to proclaim Mary to be the “mother of God”?
13 Of interest is where that council met and why. The book The Cult of the Mother-Goddess, by E. O. James, states: “The Council of Ephesus assembled in the basilica of the Theotokos in 431. There, if anywhere, in the city so notorious for its devotion to Artemis, or Diana as the Romans called her, where her image was said to have fallen from heaven, under the shadow of the great temple dedicated to the Magna Mater [Great Mother] since 330 B.C. and containing, according to tradition, a temporary residence of Mary, the title ‘God-bearer’ hardly could fail to be upheld.”
14. How does history verify that this doctrine is of pagan origin?
14 So just as with the Trinity, the “mother of God” doctrine is a pagan teaching masquerading as a Christian belief. It was prominent in pagan religions centuries before Christ. The New Encyclopædia Britannica states under the heading “mother goddess”: “Any of a variety of feminine deities and maternal symbols of creativity, birth, fertility, sexual union, nurturing, and the cycle of growth. The term also has been applied to figures as diverse as the so-called Stone Age Venuses and the Virgin Mary. . . . There is no culture that has not employed some maternal symbolism in depicting its deities. . . . She is the protector and nourisher of a divine child and, by extension, of all mankind.” Thus, Catholic priest Andrew Greely says in his book The Making of the Popes 1978: “The Mary symbol links Christianity directly to the ancient [pagan] religions of mother goddesses.”
15. (a) What developed in Christendom regarding Mary? (b) According to the Bible, who alone can intercede with God for us?
15 To claim that Mary was the “mother of God” elevates her to a position where humans would tend to worship her, and that is what has happened for centuries. Hundreds of millions of people in many lands have prayed to her or through her and have given worshipful devotion to images and icons of her. While theologians may try to excuse this by saying that such veneration of Mary is only an indirect way of worshiping God, that is not the way God views it. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1, 2) Jesus himself said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.
16. How did Peter and John make clear that only Jehovah is to be worshiped?
16 Giving Mary devotion directly or indirectly, praying to her, bowing down to images and icons of her, is worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. It is idolatrous, and Christians are instructed to “flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) When the Gentile Cornelius bowed reverently to the apostle Peter, note what happened: “As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’” (Acts 10:25, 26) Bowing worshipfully to a human was improper, and Peter would not accept it. Also, after receiving a vision from an angel, the apostle John reports: “I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll. Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:8, 9) If not even an angel of God is to be worshiped, how much less humans or images of them.
17. What does a Catholic encyclopedia admit may be the result of venerating Mary?
17 That such devotion to Mary may result in improper worship is acknowledged by The Catholic Encyclopedia. An early edition of this work stated: “That popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin was often attended with extravagance and abuses, it is impossible to deny.”
18. From what source would such an unscriptural doctrine come?
18 From what source would such an unscriptural doctrine come? The underlying source has to be God’s Adversary, Satan the Devil. (John 8:44) Why would he promote such a teaching? To belittle and downgrade the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, to elevate humans, and to cause confusion. It diverts people from true worship and causes them to look instead to creatures for salvation. For centuries it also enhanced the power of the clergy over the common people, who were taught that they must be totally subservient to their religious leaders because the clergy alone had knowledge of such complicated theology.
19, 20. (a) Why can we be sure that before God’s judgments are executed, sheeplike people will find the truth? (b) What questions will be developed in the next article?
19 However, Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) And Jehovah promises that by means of the Kingdom preaching, he will gather all sheeplike people to ‘instruct them about his ways so that they can walk in his paths.’ (Isaiah 2:2-4) Because they are gathered to the pure worship of Jehovah, Jesus said of them: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) So those who search for the truth will find it and will be freed from false religious teachings that hinder people from doing the Creator’s will.
20 There are other commonly accepted religious teachings and practices that have diverted people from the true worship of the Creator, giving devotion to the creation. What are some of these, and what has resulted from them? What does true worship involve? The next article will examine these questions.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1986.
How Would You Answer?
□ How did Jesus clearly show that Jehovah alone is to be worshiped?
□ Why is there now a special urgency in worshiping properly?
□ Why should Mary not be given undue honor?
□ From where did the idea develop that Mary is the “mother of God”?
□ How did the apostles Peter and John emphasize that Jehovah alone is to be worshiped?