Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

John 5:23: A Blessing for the Trinitarian

And a Nightmare for the Muhammadan Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Muslim turned apostate-turned Muslim again-turned apostate again-turned Muslim one more time (1; 2; 3; 4) Ibn Anwar is back at it with his shameless Scripture twisting. This time he attempts to undermine the claim that the Lord Jesus in John 5:23 demanded to receive the exact same worship that the Father receives.

Here is the text in question:

“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor (timosi) the Son, even as they honor (timosi) the Father. He who does not honor (timon) the Son does not honor (tima) the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23

He starts off his article by attacking a straw man since he argues that the word for honor (timosi/timon from timao) is not the same as worship, and then references Acts 28:10 where the same word is used in relation to Christians receiving honor from the people of Malta. His point in mentioning this text is to offset the claim that Jesus is to be worshiped as God since no one would claim that the Maltans were worshiping Christians.

In the first place, no informed Christian has ever argued that the word honor necessarily means that people are to worship Jesus as God. Rather, the point here is that Christ isn’t demanding some general kind of honor, but the exact same honor that the Father himself specifically receives. And the way believers are to honor the Father is by worshiping him as God, as Christ himself taught:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

Therefore, since Christians are to worship the Father as God, and since the Son is to be given the same honor that the Father receives, this means that all true believers are to worship the Son as God as well. There is simply no logical way of getting around this point.

The following Bible scholars and expositors do a wonderful job of summing all this up:

That all men should honor the Son, etc. - If then the Son is to be honored, Even As the Father is honored, then the Son must be God, as receiving that worship which belongs to God alone. To worship any creature is idolatry: Christ is to be honored even as the Father is honored; therefore Christ is not a creature; and, if not a creature, consequently the Creator. See John 1:3.

He that honoureth not the Son - God will not receive that man's adoration who refuses to honor Jesus, even as he honors him. The Jews expected the Messiah as a great and powerful Prince; but they never thought of a person coming in that character enrobed with all the attributes of Godhead. To lead them off from this error, our Lord spoke the words recorded in these verses. (Adam Clarke Commentary; bold and underline emphasis ours)

even as they honour the Father; that the same honour and glory may be given to the one, as to the other, which must never have been done was he not equal with him, since he gives not his glory to another, Isaiah 42:8. Indeed, all men do not honour the Father as they should; the Gentiles, who had some knowledge of God, glorified him not as God; and the Jews, who had an external revelation of the one, true, and living God, which other nations had not, yet were greatly deficient in honouring him, which made him complaining say, "if then I be a father, where is mine honour?" Malachi 1:6. And Christians, who are favoured with a clearer revelation still of the Father of Christ, are much wanting in giving him his due glory; but in common he is honoured, though in an imperfect manner; nor is there so much danger of his losing his honour, as of the Son's losing his; the reason is this, though the Son is in the form of God, and equal with him, yet by taking upon him the form of a servant, by becoming man, he has veiled the glory of his divine person, and made himself of no reputation; and by reason of this was reckoned by many, or most, as a mere man: wherefore, by agreement, that judgment, power, and authority, which equally belonged to the Father, and the Son, the exercise of it is put visibly and openly into the Son's hands, that he might have his due honour and glory from all men, whether they will or not: from true believers in him he has it willingly, by their ascribing deity to him, by putting their trust in him, by attributing the whole of their salvation to him, and the glory of it, and by worshipping him: and he will be honoured by all men at the last day; they will be obliged to do it; for all judgment being committed to him, and he being Judge of all, every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to his own glory, and to the glory of God the Father; see Isaiah 45:23. (John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible; bold and underline emphasis ours)    

That all men should honour … - To honor is to esteem, reverence, praise, do homage to. We honor one when we ascribe to him in our hearts, and words, and actions the praise and obedience which are due to him. We honor God when we obey him and worship him aright. We honor the Son when we esteem him to be as he is; when we have right views and feelings toward him. As he is declared to be God John 1:1, as he here says he has power and authority equal with God, so we honor him when we regard him as such. The primitive Christians are described by Pliny, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan, as meeting together to sing hymns to Christ “as God.” So we honor him aright when we regard him as possessed of wisdom, goodness, power, eternity, omniscience - equal with God.

Even as - To the same extent; in the same manner. Since the Son is to be honored even as the Father, it follows that he must be equal with the Father. To “honor the Father” must denote “religious” homage, or the rendering of that honor which is due to God; so to honor the Son must also denote “religious” homage. If our Saviour here did not intend to teach that he ought to be “worshipped,” and to be esteemed as “equal” with God, it would be difficult to teach it by any language which we could use.

He that honoureth not the Son - He that does not believe on him, and render to him the homage which is his due as the equal of God.

Honoureth not the Father - Does not worship and obey the Father the First Person of the Trinity - that is does not worship God. He may imagine that he worships God, but there is no God but the God subsisting as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He that withholds proper homage from one, withholds it from all. He that should refuse to honor “the Father,” could not be said to honor “God;” and in the like manner, he that honoreth not “the Son,” honoreth not “the Father.” This appears further from the following considerations:

1.The Father wills that the Son should be honored. He that refuses to do it disobeys the Father.

2.They are equal. He that denies the one denies also the other.

3.The same feeling that leads us to honor the “Father” will also lead us to honor the “Son,” for he is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” Hebrews 1:3.

4.The evidence of the existence of the Son is the same as that of the Father. He has the same wisdom, goodness, omnipresence, truth, power.

And from these verses we may learn:

1. That those who do not render proper homage to Jesus Christ do not worship the true God.

2. There is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in. There can be but one God; and if the God of the Bible be the true God, then all other gods are false gods.

3. Those who withhold proper homage from Jesus Christ, who do not honor him even as they honor the Father, cannot be Christians.

4. One evidence of piety is when We are willing to render proper praise and homage to Jesus Christ - to love him, and serve and obey him, with all our hearts.

5. “As a matter of fact,” it may be added that they who do not honor the Son do not worship God at all. The infidel has no form of worship; he has no place of secret prayer, no temple of worship, no family altar. Who ever yet heard of an infidel that prayed? Where do such men build houses of worship? Where do they meet to praise God? Nowhere. As certainly as we hear the name “infidel,” we are certain at once that we hear the name of a man who has no form of religion in his family, who never prays in secret, and who will do nothing to maintain the public worship of God. Account for it as men may, it is a fact that no one can dispute, that it is only they who do honor to the Lord Jesus that have any form of the worship of God, or that honor him; “and their veneration for God is just in proportion to their love for the Redeemer - just as they honor him.” (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible; bold and underline emphasis ours)

This is in turn highlights just how utterly desperate Ibn Awar’s appeal to Acts 28:10 truly is, since this text doesn’t even come remotely close to being parallel to John 5:23. Note what the verse actually says:

“They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.” Acts 28:10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

In what way does this parallel Christ’s demanding to be given the exact same honor that the Father receives, when the text says nothing about the Maltans honoring Paul and his companions as they honored God, is simply beyond us.

He then appeals to unitarian heretics such as Anthony Buzzard who misuse the Biblical concept of agency to explain away Jesus’ demand to be honored as God. According to this view, Jesus is simply being honored as God’s agent or representative, no more no less. After quoting a certain “Christian” authority to establish his point, Ibn Anwar goes on to say that:

“Paige makes a pertinent comparison between John 5:23 and Matthew 10:40 and so, if the former makes Jesus equal to God, then the latter makes the disciples equal to Jesus, therefore, making them God too since Jesus is supposed to be God in that equation.”

Unfortunately for the neophyte, this abuse and misuse of agency will now come to backfire against him. Let’s start with this very example of the disciples whom Christ empowered to act as his agents: 

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.” Matthew 10:40

“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me.” John 13:20

Notice that in none of these verses does Christ ever say that people are to grant his agents the exact same honor that is given to either himself or the Father. In fact we find the contrary to be the case, namely, the disciples expressly refused to be honored or worshiped in the same way that Christ was honored while he was on earth:

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’” Acts 10:25-26

Now contrast this with Jesus:

“Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘O man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:33

“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him… Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Matthew 28:9, 16-17

We even find heavenly agents refusing to accept worship from anyone:

“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10

“And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.’ Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. I John am he who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am A FELLOW SERVANT with you and your brethren the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:6-9(1)

Now if Ibn Anwar’s understanding of agency was correct then there would have been no problem for these emissaries to have accepted such worship, since this would have been worship given in recognition of their being God’s authorized spokespersons. However, the express refusal of such homage shows that agency cannot account for the honor shown to Christ.  

This brings me to my next point. Agency cannot account for the risen Jesus being the object and hearer of prayers now that he is in heaven:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask IN MY NAME, I WILL DO IT, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14

Here the Lord explains that the reason why his disciples will be able to do a greater number of works than he himself had been doing is because he is returning to the Father. And once there, Christ himself will then start personally performing all the works that his disciples ask to be done in his name.

Christ basically assigns to himself the very role and prerogatives that the Hebrew Bible attribute to the God of Israel alone:

O thou who hearest prayer! To thee shall all flesh come” Psalm 65:2

Furthermore, agency cannot explain Christians such as Stephen entrusting their souls to the risen Lord at the moment of their deaths: 

“And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed,Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60

Here Stephen prays and asks Jesus to do for him what the OT expressly states only Yahweh does:

Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Psalm 31:5

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit,” Psalm 103:2-4

“and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7

“I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25

Stephen’s case isn’t an isolated example, since the first Christians were known for calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus in their corporate worship, a practice that started among Christ’s Jewish followers in Jerusalem of all places!

“But Anani′as answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to THY saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon THY NAME.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument OF MINE to carry MY NAME before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of MY NAME.’ So Anani′as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’…  And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And all who heard him were amazed, and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on THIS NAME? And he has come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests.’” Acts 9:13-17, 20-21

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

This again is an act of worship which the OT attributes to Yahweh alone!  

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.” Genesis 21:33

“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” Deuteronomy 4:7

“Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the Lord, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his testimonies, and the statutes that he gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7

Agency cannot account for the risen Christ receiving all of the foregoing divine accolades and functions.

Nor can agency explain the fact of the glorified Christ receiving the exact same worship that God receives from every created being that exists:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, AND ALL THEREIN, saying, ‘To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever! And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

Not only does this passage prove that Christ is worshiped and glorified in the exact same way that God is, it also affirms that he is not a creature by nature but is separate and distinct from every created thing in existence. Christ is on the Creator side of the Creator/creature divide, which explains why the entire creation worships and glorifies him forever.

The final problem with this fallacious appeal to agency is that the last place God would need an agent to represent him is in heaven itself. After all, it is understandable that God would employ an agent on earth to speak for him, but why would God need to appoint someone to personally act on his behalf in heaven?

Therefore, why would Jesus still receive worship while in heaven, and why does he continue to perform exclusively divine functions from there, such as personally answering prayers, performing miracles, and pouring out God’s Spirit, if all he happens to be is a mere human representative of God?

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, HE HAS POURED OUT this which you see and hear.” Acts 2:30-33

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And HIS NAME, by faith IN HIS NAME, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” Acts 3:1-16

“On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Ca′iaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, BY HIM this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” Acts 4:5-14

“There he found a man named Aene′as, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aene′as, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.” Acts 9:33-34

“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” Acts 16:16-18

So much for the arguments of this neophyte. It is now time to turn the tables against him.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural references taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.


(1) It is interesting to note that, less than ten verses later, we are expressly told that it was Jesus himself who sent his angel to bear witness to John:

I JESUS have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16

The foregoing strongly argues that the Lord the God of the spirits of the prophets who sent his angel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ himself!

This again shows why the appeal to agency is utterly fallacious and erroneous, since God doesn’t need an agent in heaven to send another agent from heaven to the earth.