Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Muslimah Has Some Questions Pt. 3

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we left off.

John on the Worship of Jesus

We already saw earlier how John’s Gospel says that Jesus expressly stated that God demands everyone to give the Son the same honor that they grant to the Father (cf. John 5:22-23).

In light of such an assertion it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jesus also receives worship in this Gospel:

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ As He said this, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, ‘Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he’; others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He said, ‘I am the man.’ They said to him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, “Go to Silo'am and wash”; so I went and washed and received my sight.’ … And they reviled him, saying, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshiped Him.” John 9:1-11, 35-38

Here, Jesus is worshiped in the context of granting sight to a man born blind as a way of providing supernatural divine confirmation that he is indeed the Light of the world, a claim which he made on more than one occasion:

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, ‘I am the Light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

“Jesus answered, ‘The Light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the Light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the Light, believe in the Light so that you may become sons of light.’ Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them… ‘I have come as Light into the world so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.” John 12:35-36, 46

However, the Quran says that Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, with the Arabic word an-Nur (“the Light”) being one of his divine names:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a concave mirror within a lamp, the lamp is within a glass, the glass is like a radiant planet, which is lit from a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west, its oil nearly radiates light even if not touched by fire. Light upon light. God guides to His light those whom He pleases. God sets forth parables for mankind; God is aware of all things. S. 24:35 Quran: A Reformist Translation

Hence, from a Muslim perspective there can be no denying that Jesus is being worshiped as God since he makes claims concerning himself which only God can make.

Jesus is also said to have servants who are expected to serve him:

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

Yet, as we saw in the first part of our discussion, this is something that Islam expressly forbids since Muslims are commanded to serve Allah alone (cf. Q. 18:110).

John further tells us that Jesus even went as far as to make himself the object of his followers’ prayers and invocations!

“I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I WILL DO IT so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ASK ME anything in My name, I WILL DO IT.” John 14:12-14

Jesus expressly tells his followers that they will be able to do greater works than he had been doing once he returns to the Father. Jesus explains that the reason why they will be able to do so is because after he returns they can then ask him directly in his name and he will personally do it for them!

This indicates that Jesus assumed that he was omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent since he must be able to hear all prayers which are directed to him, and he must also have the power to grant every single request.

Once again, this is a function belonging to God since he is the Hearer of prayers according to both the Holy Bible and the Quran:

“Praise is rightfully yours, God, in Zion; vows to You will be fulfilled. All flesh will come to You, the One who hears prayer.” Psalm 65:1-2

If My servants ask you about Me, I am near answering the calls of those who call to Me. So let them respond to Me and acknowledge Me that they may be guided. S. 2:186 Reformist Translation

Your Lord said, "Call on Me and I will respond to you." Surely, those who are too arrogant to serve Me, they will enter hell, forcibly. S. 40:60 Reformist Translation

As if John couldn’t make it any more obvious that Jesus is being worshiped as God, he goes ahead and records the following encounter between the risen Christ and Thomas:

“But one of the twelve, Thomas (called ‘Twin’), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, ‘We have seen the Lord! (ton kyrion)’ But he said to them, ‘If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe!’ After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came out and stood among them. He said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said TO HIM, ‘’My Lord and my God! (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou)’ Jesus said, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who do not see and believe.’” John 20:24-29

Thomas confesses Jesus to be his Lord and God, with Christ blessing his confession of faith!

To say that this is astonishing would be a wild understatement, especially when we keep in mind that Yahweh is the only Being that a monotheistic Jew would ever acknowledge as his Lord and God:

“Attend to the voice of my supplication, my King, and my God (ho basileus mou kai ho theos mou): for to you, O Lord (kyrie), will I pray.” Psalm 5:3[Eng. 2] LXX

“Awake, O Lord (kyrie), and attend to my judgment, [even] to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou). Judge me, O Lord (kyrie), according to your righteousness, O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou); and let them not rejoice against me.” Psalm 34[Eng. 35]:23-24 LXX

All creation must worship Christ

The inspired Scriptures further affirm that every creature will eventually worship Jesus as Lord in recognition of his highly exalted status over creation:

“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is ABOVE EVERY NAME, that AT THE NAME OF Jesus EVERY KNEE should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY TONGUE confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Not only does this passage speak of Christ being highly exalted and possessing the name that is above all names, he is even depicted as receiving the very worship that the OT says is reserved for Yahweh God!

“Speak up and present your case–yes, let them take counsel together. Who predicted this long ago? Who announced it from ancient times? Was it not I, Yahweh? There is no other God but Me, a righteous God and Savior; there is no one except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Isaiah 45:21-23

Thus, Jesus shall be worshiped in the same way that the OT says Yahweh shall someday be worshiped!

Moreover, the Hebrew Bible emphatically proclaims that it is Yahweh’s name that is to be praised since it is his name alone that is exalted above all things:

“May they know that You ALONE–whose name is Yahweh–are the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18

“All who serve carved images, those who boast in idols, will be out to shame. All the gods must worship Him… For You, Yahweh, are the Most High over all the earth; You are exalted above all the gods.” Psalm 97:7, 9

“Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for His name ALONE is exalted. His majesty covers heaven and earth.” Psalm 148:13

The foregoing OT texts make it explicitly clear that the name above all names which Jesus possesses has to be the name Yahweh. This also explains why Christ receives the worship due to Yahweh: Jesus is Yahweh God Incarnate (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

Paul wasn’t the only inspired author who testified that God expects every created thing to worship the risen and exalted Lord:

“When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth. Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB, forever and ever! The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

Now if John depicts every created thing as worshiping both God and Christ then Jesus cannot be a creature; otherwise, he too would be required to join the rest of creation in worshiping God. Instead, John portrays Jesus as being on the side of God in the Creator/creature divide.

The following Evangelical scholars explain why this a rather remarkable assertion:

“The elders directed their worship, naturally, toward the object of their doxology, which in this passage is God the Father and Jesus Christ. The action of the elders in worshiping God and Christ is representative of all of those assembled and participating in the doxology–which was ‘every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them’ (v. 13 NASB). The passage thus envisions heavenly and earthly creatures, by the myriads (v. 11), bowing down before God and Christ. The Lamb receives worship along with God, shares his throne, and is sharply distinguished from all of God's creatures as the only one worthy of such adoration. The idea is not that Jesus is a second object of worship. Rather, as Peter Carrell notes in his dissertation on Jesus and angels in the book of Revelation, “Jesus is bound with God in such a manner that together they form a single object of worship…. No encouragement is given to those inclined to believe Jesus to be a second god. Rather, there is a strict adherence to monotheism–but a monotheism which allows for Jesus to be included with God as the object of worship and which envisages Jesus sharing the divine throne with God.’

“Twice toward the end of the book of Revelation, John fell at the feet of the angel who was speaking to him so as to worship him. The angel responded by reproving John: ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant … worship God’ (Rev. 19:10 NASB; cf. 22:8-9). These statements by the angel refute the claim that it was acceptable to worship or bow before an angel who was acting as a representative of God.” (Bowman & Komoszewski, Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case For The Deity Of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 1: The Devotion Revolution: Jesus Shares the Honors to God, 2. The Worship of the Carpenter, pp. 42-43; bold emphasis ours)

This next scholar helps to put the worship which the NT ascribes to Christ in perspective:

Divine worship. As in the entire New Testament, the apostolic writings teach that Jesus is to receive our worship, devotion, confidence, and trust that God alone demands and deserves. Throughout biblical history, the Jewish people recited the Shema (Deut. 6:4) twice daily. This foundational confession affirmed the existence of the one true and living God and entailed that he alone is the proper object of worship; to worship the creature rather than the creator is blasphemy. The early church also shared this same sense of utter repulsion at the idea that a human being should be worshiped (cf. Acts 14:14-15; Rev. 19:10).

“Against this background we must take seriously two astounding points. First, when Jesus was on earth, he received the praise and worship given to him without ever rebuking the persons who acted in this way (Matt. 14:33; 21:15-16; 28:9; John 20:28; cf. 5:22-23). Second, after Jesus returned to heaven as the exalted Lord, praise and worship of him intensified (Eph. 5:19; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6; cf. Rev. 5:11-12). John Stott nicely summarizes this evidence when he writes: ‘Nobody can call himself a Christian who does not worship Jesus. To worship him, if he is not God, is idolatry; to withhold worship from him, if he is, is apostasy.’ In addition to the worship and devotion Jesus receives, he is also the addressee in prayer (Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60; 9:10, 13; 22:17-19; 1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor. 12:8; Rev. 22:20) and the object of saving faith. The Old Testament repeatedly affirms that ‘salvation belongs to the LORD' (Jonah 2:9); ‘He is only ... my salvation’ (Ps. 62:2, 6); ‘On God rests my salvation and glory’ (Ps. 62:7).

“However, when we turn to the New Testament, an additional object of saving faith is introduced, namely, the Son (see John 3:15-16; 14:1; Acts 3:16; 4:12; 10:43; 16:31; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2).108 In fact, in the New Testament God the Father is held up somewhat infrequently as the object of faith. Why is this? As Murray Harris notes, ‘This is not because Jesus has displaced God the Father as the one we must trust, but because it is in Christ that God meets us in salvation. There are not two competing personal objects of saving faith. Only because Jesus is fully divine, intrinsically sharing God's nature and attributes, does he become a legitimate object of trust.’ In this same context, it is crucial to not how Paul begins his letters: 'Grace to you and peace from (apo) God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). By the use of the preposition (apo) before the Father and Son, Paul is affirming that the Father and the Son jointly form a single source of divine grace and peace. Of no mere human being could it be said that, together with God, he is the fount of spiritual blessing. Given Jewish monotheism, only if Paul regards Jesus as fully divine could he have spoken in this way.111” (Stephen J. Wellum, “The Deity of Christ in the Apostolic Witness,” The Deity of Christ (Theology in Community), edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson [Crossway, Wheaton Il. 2011], pp. 142-143; bold emphasis ours)

108 Jesus is also presented as the object of the doxologies. A doxology is a formal ascription of praise, honor, glory, or blessings given to a divine person but never to a merely human figure. New Testament doxologies are regularly addressed to God, sometimes through Jesus Christ (Luke 2:14; Rom. 11:36; 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Pet. 5:11; Jude 24-25; Rev. 5:13; 7:12; Romans 16:27a; 1 Pet. 4:11; Jude 25). But on at least four occasions a doxology is addressed directly to Christ (2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:13). This kind of evidence entails that the New Testament authors viewed Jesus as having equal status with God the Father. (Ibid, p. 142; bold emphasis ours)

111 This is further confirmed in 1 Thess. 3:11 and 2 Thess. 2:16-17. In the former we have two subjects (God and Jesus), yet remarkably the verb (“may … clear the way”) is singular. In the latter, we have two subjects (God and Jesus), and each of the verbs–“love, gave courage, strengthen” is singular. This does not show that Paul equated God with Jesus, as if they were the same person, but it does indicate that he assumed that Jesus equally shared the divine nature, so he could trace a single action to a single, unified source. Cf. ibid., 75-79. (Ibid, p. 143; bold emphasis ours)

It is, therefore, quite evident that the NT depicts Jesus as receiving the very same divine honors and worship that God receives.

In light of this, it is time for us to now turn the tables on the Muslimah and her companions.

Further Reading