Why is Jesus to be worshipped as God?
A bible study published by The 1st Bible Team on June 26th, 2016
This question is one that has been debated, contested, defended and hated since the time that Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem.
In the United States, nearly 88% of adult Americans believe in "God" and 76% believe it is the "God" of the Bible and this seems encouraging, but there is an issue. When you ask these believers if they believe that Jesus is God, only 51% say they do and only 19% can tell you why they do from a Biblical perspective.
Matthew 7:22-23 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
We will not settle the dispute in this study and we certainly are not presenting all of the Biblical and Non-Biblical evidence that we could use to support the claim. The point of this study is not to convince people that Jesus is God, but rather to reinforce the Christian believer's faith that He is God and what the Epistle to the Hebrews has to say about His divinity.
Lastly, we want to apply this knowledge to your benefit and strengthen your personal walk with Jesus.
We focus this study starting with Chapter 1, where the author immediately delves into the identity of Jesus Christ. We also are going to look at who it is the author is addressing, who the author compares Jesus too, what can we presume the author's background may have been and finally, the specific issues the author is addressing.
We will do this by dissecting Chapter 1 verse by verse and making it easier to comprehend...
So, let us start at the beginning.…
About the Epistle or Letter to the Hebrews
It is a widely accepted notion that this Epistle was written before 60 AD. There are two primary factors that drive this notion, which are:
- The author is very familiar with the ordinances, laws and practices of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and leaves no doubt as to whether he possesses this knowledge, nor does he leave any doubt about the fact that the people he is writing the epistle to have some of the same knowledge. This is significant, because the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans and the author makes no reference to this event taking place and writes his Epistle in the present tense when addressing the Temple Practices.
- There is no mention in the Epistle of the most prominent of the Apostles being killed (e.g. Paul, Peter, Matthew, etc), as does Revelation and therefore, it stands to reason that this had not yet taken place either. Peter and Paul are widely believed to have been murdered by the Roman Emperor somewhere around 63-66 AD.
The specific audience are Jewish Converts to Christianity, either in Rome or throughout the Roman Empire. Since the Epistle was written to one specific gathering of these converts, it would have most likely been a gathering of significant size and importance.
An epistle of this size and theological depth was a monumental undertaking in the first century, and therefore the author must have felt compelled that the effort was well worth it. Regardless of the specific location of Jewish Converts, it is clear that the author is addressing traditional Jewish believers who had accepted the idea that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish people.
Some of these had accepted it faithfully, deeply and spiritually, and others merely had accepted it based on the notion that it made some sense and were not yet well rooted in their faith (see Matthew 13:1-23 Chapter 13 1 On that day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And there were gathered unto him great multitudes, so that he entered into a boat, and sat; and all the multitude stood on the beach. 3 And he spake to them many things in parables, saying, Behold, the sower went forth to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some `seeds' fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them: 5 and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth: and straightway they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And others fell upon the thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked them: 8 and others fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He that hath ears, let him hear. 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 And he answered and said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not. 18 Hear then ye the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, `then' cometh the evil `one', and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. 20 And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; 21 yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. 22 And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. for an example of this).
We know that this was the make up of the audience to which the author is addressing because:
- The Epistle is to the "Hebrews" or "Israelites".
- The author goes through great pains to explain in detail what makes Jesus the promised Messiah and absolutely divine.
- The author uses the term "we" when referencing prior things God had done for the Jewish people (e.g. temple, kings, prophets, laws, etc).
- The author goes into great depth in explaining why angels are subject to Christ, which addressed the deep admiration of angels as first hand representatives of God, as this was a deep seated Jewish belief.
- Lastly, the tone of the letter seems to indicate that the author was addressing this audience of believers about falling away and losing their faith, as it contains several warnings.
He references Old Testament examples all throughout the epistle as reminders, which a Jewish audience would have been very familiar with.
This has led some to believe that the audience of Christians may have been undergoing great persecution for their faith, which was certainly a major problem for the early Christian church. In addition, it appears that some of this specific group of Jewish converts were seriously considering abandoning their faith in Christ, and returning to ritualistic Judaism.
The specific author is not known, even though for many years it was assumed to be the Apostle Paul. Further research of the text indicated that it is highly unlikely since the writing style was different and he does not use his name, which Paul had done in every other epistle he had written.
Clearly the author was very familiar with the Jewish law, the ordinances of the Temple, the practices and procedures of the Levitical priesthood and the Old Testament and therefore, it is thought that the writer may have been a converted Jewish Pharisee.
The author also seems to have been a person of high standing and authority to the church of Jewish Christians he addresses, as speaks as a person of authority. This also indicates that the writer is well known, connected and important.
- This Epistle was probably written within 25-30 years of the resurrection of Jesus.
- It was written to Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah/Divine at various levels.
- It was written by a well educated and knowledgeable Jewish Christian.
- The writer addresses the Jewish audience with warnings about losing their faith.
Epistle to the Hebrews
Hebrews 1:1 Chapter 1 1 God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners,
Throughout the history of mankind, God has spoken by way of prophets, mediated by angels (Enoch, Noah, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc) and He did so in various ways. Sometimes God would use nature to confirm His message from a prophet, other times He would use dreams, sometimes He would have the prophet do bizarre things in order to demonstrate God's plans, sometimes He would use various supernatural acts and miracles, etc.
The Author is stating this upfront, so as to remind the Jewish people that God has often spoken to us and in many ways, all of which are recognized as important however; the significance of Jesus is much higher than all the previous messages and messengers who spoke them.
Hebrews 1:2 2 hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in `his' Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds;
This is a profound statement, as the author is unequivocally stating in this one verse:
- The last days were upon the Jewish nation, the Jewish law and that God has made this clear (before the destruction of the temple) by speaking through His Son.
- He is stating that Jesus is God, and on the same level as God. In the Jewish culture, the Son was the heir and equivalent to the Father (See John 5:18 18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only brake the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God. ).
John 5:18 18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only brake the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
- The writer is saying that God created all through Jesus Christ - meaning the power of God the Father, working through the word of Jesus Christ.
In saying these things, the author is making it clear that Jesus is the divine and eternal Son of God, that He existed before all things, and that God the Father created all things by way and means of Jesus, who is the living Word of God.
Hebrews 1:3 3 who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
This leads along the same path, as the author is saying that Jesus is the EXACT imprint of God. The author does not say "reflection" of God, but he says "imprint" or "representation' of God's very nature and that the glory of Jesus is the radiance of God's glory (meaning He is the light that radiates from God the Father). "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father...."
John 14:9 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father?
The writer also makes clear that "all" things are upheld by the "word of his power". What the author is saying is that Jesus carries the very power of God in His words and that He is in fact, the living Word of God.
John 1:1-13 Chapter 1 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. 6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but `came' that he might bear witness of the light. 9 There was the true light, `even the light' which lighteth every man, coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, `even' to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This is very important because the author starts off in verse 1 as saying that God has spoken through His Son. No one can uphold all things and be the ruler of all things, unless they are God.
The author finishes out Verse 3 by saying that Jesus sat down at the right hand of the "Majesty on High" (which means the one esteemed) after He had accomplished the purification of sins.
This means that the Son shares a throne next to His Father, which is only reserved for God and God alone. It states that Jesus "came" to do what needed to be done, and then "returned" after He had accomplished the will of His Father.
John 6:38 38 For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
This is important, because the author is advocating that Jesus is in fact:
- The exact image and glory of God the Father.
- The Word of God.
- The Eternal Son of God.
- The Creator of all things on behalf of God the Father.
- The ruler of all things created for God the Father.
- The spotless lamb provided by God the Father.
- Sitting beside God the Father on the same throne.
It is very important to understand that the author is saying this to "Jewish" believers that were raised under the Mosaic Law, whose fathers had held to the belief in the "One" God (See Deuteronomy 6:8 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. ) and yet, they had accepted that Jesus was God. This is a much different audience than that of the Apostle Paul's, who were previously gentile pagans.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 4 Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: 5 and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart;
We know that they had accepted Jesus as God, because the writer opens with these statements as a matter of fact, not a source of debate or contention - therefore it was an accepted principle among this group of believers at various levels.
If the author was to be implying that Jesus was some kind of demi-god or a second god, and that there was more than one God, this would have been blasphemous and the author would have immediately been shot down. So we can safely state without a doubt that this group of believers understood the concept of the Trinity quite clearly (1 BEING of GOD, represented in the 3 PERSONS of GOD).
Hebrews 1:4 4 having become by so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they.
Here, the author is stating that Jesus is, was, and has become (in the minds of the converts) greater than all of the other messengers, including angels (angels are considered divine messengers).
What the author is saying is that Jesus and His word are greater than ALL the prophets of God, AND greater than the divine angels who carried God's Word to those prophets. The author makes it clear that Jesus is greater than any man or divine being that exists, and is not part of the creation.
Hebrews 1:5 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee? and again, I will be to him a Father, And he shall be to me a Son?
Here is the author is tying Jesus and His identity directly to (See Psalms 2:7 7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. ), where King David proclaims the decree he received from the LORD, and this decree is a prophecy that God the Son would come in the flesh, through the human ancestry of King David's line, as promised to David.
Psalms 2:7 7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee.
Then notice the author writes, “Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?”
Once again, the writer is referencing God's promise to King David, regarding his Son, who would become God incarnate and what was to happen during the crucifixion of the Christ.
2 Samuel 7:14 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men;
Hebrews 1:6 6 And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Here the author is referencing Psalms 97:7 7 Let all them be put to shame that serve graven images, That boast themselves of idols: Worship him, all ye gods. , where God damns idol worshipers and commands all "gods" or "angels/divine beings" to worship the Son.
Psalms 97:7 7 Let all them be put to shame that serve graven images, That boast themselves of idols: Worship him, all ye gods.
Of course, only God can command and receive worship under Jewish Law.
John 9:38 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Hebrews 1:7 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels winds, And his ministers a flame a fire:
Here the author is quoting Psalms 104:4 4 Who maketh winds his messengers; Flames of fire his ministers; and his point in doing so is to remind the readers what God has said about the status He has given to the angels, in contrast to what He states in verse 8 about Jesus.
Psalms 104:4 4 Who maketh winds his messengers; Flames of fire his ministers;
Hebrews 1:8-9 8 but of the Son `he saith,' Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Here the author is quoting Psalms 45:6-7 6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 7 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness: Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows. , which is another Messianic Psalm of David, referring directly to the coming of the Christ.
Psalms 45:6-7 6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 7 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness: Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Hebrews 1:10-12 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou continuest: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall not fail.
Here the author is quoting Psalms 102:25-27 25 Of old didst thou lay the foundation of the earth; And the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: 27 But thou art the same, And thy years shall have no end. and referencing the fact that Jesus is the ETERNAL Son and that He created all things and will live long after all things - the Alpha and the Omega.
Psalms 102:25-27 25 Of old didst thou lay the foundation of the earth; And the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: 27 But thou art the same, And thy years shall have no end.
Hebrews 1:13 13 But of which of the angels hath he said at any time, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet?
Here the author is quoting Psalms 110:1 Chapter 110 1 Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. and making the final point that God the Father promised a better promise to the eternal Son than to the angels and of course, is referencing Jesus sitting at the Father's right hand.
Psalms 110:1 Chapter 110 1 Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Hebrews 1:14 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation?
The point of this statement is to solidify the superiority of Jesus over other divine beings, namely angels. The author does this by stating that the divine beings are ministers FOR those who are saved, but Jesus is the Savior of those who are saved...holding Him in much higher regard.
Let's ask ourselves some questions, based on what we have learned from our review of Chapter 1 of the Epistle of Hebrews.
- Do you have a deeper understanding of what the Bible says about the divinity of Jesus now?
- If you do have a better understanding, then how can that be applied to your walk with Jesus?
- If Jesus is in fact God the Son and the exact representation of God the Father, how does that change your perception of who God is and how He relates to you?
- If Jesus is God the Son and has ALL authority over ALL creation, what does this mean for you, as a fellow heir with Christ?
Other Scripture that supports the truth that Jesus Christ is the God of Bible:
The Apostle Thomas called Jesus God
John 20:27-29 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands; and reach `hither' thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed `are' they that have not seen, and `yet' have believed.
The Apostle Peter called Jesus God
2 Peter 1:1 Chapter 1 1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and `the' Saviour Jesus Christ:
The Apostle Paul called Jesus God
Titus 2:12-14 12 instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.
The Apostle John called Jesus God
John 1:1-3 Chapter 1 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
John 1:14 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.
Jesus accepts worship, which only God can do
Matthew 14:32-33 32 And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Jesus confirms that He believes only God is to be worshiped and yet, He accepts worship
Luke 4:8 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Jesus says that only God is good and yet, He is called "good" all throughout the scriptures
Mark 10:17-18 17 And as he was going forth into the way, there ran one to him, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good save one, `even' God.
John 10:11 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.
Jesus spoke and commanded, as if He was in fact "God"
Matthew 5:27-29 27 Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.
John 14:15 15 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.
Matthew 7:28-29 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: 29 for he taught them as `one' having authority, and not as their scribes.
Jesus claims to be omnipresent, which only God can be.
Matthew 18:20 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Jesus is called "Lord of Lords" and "King of Kings", which is a direct reference to God in Psalms 136:3 3 Oh give thanks unto the Lord of lords; For his lovingkindness `endureth' for ever:
Revelation 17:14 14 These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they `also shall overcome' that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.
1 Timothy 6:15 15 which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
Psalms 136:3 3 Oh give thanks unto the Lord of lords; For his lovingkindness `endureth' for ever:
Jesus is credited with being the Creator of All things
Colossians 1:16-17 16 for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; 17 and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.
John 1:3 3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
The Jews who crucified Jesus understood Him to be saying that He was equal with God
John 5:18 18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only brake the sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 10:33 33 The Jews answered him, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus called Himself “I AM”, the name God calls Himself in Exodus 3:14 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
John 8:58-59 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am. 59 They took up stones therefore to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
Exodus 3:14 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Isaiah the Prophet said the Promised Messiah would in fact be God in the flesh
Isaiah 9:6 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.