The Pastor's Pen
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). The word used here “to make a defense” is apologia (Gr. avpologi,a). It’s where we get the word apologetics, which is the science of defending the Christian faith. What we believe is always under attack and, therefore, we need to be ready to explain to others what we believe and why we believe it. And, because we want to reflect well our Savior, we are to do so with gentleness and respect. Our responsibility is to honor the Lord always in our words and behavior, even as we present Him to others. The goal is to win the person to the truth, not just win an argument for the sake of our egos.
In our years of missionary service, Carol and I regularly met people who asked questions of our faith, often in a less than friendly manner. That gave us many opportunities to not only stand for the truth, but also to show the impact that the Gospel has had on our lives. That remains our goal as we reach out to people here in Northern California. And I desire to help the loved ones of Oroville EFC stand for the truth as well in their own personal ministries. Thus, periodically, I will present an apologetic response to questions we have received over the years. This month’s question is one that comes up often in discussions with Muslims. While we may not meet followers of Islam very often here in Oroville, there are numerous opportunities to do so on the internet. Moreover, there are pockets of Muslims in the larger cities of NorCal and it would be good for us to be ready to engage them with love, grace, and truth when the Lord gives us opportunities to meet them. It is important for us to remember that the Gospel is for all peoples.
Here is this month’s question. I commend it to you not only to give an example of how to respond to questions, but also to encourage you to grow in your faith so that you will “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” May the Lord find us faithful in telling others about Him!
“Where in the Bible does Jesus say, ‘I am God. Worship me!’”?
Imagine you are in a ballroom for a big public gathering. Imagine further that the King of your country suddenly walks into that same ballroom unannounced. Would it be necessary for him to quiet the crowd, get everyone’s attention, and then announce, “I am your King. Obey me!”? No! He would show us that he is the King by what he says and by what he does.
In a similar way, it is not necessary for one who claims to be God in human flesh to announce that fact everywhere he goes. In fact, if someone did appear and say, “I am God! Worship me!” the first reaction of many would not be respect, worship, and obedience, but, rather, skepticism and disbelief. Those who heard such a claim would insist that it be backed up by proof and clear evidence. The one who claims to be God would support that claim by what he says and by what he does.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, Jesus Christ gives a marvelous defense of his claim of being God in human flesh. The reader is encouraged to read the whole chapter to hear and understand the argument that Jesus makes. In this chapter, Jesus performs a great miracle by healing a man who has been lame for 38 years. After doing so, he commands the man to pick up his mattress and walk home. To the Jews observing this event, this was a clear violation of their law because this event and command to walk happened on the Sabbath, which was to be a day of strict rest from all labor.
In response, Jesus claimed the same right to work on the Sabbath as has the Father (v.17). The leaders understood immediately that Jesus was claiming an authority that belonged to God alone (v. 18). Rather than deny this authority, Jesus goes on to support it through a tightly developed argument. He says that he can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing (v. 19). What an amazing claim! Jesus does ONLY what he sees the Father doing. What does the Father do? Among other things, He creates, He sustains life, He judges, He blesses, He rules over the universe, etc. Jesus says that he does ONLY those things!
To make this point even clearer, Jesus said that whatever the Father does, the Son also does (v. 19). Now, who is the Father? It is clear that this refers to God. So, Jesus is saying that whatever God the Father does, he, the Son, does also. The one who does exactly what God does must himself be divine. It is hard to imagine a clearer statement of deity than that!
In the verses that follow, Jesus gives further claims of his divine nature and authority by claiming that he can do those things that only God can do. Jesus says that he is the one who raises the dead to life, both physically and spiritually (vv. 21, 25, 28-29). He is the one who will judge the living and the dead (vv. 22, 24, 27-29). He is the one who gives eternal life to all who believe in him (v. 24-25). Thus, it is clear that through his words and claims of authority, Jesus is saying, “I am God!”
But what of his claim of the right to receive worship? Look at John 5:23. What is the reason for Jesus displaying all of these divine rights and powers? “So that all may honor the Son (Jesus) just as they honor the Father” (Jn. 5:23a). How does one honor the Father? By giving Him complete obedience, reverence, respect, and worship. And that same level of obedience, reverence, respect, and worship is to be given to Jesus Christ! “For whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father” (Jn. 5:23b). True worship of God requires true worship of Jesus!
In summary, in John chapter 5, through his words and his actions, Jesus does make the astounding claim: “I Am God; worship me!” Let he who has ears to hear, hear!