Is it permissible to worship someone who is not God?
The organization known as the "Iglesia Ni Cristo" worships Jesus, something that we are commanded by the Bible to do (Philippians 2:9-11). However, the INC also teaches that Jesus is not God. Is it permissible to worship someone who is not God?
When we look to the scriptures, we see that it is not OK to worship anyone or anything except God. We are to worship Jesus, but that is because he is God.
We are commanded to worship no other god.
We have been told from very long ago that we are to worship no other god.
Psalm 81:9 (ESV) - 9 There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
One who denies the deity of Christ could argue that this verse is not saying we cannot worship Jesus because Jesus is not a god. This is a foolish argument. There is only one God, so by this argument, we would have to say that all things and persons may receive our worship.
One who denies the deity of Christ could also argue that this verse is only saying that we should not worship anyone or anything as God himself. This is another foolish argument. The verse specifically says we are not to worship other gods, not that we are not to worship others as God.
Such interpretations leave the command useless. We could say that it is permissible to worship anyone because God has not expressly commanded against it.
God is jealous of worship.
We are told that the reason we are not to worship anyone other than God is because God is jealous for his worship.
Exodus 34:14 (ESV) - 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
The fact that God is jealous means that he does not wish to share the worship he deserves with anyone. A jealous husband expects full devotion from his wife and does not tolerate it when she gives romantic love to any other person. In the same way, God does not wish to share his worship with anyone. Worship is only due to God.
God punishes those who worship or serve idols.
Exodus 20:4-5 (ESV) - 4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
Those who worship idols, things that are not God, are punished severely for their actions. It would be very unwise to worship someone who is not God.
Jesus repeated this command to worship no one but God.
Some argue that these commands to worship no one other than God were true then because Jesus had not yet been born. Of course, that poses a problem because there are many others who had not been born and we would have to conclude it may be permissible to worship them as well. Regardless, Jesus clears this up for us by repeating the command; letting us know that even after he was born it was not permissible to worship anyone other than God.
Matthew 4:9-10 (ESV) - 9 And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you
will fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For
it is written,
"'You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.'"
Some argue that this is not specifically saying that we cannot worship others, only that we should worship God. Such an interpretation ignores the context. Jesus is applying this to Satan's request for worship. If he did not think this verse meant that we shouldn't worship those who are not God, he would not have even quoted it! When someone says that this verse isn't saying that man should only worship God, that person is disagreeing with Jesus' own understanding and application of God's command in Exodus.
We are given examples showing it is wrong to worship a mere man.
We are given examples where men bowed to worship mere men but were commanded not to because they were men. Peter chastised Cornelius for worshipping him because Peter is a mere man.
Acts 10:25-26 (ESV) - 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man."
If Jesus is a mere man, we should not worship him. If he is an angel or a false god, we should not worship him. We should only worship him if he is actually God.
We should never worship anyone who is not God. We should, however, worship Jesus. If we should worship Jesus, that must mean he is God.
Hebrews 1:6-8 (ESV) 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."
7 Of the angels he says,
"He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire."
8 But of the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
If we worship mere men, we commit idolatry. When the INC worships Jesus, whom they call a mere man and not God, they commit idolatry. If we can agree that Jesus is to be worshiped, we should also acknowledge him as God so that we will not be found to be idolaters on the last day.