In Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the God of Israel (2008), the British NT scholar quotes John MacIntrye to make his final appeal that the worship of Jesus in the early church signifies a first-century consensus that Jesus was God, and that the notion of Jewish monotheism included Jesus. Though Bauckham’s presentation deals with the history of theology, his point bears personal inquiry and application for those in the church today. Here is the illuminating quote:
[We] shall not be satisfied with any christological analysis which eliminates from its conception of who he [Jesus Christ] is all valid basis for an attitude of worship to him. It is on this very score that humanistic interpretations [read: the Jesus Seminar, Protestant liberalism, and strands of the emergent church] of the person of Jesus Christ fail, that they present to us someone who cannot sustain human worship; admiration, perhaps, even a sense of wonder at the courage he had in the face of danger and death, but never worship. That is given only to God.
Theology that does not purify and empower doxology is false! For worship is a telling litmus test for doctrine; and the veracity of any truth-claim must always generate worship. Remember, believers worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and if our worship is weak, the cause may be the truths we believe.
Sadly, this worship-doctrine connection is often overlooked. Many Christians have substandard beliefs about God and wonder why they struggle to have a quiet time. They assume that their failing worship requires a newer and more sensational experience, but in truth, their hunger for God lags, because they have tasted vaporous imitations and turn again to empty substitutes. Moreover, they, we, buy into the latest fads in evangelicalism, without considering how these new spiritualities of theological notions might impact their worship. But as we are created to worship, surely, true truth must convince the mind and move the heart.
So, the next time you encounter something about Jesus the Christ, ask yourself, is this a vision of God that will fuel my worship. If the answer cannot be quickly affirmed, reconsidered the matter, and take pause before buying into the speaker, the system, or the soundbite. Instead, return to the Scriptures to see the inspired revelation of God, Jesus Christ, who is the glorious Son of God, the eternal lamb, the desire of the nations, and the only one who can sustain a lifetime of white-hot worship. Fill your heart with truths about Jesus, for nothing else will satisfy (cf. John 10:10).
May our worship purify our theology, and may all of our theology fuel worship.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss