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          Is Jesus Worthy of Worship? - Part II (of IV)

 

In Part 1 of this series we examined Biblical evidence which presented clear and convincing proof that Jesus Christ is worthy of worship.  But what, exactly, is the proper method of worshipping Christ?  Some contend it is wrong to address Christ in any form of prayer.  Is this a legitimate claim based upon the teachings of Scripture? 

The church is not at liberty to “exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6), but neither is it allowed to bind where the apostles have loosed (Matthew 16:19; 18:18).  If prayer to Christ is authorized in the New Testament, who in the church today has the authority to restrict the practice?  We will now examine the explicit evidence from the New Testament which authorizes prayer to be directed to Jesus.

 

New Testament Authorization for Petitioning Christ in Prayer

 

During His discourse with the remaining eleven apostles in the upper room, Jesus discussed His unwavering unity with the Father (apparently a lesson many need today).  In attempting to prepare His special friends for their unique work as ambassadors for His kingdom (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20), Christ promised the apostles that they would exceed the works that He had done because, as He stated, “I go to the Father” (John 14:12).  Having been their constant companion for the better part of three years, Christ spoke words of encouragement, saying, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (v. 13; emp. added).

This statement affirms the active participation of Christ in answering the apostles’ prayers.  But the begging question is: Who can answer prayer but God?  Continuing the same thought, Jesus restated the encouragement; albeit in slightly differing terminology: “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (v. 14; emp. added).  The pronoun “Me” was omitted in the late Greek manuscripts that were consulted for the compilation of the Textus Receptus upon which the KJV and others are translated.

However, as the renowned Greek textual scholar, Bruce Metzger, has noted, “The word [Me] is adequately supported and seems to be appropriate in view of its correlation with ego [I] later in the verse” (1994, p. 208).  He cites the oldest and most reliable extant manuscripts as containing the pronoun “Me,” including important witnesses such as Codex P66 (c. 200 A.D.), Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350 A.D.), and Codex Vaticanus (c. 350 A.D.).  Based upon the authenticity and antiquity of the evidence, modern versions include the pronoun “Me” as witnessed in the above quote from the NASB (cf. NKJVfn, ESV, NIV, NRSV, etc.).

Concerning verse 14, one exegete has stated, “This implies prayer to Christ” (Vincent, 1972).  With all due respect, it seems more appropriate to say the previous verse (v. 13) “implies” prayer to Christ on the basis that He promised “I will do it.”  Verse 14 actually confirms that prayer may be addressed to Jesus.  Jackson noted, “This appears to be clear precedent for petitioning Christ in prayer” (2011, p. 180). 

Because Christ was given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), He certainly possesses the authority to hear and answer prayer.  If He does not possess the authority to hear and answer prayer, His claim to “all authority in heaven and on earth” begins to ring a bit hollow.  Brethren need to be careful in diminishing or disparaging the all-inclusive authority granted to Jesus Christ as King over His kingdom.  He openly instructs the apostles to beseech Him in prayer, even stating twice concerning the petition, “I will do it.”

If our evaluation of this text is correct, the Scriptures should support the interpretation by providing evidence that men prayed directly to Jesus Christ.  If no such proof is forthcoming, admittance of the possibility of misunderstanding John 14:14 would certainly be merited; however, the same is also true in reverse.  Let those claiming Jesus must not be the object of prayer admit their error if prayers to Jesus are discovered in the Scriptures.  We will now examine from the New Testament a number of prayers that are addressed to Jesus:

1) Following the ascension of Christ, Peter appealed to the Scriptures as proof that the betrayal by Judas had been announced long before by the Holy Spirit through David.  After quoting the text which declared, “Let another man take his office,” Peter set forth the qualifications that were required for the replacement and two candidates were named, Joseph and Matthias.  In order to appoint the right man to the apostleship, “they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place’” (Acts 1:24-25). 

The question of interest is this: who is the “Lord” petitioned in this prayer?  Those opposing prayer to Christ will quickly name God the Father as the addressee.  Clues to the answer may be assembled by considering the immediate context in which the word “Lord” is found, and by comparing the usage of the term “Lord” within the greater context of Luke’s narrative. 

The immediate context involves the selection of a new apostle.  It was Jesus – not the Father – who carefully selected the original apostles, including Judas (Mark 3:13-19).  The remaining apostles, intimately aware of the earlier process whereby Christ personally chose those whom He would appoint as apostles, appear to defer to Christ’s authority for the new appointment.  On this point, Bruce opines, “As the verb used in ‘thou hast chosen’ (end of v. 24) is the same as that used in ‘he had chosen’ (end of v. 2), it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus is the subject here as in the former place” (1954, p. 51).

It had only been a month since Christ had informed the apostles, “I go to the Father,” followed by the comforting words, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14).  Having witnessed the ascension of Christ into heaven to be with the Father, the apostles’ first dilemma is resolved by beseeching the aid of their Lord.  The vital connection between John 14:14 and the prayer of Acts 1:24 is irresistible.  The immediate context overwhelmingly favors Christ as the object of the apostles’ prayer.

Consideration must also be given to the common designation used by the apostles in referring to Jesus.  Following Thomas’ humble confession, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28), the term “Lord” became the standard address of these men toward Christ.  Having recognizing Jesus by the Sea of Galilee where they were fishing, John exclaimed, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7).  In fact, Jesus is called “Lord” by the apostles eight times within the short narrative detailing this appearance (21:7-22). 

As Christ spoke His parting words on the Mount of Olives, the apostles again addressed Him as “Lord” (Acts 1:6).  And in Peter’s speech concerning Judas, he refers to “the Lord Jesus” (Acts 1:21).  Immediately following is the prayer addressed to the “Lord.”  The entire context – both immediate and overall – suggests Christ is the “Lord” to whom the apostles prayed.

A noted Bible commentary states, “The word ‘Lord,’ placed absolutely, denotes in the New Testament almost universally THE SON; and the words, ‘Show whom Thou hast chosen,’ are decisive. The apostles are just Christ’s messengers: It is He that sends them, and of Him they bear witness. Here, therefore, we have the first example of a prayer offered to the exalted Redeemer; furnishing indirectly the strongest proof of His divinity” (Jamieson, 1996).  A host of respected scholars have also concluded that Jesus is the “Lord” petitioned here by the apostles (see Barnes, Bengel, Dummelow, Jackson, McGarvey, etc.).

One final proof that this prayer is directed to Christ involves the opening admission, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men…”  By their personal experiences in the presence of Jesus, the apostles came to realize that “He knew all men” (John 2:24-25; cf. 6:64; 16:19; 21:15-17).  And in His address to the church at Thyatira, Jesus identifies Himself in this manner: “I am He who searches the minds and hearts…” (Revelation 2:23).  The apostles petitioned Jesus in prayer on the basis that He knows the “hearts of all men.”

Jesus possessed the authority to choose His own apostle, and He also knew the hearts of the two qualified candidates.  To whom else should the apostles pray for the selection of Christ’s ambassador but to Christ Himself?  If the Father made the selection, would Matthias not be rightly considered the sole apostle of God the Father?  When Christ called Saul of Tarsus to the apostleship, it was Jesus who made the choice.  The Scriptures clearly relate a pattern regarding the selection of Christ’s apostles.

2) The prayer of Steven is straightforward regarding the object of his petition.  While being stoned to death, Steven prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59).  And with his dying breath, “he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’” (v. 60).   Admitting the obvious, one scholar commented, “he was calling upon the Lord Jesus and making direct prayer to him as ‘Lord Jesus’” (Robertson, 1933).

The language of Steven (who was not an apostle) reveals the apostles’ influence.  Their colloquial speech and prayer habits were obviously passed along to the church.  Recall the address by Peter which referred to the “Lord Jesus” (Acts 1:21), and the subsequent prayer addressed to the “Lord” (v. 24).  Steven’s combined use of both terms clearly illustrates the connotation of the term “Lord” when used alone.  Steven called on the Lord Jesus.  His prayer is an example of a Christian (not an apostle) petitioning Christ in prayer, and it further demonstrates how honor is rightly bestowed upon Christ, even as upon the Father (John 5:23).

Not satisfied with the simple language of the Bible, those opposed to prayer addressed to Christ have devised excuses why this uncomplicated text does not represent “prayer” that can be duplicated by the Christian today.  Opposing arguments will be delayed for a later article, but the reader is urged to consider the immediate situation and the plain language which is spoken by Steven.  He is being stoned for preaching the gospel of Christ, and knowing death is imminent, he calls upon the “Lord Jesus” to receive his spirit.  Is it possible to even contrive a scenario whereby Steven would commit his very soul into the care of one other than whom he believed was God? 

Steven was a devout Hellenistic Jew before surrendering to Christ, under no circumstance can it be imagined that a worshipper of the one true God of Israel would ever bow in prayer to one known to be less than God.  Steven obviously believed Jesus to be God. Excuses notwithstanding, the prayer of Steven is “An unquestionable prayer to Christ” (Vincent, 1972).

3) In closing the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses an Aramaic expression, “maranatha” (16:22).  This word can be translated as “our Lord cometh” or “O Lord, come!”  Jackson noted, “Most Greek scholars (cf. Balz and Schneider; Danker) and the best English translations believe the latter is preferable” (2011, p. 631).  The prayer of “O Lord, come” certainly is in harmony with John’s closing prayer as noted below in example 12.

4) Paul explains that “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Corinthians 12:7).  Whatever the “thorn” may have been, Paul “implored the Lord three times” that it might be taken away (12:8).  Although the prayer is not verbalized, we have here the blanket admission by the apostle that he “implored the Lord three times,” meaning three separate prayers addressed to the “Lord.”

Who is the “Lord” to whom Paul took his request?  The following verse (v. 9) shows conclusively that it was the Lord Jesus to whom Paul sought relief in these prayers.  The final answer came from the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Paul’s response was to accept his weakness, “so that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”  The key to understanding to whom Paul prayed appears in the connection between the Lord’s mention of “power” and Paul’s desire for the “power of Christ” to be with him. 

Furthermore, the Lord’s answer, “My grace is sufficient for you,” may have become a basis for Paul’s closing benedictions (i.e., prayers) requesting “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” to be with the churches (see 1 Corinthians 16:23; Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Philemon 25).

5) In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul invokes God in prayer, requesting assistance in visiting the church at Thessalonica.  Of interest is the stated object of his petition: “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you” (3:11).  The prayer is addressed to both the Father and the Lord Jesus; however, although the subject is compound (normally requiring a plural predicate), the verb “direct” is singular, indicating a unity of essence for the Father and Jesus.

Paul honored both the Father and Christ with a prayer beseeching their combined involvement in bringing him and his company safely to Thessalonica.  The effort had been made to come previously, but, as Paul stated, “Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).  To overcome this obstacle, Paul invokes the “Father” and “Jesus our Lord”; and according to verse 10, this earnest plea was continuing “night and day.”  It is absolutely futile to suggest prayer to Christ is unauthorized in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul was praying to the Father and Jesus Christ every day.

6) We are required only to descend to the following verse to discover another prayer directed to Jesus.  Having prayed conjointly to the Father and Jesus for aid in traveling to Thessalonica, Paul then prays, “may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). 

Who is the “Lord” addressed here?  Robertson says it is “The Lord Jesus. Paul prays to Christ” (1933).  The pronoun “He” mentioned later in the passage is contrasted with “our God and Father.”  The appeal is for Christ to cause love to flourish among the Christians, both for those in the church and for all people, that they may be without blame before God the Father.  This is the active work of Christ as High Priest, i.e., “to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18), and therefore the prayer is properly directed to Jesus.

7) In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul also beseeches God on behalf of his auditors, saying, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2:16-17).  The subject of this prayer is again compound, but the verbs (comfort, strengthen) are singular, reflecting the unity of essence possessed by Jesus and the Father.

Barnes explanation states, “This expression is equivalent to this: ‘I pray our Lord Jesus, and our Father, to comfort you.’  It is really a prayer offered to the Saviour­–a recognition of Christ as the source of consolation as well as the Father, and a union of his name with that of the Father in invoking important blessings.  It is such language as could only be used by one who regarded the Lord Jesus as Divine” (1953).

Not only does this prayer fly-in-the-face of those opposing all prayer or communication with Christ in the church today, but notice how Paul places the name of Jesus before that of the Father, indicating the modern concept of a hierarchy between the members of the Godhead with the Father at the top rung is but another errant, unscriptural view point.    The name of Christ may be called upon in prayer ahead of the Father with no disrespect accounted.  The true lesson of this example is the undeviating unity which exists between the Persons of the Godhead.  Christ and the Father are both worthy recipients of Christian prayer; the order of address represents no qualitative precedence of respect or honor. 

8) Paul prays again for these brethren, saying, “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).  The wording here is reminiscent of the prayer mentioned previously in example 5.  Because the “Lord Jesus Christ” is named in 2:16 and again in 3:6, and the term “Lord” appears three more times in 3:1-4, the prayer uttered in 3:5 is most certainly addressed to the Lord Jesus.

9) Before the close of the letter, Paul once more prays for these saints, entreating, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).  The designation “Lord” appears 22 times in this Epistle (“Lord Jesus” 3 times; “Lord Jesus Christ” 9 times; “Lord” 10 times).  Not one time is the term used with reference to the Father.  The prayer of Paul in this place is again beseeching the Lord Jesus.

10) The apostle John opens “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” by addressing “the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:4-5).  Asking God for favors such as grace and peace is typical of opening salutations in most of the Epistles.  These salutations (all of them) are a form of brief prayer.  (More information on salutations and benedictions will follow the closing example of prayers to Christ in this segment).

The salutation here request grace and peace…from Jesus Christ.  John, like the apostle Paul, viewed Jesus as worthy of prayer for blessings that only God can bestow.  The phrase “ruler of the kings of the earth” hearkens back to Psalm 2 where the Lord’s Anointed is established as “King upon Zion, My holy mountain” (v. 6).  The kings of the earth are admonished to “show discernment” (v. 10), and to “Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way” (vv. 11-12).  Jesus is to be worshiped or else disaster looms for the rebellious.  The apostle John includes Christ in his opening prayer.

11) In Revelation 5, John depicts the vision of heaven where the Lamb (Jesus) appears and takes the book sealed with seven seals.  “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (v. 8).  The “golden bowls full of incense” are explained as symbolic of the “prayers of the saints.” 

The beautiful imagery of the aroma of incense ascending before God is depicted in the “Altar of Incense” which stood near the veil in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:1-10; cf. Leviticus 16:12-13).  The association of prayers ascending as incense is mentioned by David, who prayed, “O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! May my prayer be counted as incense before You” (Psalm 141:1-2).  And in the New Testament, Cornelius was told by the angel, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).

John fully intends for the reader of Revelation 5 to view the “prayers of the saints” as ascending to Christ.  The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders have prostrated themselves before Christ (v. 8).  The “prayers of the saints” are mentioned in connection with the worship of Christ, and clearly the imagery is designed to express that the prayers of the church are not lost, but safely arrive before the exalted Lamb, Jesus Christ.

12) The last prayer in the Bible rises from the hand of John who writes, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).  The Lord had affirmed, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”  John assents, praying for the Lord to come.

These twelve examples of prayers being directed to Christ are not to be construed as exhaustive of the topic; rather, these merely constitute the most straightforward and easily recognized examples of prayers petitioning Jesus.  Before the close of this series of articles on the worthiness of Christ to receive worship, we will examine several more incidents of prayers that have Christ as the object.

 

The Benediction

 

The Bible contains short prayers or words of blessing commonly known as a benediction.  According to The American Heritage College Dictionary, a benediction is “1. A blessing. 2. An invocation of divine blessing.”  This type prayer was used by Melchizedek in blessing Abram (Genesis 14:19-20), and by Jacob in bestowing divine blessings on Joseph and his two sons (Genesis 48:15-16, 20). 

That the benediction of blessing is regarded by inspiration as a prayer is demonstrated in 2 Chronicles 30:27 where the “Levitical priests arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.”  The blessing of the priests on this occasion was the prayer that ascended before God.

Coming to the New Testament, the benediction is often found at both the introduction and the closing of most Epistles.  These benedictions often include more than one member of the Godhead in the address, e.g., the letter to the Romans opens with Paul uttering a brief prayer for the church, saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7).  Paul employs this precise benediction or one worded very similarly many times (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 3).

As Barnes noted concerning the benediction in Romans 1:7, “If the mention of the Father in this connexion (sic) implies a prayer to him, or an act of worship, the mention of the Lord Jesus implies the same thing, and was an act of homage to him” (1953).  Of this exact benediction in 1 Corinthians 1:3, Jackson wrote, “The grammatical connection of God with Christ is a clear affirmation of Jesus’ divine nature” (2011, p. 342).

The sheer multitude of these brief prayers or benedictions directed to Christ speaks volumes concerning the theology of the apostle Paul regarding the Godhead.  Another scholar explains, “Nothing speaks more decisively for the divinity of Christ than these juxtapositions of Christ with the eternal God, which run through the whole language of Scripture, and the derivation of purely divine influences from Him also. The name of no man can be placed by the side of the Almighty. He only, in whom the Word of the Father who is Himself God became flesh, may be named beside Him; for men are commanded to honor Him even as they honor the Father” (Jamieson, 1996).

In some instances the benediction invokes only the Father (cf. Colossians 1:2); however, in his closing remarks, Paul – more often than not – addresses benedictions to Christ alone.  The prayer, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you,” is a favorite concluding benediction of the apostle (cf. Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:23; Galatians 6:18; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Philemon 25).

Aside from the 12 prayers previously examined which are directed to Christ on the pages of the New Testament, no less than 24 benedictions invoke the name of Jesus for divine blessings that only God is able to provide.  To claim Christ cannot be petitioned in prayer demonstrates either gross ignorance of the Scriptures or a biased disposition that is hardened against correctly understanding the inspired word of God. 

 

Other Communications with Jesus

 

As mentioned beforehand, not only has prayer to Christ been denied by some in the church today, but all manner of verbal conversation – if a true distinction can even be drawn between speaking to Christ in or out of prayer.  Accommodating this line of reasoning, do the Scriptures forbid addressing Jesus in any form of conversation?

If so, the Lord Himself must have been unacquainted with the prohibition.  The record of Saul’s conversion reveals Jesus initiating a conversation with Saul of Tarsus by asking him a question that invited an answer, and Saul did respond, speaking directly to Jesus (Acts 9:5; cf. Acts 22:8, 10; 26:15).  Furthermore, Jesus appeared to Ananias regarding Saul, initiating a conversation with him whereby he also engaged the Lord in direct, personal communication (Acts 9:10-15).  In recounting his conversion before his countrymen, Paul related yet another conversation between he and Jesus (Acts 22:17-21).

The apostle Peter engaged in conversation with One from heaven whom he called “Lord” (Acts 10:13-14).  In rehearsing the events leading up to the conversion of the Gentiles before the council in Jerusalem, Peter relates how he addressed the speaker from heaven as “Lord” (Acts 11:8).  Immediately following this testimony, Peter explains that when the Holy Spirit fell upon the household of Cornelius, he “remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (11:15-16).  The term “Lord” in this statement has reference to Jesus (see Acts 1:1-5), and Peter leaves no doubt about this, speaking of the “Lord Jesus Christ” with his next breath (11:17).

In view of these biblical examples of men speaking forthrightly with the risen Lord, how preposterous is the claim that men are barred from speaking directly to Christ.  If talking with the Lord is sinful, why did He initiate the conversations depicted in the Scriptures?  Shall we accuse Jesus of tempting men to sin?  The entire line of reasoning proposed by these misguided brethren borders on the ludicrous, and it is almost shameful to have to spend time defending the truth against such illogically based and unfounded positions as these have taken excepting that so many are truly ignorant, having never been taught.

 

The Mediatorial Work of Christ

 

If Christians may only communicate with the Father as some are alleging, how does Christ carry out His role as the one “Mediator” between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5)? In order to perform the work of mediator, four things are required.  The officer of mediation must be 1) equally related to both parties, or neither; 2) equally acquainted with both parties, or neither; 3) equally interested in both parties, or neither; and 4) equally identified with both parties, or neither.

Jesus Christ is the only Person who can qualify on even one point, and yet He eminently qualified on all four.  The eternal nature of Christ as deity guarantees that He is related to, acquainted with, interested in, and identified with God (cf. John 10:30).  The incarnation of the Word guarantees that He is related to, acquainted with, interested in, and identified with Humanity (cf. John 1:14).  To effectively serve in the role of mediator, working diligently to reconcile two parties who are at odds with one another, the mediator must be allowed to listen to both sides.  Has there ever been an effective mediation where one side was restricted from communication?

If a mediator is called into a place of business to settle disputes between management and the work force, but the work force is not allowed to consult or communicate directly with the mediator, what would be the charge leveled against this behavior?  The answer is “prejudice” or “bias” by the mediator.  How then can Christ serve as the sole Mediator between God and man if the human population is barred from communicating with Him?  Is the Father likewise forbidden conversation with Jesus?  If He cannot be petitioned or consulted by man, what value does the office of “Mediator” hold for mankind? 

 

The Intercessory Work of Christ

 

Paul spoke of Christ “who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).  The writer of Hebrews, after mentioning the permanent priesthood of Jesus, declared that “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25).

When Moses interceded for the people of Israel, he listened to their cries and fears, going before God on their behalf (Exodus 20:18-21; cf. 32:12-16).  Is it realistic to have an intercessor who is barred from hearing the cries and earnest pleas of the people he aims to help?  Christ partook of flesh and blood that He might become eminently qualified to give help, not to angels, but “to the descendent of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16; cf. Galatians 3:27-29). 

Christ took on human nature that He might “come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).  Does that “aid” not include listening to the confessions of our human weaknesses and our distressed cries for help in times of temptation?  The Greek is boetheo, meaning, “to run to the cry’ (of those in danger); hence, universally, ‘to help, succor, bring aid” (Thayer, 1958).  In order for Christ “to run to the cry of those in danger,” isn’t it essential that He first hear the cry? 

To intercede effectively on behalf of another requires an intimacy of communication.  The Father has never been tempted with sin; if He is the only one who hears the prayers of the weak crying for help, how will He respond effectively?  To claim the Father can aid in this manner simply because He is God is to negate the absolute necessity of the incarnation of Christ in the scheme of redemption.  Under this reasoning, God the Father could have saved man all by Himself.  Since He did not, we must believe in the essentiality of the role performed by Christ through His voluntary self-abnegation in taking on flesh that He might die for human sin and aid mankind eternally.

The entire scope of human salvation is the work of God; in design, in implementation, and in revelation.  The three Persons of the Godhead work together in perfect unison for the well-being of mankind.  The Word became flesh that He might serve man in ways that the Father and Holy Spirit could not.  Christ’s humanity holds mysteries far beyond the perception of most Christians (For a fuller excursus, see article on this site: The Humanity of Jesus).

If our prayers ascend only to the Father who has never been tempted, how does He respond to our cries for help in times of dire temptation?  Where is the text that declares the Father “run[s] to the cry of those in danger”?  This theory excludes the need for Christ as an intercessor who will hear our human weaknesses and “make petition” or “plead with” God on our behalf.  Christians need someone to help during times of temptation, but this is the unique work of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:18).

 

The Advocacy of Christ

 

John exhorted, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).  The word “Advocate” translates the Greek parakletos, defined: “lit., ‘called to one’s side,’ i.e., to one’s aid…It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant, counsel for defense, an advocate” (Vine, 1996, p. 111).

If Christ serves in any of the capacities defining parakletos, how could the idea ever arise that Christians are forbidden from speaking to or addressing Christ in any manner?  If He is “called to one’s side,” what restricts us from communicating with Him?  How many clients are barred from conversing with their “legal assistant,” “counsel for defense,” or their “advocate”?  The negative position regarding conversation with Christ as espoused by a small minority is untenable based upon the role that Christ has assumed in His work as Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator.

 

Is there no Authorized Way to Thank Jesus?

 

He is the “Captain of [our] salvation” (Hebrews 2:10), “the source of eternal salvation” (5:9) “who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God” (9:14), but, according to some, we are granted no means by which to even say “Thank You” to Christ.  In view of the fact that Christ took the burden of salvation for mankind upon Himself, and He alone condescended to the permanent form of man, and in His body He bore the brunt of God’s wrath against sin, is it possible to seriously contend that only the Father may be thanked in prayer? 

Doesn’t it seem illogical that we may tell everyone else of the unprecedented love and achievement of Jesus, but we may not utter one word of thanksgiving to Him personally?  If the critical minority is correct in teaching that all communication directed to Christ is wholly unauthorized, then even a mere “Thank You, Jesus” during the Lord’s Supper is sinful.  However, in contradistinction to this absurd position, we have seen that the Scriptures are replete with commands, examples, and necessary inferences that Christ not only may be worshiped, but must be worshiped through song and prayer.

The apostle Paul was oblivious to any prohibition against singing to Christ or beseeching Him in prayer, and regarding the ability of Christians to thank Jesus personally, Paul expressly stated, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:12-13; emp. added).  With respect to his apostolic appointment and the power to preach the gospel, Paul “gives Christ the glory of them, and thanks him for them” (Gill, 1999).  Another exegete remarked similarly, stating, “To be honored and blest with so divine a charge called forth all his gratitude to the bestower, Christ” (Whedon, 1874).

The Greek verb echo is used here in present tense, signifying “an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion” (Heiser, 2005).  Wuest explained, “The words ‘I thank’ are literally ‘I have constant gratitude to.’ It is not a mere statement of the fact of being grateful, but a revelation of Paul’s constant attitude of gratefulness” (1997).  Jackson recognized the significance, commenting, “The apostle continually thanks Jesus for counting him faithful and appointing him to apostolic service” (2011, p. 449).  As stated previously, the apostle prayed to Christ every day.

The admission of Paul in this single place destroys the argumentation of all modern day Jeroboams who seek to change the object of Christian worship by excluding Christ.  The apostle never shrank away from proclaiming the deity of Christ or from petitioning Christ openly in prayer.  If the church cannot follow the example set by the apostles of Christ, to whom should we turn to learn correct procedures for Christianity?  Paul gave thanks to Jesus Christ continually, and so should we; all opposing voices notwithstanding.

 

Conclusion

 

The objection has been raised that prayers are offered “through Christ,” but not “to Christ.”  A thorough refutation of this illogical argument (and others like it) will be postponed for a later part of this series; however, the KJV notwithstanding, the Scriptures offer irrefutable evidence that petitions to Christ are authorized by none other than the Lord Himself, and the testimony that such did, indeed, occur in the infant church is a matter plainly inscribed in the sacred record.  Christ instructed the apostles to pray to Him, promising that He, personally, would answer the prayer (John 14:13-14).

The scriptural evidence of prayers ascending to Jesus is conclusive and irrefutable.  If we allow the Bible to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness, we will profit from its valuable contents; but if the plain facts of Scripture are disregarded, the unbridled stampede of denominationalism will be multiplied.  The church of Christ in America is suffering many ills due to the blatant disregard of biblical precedence and authority. 

Those contending Jesus may not be petitioned in prayer are in error.  The New Testament testifies against them.  Paul prayed to Christ day by day, thanking Him for the blessing of pardon and the opportunity to serve.  There exists no precedence of Scripture forbidding the church to pray in the same manner today. 

The exceptional achievement of Jesus Christ in providing the remedy for sin moved God to exalt the name of Christ to the highest honor in heaven and on earth.  After surveying the mountain of evidence presented in the Bible, it is simply untenable to believe humanity is barred from beseeching the name of Christ in prayer. 

Lord Jesus, we beg your forgiveness for past offenses in these matters, and we entreat you to bless the readers of this material with the conviction to repent from any previous thinking or practices that diminish your eternal Godhood and worthiness to receive worship.  To you be the glory and honor, both now and forever.

Tracy White


References:

 

Barnes, Albert (1953), Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House).

Bengel, Johann Albrect (1897), Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Perkinpine &
          Higgins).

Bruce, F. F. (1954), The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Dummelow, John (1909), Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company).

Gill, John (1999), The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible (www.studylight.org).           

Jackson, Wayne (2011), A New Testament Commentary (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications).

Jamieson, R., et. al. (1996), Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson
          Publishers).

Heiser, Michael S. (2005), glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Bellingham, WA: Logo
          Bible Software).

McGarvey, J. W. (1983), Original Commentary on Acts (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

Metzger, Bruce M. (1994), A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart,
          Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft).

Robertson, A. T. (1933), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press).

Thayer, J. H. (1958), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark).

Vincent, Marvin (1972), Word Studies in the New Testament (Wilmington, DE: Associated Publishers &
          Authors).

Vine, W. E. (1996), Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers).

Whedon, Daniel (1874), Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible (www.studylight.org).

Wuest, Kenneth (1997), Wuest’s Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:
          Eerdmans).

                        Let the Study Continue!

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