Question

Worshiping men is idolatry. Jesus is a man. Does this make Christians idolatrous?

Answer

Christians are to only worship God (cf. Matt. 4:9-10; Rev. 19:10). Idolatry is forbidden (Exod. 20:4-5). Man is not supposed to worship man (Luke 4:8; Acts 10:25-26; Rom. 1:25; cf. Acts 14:13-15). However, Jesus is a man and was worshipped in his earthly ministry (cf. Matt. 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9; etc.).

How can this be? Well, it's simply that we worship Jesus Christ, the God-man (John 1:1, 14; Heb. 1:2-3), not insofar as he is a creature but as he is God. Moreover, we don't worship natures, but the entire person of Jesus Christ. To separate out Christ's two natures (divine and human) and worship them as individual persons would be error - i.e. Nestorianism.

I refer you to Francis Cheynell (1608-1665), of the Westminster Assembly, who said it well:

… we worship the Mediator, who is man, as his Person is (invisibly) divine, and not for anything in, or attributable to, his human nature. While Christ’s gracious human qualities and redemptive, intercessory actions are great motives and allurements to recognizing and beholding the divinity of his Person (by faith), yet no finite action or aspect of the subordinate, creaturely, service of his manhood can ever be the formal ground of divine worship. Even Christ’s revealed glory as Mediator in time and creation, though great, is to be distinguished from the essential glory of his eternal Person, which alone is infinitely capable of divine worship. Yet, as Christ’s Person, worthy of divine worship, is interpenetratingly and inseparably joined to his human nature (his human body and soul), we worship the whole God-man as one Christ. Thus, Christ’s human nature is the material object of our worship, but yet is not the formal cause or ground of it. Hence, Christ’s human body and soul, receiving worship on behalf of his eternal Person (as inseparably, specially and mysteriously united thereto by the hypostatic union), is unlike anything else in the universe. ‘Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.’ (1 Tim. 3:16).

Please read "The Grounds of Christ the Mediator Receiving Divine Worship" (in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Ch. 9, pp. 330-355) by Dr. Francis Cheynell.

Related Topics

What is Nestorianism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).