Tuesday, December 01, 2009

ADDRESSING THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

The question before many is whether Christians should address only the Heavenly Father in Songs and Prayers, and thus worship only the Father, or whether Christians may also address the Son and the Holy Spirit, and worship them too?

First, we recognize the distinct roles of the three persons of the Godhead. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct as illustrated at the Baptism of Christ and other places. On the cross, Jesus was speaking to the Father in Heaven. On the Mt. of Transfiguration, the Father spoke of being pleased with His Son. And Jesus speaks of Him leaving in order for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to come. The three are distinct persons.

Second, we understand that only God is to be worshiped. Idolatry is to be repented of. If worshiping Jesus was wrong, it would be idolatry. But we see in Scriptures that Jesus was worshiped by His disciples and His own words show His deity: "I and the Father are one." And the Holy Spirit was called God by the Apostles in Acts 5. When Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, she lied to God (Acts 5:3,4). So the Scriptures make clear the three are God, make the one true God.

And third, recognize that worship is defined by God and Christians are limited in whom they may address in their prayers or songs. They may address God with only the Truth. From Scripture we know that our prayers are to be addressed to God and we know that Jesus is the only possible mediator between us and God. And songs may not be about anything contrary to Scripture. Let's look at a couple passages.
" 5 For there is one God,and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Tim. 2:5)

"19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;" (Eph. 5:19).

"16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col. 3:16).
These Scriptures clearly limit aspects of our worship. We know for certain that no one but Jesus, no one alive or dead, can mediate for us to the Father. Only Jesus can. And we learn too that singing is to be spiritual, rooted in the Word of God - as opposed to singing something secular or pagan for worship.

Now some might say that Jesus being the mediator, and not the ultimate target of our prayer, necessarily excludes any freedom to specifically address Jesus. I agree He is the only go between, but I am not sure from what I know in Scripture that it is therefore sinful to speak directly to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, in prayer or in song.

Consider the following verses:

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." (Rev. 5:11ff)
In this chapter, the 24 Elders and the myriad of angels said the Father and the Son were worthy to be honored and blessed and the Lamb was worshiped.
"59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (Acts 6:59).
The Scriptures don't say that Stephen was right or wrong to address Jesus instead of the Father, but the piety of Stephen and the way the Holy Spirit presents his story is an indication that his words were acceptable. This address to Jesus would not hinder Jesus from relaying that message to the Father, since Jesus role is to be mediator.
"If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" and "Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you." (John 14:14; 16:23).
What are we to make of these two passages? In the first Jesus says the disciples may ask Him and in the other Jesus says they will ask the Father. I don't believe there is anything contradictory here. I believe that the words are clear enough that the Lord Jesus is able to be addressed just as the Father may be addressed. The Two are separate persons of the same Godhead: just as is the Holy Spirit.

I believe it is important to highlight the distinct roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But it is also important to remember that they are all three God and are worthy to be worshiped in tangible ways, such as in prayer and song. The Scriptures I have included make it clear that the disciples and angels in heaven had this understanding. A song in the worship assembly that praises Jesus couldn't be more Scriptural. A song that praises the Holy Spirit for His work of redemption must be very pleasing to God. They deserve to be praised especially in the worship assembly. And in doing so, yes, they are worshiped.

While I believe prayer is to be addressed to the Father ("Say, 'Our Father who art in heaven...."), Jesus' model prayer does not comprise the entirety of what may be said in prayer. It's only a model. When the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, being so early in the ministry and still looking to the glorification of Christ in the future, they wouldn't have understood anything else outside of addressing "Our Father who art in heaven". And we don't do anything different. We too pray only to God. And we trust that Jesus is the ONLY mediator between God and man, something Jesus didn't address in the model prayer. And we know that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians, seals us for the day of redemption, and helps us in prayer by interceding for us.
"26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Rom. 8:26,27).
The Holy Spirit interceding for us does not negate the work of Jesus as Mediator, nor does it diminish the Father.

Now the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians according to numerous passages. "16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16; cf. Romans 8:9-11, 1 Cor. 6:19,20, 2 Cor. 1:22, and Ephesians 1:13,14 and 4:32).

Once we establish the distinct roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we have to ask if the Scriptures so control us that we may not address the Son or the Holy Spirit. Because they too are God, it seems very unnatural that I cannot speak to Him that is living in my body. The Holy Spirit has made residence in me until the day of redemption. It is breaking protocol to speak to Jesus? Not according to the examples in Scripture and not according to Jesus' own words.

In the end, I won't be divisive on this matter. In my prayers, I address the Father and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. That is Scripture. But I feel very comfortable closing my eyes and saying a word to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. Both of them must surely relay my words to the Father because that is what they do.

2 comments:

  1. I have wondered about this before because of several songs that specifically address the Holy Spirit - thanks for the explanation!

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  2. Thanks for your insight Dan. We went through this study not to long ago. At the time things weren't making sense but this has helped my understanding. JH

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