Addressing the Lord Jesus
In certain circles it has become a rare practice, and even forbidden by some, to direct worship and prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been stated that an individual in the home may address the Lord Jesus but not in the assembly; it being added that there is no one to stop someone in their home from doing so. Thus, it seems necessary to study the Scriptures as to this most important issue.
That there were those who worshipped the Lord Jesus when He was here on earth there can be no doubt. In Matthew 2 the wise men did so: they "fell down, and worshipped Him" (verse 11), and there were many other similar incidents (See Matt. 8: 2; Matt. 9: 18; Matt. 14: 33; Matt. 15: 25; John 9: 38). It might be argued, however, that this was before the cross. Then we see in Matthew 28: 9, 17 and Luke 24: 52 instances when there were those who worshipped the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. Indeed, in John 20 we have one of the clearest addresses to the Lord Jesus:
"Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God" (verse 28).
Yet some may still not be convinced that it is right and proper to worship the Lord Jesus. What about now that He is ascended into heaven? Let the book of Revelation answer. In Revelation 5 we read, "The... four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb,... And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (verses 8-10). Further, for those who insist that priesthood is for God alone, in Revelation 20: 6 we read: "They shall be priests of God and of Christ..." If this be the proper order of service in heaven, why should it be considered inappropriate in the assembly now on earth? Are there any accounts of address to the Lord Jesus by His saints on earth after He ascended into heaven? Indeed there are.
In Acts 7 we read of Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit (verse 55), "calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (verses 59-60). It is hard to see how a man full of the Holy Spirit would be doing something that should now be forbidden. In Acts 9 there is a discourse between Ananias on earth and the Lord Jesus in heaven, the Lord making known His mind and a saint praying concerning it. In 2 Corinthians 12: 8 the apostle Paul asked the Lord three times regarding the thorn in the flesh that was given him. Again, in 1 Timothy 1: 12, he thanked Christ Jesus our Lord.
"But," someone will say, "These are all the prayers of individuals." In reply, it should be observed that there are instances of companies addressing the Lord Jesus. In Acts 1 the company assembled in the upper room prayed, "Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen" (verse 24). In Acts 13, in the church at Antioch, there were those we read of who were ministering to the Lord (verse 2). It is companies that the apostle exhorts to: speak "to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5: 19. See also Col. 3: 16).
It must be emphasised that in all these references to the Lord, it is the Lord Jesus who is directly addressed and not the Father. Indeed, it is doubtful if we are correct in addressing the Father as Lord, since, "to us there is but one God, the Father,... and one Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 8: 6). Such a mode of address seems to be based on the usage of LORD in the Old Testament (in the King James Translation), before the Father was revealed in the Person of the Son.
We are all learners in the matter of prayer (Luke 11: 1) and I do not desire to be critical. But is it not the case that one of the characteristics of Christianity is being assailed in the attempt to forbid prayer and worship to the Lord Jesus? It would seem from the book of Acts that calling on the Lord's Name was the hallmark of a Christian. In Acts 9 Ananias, in his prayer to the Lord, speaks of Saul of Tarsus as having "authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy Name" (verse 14). And again, in verse 21, some were asking, "Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this Name in Jerusalem...?" Indeed, is one saved who has not called on the Name of the Lord? (See Acts 2: 21 and Rom. 10: 13). How are we to be saved if we are not to call on the Lord's Name? From 1 Corinthians 1: 2 it would appear to be the normal thing for Christians to address the Lord Jesus: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,... with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord." Or, now that things are abnormal: "with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2: 22). Whereas to be saved the call need only be once made, the references to calling on the Lord's Name by the Christian company are in the continuous tense and would suggest that saints would normally be calling on the Lord. As to calling on the Name of the Lord, it would seem abundantly clear from Scripture that it conveys, among other things, the idea of:
A recognition of His deity and power (See 1 Kings 18: 24; 2 Kings 5: 11).
A submission to His authority and acknowledgement of His rights (Jer. 10: 25).
A call to Him for help in the expectation of an answer (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 5; Ps. 99: 6; Zech 13: 9).
An approach to Him in worship and thanksgiving (Ps. 116: 17).
It would be associated with the place where He dwells (See Jer. 3: 17). Once this was at Jerusalem, as it will be again in the future, but today we know the system of grace which comes from "Jerusalem... above" (Gal. 4: 26). Thus we gather to the Lord's Name, to act for the Lord in His absence, to invite His presence, to offer Him our praise and worship as we break bread in remembrance of Him, and to seek His mind and blessing.
It must be stressed that this does not rule out prayer and worship to God the Father. The matter for prayer should decide the Person to be addressed. For example, the Lord Jesus gave the commission to preach the gospel and thus, as the Lord's servant, I would seek direction from Him about this. It is God who desires that all men should be saved and hence our pleadings for the lost may be addressed to God (1 Tim. 2: 3-4). And as children of God, we can address the Father.
With regard to the Lord's supper, it is only fitting to address the Lord Jesus, for we break bread in remembrance of Him. It is the church's affectionate response to Christ who has loved and given Himself for her. As the Lord in the midst leads the praise of His own to the Father, God is worshipped according to the way He has made Himself known in the Person of His Son (John 4: 23-24).
It is interesting that the whole canon of Scripture concludes with a prayer to the Lord: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22: 20). Well may every believer pray such a prayer daily and mean it. But is it not that the Lord Jesus, in a final appeal to His own here in this world, desires bridal affections in the assembly; that His own may be yearning for His actual presence as much as He desires to have them with Him? "The Spirit and the bride say, Come" (Rev. 22: 17).