(This post is part of a series. For an introduction to the topic read, “How ought we read the Bible?” To see all posts in this topic, go to “Does the Bible really say that?”) "Lift Him Up!" You've likely heard this in reference to worship before. Many well-meaning people will use it to mean that we ought to proclaim Jesus’ name, and that our act of worship will draw people to Christ. This is a nice thought, but a complete misreading.
This is taken, though loosely, from John 12:32. The verse says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” It is taught by many that this means when we worship God and publicly "lift Jesus' name" in song that people will see this and be irresistibly drawn to Christ.
To take this meaning though, you have to ignore everything around it. Any possible confusion about what Jesus meant is cleared up by simply reading the following verse: “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
Flipping back a few pages in John’s gospel brings even more clarity. John 3:14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
So there you have it. Jesus already has been lifted up. He was lifted up on the cross at Calvary. It's already done. Christ was lifted, he died, and he rose again. Without this lifting, his earthly mission would not have been accomplished. Jesus was lifted up, and ever since then he has drawn all people to himself, just as he said he would.
But let's be clear:
- God is deserving of worship.
- We ought to give him the glory he is due.
- Worship through song has a long established history in Christianity.
- We should not be ashamed to proclaim Jesus' name publicly.
- None of these principles is in play here.
Worship certainly does bring honor to God’s name, but this is not at all what John – or Jesus – had in mind when using the phrase “lift him up”.