Exclusive and Universal Truth
The first difference is that worshipping Jesus as God introduces exclusive and universal truth.
In John 14:6, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples after Jesus ascended and they started to preach in the book of Acts, they would say, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we might be saved.”
If Jesus is God, it introduces something exclusive, but also something universal. And what I mean by exclusive is that it is actually truth, real truth – not that you have “your truth” and I have “my truth.”
I’ve told my kids, “Don’t ever try to use the “this is my truth” thing on me because that’s not going anywhere. Your truth… my truth… this is the Jesus truth. The Jesus who is over and above all things. It’s exclusive, and that’s really uncomfortable in our society today, just as it was really uncomfortable in the society of the first followers of Jesus.
Rome was pluralistic. Rome would accommodate any number of gods, could have easily treated Jesus as an add-on. But when you treat Jesus as exclusive, as in, “I’m not going to worship your gods, I’m only going to worship this One, through Jesus”, that becomes exclusive.
It’s also universal, which means that because it’s exclusive, it’s not okay to say, “Hey, your truth is good for you, and my truth is good for me.” It doesn’t allow that. If Jesus is God, then His truth is universal.
It’s not just my own local truth. It’s actually true for everybody, whether they know it or not. And that’s what inspires the first disciples to go out and tell people the Good News about Jesus, because if it wasn’t universal, if it didn’t really matter, then they shouldn’t have had to bother. But it’s exclusive and universal.