Jesus the Son of the Living God
The Deity of Jesus Christ in the Bible
3.1 The Quranic Rejection of Jesus Deity
Muslim: The Quran is quite emphatic in denying that Jesus is the Son of God. He was only a prophet just like all the other prophets who went before him. If Jesus is the Son of God, who was Gods wife? You speak a great blasphemy against Allah.
What to Christians is the foundation of their belief – that Jesus Christ is Gods own Son who alone could redeem us from our sins and take us into heaven – is to the Muslims one of the greatest expressions of unbelief and the one which, more than any other, is likely to keep them out of heaven. It is crucial to recognise this. In fact the distance between Christians and Muslims on the person of Jesus is the greatest factor driving Christianity and Islam apart. The greatest stumbling-block to bringing Muslims to Christ is the flat rejection of his deity in the Quran.
Allah has Taken Neither a Wife nor a Son
In the last chapter we saw that the Quran misrepresents the Trinity as a family of Allah, Mary and Jesus. On this subject, namely Jesus as the Son of God, the Quran takes it to mean that Allah must have taken a wife to himself to have a son. It seems Muhammad was unable to consider the title in anything but finite, human terms. The Quran says:
Creator of the heavens and the earth! How can he have a son when he has no consort? Surah 6:101
And glorious is the majesty of our Lord – he has taken neither a consort nor a son! Surah 72:3
It seems that Muhammad understood this doctrine purely in a carnal sense and could not see what Muslims need to know, namely that the spiritual relationship between them is the same as that of a father to a son. Three main principles are involved here:
1. The Same Essence of Being
Just as fathers and sons on earth are both human and have the same essential being, so in heaven the Father and Son are both divine. The Son took human form at a point in history and became the man Jesus Christ. The Father never took to himself a Son, they were so from all eternity and will always remain so.
2. The Authority of the Father
Although the same in essence, the Father has authority over the Son just as on earth sons, though as human as their fathers, submit to their control over their lives. That is why, when on earth, Jesus could assume a relationship of master and servant as well, just as sons in their fathers businesses submit to their rule and lordship.
3. His Affection Towards His Son
While a father has authority over his son, he nonetheless will feel a greater affinity with him than he does with any servant and all he has will eventually be passed on to the son. Although the Son could do nothing of his own accord but only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19), nonetheless the Father has a special love for the Son (John 5:20) and reveals all his purposes to him, intending one day to delegate his authority to him so that all the earth will honour the Son in the same way it honours the Father (John 5:22-23).
This is what the Bible means when it says that Jesus is the Son of God. The issue is relational in an eternal, spiritual context. It is not a carnal, earthly one as the Quran supposes.
The Great Unpardonable Sin in Islam
To Muhammad the belief in Jesus as the Son of God appeared to be parallel to the pagan Arab belief that many of their idols, such as Al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, were the "daughters of Allah". Idolatry, per se, was to the Prophet of Islam an act of blasphemy, ascribing as it did partners to Allah which was unthinkable and an affront to the very glory of his being. The problem seems to have arisen from the environment Muhammad found himself in. When dealing with the Arab concept, he attacked the contradictory nature of their convictions. They believed, after all, that the birth of a daughter was a cause of grief and shame (Surah 16:58-59). How then could they believe that Allah would take only daughters to himself while giving them sons according to their preferences (Surah 43:16)! With the Christians, however, he contented himself with simply emphatically denying that Jesus is the Son of God in verses like these:
And the Christians say that the Messiah is the Son of Allah. These are the words from their mouths. They but imitate the sayings of those who disbelieved before. Qaatalahumullaah – Allahs curse be upon them! How they are turned away! Surah 9:30
They say Allah has taken a son. Subhaanah – Glory to Him! He is Self-Sufficient! All that is in the heavens and the earth is his! You have no justification for this. How can you say of Allah what you do not know? Surah 10:68
These are very strong denunciations. Muhammad thought it compromised the glory of God to say he had a Son whereas, according to the Bible, the revelation of his grace, mercy and kindness in giving his Son to die for us is the greatest proof of his glory! Christians need to emphasise this great truth in their witness with Muslims as they are very conscious of the need to honour his glory above all else.
The great tragedy of the denial of Jesus deity in the Quran is the fact that it is identified with the greatest of all sins in Islam – ascribing partners to Allah. As we have seen in the previous chapter this sin is unforgivable in Islam, indeed it is the only unforgivable sin according to the Quran (Surah 4:48), and will keep a Muslim out of Jannat al-Firdaus (the Gardens of Paradise) forever. The Apostle John wrote to the Christians of his day, encouraging them in the knowledge that they had eternal life in believing in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13). In his Gospel he plainly taught that all who do not believe in his name are already condemned and that only those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God will be saved (John 3:18). What to the Christian is the only door to heaven is, to the Muslim, the one sure step into the abyss!
The Quran argues that, as Allah has no partners, he cannot have taken to himself a son. In one place it does not seem to teach that it is absolutely impossible for him to have a Son but rather that "it is not befitting to him to do so" (Surah 19:35). The issue seems to be one of what glorifies him and here the Christian has his opening for witness. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God in a way it might otherwise never have been known:
1. The Greatest Display of Gods Love for the World
We have already looked at this subject in the last chapter. Islam has no parallel to the example of Gods sacrificial love in giving what was dearest to him, his own Son to die for our salvation. If he is prepared to give so much for us we can be sure that he will eventually give us all things with him (Romans 8:32).
2. A Perfect Example of Gods own Humble Spirit
It is freely acknowledged by Muslims that pride is an ugly thing, a character defect. Who is to say that, if God is so concerned to maintain his own glory above all of his creation all the time (as the Quran seems to teach), he did not create it purely to lord himself over it? When the Son of God came to earth we were able to witness the wondrous humility of God. Although he had a divine form by right, the Son did not proudly grasp at his equality with the Father but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant in becoming a human being. Moreover, he did not stop there but humbled himself further, becoming obedient to death, even such a shameful demise as death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible plainly teaches that God has a day against all that is proud and lofty, haughtily lifted up and high (Isaiah 2:12), and that he dwells rather with those who are of a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15). It is only through the Son of God that this aspect of Gods glory can be truly known and experienced.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We have no apology to make to the Muslim world for this belief, only a message of glorious good news to proclaim. When Muslims raise the issue of his deity, look for every means you can to turn their arguments into an opportunity to testify of Gods great love for them as it is revealed in Christ.
3.2 The Son of God in a Metaphorical Sense?
Muslim: Even if Jesus did call himself the Son of God, it was only in a metaphorical sense. We are all children of God and your Bible more than once calls all believers "the sons of God". You have taken this too far by making him the eternal Son of God.
It is a common argument among Muslims. As Ulfat Aziz-us-Samad has said, Jesus may be called a son of God in the sense in which all righteous human beings can be called the children of God, but not in a literal or unique sense. Often scriptural passages are presented to prove the point.
Biblical Usage of the Term "Sons of God"
Muslims usually base their argument around the following passage, though others from the Bible are often presented as well:
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, You are blaspheming because I said I am the Son of God?" John 10:34-36
The Muslims argue that, by quoting Psalm 82:6 where all believers are also called "sons of the Most High", Jesus was saying no more than that he too was one of the children of God. The important thing here is the implied admission by Muslims that Jesus did call himself the Son of God in one or other sense. When Muslims argue that he only assumed the title in a symbolic or metaphorical sense, Christians should immediately place them on terms to admit that he did use the title for himself in some form. Their argument has no substance without this admission. Thereafter the discussion can be focused on the actual sense in which he used it.
The Bible says that God, speaking of Solomon, declared "I will be his father, and he will be my son" (1 Chronicles 17:13) and it also speaks of Adam as "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). All Christian believers, led by the Spirit of God, are said to be "the sons of God" (Romans 8:14). In other passages similar expressions are used. As Ahmed Deedat has often said, "According to the Bible God has sons by the tons!". It is indeed a fair and valid question on the Muslims part to enquire why Jesus Christ should be regarded as the Son of God in an eternal and absolute sense alone.
Before answering it, however, one point needs to be made here. When Muslims argue that "we are all the children of God" they are going against the Quran which expressly states that Allah has "neither sons or daughters" in any form (Surah 6:100). It is only in the Christian Bible that the possibility of becoming Gods children and knowing him as Father appears. This is solely because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has made this possible by laying down his life for our redemption.
Jesus: The Eternal Son of God
A Christian, in witness to Muslims, must know at least some of the main evidences that Jesus taught that he was the Son of God in a unique and absolute sense. For example, when he was brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin the night of his arrest, after the chief priests could find nothing against him, the High Priest Caiaphas stood up and emphatically asked him "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?". He replied equally unambiguously "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:61-62). The High Priest tore his robes, charging him with blasphemy. His question was not "Are you one of the children of God?". If it was, the answer could not have occasioned a charge of blasphemy. Everyone knew exactly what the issue was – did he claim to be the Son of God, the eternal Son of the Blessed? Jesus answer could hardly be misrepresented – he did!
There are numerous passages which make it quite plain why the High Priest believed he was claiming to be the only, eternal Son of God. The following statement is a typical proof:
No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27
Likewise, when Jesus said that the Father has given all judgment to the Son so that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father (John 5:22), it is impossible to see how such a claim to be the Son of God could have been made in a lesser or metaphorical sense. It is also very useful to quote the two occasions when God himself, speaking from heaven of Jesus, declared "This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17, 17:5). Nonetheless it is in a parable of Jesus that I have found the most effective proof that he was not just a prophet like those who preceded him but was the unique Son of God. It is the Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-43, Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-18). A number of servants were sent by the owner of the vineyard to collect his fruits but they took one, stoned another and killed another. When he sent still more they did the same, beating some, wounding others and killing the rest. The climax is reached in these words:
He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, They will respect my son. But those tenants said to one another, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours. And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. Mark 12:6-8
The interpretation of the parable is obvious – God had sent numerous servants to his people in their own promised land, namely the prophets, but they mistreated them and rejected them in various ways. As Peter said on another occasion, "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?" (Acts 7:52). Finally he had sent his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, whom he predicted they would kill – a clear prophecy of his coming crucifixion. The contrast between the great prophets of old as nothing more than the servants of God, and the last messenger as the unique, beloved Son, cannot be mistaken. It is the whole thrust of the parable.
There are many other passages which can be used to show that Jesus Christ claimed to be the unique Son of God and never used the title for himself in a metaphorical or symbolic sense.
3.3 Biblical Limitations on the Son of God
Muslim: If Jesus is the eternal Son of God, why did he so often speak of the Father as greater than he was in power, authority and knowledge? Surely, if he was divine as you claim, he should have been equally omnipotent and omniscient.
Few Christians outside of Muslim evangelism have faced one of the most challenging arguments that Muslims often produce, namely that Jesus could not have been the eternal Son of God if he was limited in power and knowledge as many of his statements seem to suggest.
The Knowledge and Power of Jesus
Three passages are often quoted by Muslims to prove their point. They all appear to limit his authority and status and we will consider each one in turn. In each case it will be seen that a very effective witness to the glory of Jesus can be given in reply to their arguments.
1. Divine Facts not Known to Jesus
Muslims reason that if Jesus, as the Son of God, was the second person of the divine Trinity, he should have known all things. If God is omniscient, he should also have had a universal knowledge. The following verse appears to undermine this assumption:
But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Matthew 24:36
How could Jesus have been omniscient if he denied knowledge of the exact hour of judgment? The important thing is to see where Jesus places himself in the categories he mentions. No man knows the hour, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. There is clearly an ascending scale. Jesus places himself exclusively above all men and angels, relating himself solely in a divine context to the Lord of all the earth, defining himself in intimate terms – the Son of the Father. All that can be concluded is that, despite such a high status, it is possible for the Father, the eternal source of all things to whom both the Son and Spirit are subject, to decree the final Day without disclosing the exact time to anyone else. The limitation on the Son of God does not undermine his deity – it merely indicates a special definition of it.
2. An Inability to do Anything without the Father
Just as Jesus does not appear to be omniscient, so there appears to be a challenge to his omnipotence in the following verses:
The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing ... I can do nothing on my own authority. John 5:19,30
Once again, as soon as one looks at the context of these statements (which seem to indicate that Jesus was powerless in himself), it becomes clear that we are only dealing with an explanation of his relationship to the Father, not of a denial of his deity. Jesus goes on to say in the first statement "For whatever he does, that the Son does likewise". It is only a question again of subjection to the Fathers authority. When it comes to the actual power to do what the Father does, Jesus claimed equal power to do whatever he does – a clear proof of his deity – and states that he only does what the Father does, a natural action when the two are one in a single Divine Being.
3. A Declaration of the Fathers Superior Greatness
The third verse commonly used to prove limitations on the Son of God from his own statements is this one:
If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. John 14:28
Muslims fasten on to this statement as a proof of Jesus humility in acknowledging Gods superior greatness to man, a declaration one might have expected from any true prophet. The fact is – no other prophet ever made such a declaration. In fact, were any ordinary man to make it, it would be close to blasphemy. While it is a statement of limitation, it is also an awesome claim to greatness on Jesus part! To have to actually inform his disciples that the Father, ultimately, is indeed greater than he is a clear sign that he held a great regard for his own greatness! Once again he measures himself on a divine level alone, relating himself solely to the Father. The limitation is purely in his role as the Son of God.
It is important to recognise that there is a limitation on the Son of God, one placed there in the sayings of Jesus himself. Too often Christians fall into the trap of proclaiming over-simplistic dogmatics, such as "We believe Jesus is God". Muslims will ask in return, "If Jesus is your God, will he ever forsake you?" to which the Christian might triumphantly proclaim "Never! He has promised I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)". The Muslim will then play his trump card: "Well, it is just as well that your god Jesus will not forsake you. Unfortunately his God forsook him: My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46). You pray to your god Jesus, but he prayed to his God and not very successfully. How can you expect us to believe in him?"
This is what happens when Christians are not careful in witness with Muslims or make bold statements that sound convincing purely because of the ease with which they can be emphatically stated, but are not entirely true. Jesus is the Son of God, a title which immediately implies a limitation upon him. The heart of what the Bible teaches about Jesus is this, namely that while the eternal Son is a divine personality in a Triune Being, he nevertheless is subject to the Fathers authority and so, when on earth, could easily assume in human form a servant-master relationship. Son-to-Father simply became expressed as Man-to-God. In this unique person men can come to know God face-to-face for he who has seen the Son has seen the Father also (John 14:9). Yet likewise we see in Jesus a man like ourselves, able to assume our position and eventually bring us to eternal glory as the sons and daughters of God just as he is by nature the eternal Son of God. The more one understands this, the greater Gods glory in Christ is revealed. We need to focus on this glorious truth in our witness to Muslims: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
3.4 The Unique Sinlessness of Jesus
Muslim: In what way was Jesus different to all the other messengers of Allah? They were all true to their task and taught their people only what Allah commanded them to say. The Quran does not distinguish between Jesus and the other prophets.
One of the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith is the unique sinlessness of Jesus Christ. Being the eternal Son of God he had no blemishes, committed no sins, and maintained the perfect standard of divine righteousness in all he said and did. Had he been a sinner like all other men (prophets included), he could not have redeemed us from our iniquities. Very interestingly, and perhaps unintentionally, Islams original sources confirm this uniqueness. It is a crucial point in our witness to Jesus as the Son of God.
The Blamelessness of Jesus in the Quran and Hadith
The virgin-birth of Jesus is confirmed in the Quran in two narratives (Surahs 3:41-48, 19:16-34). According to the second passage, when Mary his mother was first told of her conception by the angel whom God had sent to her, she expressed surprise at the vision. The angel answered her:
I am only a messenger of your Lord (announcing) the gift of a holy son. Surah 19:19
The word used for "holy" in this verse is zakiyya, a word with the root meaning "purity" (as in zakat, the "pure" Muslim charity). In the particular form of the word used here the meaning is blameless and it is used in the same context in the only other place where it appears in the Quran. The book has a story about Moses and a journey he took with a young companion said in Islamic tradition to have been Al-Khidr – "the Green One" – a mysterious figure believed to appear to prophets and Sufi masters at various times. When Al-Khidr suddenly slew a young man without apparent reason Moses exclaimed:
Have you slain an innocent person who had not slain another? Surah 18:74
The companion told him to be silent about things he knew nothing about. Once again the word used for "innocent" is zakiyyah. In this passage it means someone blameless of any crime deserving death but in the case of Jesus it is a general description of his whole personality and character. It can only mean sinless and it makes Jesus the only messenger of God in the Quran to be expressly so described. As we have seen earlier in this book the Quran confirms the Biblical teaching that all the other prophets had sins and failings of their own.
The Quranic teaching about the unique sinlessness of Jesus is supported by a remarkable tradition in one of the major works of Islamic tradition literature. It reads:
The Prophet said, "No child is born but that, Satan touches it when it is born whereupon it starts crying loudly because of being touched by Satan, except Mary and her son". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p. 54).
In this statement Muhammad clearly distinguished Jesus from all other human beings, prophets included, in being affected by Satans touch from the moment of his birth. It is important to know these passages from the Quran and Hadith as they help Christians to witness effectively to Muslims of the unique perfection of their Saviours character.
The Sinless Perfection of Jesus in the Bible
There are numerous passages in the Christian Bible which testify to the perfect sinlessness of Jesus but it is enough to know the most emphatic and prominent statements to this effect. The first is:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
The New Testament often contrasts the perfect holiness of Jesus with our sinfulness, supplementing it with the wondrous truth that he took the consequences of our wickedness on himself so that we might share his righteousness. It is the essence and heart of the Christian Gospel, contrasting with Islams teaching that sin does not necessarily alienate man from God and make the intervention of a Saviour necessary. Another text which brings out this principle very plainly is:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24
There are two other passages in the New Testament which state emphatically that Jesus had no sin. Each one confirms the uniqueness of his holy personality in contrast with the rest of mankind, no one excepted. The two verses are:
For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15
You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 1 John 3:5
Islam has made many attempts to undermine the uniqueness of Jesus, in particular its teachings that Muhammad was also a sinless prophet and that he performed many miracles. Neither of these has any foundation in the Quran (in fact they are totally contrary to Quranic teaching – Surahs 47:19, 17:90-93), but they have become popular because of the Muslim desire to try and prove that Muhammad was at least the equal of Jesus Christ.
In fact the announcement to Mary that she was to have a blameless son must be considered in its context. She had conceived a child without male intervention. Why? The angels answer to her is effectively this: "You have experienced a unique conception because there is something very unique about him. He is the holy Son of God and, being eternal and without blemish, it is not possible that he could have been procreated in the normal manner". The Christian faith gives a very clear explanation of both the virgin-birth and the perfect sinlessness of Jesus. Islam, with its determination to reduce Jesus to the level of common prophethood (if I may use the expression to emphasise the contrast), can offer no such explanation other than to say it was simply an expression of the will and power of Allah.
3.5 Old Testament Prophecies of his Deity
Muslim: Abraham, Moses and David were all great prophets and no different to Jesus. To this day the Jews like us cannot accept the idea that God has a Son or that a man can also be God. What proof do you have for this?
Contrary to what Muslims suppose, there are numerous evidences that the prophets prior to Jesus knew that a great Messiah was coming and that he would be far greater than all the messengers of God before him.
Jesus and the Prophets Before Him
In his own teaching Jesus Christ spoke of many of the leading patriarchs and prophets before him and confirmed that they all foresaw his coming and knew he would be greater than them.
1. Abraham who Foresaw the Day of Jesus
When Jesus was debating one day with the Jewish leaders and Pharisees they made much of the fact that they were descended from the great patriarch Abraham and that he was their father (John 8:33,39). When Jesus stated that if anyone kept his word he would never see death, they responded:
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be? John 8:53
This passage is very important in the context of Muslim evangelism. The Muslims likewise believe Jesus was no greater than the other prophets but the Jews, from his own teaching, certainly got the impression that he was claiming to be superior to them all. How did Jesus respond? He said:
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day, he saw it and was glad ... Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. John 8:56,58
Jesus made it plain that he was far greater than Abraham. The patriarch died because he was no different to any other man, but because Jesus is the eternal Son of God, he pre-existed Abraham in an eternal present state which ultimately knows no past or future: "Before Abraham was, I AM!" (cf. Matthew 22:32 where Jesus said the same about God and Abraham).
2. Jacob and the Water of Eternal Life
Jacob was another prophet who was held in great esteem, especially by the Samaritans who regarded him as their great patriarch. Jacobs well was just outside the city of Sychar in Samaria and this perennial source of water in the desert was regarded as Jacobs great legacy to them. When Jesus one day told a Samaritan woman at the well that he could give her living water, she asked him:
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle? John 4:12
As the Jews had asked "Are you greater than our father Abraham?" so this Samaritan asked "Are you greater than our father Jacob?" In each case the question focused on the great patriarch of their people. Again Jesus confirmed that he was purely because, being the eternal Son of God, he could give her living water from which she would never thirst, a well which would spring up within her to eternal life (John 4:14).
3. Moses who Wrote of Jesus
On another occasion we read that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus because he called God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18). They had set their hope on Moses, the great lawgiver, and declared that they knew that God had spoken to Moses, but as for this man Jesus they proclaimed they had no idea where he came from (John 9:29). After a discourse in which Jesus again claimed that he was the eternal Son of God and that no one honoured the Father unless he likewise honoured the Son, he concluded with these words:
If you believed Moses you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? John 5:46-47
Once again Jesus claimed to be superior to Moses in a context where he contrasted his divine power and character with the limited power of the prophet who had preceded him. As Abraham had foreseen his day, so Moses had written of him. Once again the focus fell on a great Messianic figurehead to come.
4. David who Called Jesus his Lord
One last prophet needs to be mentioned. In another argument with the Jews Jesus, having answered all their questions, challenged them to identify the coming Messiah – whose son was he? They responded "the son of David" to which he replied:
How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand till I put your enemies under your feet? If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son? Matthew 22:43-45
Jesus, in his revelation to John on the Isle of Patmos, gave the answer: "I am the root and the offspring of David" (Revelation 22:16). He was indeed the son of David by direct descent from him but, because he is also the eternal son of God, he was Davids root and his Lord. Thus he was also greater than David.
All these passages help to show how, in the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, the deity of Jesus was foreseen and honoured. Abraham had rejoiced that he was to see his day, Moses had written of him, and David had called him his Lord. All these great men had turned solely to Jesus as the great Messiah to come, one who had pre-existed them all, who alone could give the water of eternal life, and who likewise was their Lord and Saviour. Use these great themes in answering any Muslim argument that Jesus was no more than a prophet like those who had preceded him.
3.6 "Flesh and Blood have not Revealed This"
Muslim: Show me one place where Jesus said "I am God" and I will believe it. Prove to me that Jesus was the Son of God and I will accept it. All your arguments thusfar have failed to convince me. Why can you not prove this to my satisfaction?
I have quoted from an actual conversation with a Muslim in Durban, South Africa, many years ago. Christians who have worked in Muslim evangelism have often been frustrated and sometimes confused at the inability of Muslims to see the light even when it shines right before their eyes. I recall another incident where two of us were in a Muslim home with about seven Muslims, engrossed in a two-hour conversation on the subject of whether Jesus was the Son of God or not. I gave every proof I knew and, when we reached our car just as we were leaving, one of the young Muslim men said to me "You know I have to agree with you. It seems Jesus really did believe and preach that he was the Son of God". I was encouraged by this testimony, only for him to add "But if he did, I think he was wrong". You just cannot win sometimes!
Perceiving that Jesus is the Son of God
Numerous Christians, brought up on a diet of Christian teaching through Sunday Schools and other Bible-training methods, freely believe that Jesus is the Son of God without further ado – and often without knowing why they believe it. It seems that what children are taught they easily accept. Get into conversation with a Muslim, however, who may present some of the cutting arguments we have considered against the deity of Jesus, and the Christian may soon find he cannot justify or explain what he really believes and why.
For Muslims, brought up on the teachings that God has no partner, that Jesus being a man could not be the Son of God, and that the Trinity makes no sense, turning around and believing in Jesus as the second person of a Triune Being takes some doing. I learnt many years ago that you simply cannot hope to persuade Muslims to believe in the Gospel by human reasoning alone. A divinely-inspired insight is necessary and I replied as such to the Muslim who posed the above questions to me. I turned to the following question Jesus put to his disciples:
Who do men say that the Son of man is? Matthew 16:13
Jesus had been with his disciples for some time, teaching the masses, healing diseases and infirmities, and doing many mighty works among them. They answered that the people believed he was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. The common impression was that he was a prophet – which one, they were not sure, but one of the prophets nonetheless. After all he looked very little different to the others – a man without wealth proclaiming the Word of God and proving it with attendant signs like Moses, Elijah and Elisha before him.
When Jesus asked them, however, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter exclaimed "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). What he was in effect saying is "the people say you are a prophet but I say you are more, you are the Son of God". Why did he say this? Had he, because of his closer association with Jesus, seen and heard things to guide him more perceptively to the truth? The answer of Jesus to Peter is very significant:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:17
No, Peter had not worked it out for himself. God the Father had revealed to him who Jesus really was. We must never forget that we are only witnesses to Gods truth in Muslim evangelism and that the work of enlightenment and conversion belongs to the Holy Spirit. So I told the Muslim enquirer that I could not prove that Jesus was the Son of God if he was determined not to believe this anyway. Only if he had an open mind which God could inspire would he see this truth.
The Gospel – Gods Revelation of Himself
Nonetheless, as Christians, we must do our part and testify to the truth. The Bible clearly states that faith only comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and we need to proclaim it and make a defence of it whenever called upon to do so. On this subject the question is not: "How can God become man or be contained within flesh and blood?" Once we admit that anything is possible to God the relevant question becomes "What has God revealed about himself?" The question, again, is not whether God can be confined in human form, it is purely whether humanity can bear the divine image. When he was on earth Jesus Christ manifested every one of Gods perfect attributes to the full. That is why he said "He who sees me sees him who sent me" (John 12:45). In no way was Gods divine character blurred while Jesus walked among men. On the contrary the fulness of Gods love, kindness, grace and forgiveness were only finally revealed when his Son Jesus laid down his life so that we might be forgiven and live for ever.
The Quran, speaking of the occasion when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce to her the conception of a son without male intervention, says:
Then we sent to her our spirit which appeared to her as a man in all respects. Surah 19:17
The Quran itself freely admits that God sends his angels, who are spirit in form (ruh), in the exact likeness of human appearance. Why then cannot the Son of God, who is likewise spirit in form, not take actual human form? There is no reasonable argument against the possibility. In another place the Quran says:
Say, "If there were, settled on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent them down from the heavens an angel for an apostle". Surah 17:95
If, therefore, God would send an angelic messenger to angels on earth, would he not, if he wished personally to live among his people and redeem them from their sins, have likewise chosen to take the form of a human messenger? After all the Bible says that when God first created us he declared "Let us make man in our own image" (Genesis 1:26). If so, it must be obvious that the same human form can bear the image of God.
Jesus is indeed the Son of God. We must never be reserved about this great eternal truth. On the contrary we must set it forth before the Muslim world as effectively as we can – and pray that Gods Holy Spirit will give the inner light to perceive it.
Facing the Muslim Challenge [Table of Contents]
Materials by John Gilchrist
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