Jesus - is He God? An Explanation for Muslims
The question "Is Jesus God?" makes it clear that various people have different opinions on the subject. As will be evident, the Bible presents a clear answer. Muslim misunderstandings concerning it have mainly arisen because Christians at the time of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) had departed from the truth themselves. They took each other's words and opinions as being more important than God's word and even today many of us Christians nullify with our lives what we profess to believe.
A number of liberal, so called Christian scholars, who do not believe in fundamental Christian teachings, confuse thousands if not millions of people today. Many are misled by the great sounding titles those learned men have before and after their names and become blind to the fact that those scholars do not base their teaching on the Bible. It fills me with great sadness to see how much confusion our sins have caused. Since I am one of the scholars, in the sense that I also call myself a Christian, I would like on their behalf to ask your forgiveness for not communicating and living out the Gospel as we should have. May the Lord show mercy on us!
Before we want to have a look at what the Bible has to say on the subject "Is Jesus God?" let us examine the misunderstandings in detail. The Quran speaks out against them and rightly so when it says in Surah 5, Al-Ma'ida, verse 73a:
Indeed, they are disbelievers who say,
"Surely, Allah is none but the Messiah,
son of Mary...."
"Messiah" is one of the titles of Jesus. The Quran is right to speak out against this false teaching which Christians also condemn. The view described in that verse was held by a group called the "Patripassionists" during the early days of Christianity. They identified God with Jesus to the extent that they spoke of the sufferings of the Father.
Whereas Christians say the Messiah is God they do not say that God is the Messiah. It may be asked, "What difference does it make to say "the Messiah is God" or "God is the Messiah?" This will become clear through the following illustration:
It is perfectly right to say that all Ahmadiyyas are Muslims but you would encounter great opposition if you were to say that all Muslims are Ahmadiyyas. The words "God" and "Muslims" are more comprehensive, including more than the words "Jesus" and "Ahmadiyyas." The teachings of Muslims in general and of Ahmadiyyas are essentially the same. Both believe in the five pillars of Islam. However, some aspects of their doctrines are different. Ahmadiyyas would also say that their role within Islam is different from the rest. They understand themselves to be a renewal movement that is very missionary minded.
In a similar way God and Jesus are essentially the same. However their roles are different as is explained in the doctrine of the Trinity. Therefore, the question raised, "How is it possible for God to die on the cross like Jesus did?" is answered accordingly: The essence of God resides in all three aspects of the Trinity. When Jesus died on the cross, the essence of God did not cease to exist or operate during the time between his death and his resurrection. "Furthermore, the spiritual nature of God is such that it does not become less by assuming a human nature in Jesus. In their doctrine of unity, the Muslims tend to conceive of unity as a mathematical unity. According to such thinking one orange plus one orange equals two oranges; three oranges less one orange equals two oranges, et cetera. That is the order of mathematical and material unity. However, the order of spiritual unity is different. God's love does not become less because it is given to people. His essence is not reduced or divided when it abides in the Son and in the Holy Spirit along with the Father. The question, therefore, of what happened to the Godhead while Jesus was in the grave is based on a wrong conception ot the Trinity and the nature of God." ("The Ahamdiyya Doctrine of God" by Henry J. Otten, Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies, Hyderabad, page 99)
Let us look at another misunderstanding that is expressed in Surah 5, Al Ma'ida, verse 117:
And when Allah will say, 'O Jesus, son
of Mary, didst thou say to men, 'Take me
and my mother for two gods beside Allah,'
he will answer, 'Holy art Thou. I could never
say that to which I had nor right...'
Again, the Christians would wholeheartedly support the Quranic outcry against this heresy that was falsely promoted by some Christians during the first few centuries of Christianity. There is not one single verse in the Bible that would support the view that Mary is God!
When reading Quranic verses as quoted before, one easily gets the false impression that a mere man has been made into God. However, the Biblical teaching as we now shall see speaks about the very opposite.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in human flesh! This has already become clear by studying the Trinity. (A free article on this subject is available from the author upon request.) Moreover, there is further evidence to verify that incredible conviction.
1) EVIDENCE TAKEN FROM VERSES THAT SPEAK ABOUT GOD IN ONE PLACE AND REFER TO JESUS IN ANOTHER
In the following list the corresponding extracts from the Bible will be listed one after the other. Those verses which are taken from the Old Testament, the Torah, are even more astonishing since several hundred years had passed until they were referred to Jesus Christ!
For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?
(2 Samuel 22:32)
They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
(1 Corinthians 10:3-4)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I (Isaiah) saw the LORD seated on a throne...And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.
For this is what the LORD says..."Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear."
...that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow,..and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,..
"They will look on me (God), the one they have pierced,...."
Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."
(John 19:31-37, see also Revelation 1:7)
This is what the LORD says-Israel's king and redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last;
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said:"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
They will make war against the Lamb (Jesus, see John1:29), but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings..."
..God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords..."
(1 Timothy 6:15)
2) EVIDENCE TAKEN FROM THE SAYINGS OF CHRIST
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was, I am!"
By saying "I am" and not "I was," Jesus is using the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses! (Exodus 3:14) In this way he expresses his oneness with God and the eternity of his being.
The latter is also alluded to in the next two verses.
And now, Father, glorify me (Jesus) in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Jesus said: "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Then Jesus said to them, "How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."? David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"
Jesus is here quoting from Psalm 110 which was viewed to be a prophecy about the coming Messiah (Christ, the anointed one) by the Jews before the Christian era. Verses from this Psalm are frequently applied to Jesus in the New Testament (Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 1:13, 5:6-10, 7:11-28). Christ is known as the Son of David (Jeremiah 23:5-6) and also as the one whom David called "Lord!" The only answer to Jesus' question as to how this could be, is found in that the Christ is both, God in human flesh since the Old Testament can not contradict itself! The infinite is combined in the finite in much the same way as our eternal souls are united in earthly bodies. (Surah 3, Ali'Imran, verse 185)
"I and the Father are one. Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, becauseyou, a mere man, claim to be God. Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, `I have said you are gods'? If he called them `gods', to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken -
what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.
But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.
The Jews understood correctly that Jesus was not just speaking about being one with the Father in purpose but in essence or nature. Neither is Jesus saying that he and the Father would be identical persons for the Greek construction is neuter, meaning "one thing" not "one person." The context, verses 34-39, shows clearly that Jesus spoke about himself differently than others who were called "gods" in the law, for his audience still wanted to seize him. Firstly, Jesus answered their charge of blasphemy by turning their argument against themselves. Secondly, he sets himself apart as unique from others who were called "gods". Unlike them, he does the works which are only done by his Father. The context of John 17:21 shows that the oneness there has to be understood relationally.
You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
(Matthew 18:20, see also 28:19-20)
Jesus is omnipresent, everywhere, like God.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
(Matthew 28:18, see also John 10:18)
Jesus is omnipotent, all powerful, like God.
3) EVIDENCE FROM JESUS' DIVINE ACTS
Jesus is described as doing things which are exclusively the works of God:
Through him (Jesus) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
He (Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
All the nations will be gathered before him (Jesus), and he will separate the people one from another...Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
( Matthew 25:32,46)
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven. ...Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
I (Jesus) give them eternal life, and they shall never perish...
4) EVIDENCE FROM THE TESTIMONIES OF JESUS' FOLLOWERS
Thomas said to him (Jesus): "My Lord and my God! Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me you have believed...."
Jesus commended him for what he said. If Thomas would have used the words "My Lord and my God" only as a way to express his surprise, Jesus surely would have rebuked him for going against the ten commandments by misusing God's name. (Exodus 20:7)
Then those who where in the boat worshiped him, (Jesus)....
Jesus received worship which is only due to God on many more occasions. (e.g. John 9:38; Matthew 2:11, 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 28:9,17; Luke 24:52)
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours...
(2 Peter 1:1, see also John 1:1,14, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8)
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
(2 Peter 3:18)
In the verses above and other ones (2 Peter 2:20, Titus 2:13) the following rule of Greek grammar followed throughout the old Roman Empire has to be applied and confirms clearly that Jesus is God: "When two nouns in the same case are connected by the Greek word "and" and the first noun is preceded by the article "the," and the second noun is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which the first noun refers, and is a farther description of it." ("Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume III, Book II, by K.S Wuest, Eerdmans, Michigan, page 31)
Jesus said: "You call me `Teacher' and `Lord', and rightly so, for that is what I am.
A further conformation of the Deity of Jesus is found in the fact that the Greek word, "Kyrios," translated "Lord" in 2 Peter 3:18, "was an accepted title of Deity in the terminology of Israel, the Roman empire, and Christianity." ("Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Volume III, Book II, by K.S Wuest, Eerdmans, Michigan, page 32) This profound truth is reflected in that the very common Hebrew name for God , "Jahwe" in the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Old Testament dating from the 3rd century B.C, is also rendered "Kyrios," meaning "Lord!"
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7:59 -60, see also 1 Cor. 1:2
Jesus is addressed in prayer, like God!
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form...
In the light of all these strong evidences one must ask the question, "How is it possible that God can condescend to take on human form? After all, God has no flesh and bones, does not need to eat, He never gets weary, he does not pray, he does not die like Jesus did, who would have ruled the universe while he was dead?
The answer is found in Philippians 2:6-7:
(Jesus) who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
God revealed Himself in Jesus as perfect man. As such he was given birth by his earthly mother Mary, he had a normal human body, and therefore, he naturally felt hungry and weary. In his humanity he could also make statements like,
By myself I can do nothing...
...the Father is greater than I.
In other words, Jesus has two natures; He is fully man and fully God! While walking on earth, God volontarily limited himself to his fully human nature without giving up his deity. He made himself nothing by laying aside his glory (see John 17:5) and by humbling himself to become a human being. As a perfect man he prayed to his Father. What a marvellous, mysterious account! In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read concerning it:
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
Article VIII of the "Formula of Concord" takes up the same subject. Henry Otten summarizes it as follows: "The essence of this Article is that Christ has both a human nature and a divine nature with each nature having the special attributes or characteristics of that nature. The two natures are combined in one person, the person of Jesus, in such a way that the attributes of each nature are not the property of that nature alone, but belong to the entire person. Whenever Jesus performed any action, it was not just one of the natures which acted, but the whole person. Thus it can be said that the person of Jesus was hungry, became weary, and slept, while it can also be said that the person of Jesus "knew what was in man" and stilled the storm on the lake (John 2:25; Matt. 8:26)
Some of the other questions of Muslims can be met by distinguishing between the state of humiliation and the state of exaltation. In his state of humiliation Jesus was a man like other men and was dependent upon the same resource as other people. That was why He was ignorant of the Day of Judgment, could endure suffering, and die, even though He was the Lord of life , and the Word and Wisdom of God. He especially refused to use God's power to save Himself." ("The Ahamdiyya doctrine of God", Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies, Hyderabad, page 100-101)
Some may object by saying it is impossible for God to enter into humanity. But what about the belief that God made himself known through the Quran? Consider also the Ahmadiyya doctrine that God's attributes are manifested in persons. Or think about the story in Surah 20, Ta Ha, verses 11-13, where God speaks to Moses from within the fire? Is there anyhthing impossible for the Lord?
Others may say that God becoming a man in Jesus would somehow be degrading to God. Athanasius, one of the early church fathers answered:
"Does not the mind of man pervade his entire being, and yet find expression through one part only, namely, the tongue? Does any say on that account that the mind has degraded itself?"
("The Incarnation of the Word of God", Mac Millan, New York, 1946, page78)
Athanasius continued: "Some then may ask, why did He not manifest Himself by means of other and nobler parts of creation, and use some nobler instrument, such as sun, or moon or stars or fire or air, instead of mere man? The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dewll here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it." (Ibid)
Among all the the founders of the main religions in this world Jesus is the only one that claimed to be God in human flesh! In Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism the teachings, not the teacher are most important. However, when it comes to Christianity we find Jesus Christ, the teacher, not his teaching at its very centre!
Whereas others teach about the way that leads to truth and life, Jesus does more and makes this incredible statement:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Why is Christianity so unique? Because Jesus Christ is the only teacher that demonstrated all his teachings in a perfect way. Naturally, if Jesus is God in human flesh it follows that he is sinless. Both the Bible (1 Peter 1:19, 2:22; 1 John 2:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), the Quran (Surah 19, Maryam, verse 20) and the Hadith (Mishkat, book XXIII, chapter XII) confirm this truth. It is universally accepted by Christians and all Muslims except the Ahmadiyyas.
Furthermore Christianity is unique among all religions because it teaches, based on the Jewish Old Testament scriptures, that all men are sinners by nature. He does not just become a sinner if and when he commits a sinful act.
The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
"Never again will I (God) curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.
Surely I (David) was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.
The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human beings are incapable of doing anything good (Romans 2:14 and Acts 10:31). However, it means that we commit wrong things inevitably, unavoidably, because it is our nature to do wrong. From the polluted spring of our hearts flow streams of contaminated behavior.
Someone may say, "Well, the Bible has been changed, these verses must have been corrupted." There are numerous reasons why this can not be the case as explained in the articles, "The History of the Quran and the Injil," and, "Quran confirms: Bible has not been changed." For now it shall be sufficient to ask the question why anyone should be interested in changing the above mentioned verses for the worse? Would it not be much better to stress that human beings are not that bad after all? To change the already desperate fact that basically good people commit sins into saying that men's nature is already corrupted by sin at his birth, renders him completely helpless. For someone who is basically good and occasionally does wrong there is hope that his good deeds will cover the bad ones. However, to be born as a sinner leaves no hope at all unless God himself intervenes.
Someone else may object, "the Christians have changed theses verses in order to justify that Jesus is God who became a man and died for our sins on the cross." The problem with this view is that it ignores the fact that the teaching of original sin is firmly rooted in the Scriptures of the Jews which are part of the Christian Bible. So far not many of them believe in Jesus as their savior. Why and how would they have changed these verses?
Let us look at the doctrine of original sin, that man is born with a sinful nature from a practical point of view.
Those among us who have children shall consider this question: "Do we need to teach our children how to do good or how to to bad?" Being a father of three children myself I can emphatically say, "of course, I need to teach my children to do good things, because the bad things they do automatically, they come to them very naturally, inevitably, unavoidably!" I am absolutely sure that my experience is shared by all other parents.
Furthermore, I have been a Christian for about fifteen years and the more I follow God the more I recognize my own sinfulness. Not that God would not have changed my lifestyle drastically. To his glory and his honor I can say that he has changed me for the better. But in the light of his holiness and of his justice the contents of Isaiah 64:6 have become very vivid in my life. There we read,
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
He who follows God faithfully and regularly suddenly realizes that even many of his his good acts are like filthy rags before the Almighty one.
Where does the doctrine of original sin come from? We all have inherited it from the first people who sinned. In Genesis 2:15-17 we read:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
As we read on in the account it becomes clear that when Adam and Eve sinned they did not immediately die. God obviously was referring to their spiritual state. Their nature, their essence became evil and as such they died in the sense that God who is Holy and Just could not have a relationship with them anymore. And so it is up until today.
Muslims object to the fact that man has inherited sin from Adam even though modern, non Christian thinkers, like Sigmund Freud support this view.
What do different religions offer in order to get forgiveness of this terrible disease called sin? They basically command us to believe in God and to do good works? Christianity again is unique in that it says we have to believe in what God has done in Jesus and out of thankfulness do good works.
Can you see the subtle difference that has an incredible impact? Even the devil believes God exists (James) but that does not save him! In no other religion God has done something himself in order to save men from their sins. In that incredible truth lies the reason why God became a man in Jesus.
The Bible (Leviticus 11:45) and the Quran (Surah 59, Al Hashr, verse 23) tell us that God is holy. That means He is separated from anything that is unclean, bad, and hypocritical, in other words from anything that is sin. The Bible (Isaiah 59:1-2) tells us that sin separates man from God. Therefore, sin is not just a minor mistake, but absolutely intolerable in the sight of God!
Another reason why sin has to be treated seriously, is because God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Surah 95, Al Tin, verse 8). The wages for sin is death according to God's law. Once a person is dead he can not do anything, he is completely helpless. That becomes clear by the fact that God will not judge according to our good or bad works alone (Romans 3:23-24, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 45). He loves us so much (John 3:16) that in His mercy he chooses to forgive our sins. But if He would forgive our sins without punishment, then in His mercy He would become unjust!
That is why God revealed Himself in Jesus and died on the cross for our sins. In Jesus God met the requirements of His justice and of His love! Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, for our sin. In Deuteronomy 21:23 anyone who hangs on a tree is described as being sinful and under God's curse. Galatians 3:13 explains that Jesus, himself without sin, became a curse for us because he took our sin on himself.
After paying the penalty for sin through His death, Jesus rose again. Consequently The death and resurrection of Jesus are of the utmost importance for Christians!
That is why Jesus was able to say in Matthew 11:28-30:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Will you accept his invitation and come to him in prayer? Will you confess your sins to him and ask him for forgiveness? Your eternal life in heaven depends on it!
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