Managing Editor: David Sper
Cover Photo: Michael Forrest
©1995 RBC Ministries--Grand Rapids, MI 49555 Printed in USA
The Muslim mission began among Arabs of the Middle East. Today, worshipers of Allah are praying for the Islamic conversion of America. They are active in our inner cities and on college campuses. They are changing the names of high-profile athletes and turning churches into mosques.
Islam encourages followers to listen to Jesus, Muhammad, and the prophets who preceded them. But what happens when Jesus is measured by the standards of Islam, and Muhammad is measured by the standards of Jesus? It is our prayer that the following pages will help many to see both Muhammad and Jesus in light of the Scriptures they affirm.
Martin R. De Haan II, president of RBC Ministries.
Table of Contents
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Heb. 1:1-3 NIV).
About 600 years after these words were written, a man named Muhammad agreed with the Bible in saying that God had spoken through a long series of prophets. Muhammad affirmed that over many centuries God had spoken through Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, Ezekiel, David, Solomon, Jonah, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. But Muhammad went a step further. He taught his followers to believe that God had more to say. And in the years that followed, he began to teach a message he said was given to him by the angel Gabriel. Today this teaching is found in the pages of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, and is embraced by one-fifth of the world's population.
Muhammad walked in the legacy of Jesus. As Jesus was a Jewish descendant of Abraham through Isaac, Muhammad was an Arab descendant of Abraham through Ishmael. As Jesus before him, Muhammad confronted a generation that had lost touch with its ancestral roots. Both told their followers to make the ultimate sacrifice for God. Both described a war that was being fought for the hearts and minds of lost and empty people.
Muslim and Christian faiths both have some of the same problems. Both have been damaged by the violent or unethical actions of members who have not lived up to the teachings of their leaders.
But there are differences. Muhammad promised immortality to those who die in behalf of Allah. Jesus offered paradise to a poor criminal who in his dying moment said, "'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise'" (Lk. 23:42-43 NIV).
Jesus' promise to the thief on the cross was not an exceptional case in the message of the prophets. The Bible goes as far back as the prophet Abraham to illustrate God's willingness to offer undeserved help to troubled people:
What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:3-5 NIV).
The story of Abraham laid a foundation for the same experience of grace that Jesus eventually offered to the thief on the cross. The New Testament says to those who have believed in the gospel of Christ, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God---not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV).
God tested Abraham's faith by asking him to make a human sacrifice of his son. It was a critical moment in the history of the prophets. God showed His right to ask for absolute surrender. In a manner that became an example for us, Abraham prepared to surrender that which he loved most in life. On the top of Mount Moriah he tied up his son and placed him on a sacrificial altar.
At the last moment God intervened and directed Abraham's attention to a ram tangled in nearby bushes. God provided a sacrifice, which Abraham offered in the place of his own son.
One thousand years later, the prophets David and Solomon selected that same mountain on which to build a house of sacrifice. Then after another thousand years, God's Messiah made the mountain of Abraham the place of another sacrifice. According to the New Testament, God again used Mount Moriah to prove His love for us. This time, however, He made a human sacrifice of His own Son to pay for our sins. The Bible says that by that act God fulfilled His original promise to Abraham, that through one of his descendants all the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3).
Because the New Testament views Messiah's sacrifice as having no equal, the biblical writers warn anyone who might be inclined to forget the significance of God's provision. So, the Scriptures urge:
We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him (Heb. 2:1-3).
Table of Contents
Both Jesus and Muhammad said they spoke in behalf of the God who in many times and ways had spoken through the prophets. Jesus claimed an absolute relationship between Himself and the written Scriptures when He said:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Mt. 5:17-18 NIV).
Later, Muhammad affirmed the Old and New Testament prophets who preceded him. An English paraphrase of the Koran declares, "[Allah] has revealed to you the Book [the Koran] with the truth, confirming the scriptures which preceded it; for He has already revealed the Torah and the Gospel for the guidance of men, and the distinction between right and wrong" (3:3).
The Koran encourages Muslim followers to say, "We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us; we believe in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes; to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets. We make no distinction between any of them" (2:136).
For Jesus and Muhammad to be credible, they must therefore be consistent with those who preceded them. They must be consistent with:
And if Jesus was the Messiah Muhammad said He was, then the prophet of Islam had additional elements to be consistent with. He in turn must line up with:
By the time Muhammad came along, Christians for centuries had been circulating letters of the New Testament which excluded from the line of the prophets any teacher who added elements of works or merit to the gospel of Christ. In the letter to the Galatians, the Bible passionately defends the principle of grace to a people who had forgotten that God saves people on the basis of what they believe rather than on their attempts to keep the law. With a sense of alarm the inspired writer said:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal. 1:6-9 NIV).
For Muhammad to be consistent with the prophets who preceded him, his writings would have to show that he taught that God saves people on the basis of what they believe rather than on what they do. Yet, the Koran's Five Pillars of (1) publicly confessed creed, (2) prayers, (3) fasting, (4) charity to the poor, and (5) pilgrimage to Mecca are acts of obedience that replace the gospel of Christ as defined in the New Testament. Rather than joining the messengers of grace that preceded it, the Koran leaves its readers with the conclusion that pleasing God is not the result of what we believe (grace), but what we do (merit).
Table of Contents
Muslims often explain the differences between Muhammad's teachings and Jesus' standard of grace by suggesting that, over time, the text of the Bible has been tampered with. They claim that if we had all of the Scriptures in their original form they would line up perfectly with the teaching of the Koran. In fact, they insist that if subtle changes had not been made in the New Testament text, it would be clear that Muhammad fulfilled predictions Jesus made in John 14. The problem, they insist, is not with Muhammad, but with those Jews and Christians who have distorted the Scriptures and thereby broken the unity.
Their argument for such tampering, however, occurs only when and where the teachings and predictions of Jesus do not line up with the teachings of Muhammad. There is no evidence that Christians distorted the text before or after Muhammad's coming so that Jesus' predictions in John 14 could not be fulfilled by the prophet of Islam.
Jewish scribes had meticulous formulas for protecting the process of copying their sacred books. Individual letters were counted and whole manuscripts were destroyed when an error was detected.
Furthermore, the science of textual criticism has confirmed over and over the reliability of our Old and New Testament records. Because the Old and New Testaments were not handed down in a single manuscript but through countless copies circulated throughout the known world, manuscript families can be compared against other manuscript families to determine where, when, and if copyist errors or scribal explanations entered into the text.
Also important is the fact that God did not entrust His message or doctrines to just one prophet or historian. Both Old and New Testament Scriptures give us the doctrines of grace through the pens of many different writers, who composed their inspired messages at many different times and in several different literary styles.
It's significant that these different writers and witnesses often have different perspectives on their subjects. Differences of perspective reflect the honesty of eyewitness testimony. If witnesses such as the New Testament Gospel writers all gave their reports in the same words, structure, and order, we could assume collusion or even a conspiracy to deceive. Yet, because these authors agree on core events and interpretations while giving a variety of perspectives and details, their very differences lend credibility to their message.
The New Testament writers made a practice of pointing back to Old Testament prophets to show precedent for their teaching. Jesus did this to show that He was not introducing new doctrine. He referred over and over to Moses and the prophets to show that He had come not to do away with the law but, as God's Messiah and Son, to fulfill it. But in order to fulfill the law in a way that would help us, He had to do more than keep it Himself. He also had to keep the law in such a way as to become a perfect sacrifice for our sin. Once He showed Himself to be this kind of Messiah and sacrifice for sin, however, He showed Himself deserving of an honor that far exceeded all other prophets before and after. If God's messenger was a Son who not only lived for us but died to pay the price for our sins, no other prophet would ever deserve to shift our focus or devotion to himself.
The New Testament apostle Paul reasoned this way with fellow leaders who were competing with one another for attention in the church. To Christians in the city of Corinth, he wrote, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:13).
Later, the Scriptures give Christ the same elevated attention when they say:
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Heb. 5:7-9 NIV).
Eternal Savior. Son of God. Final sacrifice. It is not a claim that can be dismissed by arguing that the true record has been lost to time. The manuscript and historical evidence is too strong. What remains, however, is to see how those who are contemplating the Muslim alternative can work through their own questions.
Table of Contents
Peacemakers and mediators faced with the challenge of conflict resolution often look for common ground to put differences in perspective. In the case of the Muslim/Christian debate there is more to build on than we might think.
The Koran affirms earlier Scripture. While Muslims often point out that the Old and New Testaments are hopelessly distorted by translators, revisers, editors, and copiers of Scripture, the Koran itself doesn't make such claims. Speaking in the seventh century, Muhammad taught that there are four inspired books: the Torah of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Koran.
Instead of discrediting the Bible, the Koran calls on Christians to live up to their own book. An English paraphrase reads, "Say: 'People of the Book, you shall not be guided until you observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which has been revealed to you from your Lord" (5:68). Muhammad criticized Christians by appealing to their own Bible. He said, "Let the followers of the Gospel judge in accordance to what God has revealed therein. Evil-doers are those that do not base their judgments on God's revelations" (5:47).
In an equally important text, the Koran says that Muhammad was advised by God, "If you doubt what we have revealed to you, ask those who have read the Scriptures before you. The truth has come to you from your Lord: therefore do not doubt it" (10:94).
Muhammad recognized Jesus as Messiah. The Koran identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messiah (or Anointed One) saying, "The angels said to Mary: 'God bids you rejoice in a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He shall be noble in this world and in the next, and shall be favored by God. He shall . . . lead a righteous life'" (3:45-46).
Furthermore, the Koran says that Jesus was born miraculously through the virgin Mary (3:47; 19:19), and that He did many miracles--giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, and raising the dead (3:49).
Muhammad saw Jesus as superior to himself. It was Jesus who according to Muhammad would in the last days return to establish "peace through surrender to God throughout the whole earth." In addition, Muhammad acknowledged his own need of forgiveness (47:19; 48:1-2), but the Koran never states or implies that Jesus was sinful or had to be forgiven. It does say, however, that Jesus was "holy" or "faultless" (19:19).
Muhammad also said not to call the Messiah more than a man. While referring to Jesus 97 times, the Koran forbids worshiping Jesus as God. An English translation says to Christians, "People of the Book, do not transgress the bounds of your religion. Speak nothing but the truth about God. The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was no more than God's apostle . . . . And do not say 'Three.' . . . God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son!" (4:171).
At this point the Koran does not line up with the New Testament. The Gospel of John, for instance, describes the Messiah this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:1-14 NIV).
It's important to recognize that this Gospel description of Jesus was consistent with the kind of Messiah the prophets had mysteriously foretold. The prophet David had predicted this future Messiah-King in Psalm 45 when he wrote, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever. Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, with Your glory and Your majesty" (vv.1-3).
Then the prophet David continued, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (vv.6-7).
Writing of this same Messiah-King, the prophet Isaiah wrote, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [which means 'God with us']" (Isa. 7:14).
Isaiah added, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6-7).
This prediction of a Messiah-King, dated in the sixth century BC, was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls found in a Qumran cave in 1947. Scholars say that this scroll was written at least 100 years before the coming of Christ. That made it one of the most important archeological finds of all time. It gave the world a copy of Isaiah that predated other Hebrew manuscripts of Isaiah by 1,000 years. Yet what was so amazing is that the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah confirmed the accuracy of the book of Isaiah that is in today's Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide unmistakable evidence that the amazing prophecies of Isaiah were not rewritten by Christians after their experience with Jesus.
Muhammad said the Messiah could not die for sin. According to the Koran, a prophet as great as Jesus could not have been killed by men. To the prophet from Mecca, it was impossible and unthinkable that a man as righteous as Jesus could suffer at the hands of pagan executioners. Therefore Muhammad said, "[The Jews] have said, 'Verily we have slain Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah;' yet they slew him not, neither crucified him, but he was represented by one in his likeness . . . . They did not really kill him; but Allah took him up into Himself" (4:157-158).
Because of such a text, many Muslims believe that prior to the crucifixion, God changed the features of Jesus so that He was unrecognizable to His enemies. Then Allah raised Him to heaven so that He could not be seized. Approved Muslim commentaries say that Judas, the betrayer of Christ, was actually the one who was crucified after his own appearance was so disguised that even Mary and the disciples were deceived.
In denying the crucifixion of Jesus, Muhammad sided with the first reactions of Jesus' disciples. Jesus closest friends also found it impossible to believe that Jesus would suffer at the hands of His enemies (Mt. 16:21-23). They expected that He had come to conquer the world and bring in the kingdom of God. Only in time would Jesus' disciples be able to see that the prophet Isaiah had predicted another side of the Messiah's work. Only in retrospect would the friends of Jesus be able to see the meaning of the prophet Isaiah's words when he said of the coming Messiah:
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:3-6).
In time, the disciples of Jesus would see that Isaiah's words were consistent with the prophet Daniel who prophesied that at a predetermined time "the Anointed One would be cut off and will have nothing" (Dan. 9:26 NIV).
Only in retrospect did the intricate system of Old Testament animal sacrifice for sin come into focus. Only from the vantage point of history would readers of the prophets be able to see that the blood of animals could never take away sin, but that these sacrifices were dramatizations of a future sacrifice, which because of its infinite value would be able to pay the price for human sin (Heb. 5-10).
It was unthinkable to Muhammad that an innocent "submissive One" would pay the price for human rebellion against the one true God. Yet this is the message of the Old Testament prophets who preceded Christ.
Table of Contents
One of the elements of Islam that rings true to a seeker of God is the strong, unmistakable emphasis on submission to God. This is a recurring theme of the prophets who spoke "at various times and in various ways" (Heb. 1:1). All of the prophets witness to the importance of surrendering to God, to His laws, to His ways, and to His salvation.
Because submission to God is central to the message of the Koran, it is important to see how Jesus the Messiah measured up to Muhammad's teaching of submission.
Jesus was a submissive Messiah-Prophet. Few characteristics mark Jesus' prophetic ministry more than His own peace and submission. He does not move across the pages of history as if He's in a rush or state of anxiety. He doesn't speak as if He is driven by a need to prove something. He is as calm before His enemies as He is before His friends.
When Jesus' disciples thought their ship was sinking, He didn't join in their panic. When it looked as if someone else might compete with Him for a following, He didn't wish him harm. Even when religious leaders accused Him of being demon possessed, when His family and friends were having second thoughts about His sanity, when His prize students were slow to learn, when the mob was crying for His death, when hired witnesses perjured themselves before the Jewish court to put Him away, and even when everyone abandoned Him to suffer and die like a criminal, there was a certain confidence, peace, and sense of active surrender that marked Him as a noble messenger of God.
What was the secret of this Messiah-Prophet's confidence? Where had a carpenter's son learned such richness of spirit? Where had an uneducated man learned to teach the teachers of Israel? (Jn. 7:15). To such a question, Jesus said:
My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (Jn. 7:16-18).
Jesus spoke as one who was under the authority of another. He lived as one who depended on the protection and provisions of the One He served. He doesn't meet us in the pages of the Gospels as one wondering where He is going to get His next meal. In fact, when His disciples urged Him to eat, Jesus said, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." His disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (Jn. 4:32-34).
While others struggled to build kingdoms on earth, Jesus quietly spoke of a kingdom that was not of this world. When others wondered where they could hide from their enemies or how they could avenge themselves of wrongs suffered, Jesus spoke as one who was cooperating with the invisible and invincible presence of the Spirit of God. All that was important to Him was to do the will of His Father, to please the One who had sent Him, and to help those who needed Him. To a degree unknown before or after Him, Jesus was a submissive prophet.
Jesus was a submissive Messiah-Priest. He lived in contrast to other priests of Israel who often failed to live up to the standard of submission to God. Jesus lived in contrast to those the prophet Jeremiah had in mind when he said of the leaders of Israel, "The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me; the rulers also transgressed against Me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit" (Jer. 2:8).
Israel's idolatrous condition was similar to that which so upset Muhammad in the seventh century after Christ. Like the Jews of Jeremiah's day, the Arab brothers of Muhammad needed a prophet who was surrendered to the one true God. Jeremiah, however, saw that God's people need both prophets and priests who are surrendered to God.
Muhammad taught that by repenting and submitting to the law of God a person could find forgiveness. Moses said that submitting to the law of God included submitting to the law of the priest and sacrifice. The author of the Torah quoted God as saying, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11). The New Testament agrees when it says, "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. 9:22).
According to the New Testament, the lack of an acceptable priest and sacrifice is no longer a problem. It describes Messiah not only as a sinless prophet but also as a sinless priest who offered up Himself as a sacrifice for our sin. Of Jesus, the submissive Messiah-Priest, the Bible says:
He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." . . . By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . . For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:9-12,14).
Muhammad taught his followers to repent and submit to God's perfect laws. Jesus taught His followers that God's saving law is to believe on the One God has sent (Jn. 6:29) and to rely on His high-priestly work and sacrifice in our place (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 7:19-28).
Because the New Testament views Jesus' death for sin as the final sacrifice, the book of Hebrews speaks in very strong terms to anyone who would consider turning away from Christ. The Bible says there is no other way for us to be saved from our sins. Therefore the Scriptures warn:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29 NIV).
Such words need to be carefully weighed by anyone who is considering the differences between the Koran and the Bible. It is a great mistake to think we can affirm Christ while believing He has been surpassed by Muhammad. God doesn't give us that option.
Jesus was a submissive Messiah-King. Muhammad did not view himself merely as a victim of idolatrous circumstances. Before his sudden death in AD 632, he was well on the way to unifying and subduing his Arab world at the point of a sword. He took on the characteristics of a general and a conquering ruler even while proclaiming the doctrine of surrender to God.
The concept of conquering by active submission to the rule of God is also at the heart of both Judaism and faith in Christ. Jesus claimed to be a king who lived by a radical kind of peace and surrender to God. At the same time, Jesus showed that there is a power greater than the sword. When discussing the right use of power and leadership, He said:
The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves (Lk. 22:25-27 NIV).
Where did such "peaceful surrender" take Jesus and those who followed Him? Was the Messiah not to be King of the Jews? After all, the prophet Isaiah said:
The government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isa. 9:6-7 NIV).
Yet according to the Gospels, those who purposed to crucify Christ put a sign over His cross that read, "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (Jn. 19:19).
Jesus was a Messiah-King with an ultimate sense of surrender to the will of God and to the well-being of those He served. His enemies didn't understand, however, that His kingdom was first of all a kingdom of the Spirit. World domination would come later when the Father willed it. For now, Jesus was the King-Priest who, by surrendering to the will of God, conquered death by paying for the sins of those who had rebelled against heaven. By attacking our real problem, He fought the battle that would later win the war and establish His kingdom.
Because Jesus is the sovereign Lord, He has a claim on our lives. To turn away from Him to Muhammad or any other religious dependence is to risk the warning issued by the author of the book of Hebrews:
See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven? At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:25-29 NIV).
Jesus was a submissive Messiah-Son. Understanding this submissive relationship to the Father in heaven is necessary to answer the Koran's claim that Christians who worship Jesus violate the most basic confessions of Israel and Islam. Jews say, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Dt. 6:4). Muslims proclaim, "There is no God but Allah."
Listen to the way Jesus responded to the same concern as voiced by His Jewish countrymen. He said:
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one." Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?" The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God" (Jn. 10:27-33).
Jews had learned the hard way to hate idolatry and polytheism. So had Muhammad. The thought that a man would compete with God was repugnant and blasphemous.
If anyone would have understood this, it was the Messiah. He taught that the greatest law was to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind (Mt. 22:37). He taught that no one could serve two masters, that anyone who tried would end up loving one and hating the other (Lk. 16:13).
Why then would a God who taught His people to say "The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Dt. 6:4) send a man who claimed to be equal with the Father? Why would the Messiah say, "Before Abraham was, I AM" (Jn. 8:58), or "I and My Father are one"? (Jn. 10:30).
The Bible's answer to that would be blasphemous if it were not true. The Scriptures teach that Jesus was not only a submissive Messiah, Prophet, Priest, and King. But even more important, He was a submissive Son who came in the spirit, character, and person of God in the flesh (Jn. 1:1-14).
Such a visitation from God had been predicted. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a virgin-born child who would be called Immanuel (lit. "God with us") and had prophesied that this "Son" would also be called "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 7:14; 9:6).
The Father, Son, and Spirit of the Bible are all perfectly joined in peace and surrender. From the beginning, the one God who said "Let Us make man in Our image" (Gen. 1:26) was not like the warring, competing deities of pagan mythologies. According to the Scriptures:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Heb. 1:1-3).
Prophets could show us the way, but they could not show us the extent of God's love for us. Prophets could teach us the law, but no mere prophet could die in our place. Prophets could tell us why God deserved our surrender, but no prophet could by his own act of surrender pay the eternal penalty for the laws we have broken. Prophets could break the language barrier, but they could not break the cords of our sin and guilt. It is of a submissive Son that the Bible says:
God said to Him, "You are My Son; today I have become Your Father." . . . During the days of Jesus' life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Heb. 5:5-9 NIV).
Table of Contents
The difference between Muhammad and Christ comes down to more than the question of who has the last word in behalf of God. The question is where does Muhammad stand if Jesus was the Son of God?Where does Muhammad stand if Jesus died for our sins as a perfect sacrifice?
The standard of Jesus is not only the standard of a Messiah, Prophet, Priest, and King. The standard of Jesus is also the measure of the gospel of grace. The Bible makes it clear that anyone who adds anything to the gospel of grace is corrupting our only hope of pleasing God. The Scriptures make it clear that even if an angel adds anything to the gospel of God's grace, that angel deserves the strongest condemnation as a false messenger. This is the warning offered by the Bible when it says:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-8).
Those are strong words! But the Bible offers the warning in love to anyone who is tempted to think he can do anything to merit the approval or acceptance of God. These words of Scripture need to be taken to heart by anyone who thinks that by keeping the law of the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Koran he can find the approval and forgiveness of God.
The moral laws of the Scriptures offer high standards, but no hope. They call us to higher ground, but condemn us for every failure to live at that high level of love, integrity, and moral purity.
All the moral laws of the Bible are good. If we could keep them, they would assure us of eternal life and the approval of God. The problem, however, is that no one lives up to the greatest of all laws, which states that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:35-40).
Honest Christians and Muslims realize their own imperfection. One new convert to Islam, for instance, recently communicated her frustration to fellow Muslims in a computer bulletin board message. In her posting she said, "l've been Muslim for about 4 years. Islam has been a difficult road for me to walk down, but I believe with all my heart that I'm doing the right thing . . . . I want to be Muslim forever, but I feel that there is so much to do in Islam. . . . Sometimes I think I'm going crazy trying to remember all of this. . . . I want to be a good servant to Allah but learning all of this is too much for me. I've talked to my husband about it and he thinks I have a jinn on me and the Islamic community I belong to is not a very strong one. I am desperately looking for any answers that will help me to be successful in my effort."
Muslim brothers and sisters quickly posted their responses, encouraging her not to give up and to be assured that in time it would not seem so difficult to follow the law of the Koran.
Yet the fact is that time and increased knowledge and proficiency will solve nothing for this Muslim convert or her Christian counterparts. When our good efforts are compared with the perfect law of God, we are all condemned by our own behavior. Just as important, God is not like a human judge who can be bribed to overlook either our infractions or the penalty the law requires.
The law and the prophets are clear. From Adam's day until ours, sin is a capital offense. That's why the Bible says, "Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12 NIV).
God could have rightly judged all of us unworthy of an eternal home. He could have sentenced us to the kind of spiritual death that would have separated all of us forever from His presence. Yet, instead of giving us what we deserved, He developed a plan to show us how much He loved us. After reminding us through the experience of Abraham that God deserves our absolute love, He made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He made a human sacrifice of His own Son to pay the death penalty for our sin.
When Jesus rose from the dead, it confirmed that He was more than a prophet. The resurrection proved that He was the Son of God who, by dying in our place, became the Savior of all who would believe in Him. The resurrection confirmed that we have reason to stake our lives on the promise that Jesus will return to bring to the Father all who have believed in Him (Jn. 14:1-3).
Because God came to us in the person of His own Son who died for us, no angel or prophet deserves to distract us from God's most important revelation. For the highest reason the Bible says:
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:1-2 NIV).