Category: Apologetics

Comparing Islam and Christianity

Apologetics 101: Part 9

This is session nine in a 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith.

Islam and Christianity (audio)

Session 9 — Islam and Christianity (pdf)

Islam is the youngest and fastest-growing major world religion.  It was founded by Arabian visionary Muhammad (570-632 AD), who was born in the city of Mecca in Arabia. Muhammad claimed he received supernatural revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. These revelations were written down by others and compiled into a book called the Koran (or Qur’an). Islam today is comprised of two main schools: the majority Sunni school and the minority Shi’ite school. In addition, there are millions of Muslim mystics called Sufis. Islam is the second largest religion in the world (behind Christianity) with about 1.5 billion followers. Interestingly, the four nations with the largest number of Muslims today are all outside the Middle East – Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India.

Purpose

The ultimate goal of Islam is to subjugate the world and then rule it according to Islamic law.  Islam claims to be the restoration of true monotheism and thus supersedes both Judaism and Christianity. Islamic law teaches that conversion may be achieved through persuasion or subjugation, but some hold that if these fail, unbelievers (or “infidels”) may be eliminated if necessary. As such, hostility toward non-Muslims is accepted and even encouraged in some Islamic cultures, based on passages from the Koran such as, “O, true believers, take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends. They cannot be trusted. They are defiled – filth.”

Islam’s Beginnings

Islam began with the supernatural visions and revelations that Muhammad claimed he received from God through the angel Gabriel. Because Muhammad could neither read nor write, he claimed to have memorized these revelations and ordered his followers to write them down. These writings became Islam’s holy book, the Koran. Muhammad at first feared his revelations came from a jinn, or evil spirit, but later he accepted their source as divine and taught that he alone was the true recipient of Allah’s truth.

Muhammad was born in the Arabian city of Mecca in 570 A.D. Mecca was an important economic center, serving as a resting place for trading caravans. But is also was an important religious city because the Ka’bah was located there. The Ka’bah is a cubic structure that in the days of Muhammad housed 360 deities. Each Arabian tribe selected its own deity and came to Mecca each year to pay homage to its god. Muhammad’s monotheistic preaching threatened the economic and religious livelihood of Mecca and set him against his own tribe. He and about 100 Muslim families were forced to flee to Medina, a city 200 miles north of Mecca. Muslims look to the year of Muhammad’s flight, 622 A.D., as the beginning of the Muslim calendar. In 630, Muhammad and his army returned and took control of Mecca. He personally destroyed the idols in the Ka’bah and within a year succeeded in unifying the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula under Islam. Muhammad died in 632 A.D. without appointing a successor.

The Sects of Islam

The two major sects of Islam, Sunni and Shi’ite, originally were established after Muhammad’s death in a dispute over who should serve as his successor, or caliph. The Sunni Muslims insisted that Muhammad’s successor be elected, while the Shi’ite Muslims felt he should be of Muhammad’s blood line, which would have meant that Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, would have become caliph. The Sunnis prevailed and today account for about 80 percent of the Muslim population. Sunnis and Shi’ites differ in other ways as well:

  • Authority. Sunnis emphasize the authority of the written traditions, which include the Koran and the Sunna (“custom”), from which they derive their name. They also receive guidance from a consensus of elders (ulama), who base their decisions on Islam’s writings. Shi’ites look more toward human authority. Initially, they believed Allah spoke through the Imam, roughly the equivalent of the Catholic Pope. In the ninth century, however, the twelfth Imam, known as the Mahdi, became hidden; Shi’ites today await his return, much as Christians await the return of Christ.
  • Civil and religious power. Sunnis believe there should be a separation between civil and religious authorities, while Shi’ites believe the religious authorities should exercise both political and religious power. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, for example, was a Shi’ite leader.

There is another significant sect of Islam known as Sufism, which is mystical in nature. Minor sects include the Wahhabis (primarily in Saudi Arabia), the Druze (mostly in Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel), the Alawites (mainly in Syria), and the Ahmadiyas (primarily in Pakistan). Beyond this, Islam has been influential in the founding of two other religions: Sikhism and Baha’ism.

Source of Authority

Muslims believe Allah has revealed many written works, including the Old and New Testaments.  But these revelations ended with the Koran (Qur’an, “recitations”), which supersedes all others. For all practical purposes, Muslims accept only the Koran as the Word of God. They believe Allah’s earlier revelations in the Bible have been corrupted by Jews and Christians and therefore are not trustworthy, except as interpreted by the Koran. Sunni Muslims, as mentioned above, also place strong emphasis on the Sunna, which includes the Hadith, in which the sayings and conduct of Muhammad and his companions are recorded.

Basic Beliefs

Every Muslim must hold to six articles of faith:

  • Faith in Allah. The central doctrine of Islam is that God is one and that no one may be associated with his deity. To associate someone, like Jesus, with Allah by calling Him God’s Son is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk (see Surah 4:48).
  • Belief in angels like Gabriel, whom they claim transmitted the Koran to Muhammad. Each person has two angels assigned to him or her – one to record the person’s good deeds and the other to record the person’s evil deeds. Muslims also believe in evil spirits called jinn, from which we get the word “genie.”
  • Acceptance of the Koran. Four high-ranking prophets were given books by divine revelation. Moses was given the Tawrat (Torah); David, the Zabur (his Psalms); Jesus, the Injil (Gospel); and Muhammad, the Koran. Muslims teach that only the Koran has been preserved in perfection; Jews and Christians have corrupted the rest.
  • Acceptance of Islam’s prophets, with Muhammad as the greatest. The Koran says Allah has sent prophets to every nation, proclaiming the truth of the one true God. In all, 124,000 prophets have been sent. Most are unknown, but many include biblical characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. Muhammad is the only prophet who is for all time; he is called “Seal of the Prophets.”
  • Belief in predestination – that is, everything that happens, good and evil, is predestined by Allah’s will.
  • Preparation for the Day of Judgment, in which each person’s good and evil works will be measured, resulting in heaven or hell. Only Allah knows – and has predetermined – who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Hell is not an eternal place of torment, but a place where evil is purged from its inhabitants

Religious Duties

Every Muslim must practice at least five fundamental religious duties.  These are known as the Pillars of Religion, and they are:

  • The confession of faith or Shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Sincerity in voicing the confession is essential.  If a Muslim repudiates the Shahada it nullifies his or her hope of salvation.
  • Prayer (Salat). Muslims must recite 17 cycles of prayer each day. These cycles usually are spread over five times while the supplicant faces Mecca – dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, and two hours after sunset. The noon service on Friday is the only time Muslims are expected to gather together at the mosque. Muslims wash themselves ceremonially before praying; this is called ablution or wudu.
  • Observing Ramadan, a month of fasting throughout the daylight hours to commemorate the first revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. During the day, Muslims must refrain from food, drink, smoke, and sexual relations. After sundown, all of these pleasures may be enjoyed until sunrise the next day.
  • Almsgiving or Zakat. Muslims are required to give 2.5 percent of their currency, plus other forms of wealth, as determined by a complicated system that purifies their remaining wealth.
  • Pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca, Muhammad’s place of birth. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make this trek at least once is his or her lifetime. Pilgrims must wear white garments to eliminate all class distinctions. The process of visiting several sacred sites usually takes more than a week.
  • A sixth religious duty is sometimes associated with these: Jihad. Muslims tend to speak of two jihads – an internal jihad, or struggle between right and wrong, much like the Christian’s struggle between the Spirit and the flesh; and an external jihad, or military battle. When the situation warrants it, this duty requires Muslims to go to war to defend Islam against “infidels.”  Anyone who dies in a holy war is guaranteed everlasting life in heaven and is considered a martyr for Islam.

Are God and Allah the same?

While many people assume that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, differing only in the name upon which they call, this simply is not true. The God of the Koran and the God of the Bible do share similarities, but the differences are profound. Following are some similarities and differences as highlighted in The Illustrated Guide to World Religions:

Similarities

  • Both are one.
  • Both are transcendent creators of the universe.
  • Both are sovereign.
  • Both are omnipotent.
  • Both have spoken to humanity through messengers or prophets, through angels, and through the written word.
  • Both know in intimate detail the thoughts and deeds of men.
  • Both will judge the wicked.

Differences

  • Allah is a singular unity, while God is a compound unity who is one in essence and three in persons (Matt. 28:19; John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4).
  • Allah is not a father and has begotten no sons (Surahs 19:88-92; 112:3), but God exists in an eternal relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Through the Koran, Allah broke into history through a word that is written, but the God of the Bible broke into history through the Word who is a person (John 1:1, 14; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:2-3; 1 John 1:1-3; 4:9-10).
  • “Allah loves not those that do wrong” (Surah 3:140), and neither does he love “him who is treacherous, sinful” (Surah 4:107), but the God of the Bible “proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
  • The standard of judgment for Allah is the Koranic teaching that our good deeds must outweigh our bad deeds (Surahs 7:8-9; 21:47), but the standard of the God of the Bible is complete perfection as measured by the holy character of God Himself (Matt. 5:48; Rom. 3:23); since it is impossible for sinful and fallen people to attain godly perfection, God sent His Son to pay our sin debt and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-19).
  • Allah provided a messenger, Muhammad, who warned of Allah’s impending judgment (Surahs 2:119; 5:19; 7:184, 188; 15:89-90) and who declared that “No bearer of a burden can bear the burden of another” (Surahs 17:15; 35:18). But God provided a sinless Savior who took our sins upon Himself and bore God’s wrath in our place (Matt. 20:28; 26:28; Luke 22:37; John 3:16; 10:9-11; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:9-10).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

How to Identify False Prophets

Apologetics 101: Part 8 — How can I identify false prophets?

This is session eight in a 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith

How to identify false prophets (audio)

How to identify false prophets (pdf)

“But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!” (2 Cor. 11:3-4 HCSB)

WolfThe words of the apostle Paul are clear: Those who are not grounded in the Word of God are subject to deceptive teachings about “another Jesus … a different spirit … a different gospel” – three distinctive markers that help us identify false prophets. Whether they are Muslim prophets like Muhammad, or self-proclaimed messiahs like the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, these false teachers invariably promote an unbiblical view of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel. We will use these three markers, along with a comparative chart, to examine the teachings of Islam, Mormonism, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in light of what God’s Word proclaims.

The Bible cautions us to beware of false messiahs, false prophets and false teachers who “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” and promote “doctrines of demons” (see Matt. 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). But before we go deeper, let’s define some key terms.

Defining our terms

False religion. From a New Testament perspective, a false religion is any system of belief that opposes the central teachings of the Christian faith. While all cults of Christianity are false religions, not all false religions are cults, because not all religions claim to be Christian. Islam, for example, is a false religion but not a cult, because Islam does not claim to be Christian.

Cult. A cult is a religious organization whose members claim to be Christians, and who use the Bible and Christian terms, yet who deny the central beliefs of historical Christianity. Simply put, a cult is a counterfeit form of Christianity.

Heresy. This may be defined as a teaching strongly opposed to the doctrines of historical Christianity, for example the denial of Christ’s deity, full humanity, virgin birth, or bodily resurrection.

Sect. A sect is an otherwise orthodox group having established its own identity and teachings distinct from the group to which it belongs. In Jesus’ day for example, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes were sects of Judaism.

Another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel

Every Christian can identify false belief systems by asking three important questions: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) Who is the Holy Spirit? and 3) How am I saved? As we go to the comparative chart and place the teachings of God’s Word against the teachings of Islam, Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, let’s remind ourselves of some key biblical truths that address these crucial questions.

Key truths about the real Jesus

Jesus is:

  • The eternal Son of God, without beginning or end
  • God / deity
  • Co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit
  • Virgin born
  • The God-Man / fully divine and fully human
  • Sinless in His humanity
  • Our substitute through His sacrificial death on the cross
  • Alive, having been raised physically from the dead
  • The only way of salvation
  • Seated today in heaven as our Mediator and Intercessor
  • Coming visibly and physically one day in power and great glory
  • The One who will judge all people and to whom, one day, all creatures will bow

Key truths about the real Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is:

  • The eternal Spirit, without beginning or end
  • God / deity
  • Personal (not an impersonal force)
  • Co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son
  • The Author of Scripture
  • The One who convicts the lost of their need for Christ
  • The One who regenerates believing sinners, causing them to be made spiritually alive
  • The One who indwells, seals and sanctifies believers, and who places them positionally into the Body of Christ
  • The Giver of spiritual gifts
  • God’s down payment /guarantee of our home in heaven

Key truths about the real Gospel

  • All people are sinners
  • Sin separates us from holy God, resulting in spiritual and physical death and, ultimately, eternity apart from God in hell
  • People are incapable of saving themselves
  • Christ died on the cross for our sins and, as our Substitute, paid our sin debt in full
  • Christ was buried and rose physically from the dead
  • His finished work at Calvary conquered sin and death for us
  • As a result, salvation is by God’s grace through faith – not by works
  • Salvation is God’s gift – and everlasting, unbreakable, covenant relationship with Him

An exhortation from John the apostle

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:1-4 HCSB)

The Bible not only warns believers about false prophets; it describes them graphically as:

  • Ravaging wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15; see also Acts 20:29)
  • Deceitful workers (2 Cor. 11:13)
  • Springs without water, mists driven by a whirlwind (2 Peter 2:17)
  • Dreamers who defile their flesh, despise authority, and blaspheme glorious beings (Jude 1:8)
  • Liars (Rev. 2:2)
  • Antichrists (1 John 2:18)

How do we define a false prophet? Simply put, a false prophet is one who preaches, teaches, or foretells events contrary to the Word of God – sometimes claiming God as his or her source. As believers, we can guard our hearts from the teachings of false prophets by obeying three commands of the apostle John:

  1. Do not believe every spirit. Kenneth Wuest’s translation of 1 John 4:1 puts it this way: “Stop believing every spirit.” The term “spirit” refers to those who claim to have divine gifts for service, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary. We should beware. Jesus warns us of miracle-working false messiahs and false prophets (Matt. 24:24). Paul says Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and his followers disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-5). Paul further cautions against “deceitful spirits” and “the teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). And he warns that the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but turn aside to myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4). We should be like the Bereans who greeted Paul and Silas. Acts 17:11 says “they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (emphasis mine).
  2. Test the spirits. The Word of God is the yardstick by which all truth claims must be measured. Here are a few markers. True prophets: a) Are 100 percent accurate when they speak in the Lord’s name (Deut. 18:21-2); b) Exalt God, not themselves or false gods (Deut. 13:1-4); c) Tell the whole truth, not tickle the ears (Ezek. 13:22-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-4); d) Proclaim salvation by grace through faith (Gal. 1:8-9); e) Set lifestyle examples (2 Peter 2:1-3).
  3. Know the Spirit of God. In his first epistle, John challenges the views of the “antichrists” about the identity of Jesus. The most important question Jesus ever asked – and the question upon which every person’s eternal destiny hangs – is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter answered correctly, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Matt. 16:16). Believers need to know who the real Jesus is. Indeed, He is:
  • The eternal Son of God, Creator and sovereign Lord (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-18; 2:9-10; Heb. 1:3).
  • Virgin born (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25).
  • Full deity and full humanity in His incarnation (John 1:14).
  • Sinless Savior whose death paid our sin debt (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21).
  • Raised and ascended in the flesh; seated at the right hand of the Father as our Mediator and Intercessor; and returning Lord who will appear visibly and physically one day (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 4:15-16; Rev. 19-22).

John’s words are simple and effective. Christians are people of faith – not a blind, ignorant faith, but a reasonable faith based on the evidence God has given us in creation, Scripture, and in the Person of His Son. While there have always been false prophets, and while there will continue to be those who fleece the flock rather than feed it, we can guard our hearts – and protect our families and our churches – from false teachings if we follow John’s commands: Don’t believe every spirit (that is, every person claiming divine gifting); test the spirits (according to Scripture); and know the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit’s teaching about the real Jesus as revealed in the Bible).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Was Jesus Both God and Man?

Apologetics 101: Part 7 — How can I identify the real Jesus?
JesusThis is session seven in a 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith.

Keys to identifying the real Jesus (audio part 2)

Keys to identifying the real Jesus (audio part 1)

Keys to identifying the real Jesus (pdf)

 

Keys to Identifying the Real Jesus

Apologetics 101: Parts 6-7 — How can I identify the real Jesus?

This is sessions six and seven in a 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith.

Keys to identifying the real Jesus (audio part 1)

Keys to identifying the real Jesus (pdf)

1. His origin

What Jesus says about Himself: He is eternal and uncreated.

  • John 8:58 – “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am” (I AM is the name God gave Himself at the burning bush [Ex. 3:13-14]).
  • John 17:5 – “Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”
  • Rev. 1:17-18 – “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He has always existed and is the uncreated Creator.

  • John 1:1-3 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.
  • Col. 1:15-17 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.

What do you say about Jesus’ origin?

2. His deity

What Jesus says about Himself: He is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit

  • Mark 14:61b-62 – Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
  • John 8:24 – “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am [He], you will die in your sins.” (I AM is the name God gave Himself at the burning bush [Ex. 3:13-14]).
  • John 10:30 – “The Father and I are one.”

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He is God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit; the fullness of deity in the flesh

  • John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 5:18 – This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
  • Col. 2:9 – For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily …
  • Heb. 1:3 – He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

What do you say about Jesus’ deity?

3. His humanity

What Jesus says about Himself: He is fully human, sharing the full range of mankind’s experiences from thirst to temptation.

  • Matt. 4:1-11 – Jesus is hungry and tempted by Satan but responds to both with God’s Word.
  • Luke 19:41; John 11:35 – Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and at the tomb of Lazarus.
  • John 11:33, 38 – Jesus is “angry in His spirit.”
  • John 19:28, 30 – “I’m thirsty,” he says, and then He dies.

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He is virgin born, adding sinless humanity to His deity; His humanity enables Him to serve as our great high priest.

  • Matt. 1:18-25 – The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit…. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”
  • John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Phil. 2:5-8 – Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.
  • Heb. 2:17-18 – Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.

What do you say about Jesus’ humanity?

4. His purpose

What Jesus says about Himself: He came to bring God’s kingdom; to seek and save the lost; to pay mankind’s sin debt; to defeat Satan and his works; and to offer us eternal life.

  • Matt. 12:28 – “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.”
  • Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
  • John 10:10-11 – “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
  • John 12:32-33 – “As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all [people] to Myself.” He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die.

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He came to die and rise from the dead in fulfillment of Scripture; to save sinners and reconcile them to God.

  • Rom. 5:6-11 – For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, [then how] much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
  • 1 Cor. 15:3-4 – For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …
  • 2 Cor. 5:21 – He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • 1 Tim. 1:15 – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them.
  • Heb. 2:9 – But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone—crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.
  • 1 John 3:8b — The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.

What do you say about Jesus’ purpose?

5. His proof

What Jesus says about Himself: He fulfills Messianic prophecies, most notably by rising physically from the dead.

  • Matt. 12:39-40; 26:31-32 – “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights…. Tonight all of you will run away because of Me, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I have been resurrected, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
  • Luke 18:31-33; 24:38-39 – “Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished…. they will kill Him, and He will rise on the third day…. Why are you troubled …And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
  • John 2:18-22 – So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign [of authority] will You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.” Therefore the Jews said, “This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He fulfills Messianic prophecies, most notably by dying on the cross for mankind’s sins and rising physically from the dead.

  • Mark 15:25-28 – Now it was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. The inscription of the charge written against Him was THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two criminals with Him, one on His right and one on His left. [So the Scripture was fulfilled that says: And He was counted among outlaws.]
  • John 19:33-37 – When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out…. For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken. Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.
  • Acts 2:22-27 – “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the  Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. For David says of Him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced. Moreover my flesh will rest in hope, because You will not leave my soul in Hades, or allow Your Holy One to see decay.”
  • 1 Cor. 15:3-4 – For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

What do you say about Jesus’ proof?

6. His uniqueness

What Jesus says about Himself: He is the Messiah/Christ; the Son of God; the Alpha and the Omega; the only means of salvation.

  • Matt. 26:63-64; 27:11 – Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” … Now Jesus stood before the governor. “Are You the King of the Jews?” the governor asked Him. Jesus answered, “You have said it.”
  • John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • Rev. 1:17-18 – “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
  • Rev. 22:13 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He is the unique Son of God; divine; the Creator; the only means of salvation.

  • John 1:1, 14, 18 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son – the One who is at the Father’s side – He has revealed Him.
  • Acts 4:11-12 – This [Jesus] is The stone despised by you builders, who has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.
  • Col. 1:16; 2:9 – because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. … For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily.
  • Heb. 1:3 – He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

What do you say about Jesus’ uniqueness?

7. His call to us

What Jesus says about Himself: He calls sinners to trust in Him for eternal life; He invites the weary to rest in Him; He beckons the spiritually thirsty to be satisfied in Him; He warns of the danger of rejecting Him.

  • Matt. 11:28 – “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
  • John 3:16-18 – “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”
  • John 5:24 – “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”
  • John 7:37b-38 – “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”
  • John 8:24 – “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am [He], you will die in your sins.”

What the eyewitnesses say about Jesus: He calls sinners to receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by believing in Him; He grants salvation by grace through faith, apart from works; He calls us to salvation and to service.

  • Acts 2:39 – For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.
  • Rom. 4:4-5 – Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares righteous the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness.
  • Eph. 1:18 – [I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints …
  • Eph. 2:8-9 – For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift …
  • Eph. 4:1 – I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received …
  • 1 Thess. 2:12 – [W]e encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
  • 2 Tim. 1:9 – [God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
  • Titus 3:5 – He saved us— not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

What do you say about Jesus’ call to you?

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

The Debate Over Jesus

Apologetics 101: Part 5: –Who’s the real Jesus?

This is the fifth in the 10-part series designed to help Christians defend their faith.

The debate over Jesus (audio)

The debate over Jesus (pdf)

Jesus

Jesus of Nazareth is among the world’s most famous and admired people. Amazon.com has more than 175,000 titles about Him. Google lists about 145 million references to Jesus Christ. The world’s major religions hold a high view of Jesus, although they do not agree on who He is or what He accomplished. For example:

  • Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet who lived a sinless life; but He is not the Son of God or Savior.
  • Hinduism teaches that Jesus was an Avatar or incarnation of God, a great spiritual teacher, a guru, or even a major god in the Hindu pantheon of 330 million gods; but He is not unique as the Son of God or Savior.
  • Buddhism tells us Jesus was a teacher who may have possessed Buddha hood or enlightenment; but He is not unique and is not mankind’s Savior.
  • Judaism teaches that Jesus was a humble and insignificant prophet, a reformer who performed good deeds; but He is not the Messiah and certainly not divine.
  • Christianity, of course, professes that Jesus was and is the Son of God, Messiah and Savior, whose death and resurrection paid mankind’s sin debt and provided forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Even so, not all who profess Christianity agree about Jesus’ life and work. Mormons, for example, say Jesus was a man who became a god; and Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that Jesus was Jehovah’s first creation.

The debate over Jesus is nothing new. It raged 2,000 years ago in Israel and involved everyone from John the Baptist to Jesus’ own family members, many of whom did not believe He was the promised Messiah. Jesus was fully aware that His life and ministry produced tension, and He challenged His followers to examine the evidence and decide for themselves.

In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asks His disciples two questions. First, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” A loaded question to be sure, since by calling Himself “Son of Man” Jesus is claiming to be both divine and the Messiah (see Dan. 7:13-14). Second, Jesus asks a more pointed question, “Who do you say that I am?” Notice several keys in these verses:

  • There are many opinions about Jesus – all of them good. Some say He is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Today, members of every major world religion agree that Jesus is someone to be admired, even followed. But it’s not enough to have a high opinion of Jesus; one must have the right view of Jesus.
  • Peter offers a different answer – and the correct one: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
  • Jesus acknowledges Peter’s answer as the proper one and states that it was not revealed by human wisdom but “by My Father in Heaven.” Flesh-and-blood opinions about Jesus are subject to error because people are sinful and fallen and prone to mistakes. God the Father, however, is not. He sent Jesus to earth and reveals the Person and work of Christ to human hearts. In fact Jesus made it clear that no one can be saved unless he or she is drawn by the Father to the Son (John 6:44).

Today, we have God’s complete written revelation to us – the Bible – which features convincing evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be: Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, Savior, King of kings and Lord of Lords. So let’s go to the evidence in Scripture. We will use the Bible because it records the words of Jesus and features the accounts of eyewitnesses. Some may raise objections to using the Bible instead of other sources but keep in mind:

  • The New Testament is perhaps the most accurate set of ancient documents available to us (see the notes for sessions 2-4);
  • The eyewitnesses wrote their accounts in the presence of hostile witnesses, who could have refuted them if they were wrong, but didn’t.
  • The apostles willingly suffered – and most died – for their testimony.
  • Recent “new” gospels challenging the historical view of Jesus were penned much later (2nd – 4th centuries) and were recognized as false teachings or even forgeries; one has been proven to be a 20th century fraud.

So let’s turn our attention to “In Search of the Real Jesus” (comparison chart). Our premise is that everyone can find the real Jesus by asking three important questions:

1. Who does Jesus say He is?

2. Who do the eyewitnesses say He is?

3. And who do you say He is?

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips