Muslims and Christians (and Jews)….The Same God?
Muslims and Christians (and Jews)….The Same God?
Due to some controversies that have recently come to the surface in certain Christian spheres, the question of whether or not Christians and Muslims worship “the same God” is once again a front burner issue for many (and, I think, will only continue to become a more crucial discussion point in the future). The way we answer this question has implications that reach down to the roots of our understanding of reality and lays bare our belief about the identity of God Himself….it is no small matter.
With that being said, I’m not a Muslim scholar, nor am I deeply involved in this conversation in the public sphere. So, how can I presume to write a blog post on this topic? My hope today is not to give a definitive answer to the myriad questions involved in this issue, nor is it to silence the “opposition”….rather, I simply want to point to one sure and biblical truth that has great bearing on how we interact with this and similar questions, and the point is this:
God makes Himself known fully, climactically, and definitively in Jesus so that, apart from a recognition of the man Christ Jesus as God the Son, there is no true or saving knowledge of God.
A Question of Identity
“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.”
Often when we think of Jesus’ “mission” in His incarnation, we think that He came “to save sinners,” and that is absolutely correct – He says so! Jesus comes to bear our sins and die in our place and rise again for our forgiveness, amen to that. However, the purpose pursued and the gift given in the work of Jesus’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension is that the One True God would be made known for who He is. In fact, eternal life – the very thing that Jesus dies to secure(John 3:16) – is just this: that we KNOW God and that we know Him in Christ (John 1:18 + John 17:3).
So to think of Jesus as “Savior” only is not enough, we must also recognize Him as “Image,” “Word,” “Radiance,” “Revealer,” that is, we must recognize what John came to know, that to see Jesus IS to see God (John 1:18, 14:9). This concept is staggering in its implications for a myriad of reasons, but most of all because Jesus culminates His earthly ministry by suffering and dying on a cross……..”What?” Someone might say, “you are telling me that this is God’s definitive declaration of Himself to us? A crucifixion!?” Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying and – I believe with all my being – what the Bible is saying as well.
The Man Jesus Christ is God the Son in the flesh. He is the absolute and perfect image of God, He is the visible light of beauty streaming from the invisible Father, He is the Name and Character and Essence of the eternal God made manifest in time and space and skin and bone, He is YHWH God, the Terror of Sinai, come to dwell in the dust with His creatures, and as such our response to Him IS our response to God.
Our Response to Jesus IS Our Response to God
Therefore, if anyone – whether Muslim or Jew or Hindu or otherwise – if anyone refuses to recognize, receive, and adore Jesus Christ crucified and risen as the eternal God made flesh, then they do not know or worship YHWH, the True and Living God. That is a bold claim, but I am confident making it because it is so clearly communicated to us in God’s word. We can see this especially in Jesus’ statements to the Jews of His day. If anyone could claim to know YHWH, it would have been the Jewish scholars of the first century. These men poured over what we call the “Old Testament” with startling attention to detail…..and yet, see what Jesus says to them:
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him”
“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.”
Amazing. If anyone – Jew, Muslim, or otherwise – refuses to honor Jesus just as they honor God, if anyone does not know Jesus as the Son of God, if anyone will not love Jesus for who scripture reveals Him to be, then that person does not honor, know, or love the True God. Period.
But what/who then we’re the Jews of Jesus’ day worshiping? Who are the religions of today worshiping? The answer is heavy and could not be more offensive, but Jesus gives it in John 8:42-44:
“If God were your Father, you would love me…you are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
There it is, with the clarity of crystal and the impact of a jackhammer….if someone refuses to acknowledge, receive and love Jesus as the Revelation of God to man, then that person as has Satan and not God as their father….ultimately, that person is following in the path and desires of the devil himself (see also Ephesians 2:1-3)….this is true for of Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and every single human being that denies Jesus as the Son and supreme revelation of God.
I do not say that to be controversial, and I do not say it without a heavy heart, and I certainly do not say it fatalistically (EVERYONE who comes to see and trust and love the biblical Christ, no matter what their current religion, WILL be saved, John 6:40)…..however, in America’s current cultural atmosphere, it must be said. Apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know or come to God, and if we are denying Christ and yet worshiping something our hearts are under the sway – not of God – but of Satan. As John says in his first letter, “no one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23a)
Behold Your God, in Jesus Christ
But this is not primarily a negative statement. The main thrust of Christian witness is not “apart from Jesus you do not know God.” Rather, the main and glorious message of the gospel is, “IN Jesus BEHOLD YOUR GOD!” The beauty of the Incarnation is Immanuel, “God with us.” It is God Almighty, YHWH, the Lord, come into our midst so that we can look at a human being – we can watch Him, know Him, learn from Him, see His love, see His passion, see His death, see His resurrection, see His ascension, see His unending intercession and – in looking at Him – we can see our GOD.
Friends…God means to be known finally and climactically in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Yes, it is startling. Yes, it has far-reaching implications for our lives and relationships. Yes, it demolishes natural ideas of what God should be like. Yes, it is controversial and enraging to many….and yes, we may well die for confessing it, but it is the truth. If someone hates the crucified and risen Jesus who claims to be the “I Am” of Exodus 3:14 (John 8:58) and “YHWH” of Exodus 34:-7 (John 1:14-18), then that person hates their Creator – no matter what else they may say about Him (John 15:23). But if someone, anyone, will come to Jesus as their Lord and their God (John 20:28-29), then – and only then – they will have God as their Father, “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23b).