The Person of Christ
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:58–59).- John 8:31–59
Aside from the harm it has done to the faith of professing Christians, liberal “Christian” theology has also had a significant influence upon the religion of Islam. Muslim apologists enthusiastically quote liberal denials of orthodox Christianity, supposing that they find in these theologians further justification for their own unbelief.
One specific denial of Christian orthodoxy held in common between Muslims and liberal scholars is the deity of Christ. Muslims use the unfounded assertions that Jesus was merely a man in the writings of unorthodox theologians in conjunction with the many passages in the Qur’an that deny the incarnation. For Islam, Jesus is only a human prophet and thus never to be worshiped as God.
One of the main problems Muslims have with the doctrine of the incarnation is the notion that the infinite can become finite. This is understandable; however, Christian theology does not teach that the infinite became finite in the person of Jesus. Classical, biblical orthodoxy instead teaches that in the incarnation the second person of the Trinity united Himself to a human nature. In Jesus we have one person with two natures: one human and one divine. The natures are distinguishable but not separable, and each one retains its own peculiar properties in the person of our Savior.
To be sure this is a great mystery and we cannot fully understand it. However, it is the only way to account for the biblical teaching that Jesus is at the same time both truly God and truly man. Since Islam has no problem accepting Jesus as truly man, we will conclude today with a brief look at the evidence for Jesus’ deity.
Among other things, Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1–8) and to be able to forgive sins (Mark 2:1–12), both prerogatives of God alone. The Greek title kurios (“Lord”), found in the New Testament, is similar to the title used of Yahweh in the Old. Finally, though Muslims assert that Jesus never claimed to be God, passages like the one for today’s study show Jesus identifying Himself as the great “I AM” (see Ex. 3:14), with the response of His enemies revealing they understood Jesus to be claiming divine status.
The gentle and compassionate nature of Christ that shines through in the Gospels leads many non-Christians to admire Jesus as a teacher. Of course, they will not want to confess Jesus’ deity, because to do so would mean that His authority cannot be ignored; as the Son of God, He must be revered as Lord and King. As you hear others express appreciation for Jesus as a teacher, remind them that His own teachings demand submission to Him as the Lord of all creation.
Passages for Further Study
Zech. 12:1, 10
2 Peter 1:1