It is my great privilege and pleasure to have been
invited to address the readers [of this publication]
on some of the most important distinctions between
Christianity and Islam. Four questions have been proposed as
a means of clarifying the Biblical perspective in relation
to the series of articles on Jesus and Christianity that
appeared last semester.
As I see it, all four questions essentially come together
in one basic question: Who is Jesus? The answer to that
question, and the heart of the message that has been
proclaimed by followers of Jesus since His advent, is that
"you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that by believing you may have life in His name." (John
Addressing each of these questions may now help clarify
this historic Christian conviction.
1. Is there a Trinity?
The Biblical teaching of God's essential nature,
summarized in the word "Trinity," rests largely on our
understanding of the identity of Jesus, a question I will
take up in some length under question #3.
At this point, perhaps a demonstration that the
terminology for the doctrine of the Trinity is found
throughout the New Testament:
* "therefore go and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." (Matthew 28:19).
* "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same
Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the
same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the
same God works all of them in all men." (I Corinthians
* "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the
love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be
with you all." (II Corinthians 13:14).
* "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your
most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep
yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of the
Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." (Jude
The doctrine of the Trinity is perhaps best understood in
terms of Christian salvation. Christians believe that God
the Father wills that we be reconciled to Him from sin, and
that He sent the Son, Who in His perfect life and
substitutionary death provides the basis of that
reconciliation, and that the Father now, in Jesus' name,
sends the Holy Spirit, Who applies the salvation of Jesus to
the Christian believers, thus saving them and empowering
them to live lives of victory over sin. Thus is the
Christian's experience and assurance of salvation in terms
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet they
absolutely believe that there is only one God.
How do we put this together? This is where the word
"Trinity" comes in. It expresses this truth about God as it
is found in the Bible.
This is certainly not an exhaustive explanation, but it
may help to demonstrate the significance of the doctrine in
practical Christian life.
2. Is Jesus the physical (begotten/sired) son of
God Son of God?
Jesus is presented in the New Testament as the Son of God
by virtue of His unique eternal relationship with the Father
and by means of His unique virgin birth. We need to
understand, then, how Jesus is the Son of God. The New
Testament tells us how:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came
about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to
Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to
be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her
husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose
her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of
David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the
name Jesus, because he will save his people from their
sins. (Matthew 1:18-21).
The question as stated implies that Jesus is somehow the
result of a physical union between God and Mary, but this is
not at all the case. Jesus' birth is a miraculous event
through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Son's deity
is incarnated, or made flesh; in this Jesus is the
Begotten is the old English word that, while in human
terms means to have a child, the emphasis even there is that
what a human father "begets' shares in the essential nature
of that father. It is in this sense that the King James
translates the Greek word monogenes as "begotten ; Jesus
shares the essential nature of the Father, but rather
through some physical act, but a supernatural one.
3. Did Jesus Himself ever say in the Bible "I am
God!" or "worship me!"?
What makes Jesus stand out from all other religious
figures is the nature of His claims about Himself. He claims
the prerogatives of God, the rightful object of a person's
supreme allegiance, and receives with out censure the
worship and obedience of those who believe.
A number of examples may help to illustrate this:
A. Forgiveness of sins
In Mark 2:1-12, we read the account of Jesus healing a
crippled man. What is so surprising, and so shocking to His
original audience, is the statement that Jesus makes before
healing the man.
As Jesus sees a group of men bring the paralytic to Him,
Mark records the scene:
When Jesus saw their faith , he said to the paralytic,
"Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking
to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's
blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they
were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are
you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the
paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up,
take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son
of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to
the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go
home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view
of them all.
Jesus in the Gospels appropriates two significant titles
throughout His ministry:
1. The Son of Man
This is the title that Jesus Himself uses most
frequently. It is a Messianic title derived from the Old
Testament book of Daniel. When we read the passage in
Daniel, the implicit claim that Jesus is making about
Himself becomes apparent:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was
one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He
approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his
presence. He (the son of man) was given authority, glory and
sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every
language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting
dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one
that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).
2. The Son of God
At His trial Jesus affirmed this title: Again the high
priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the
Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. And you will see the Son
of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and
coming on the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-63).
C. Jesus' direct claims
At the climax of a lengthy argument, Jesus speaks of
Himself: "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of
seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet
fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen
Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before
Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to
stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the
temple grounds." (John 8:56-59).
The shock of this claim are those two words "I am." It is
the same designation that God used for Himself in His call
to Moses: God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what
you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to
you.'" (Exodus 3:14).
D. Jesus receives worship
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he
found him, Jesus said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may
believe in him.." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in
fact, he is the one speaking with you.." Then the man said,
"Lord. I believe," and he worshipped him." (John
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the
mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him,
they worshipped him... (Matthew 28:16-17).
E. Jesus accepts divine entitlement
In what is a clear dialogue between Jesus and "Doubting"
Thomas, we read: Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger
here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my
side. Stop doubting and believe.." Thomas said to him, "My
Lord and my God!" Then Jesus held him," Because you have
seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not
seen and yet have believed." (John 20:27-29).
Does Jesus say, "I am God"? No, because that would have
been misunderstood. Jesus is not the Father (as it would
have been thought), Jesus is the Son. But He clearly claims
an absolutely unique relationship with God whom Jesus calls
'Father." Jesus claims something about Himself that, through
the various miracles, His statements as cited above, and the
response He receives from other people, is slowly
filled-out, and the meaning of His Sonship becomes
In the very opening of his Gospel, the Apostle John
presents Jesus as "the Word" and provides perhaps the
clearest explanation of the identity of Jesus, the meaning
of the incarnation, and a further glimpse into the reality
of the Trinity:
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 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. (John 1:1-4; 14).
4. If it can be proven, through the Bible, that Jesus
is not God, nor the physical/begotten/sired son of God
Son of God, neither is there any trinity, then will this
prove that the unscrupulous few have corrupted the word of
The Christian message about Jesus revolves around three
facts: the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the
resurrection. Prove from the Bible or otherwise that any one
of these three things are not true, and like a three-legged
stool the truth of the message would collapse.
Most "proofs" against the traditional teachings of
Christianity consist of pitting one passage of Scripture
against another, and almost always taking such passages out
of context. Context, I believe, always vindicates the
understanding of God and of Jesus as I have here tried to
I would conclude, then, with an encouragement for the
readers to read the Bible, particularly one of the Gospels,
for themselves. There, I believe, the words and works of
Jesus would provide a most convincing reason to embrace Him
as Lord and Savior, and find in Him the spiritual
satisfaction that so many today seek after.