Is Jesus the “Son of God”?

21 02 2016

Jesus statue Rio   Recently I was having a meal in my home with a Muslim brother who often quotes the Bible to me and has a high honor for Jesus. I loved his openness to talk about Jesus, and wanted him to know that at least some of the differences between how Muslims and Christians talk about Jesus (not all) have their roots in historic and linguistic differences.

So I began to share about the phrase “son of God,” which is so difficult for Muslims to accept. The Qur’an clearly states that God cannot have a walad, or a biological offspring. Of course, all Christians would agree—Jesus’ sonship has nothing biological about it. So why did the Qur’an emphasize this point?

In the era of the Prophets of Israel, everyone was looking forward to the coming Messiah. He would be the “Anointed One,” the King who ushers in God’s Kingdom, the offspring of King David.

This concept of a King anointed by God to rule invoked a special relationship with God, which God chose to describe as a “Father-Son” relationship. In Psalm 89:20-27, we read that God called David his “firstborn,” and that David was to call God “Father.” This is even clearer in the case of Solomon, where God declares:

“I will be his a¯b (father), and he shall be my ben (son).”

Did you realize Jesus was not the first person to be called God’s son? But as Messiah, and rightful King, God spoke from the sky a similar pronouncement over Jesus in Luke 3:22:

“You are my ben (son), whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

So for a 1st century Jew, hearing a voice from heaven calling Jesus “the Son of God” would be understood as declaring him to be the Messiah (see also Matthew 16:16).

Now fast-forward to the 7th century and the birth of Islam. The Christian faith had spread throughout Greek and Roman culture, which both had religious traditions of major gods having sexual relations with other gods or with mankind to produce offspring, or minor gods—making the phrase “son of god” susceptible to more elastic interpretation. The Arabs themselves had centuries ago left the monotheism of Abraham and his son Ishmael and turned to worshiping a plurality of gods, which included male gods, female goddesses, and gods who were their offspring. There needed to be a clear call back to monotheism, to exalt God’s Oneness, and make it clear that He could have no offspring  (no walad, as opposed to the slightly more flexible Arabic word for “son” which is ibn, and has been used symbolically–like ben–in other Arabic texts).

While Christians believe that Jesus did have a unique relationship with God as the “eternal Word of God made flesh,” (John 1:1-14) the term “son” should not be a dividing point between Muslims and Christians, but a point of agreement. Jesus was not a walad, a biological son—far be it from God to have biological offspring—but an anointed Messiah-King, the “Al-Masih” mentioned in the Qur’an.

For those who want to explore many other Muslim-Christian misunderstandings based on historical or linguistic differences, let me recommend these two sources:

1) short video lectures on “Jesus in the Qur’an” accompanied by excellent articles from reputable Christian and Muslim scholars who are finding common ground at http://equalaccess.org.au/index.php/resources/videos

2) the outstanding book by Mark Siljander, A Deadly Misunderstanding, available at www.amazon.com or at http://www.adeadlymisunderstanding.com/

So when someone asks you, “Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?” take a moment to understand what the person is really asking. Don’t let the terms divide you, when in reality you may believe much the same thing!

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Ishmael–God Hears

4 04 2012

An illustration of Genesis 21:18. Print 448 in...

This week I read a wonderful book by an insightful Pakistani brother, Faisal Malick, entitled HERE COMES ISHMAEL: The Kairos Moment for the Muslim People.  What I loved about the book was the tremendous hope Malick holds, based on the Bible, for millions of Muslims to find a fulfillment of their cry for God through the Messiah, Jesus.

Only 4 Bible characters were directly named by God: Jesus, John the Baptist, Isaac and Ishmael.  Ishmael’s name means “God hears.” In Genesis 21, as a teenager, Ishmael faces a faith-crisis like few of us could imagine.  First his own father rejects him and sends him away.  Then the supplies run out and he knows he’s going to die.  His own mother can’t bear to watch and distances herself from him, too, leaving him totally alone.  Malick imagines Ishmael may have asked questions such as, “Who am I?  The son of a patriarch, or just the son of a servant?” “My father taught me about God, but like my father and mother, has God forsaken me too?”  Even without the lack of nourishment, Ishmael could have given up on life with a broken heart, broken identity, and broken faith.

But in Genesis 21:17 it says that God heard Ishmael’s cry.  The prophecy hidden in his name became his experience.  And God opened their eyes to see a water source that had been with them all along but they just couldn’t see it.

Many modern Muslims express a similar heart-cry for God, but issues of rejection, broken hearts, fractured identities, and despairing faith have blinded them to the Living Water right under their noses–the Messiah, Jesus, highly honored in the Qur’an, coming again to Judge the earth, the one Healer who can bring wholeness to their hearts.  He’s already present to save for those with eyes to see.

Malick exhorts us: “We must intercede for the Muslims like a mother would for her dying child.  Some of us have walked away from Ishmael, just like his own mother did, because the condition of Ishmael seems so hopeless in many ways; but we must yield to the Spirit of God and [believe] God will hear the cry of the Muslim people in this hour.”

I believe that the truth of God’s destiny over the sons of Ishmael is not fully found in “Islam” which means “submission.”  The submission of a servant is not the same as the affectionate relationship of a son.  But God will reveal to the Muslim world the truth of their destiny hidden in the name “Ishmael.”  God hears.  Even in the greatest crisis, at the lowest point, God has not abandoned them, He hears.

Without a father, a son’s identity and destiny cannot be fully fulfilled.  Jesus said he came to “reveal the Father.”  Who needs this revelation more than Ishmael’s children?  And as I’ve said before, Malachi 4:6 prophesies this revelation is on its way!

When Romans 10:19 talks about Israel being “provoked” to jealousy by the salvation of the Gentiles, could it be millions of Muslims reaching out to the Jews with a new love found in Jesus will finally provoke the Jews to consider that Jesus could be their Messiah?  Wouldn’t that just be like Father God to use a good (but despised) Samaritan to bring healing to a hurting Jew, to use a long-lost son (unwanted by his own brother) who comes home to start a party in Father’s house for everyone, including the older son who never understood his Father’s love?

Pray with me for Muslims worldwide to see what they couldn’t see before–an open door (John 10:9) for them to come as sons back into the Father’s house.  And when it happens, I want to be in the house partying with them! 🙂





God’s Father-heart for Muslims

30 03 2012
Abraham Sends Hagar and Ishmael Away (Gen. 21:...

Abraham Sends Hagar and Ishmael Away (Gen. 21:1-14) Русский: Авраам отпускает Агарь с Измаилом (Быт. 21:1-14) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just returned from a speaking trip to Texas, where people asked me questions like, “Why do Muslims hate Christians so much?” and “How did we get into this mess anyway?”  I took those opportunities to direct them back to Abraham’s broken family relationships: the rejection, abandonment, jealousy, resentment, and broken father-figure that Ishmael inherited.

The question is, how can we minister healing to those heart wounds on an individual scale, then on a corporate scale, to Muslim communities and Muslim nations?

A vital key to our success in this is how we position ourselves.  Imagine Isaac coming to Ishmael with a superior attitude: “I got Daddy’s inheritance, but I’ll give you a handout now and again.”  Unfortunately, the Western church too often approaches Muslims with a superior attitude, and don’t understand when our isolated acts of kindness or generosity are looked at with suspicion or even rejected altogether.

We must position ourselves as equals, and invite Muslims to join us in the embrace of an Everlasting Father who does not reject or abandon us.  For many Christians, we need this revelation and healing for our own earthly father wounds before we can share it with our Muslim friends.  Only through their true Father’s acceptance can they find healing from their woundedness and rejection from their “earthly” father (Abraham), as well as the generations of fathers since.  We can open a new door for them back to the Father, and when they experience His love, they’ll be able to love those they couldn’t before.

I believe God is going to supernaturally help us in this process.  Malachi 4:6 prophesies that in the last days God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”  We already see this happening on a family level, with more dads than ever before realizing how important it is that they invest deeply in their children’s lives.  We also see a younger generation being taught about honor for their fathers in a fresh way.  Could God take this to a community and national scale?  How about healing the father-child wound (and resulting orphan spirit) within Islam?  In these last days, I believe we’ll see it happen.

I remember the day one of my Muslim friends got the revelation that God was her Father.  I never told her that, but the Holy Spirit whispered it to her, and it changed everything in her relationship with God.  May God pour out the revelation of His Father’s heart on all the sons of Ishmael!