In this session of Secret Church 16, Pastor David Platt teaches Christians what Muslims believe. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world today. The number of Muslims, which is currently 1.7 billion, is projected to equal the number of Christians by 2050. There are many common misconceptions about Muslims, including the idea that all Muslims are Arabs. A Muslim is someone who submits to God based on the teaching of Muhammad, Islam’s founder.
Muslims follow the Qur’an, Islam’s most revered holy book, and they confess that Allah is the only God and that Muhammad is his prophet. This session also gives an overview of Islam’s five pillars, or foundational tenets, as well as its six basic beliefs. Finally, the urgent task of engaging Muslims with the gospel is discussed. Of the 2,317 Muslim people groups, a staggering 2,121 of them are unreached with the gospel. In this session, David Platt offers suggestions for sharing the gospel with Muslims, including questions to ask in order to transition into a gospel conversation.
- Debunking Myths
- Who are Muslims?
- What Do Muslims Believe?
- How Do We Share the Gospel with Muslims?
My hope, particularly in this really hyper-sensitive cultural context we live in, is that part of the fruit of this quick overview of Islam would be that you would not be frightened or hesitant around Muslims, but that you would reach out to them. I want you to have good friends who are Muslims, and to know, love, and care for them. So let’s debunk a few myths, and then dive into who Muslims are, what they believe, and how to share the gospel with them.
Debunking Myths About What Muslims Believe
The first myth is that all Muslims are Arabs. It’s not true. Muslim is a religious term, and Arab is an ethnolinguistic term. An Arab is a member of a people group that speaks the Arabic language. Many Arabs are followers of Christ and have joined together with us in Secret Church tonight. Also, many non-Arabs are Muslim. So Muslim and Arab are not identical terms.
Now, Islam originated among Arabs. The Qur’an was written in Arabic. Many Arabs are Muslim. But most Muslims today are not Arab. Some estimates actually say only about 20% of Muslims are Arabs. The largest Muslim populations are Indonesian, Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshian peoples. So by no means are all Muslims Arabs.
Second myth: all Muslims are terrorists who hate Americans. Totally not true. Most Muslims are extremely hospitable and friendly. They’re some of the most hospitable and friendly people I’ve ever met in the world, and many are happy Americans.
A final myth: all Muslims hate Jesus. That’s also not true. Most Muslims actually have respect and reverence for Jesus, according to the teachings in Qur’an 3:45. We could go on and on the rest of the night with myths about Muslims, but let’s dive into who Muslims are and what they believe.
Who Are Muslims?
By definition, a Muslim is someone who submits to God based on the teachings of Muhammad. The word “Islam” means “submission.” The central Islamic creed says, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
What do Muslims Believe About Muhammad?
Let’s think for a moment about Muhammad. He was born in 570 A.D. in the Arabian Peninsula, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. His father died a few days after his birth. His mother died when he was six years old. His grandfather died when he was nine years old. So he was predominantly raised by his uncle. He herded flocks as he traveled with his uncle on trips between Syria and Arabia. And through those travels he learned about monotheism through various Jewish influences. Many scholars even think he learned about Jesus through Monophysites who taught that Jesus only had a divine nature. We’ll come back to that later.
At age 25 he married a wealthy widow who was 40 years old. At 40 he had a vision of archangel Gabriel in a cave near Mecca, where he received a command from God that said, “Read in the name of thy Lord who created, who created man of blood coagulated. Read! Thy Lord is the most beneficent, who taught by the pen, taught that what they knew not unto men.”
So the command to read would lead to the name of Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, which means “the reading,” or “the reciting” of the revelations Muhammad received from God. So Muhammad, who was illiterate, would dictate these revelations to his followers. Tradition has it that Muhammad was initially terrified by this vision. But he received assurance from his wife and her professing Christian cousin, who assured Muhammad that he was now being visited by the same being who had once visited Moses, and that Muhammad was now being called to be a prophet of God in a way similar to Moses.
Consequently, Muhammad began preaching in Mecca as a prophet with a clear message. The essence of it was that there is only one God, so Muhammad taught a strict monotheism, which was a big contrast to the polytheistic culture around him. Before Muhammad, the Arab tribes around him worshipped over 350 different gods, the chief of which they called Allah. But Muhammad taught that there was only one God, and we’re obligated to submit to his will—which is how Muslims became known as those who submit to God.
Just to make this clear, please note that unlike Jesus Who claimed to be God, Muhammad was definitely not claiming to be God. So while Christians worship Jesus as God, Muslims do not worship Muhammad as God. We’ll come back to that later. He taught that there is only one God, we’re obligated to submit to God’s will, and a Day of Judgment is coming when all will be assessed on whether or not they have obeyed God.
Muhammad hated the idolatry and what he perceived as the immorality of the Arabs in Mecca who came to trade goods, including their greed, selfishness and the way they lorded wealth over the poor. He addressed that, saying, “You’re going to be judged by how you live.” Polytheists who thrived on idol worship were not happy with him, but for many years his influential uncle and wealthy wife were able to protect him.
But they both died, leaving Muhammad to flee from Mecca in 622. His flight, called the hegira, now marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. He went to a city—which is now known as Medina—and there married many wives and became the religious and political leader of Medina. Estimates are that he had about 12 wives. There’s some disagreement on who they were and who were considered wives.
Then in 630, Muhammad retook control of Mecca, where he destroyed idols and declared the Kaaba—the main temple in Mecca—to be the most holy site in Islam, the place toward which all devout Muslims direct their prayers today. He united Arabian tribes into a vast army, and then died in 632.
After that point, division over Muhammad’s successor—the caliph—led to a split among Muslims into two groups. One group, Sunni Muslims—who make up about 80% of Muslims today—believed Muhammad’s successors should be chosen by consensus or election. The first was Abu Bakr, who was Muhammad’s father-in-law.
The other group of Muslims would become known as the Shiite Muslims, who make up about 10-15% of Muslims today. They believed Muhammad’s successor should be one of Muhammad’s descendants. So the first was his son-in-law. Again, for those doing the math, that leaves about 5-10% of Muslims who don’t fall neatly into one of those two categories or classifications.
History continues. By 732 Islam had spread westward all the way to Spain and eastward all the way to India by two primary means. First was by personal conversion—people would convert to belief in Islam. Secondly, by military coercion—people being forced into acceptance of Muslim beliefs at least initially by military coercion. Since that time, Islam has been the dominant religion throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and much of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia. We’ve talked about how they’ve moved increasingly across South Asia, including India.
What do Muslims Believe About the Qur’an?
So Muslims are people who submit to God based on the teachings of Muhammad which are recorded in the Qur’an. After Muhammad’s death, his recitations were written down and collated by Uthman, the third caliph, to form the official Qur’an. They were compiled by his followers, but there were some discrepancies and different accounts of what Muhammad had taught. So the third caliph collated them and determined what was authentic, and then burned the rest.
The Qur’an then came into existence as an earthly version of a heavenly book. It was written in Arabic, the “language of Allah.” That’s why no translated version of the Qur’an can be the authentic Qur’an. Recitation of the Qur’an in Arabic is highly valued. It’s Allah’s words in Allah’s language. The Qur’an is comprised of 114 chapters called surahs and divided into verses called ayats. All in all, it’s about the same length as the New Testament.
Two key differences can be noted at this point. One, the Qur’an is not a history. So in the same way the New Testament would be a historical account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the birth of the church, the spread of the church, and letters that supplemented that, the Qur’an is not a history in that way. And it was dictated by one human author, not written by many different human authors. It all came from one man, Muhammad, who taught it to others.
The Qur’an doesn’t claim it’s the only holy book. It claims it is a final holy book that supersedes all previous books that have been corrupted. So Muhammad and Muslims look to the Torah—the first five books in the Old Testament given to Moses—the Psalms given to David, and the Gospel given to Jesus. The Qur’an says, “We made a covenant of old with the children of Israel. You have nothing of guidance until you observe the Torah and the Gospel.” So the Qur’an points to the Gospel in these ways, but then Muhammad claims that these texts have been corrupted. Now the Qur’an given to Muhammad would be the fourth text, the final holy book that supersedes all the others that have come before it.
So this is the central holy book of Islam, but it is supplemented by various other teachings. These include the Hadiths, which are traditions, stories and teachings based on the life of Muhammad that inform and prescribe Islamic belief and practice, and Shariah, which are the legal interpretations of Muslim teachings that prescribe religious and secular duties, including laws and the penalties for breaking them. You may have heard of Shariah Law.
I hope that gives you a big-picture overview of who Muslims are and how they came about historically. Put as simply as possible, Muslims are people who submit to God based on the teachings of Muhammad as communicated in the Qur’an.
What Do Muslims Believe?
So then, what do Muslims believe? What does the Qur’an teach? Well, we saw in Buddhism Four Noble Truths and an Eightfold Path. Islam has Five Pillars and Six Basic Beliefs.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The first of the Five Pillars of Islam is the Shahada: the confession of faith. To become a Muslim, a person must say and believe this statement: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” That’s the essential confession of a Muslim. It’s the first pillar upon which Islam is based.
The second pillar is Salat: the prayers. The Qur’an prescribes recitation of prayers five times a day facing Mecca. Throughout the day, Muslims are to set aside five specific times—dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and evening—to pray facing Mecca. Which is why if you’re in a predominantly Muslim community, you would hear calls to prayer over loud speakers, people would congregate or go to particular places to pray, and they would pray facing Mecca using repetitions of standing, bowing, prostrating, sitting and standing again. These prayers are preceded by ritual washing of the arms, face and feet.
As I mentioned, the prayers are prompted by a call to prayer in many places around the world. Benefits of those prayers five times each day, according to the Qur’an, are that they strengthen belief in and submission to Allah, bring focus to the good life prescribed through Muhammad, lead to cleanliness and purity, and finally, they build unity with other Muslims.
In addition to those daily prayers, a prayer service led by an Imam, a Muslim religious leader, takes place every Friday. Jumaa is the name for the Muslim holy day at the mosque. That prayer service would include a sermon from the Imam as well. So the second pillar of Islam is the prayers.
Confession, the prayers, and third the Zakat: the giving of alms. Muslims must give at least 2.5% of their income to the poor.
The fourth pillar would be Sawm: the fast. This takes places during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, commemorating the month when Muhammad received his first revelation. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and then break the fast with a special meal, the “iftar.” Technically, Muslims are supposed to fast all day long from liquids, food, tobacco, sex—from the first light in the morning until darkness at night. Interestingly, more food is consumed during Ramadan than during any other month, because Muslims eat large meals and drink plenty all night during Ramadan. I’ve been in Muslim countries during Ramadan and eaten meals with Muslims at night, and they were full meals.
The fifth and final pillar is the Hajj: the pilgrimage. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her lifetime. When they arrive, each pilgrim walks seven times around the Kaaba, the holy site of Islam. Muhammad taught that this was the original place of worship for Adam, and later for Abraham, so it is the site for true religion. So a pilgrimage there is the final pillar of Islam.
Six Basic Beliefs of Muslims
The Five Pillars are accompanied by Six Basic Beliefs, summarized in the Qur’an:
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness—to believe in Allah, and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for him; for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity. (Qur’an 2:177)
In this passage, you see these different beliefs.
- Belief in God, in Allah. You can look at how the Qur’an starts with deliberate monotheism. Note that Allah is the Arabic word or name for God, used by all Arabic speakers—including both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians. So to talk about God as Allah in Arabic is not to mix Islam and Christianity. Arab and Muslims call the God of the Qur’an Allah. Arab Christians call the God of the Bible Allah. Obviously there are two very different understandings of God/Allah. But the Arabic word for God is Allah.
Muslims teach that there is one, unique, incomparable God Who does not share his divinity or attributes with anyone or anything else. As a result of that belief in God, the primary sin in Islam is shirk, which is idolatry. It’s the worship of any god besides Allah. In Islam, it’s said that Allah has 99 names—which refer to his attributes or characteristics—73 in the Qur’an, 23 in the Hadith, which supplements the Qur’an.
- Belief in angels. Angels worship God alone, obey Him and act according to His commands. According to Islam, I mentioned that the angel Gabriel revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad.
- Belief in the prophets. According to Islam, there are 25 main prophets, amidst a total of 124,000 prophets. The Qur’an reveals that Muslims see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus all as being significant prophets. However, Muhammad is the greatest and last of the prophets. “Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the messenger of God and the last of the prophets…” (Surah 33:40).
- Belief in the holy books. We’ve already mentioned the Torah, the Psalms, the Injil (Gospel), the Qur’an, and the four prophets who brought about those holy books: Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad. Because Muhammad is the supreme prophet, the Qur’an is the supreme and final among the holy books. It’s perfect and it’s guarded from corruption—which we’ll talk about more in a second.
- Belief in divine decree. God is the Creator of everything. He knows everything, including all that happened and will happen. He’s recorded all that has happened and will happen. Whatever God wills to happen will happen. Whatever God wills not to happen doesn’t happen. As a result, “Inshallah” is a common Arabic phrase often used by Muslims which means “If Allah wills it.”
- The final basic belief is Islam is belief in a final judgment day. On that day, “The balance will be true (to a nicety). Those whose scale (of good) will be heavy and will prosper. Those whose scale will be light, will find their souls in perdition, for that they wrongfully treated our signs” (Qur’an 7:8-9). “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light will be those who have lost their souls; in hell will they abide” (Qur’an 23:102-103).
So the Judgment Day will be an ultimate day of reward for the faithful that leads to paradise and of punishment for the unfaithful that leads to hell fire. The Qur’an teaches, “For those who reject Allah, is a terrible penalty: but for those who believe and work righteous deeds, is forgiveness, and a magnificent reward” (Qur’an 35:7). “The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of all creatures” (Qur’an 98:1-8). “Whoever goes astray, he himself bears the whole responsibility of wandering” (Qur’an 10:109).
Now, there’s one important note I want to emphasize here: Islam teaches that humans are born spiritually neutral. People are capable of obeying God’s commands, and remain this way even after they sin. Human beings are weak and forgetful, but not fallen. In other words, people don’t have a sinful nature. They are spiritually neutral.
This again is huge. We’ve got to see how the problem is diagnosed. As a result of the perspective of Islam, our great need is not salvation—it’s instruction. We need to be taught the right beliefs and taught to do the right things. That’s why in Islam there are prophets, but there is no savior. Muhammad is a prophet, not a savior. Our great need between now and Judgment Day is instruction before that day, not a savior on that day.
Because on that day, only Allah will determine if a Muslim is worthy to enter paradise. In the words of the Qur’an, “Allah…punishes whom he pleases and forgives whom he pleases” (Qur’an 5:40), a reality that leads to fear and leads to insecurity. This may sound critical from the start, but hear this quote from Muhammad, who himself said according to this Hadith, “By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me” (Hadith 5:266). So even Muhammad lacked security regarding what would happen to him on Judgment Day.
There it is: a quick attempt to try to summarize the essence of Muslim belief. Again, there’s so much more we could dive into from various Hadiths to Shariah Law, different interpretations, different sects of Islam (Sunii, Shiite). But the essence of Muslim belief revolves around those Five Pillars: confession, prayers, giving of alms, fasting, and pilgrimage. Plus the Six Major Beliefs: God, angels, prophets, holy books, divine decrees, and divine judgment.
How Do We Share the Gospel With Muslims?
So with that foundation, how do you share the gospel with Muslims?
Know and Understand what They Believe
Here’s where I want to elaborate a little bit more about what Muslims believe—not just what Muslims believe about Islam, but what they believe about Christianity. In order to build bridges to the gospel in conversation with anybody, it’s helpful to understand where they’re coming from and what they’re thinking. With Muslim friends, neighbors and acquaintances, I want us to know and understand what they believe, not just about Islam, but about the gospel, the Bible and Christianity.
Most, if not all, Muslims believe that the Bible is not reliable. Muhammad taught this. Muslims point to what they term flaws in the Bible—Old and New Testament. It’s a belief that’s reinforced by any contemporary scholar who applies negative critical scholarship to the Bible. So the average Muslim has been taught, and will say and teach, that the Bible has been changed. Even the fact that it has been translated is a problem. We all don’t read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek. That shows that the Bible has been changed in translation. What we’re reading is not the Bible. It’s been changed, and the Bible has been corrupted in the process of translations over the course of history.
So the Bible is not reliable. You can usually assume that a Muslim you’re speaking with assumes that you believe in an unreliable book that has been changed and corrupted many times over. In the many conversations I’ve had with Muslims about the gospel, this is one of the most common things Muslims will tell me. Most can’t point to anything specific that’s been changed or corrupted in the Bible, but in their minds it’s just a given that the Bible has been changed or corrupted. It’s unreliable.
Second, many Muslims believe that Christians are immoral. I’m talking specifically here about Muslims outside the United States who associate Christianity with Western culture and make assumptions about the beliefs and behaviors of Christians in light of media exported from the West. So they just look at Western culture.
Stop for a minute and imagine what would you think about Christianity if the only Christian things you saw were television, music and movies exported from the West? Just imagine if your impression of Jesus was based on what you see in Western culture. That would not lead to a high moral esteem for Christianity.
Instead, Western culture leads to an impression of Christianity where Christians are simply taking the easy way out. They’re living in all kinds of immorality and are just assuming God is going to forgive them for whatever they do. What kind of faith is that? Christian faith is apparently a license to live however morally loose you want, a case that’s growing with the rapid decline of any standard for morality in Western culture.
Third, Muslims are taught and believe that Christians worship three Gods. It’s not the Trinity. Muslims believe Christians worship God the Father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the Son. Again, Islam is strictly monotheistic—the belief in one God—so Muslims are taught in the Qur’an and in mosques that Christians worship not just God, but Jesus and Mary, who apparently had intercourse with God the Father to produce a Son—which is detestable to Muslims.
That leads to the next Muslim belief, which is that Jesus was only a prophet and not the Son of God. God doesn’t have a wife, and He doesn’t have a Son. “They say the God of mercy has begotten a son. Now have you uttered a grievous thing… It is not proper for God to have children” (Qur’an 3:78, 19:93). This very idea is not true, according to Muslims, and it’s one of the corruptions that Christians have taken from the Bible. So the Qur’an says:
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth (Qur’an 4:171).
So again, it’s not that Jesus is not important and significant in Muslim thought. He’s a prophet. He’s a messenger. But He is not the Son of God. This is serious language:
Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said, “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.” The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever associates partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire (Hell). For the wrongdoers, there will be no helpers” (Qur’an 5:72).
Continuing with what Muslims believe about Jesus, they believe Jesus did not die on the cross. “They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them” (Qur’an 4:157). There are some differences here among Muslims. Some Muslims believe Allah took Jesus to heaven before the crucifixion, because it is unthinkable that an approved prophet of God would face that kind of humiliating death. Other Muslims believe that Jesus was taken down from the cross in a coma, then He later revived and traveled to another area where He finally died.
Regardless, Muslims historically deny that Jesus died on the cross, and as a result they totally deny the possibility or even the necessity of substitutionary atonement—of Jesus paying the price for sin as our Substitute.
So it’s helpful, I think, when you’re sharing the gospel with a Muslim, to know what they believe—or rather, what they disbelieve—about the gospel, the Bible, Christians, and Christianity. So how does that affect the way we share the gospel? First and foremost, I want to exhort you, not just to know and understand what they believe, but to know and trust what you believe.
Know and Trust what You Believe about God
It’s vital for you to know Bible truths, specifically the Trinitarian picture of God that is clearly communicated in the Bible and which has not been corrupted or changed. We know that God is Three in One. I’m not saying this is easy to understand. There is mystery in the Trinity. But it’s true. In the words of A.W. Tozer: “To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.”
What does the Bible teach about how we’re to understand Who God is? There are three foundational truths that are clearly communicated in the Bible.
One, God is three Persons. The Bible refers to God with plural pronouns (Genesis 1:26-27; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all Persons. They’re distinct Persons. They’re not powers or forces. We don’t have a hard time thinking about God the Father or God the Son as Persons, but sometimes we think about the Holy Spirit like an impersonal force or power. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. As a Person, the Holy Spirit teaches: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26); He testifies: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16); He is grieved: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30); He intercedes (Romans 8:26-27), He searches and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He gives gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), and He speaks (Acts 8:29). So clearly the Holy Spirit is a Person.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each distinct in their Personhood. They’re distinct. We see them distinctly in Scripture:
“Go therefore 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; see also Matthew 3:16-17).
You see God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—distinct Persons. In the Bible, the Son is distinguished from the Father, the Spirit is distinguished from the Son, and the Father is distinguished from the Spirit. That’s the first truth that’s clear in the Bible: God is three Persons. He is Trinitarian.
The second truth is that each Person of the Trinity is fully God. God the Father is fully God. God the Son is fully God—which we’re going to talk about in more depth in a minute, because that’s a huge point of difference with Islam. But the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus, Who “was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). That’s referring to Jesus.
God the Son is fully God, and God the Spirit is fully God. When you lie to the Holy Spirit, you lie to God (Acts 5:3-4). The Spirit is omnipresent. The Spirit is omniscient. Each Person of the Godhead is fully God. So God is three Persons and each Person is fully God.
The third truth is that there is one God. This is monotheism. It’s not tri-theism; isn’t not polytheism. The Bible teaches strict monotheism:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
“I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:5-6)
If you put those truths together—God is three Persons, each Person is fully God, and there is one God—we see that the Trinity is a mystery, but not a contradiction.
A contradiction would be saying that God is one and not-one. That’s not what we’re saying or what the Bible is teaching. It’s not a contradiction. It is a mystery. We’re not saying God is one and not-one at the same time. We’re saying the Bible teaches that God is one in three and that His oneness and threeness are different. He’s three in a way that’s different from His being one. Again, as Tozer said, we’re treading on holy ground here, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity. But it’s not contradiction.
Second, the Trinity is eternal. The Father has been and always will be God, the Son has been and always will be God, and the Spirit has been and always will be God—from the very beginning for all of eternity.
Third, from the beginning and all throughout the Bible the Persons of the Trinity have different functions. This is part of their distinction. At times the Son is functionally but not essentially subordinate to the Father. So the Son is fully God, but the Son submits to the Father. At times the Son is functionally—again, not essentially—dependent on the Spirit. So there are times when the Son is led by the Spirit. That’s distinction—there’s a quality there of being led by.
So consider creation. God the Father is speaking, God the Son is implementing, and God the Spirit is hovering. Consider salvation (Ephesians 1:3-14). God the Father plans, God the Son obeys, and God the Spirit applies. Consider the difference. Father, Son and Holy Spirit—they’re equal in their attributes, but they’re different in their roles. They function in different ways.
Dangerous Heresies to Avoid
All that leads to three dangerous heresies to avoid. I mention these here these relate to Muhammad’s story. In his travels as a youth, he was said to have interacted with people who believed different heresies about the Trinity that were fairly common in the sixth and seventh centuries. He was influenced by these heresies.
So don’t think doctrine like this isn’t a big deal. Don’t think for a second it’s not important for you and me to know what we believe, for us to be ready to recognize falsehood when we hear it. This is not just stuff for ivory-tower theologians. This is for everyday Christians. We’re not talking about cults tonight, but if a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door tomorrow, they’re going to come with heresy—falsehood—about Who Jesus is. They’re not going to announce it that way. They’re not going to say, “I’m here to spread modalism or Arianism or polytheism.,” They’re going to be spreading understandings about God and Jesus that are totally wrong, in the same way Muslims are spreading understandings about the God of the Bible that are totally wrong. So we must beware.
Modalism denies the first foundational truth that God is three Persons. It basically teaches that instead of three distinct Persons, God has three distinct modes. It’s like God wears three different masks. Sometimes He puts on a Father mask, and He’s in Father mode. Sometimes He’s got a Son mask and is in Son mode, or the Spirit mask in the Spirit mode.
There are all kinds of problems with this, but essentially this denies relationships within the Trinity as distinct Persons, ignores the separation of Persons in Scripture, and ultimately undercuts the doctrine of atonement as God the Father pours out the wrath due our sin upon God the Son for our salvation. So it’s very significant.
The second heresy is Arianism denies the second foundational truth that each Person in the Trinity is fully God. Arianism denies the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. It basically teaches that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not fully God. The idea that the Son is inferior in essence to the Father is much closer to what Islam teaches, which is that Jesus is not God.
The third heresy to avoid is polytheism, which is a denial of the third foundational truth that there’s only one God. Polytheism is the worship of more than one god, which Islam is reacting against and the Bible totally reacts against as well. The Bible calls worship of more than one god idolatry
“Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:20-22)
We must avoid these heresies, and all this leads to three practical conclusions when it comes to the nature of God. The first conclusion is that our God is worthy, and it is appropriate to worship the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all as God. The Bible teaches this.
The second conclusion is that our minds are finite. The Trinity is divinely revealed and not humanly constructed. Those are the words of Tertullian, an early church father. He believed the Trinity was so absurd from the human standpoint that no one would have invented it. We don’t hold it as true because it’s self-evident. We hold it because God has revealed to us what He is like, and this is what He has said.
The Trinity is incomprehensible. When someday we see God, we shall see Him as He is and will understand better than we do now. Yet He will always be God, and there’s no promise that when we get to heaven we’re going to have every question answered. There will always be awe, majesty and mystery around Who our God is. This means that any analogy is insufficient. So don’t try to say, “Oh, God’s kind of like an egg. You’ve got a yoke, a white and shell.” That’s just weird, and it’s not helpful theologically. So don’t do it. Or think of another analogy, and then throw it out. Every analogy you think of—throw it out. “Well, maybe it’s like….” Throw it out. It doesn’t matter what you’re going to say next.
Can we know the doctrine of the Trinity exhaustively? No. Can we know the doctrine of the Trinity truly? Absolutely. Tozer says it well. “Love and faith are at home in the mystery of the Godhead. Let reason kneel in reverence outside.”
And then the third truth here, the third conclusion, is that our salvation is secure. Here’s the beauty. We are not saved by a creature—we’re saved by the Creator Himself, Jesus. If someone teaches that Jesus was a created being, but nonetheless One Who saved us, then that teaching would wrongly attribute credit for salvation to a creature and not to God Himself. No, the One Who saved us completely is completely God—which is clearly taught in the Bible.
There’s one last thing about the Trinity. Consider this anonymous quote: “If you try to explain it, you’ll lose your mind. If you try to deny it, you’ll lose your soul.”
Know and Trust what You Believe about Jesus
So know and trust what you believe about God. Second, know and trust what you believe about Jesus. This is huge. Yes, we know Him by faith, but when you’re sharing the gospel with Muslims, we’ve got to have a firm grip on what Scripture teaches.
Jesus was fully man. He was born of a virgin. He possessed the full range of human characteristics, including a human body, a human mind, a human soul, human emotions, and human observations. People saw Him as man. As a man, He is fully able to identify with us. That’s the beauty of Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He is familiar with our struggles. He’s familiar with our sorrow. He’s familiar with our suffering. Jesus is fully man.
And Jesus is fully God. Look at His identity in the Word—in John 1 and other places: He’s eternal. He’s the Creator. He’s the Sustainer. He’s omnipotent. He’s omniscient. He is sovereign. This is Who the Bible teaches Jesus is—all these things that only God is. His own testimony in the Bible confirms His identity: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). He uses the name of God the Father revealed in the Old Testament to refer to Himself. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Then man’s testimony confirms this. Thomas looked at Him after He rose from the dead and said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). And Jesus didn’t say, “No, Thomas! You’ve got it wrong. I’m just a man.” No, Thomas realized what is true: in Him “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). He is the Alpha and the Omega, Who is and was and is to come (Revelation 1:8).
As such, Jesus is fully able to identify with God. It’s why John Owen said this about Jesus on the cross, “He suffered not as God, but He Who suffered was God.” Now again, there’s mystery here. The Person of Christ is a mysterious unity of two natures. It is summarized in the Athanasian Creed, one of the earliest creeds of the church (in the early 300 A.D. range). “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…who although he be God and man; yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by taking of the manhood into God.”
On that mystery, Christianity hangs and is held together. If you deny this mystery, you deny everything about Jesus. It’s what C.S. Lewis called the “trilemma.” In light of all Jesus taught about Himself, we have to ask the question: is He a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? Because we can’t choose any other options. Lewis said, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
It’s not possible to say Jesus is just a good Teacher or a Prophet or merely a good man. Because if He taught all these things about Himself, and they’re not true, then He wasn’t a good teacher, He was a liar. Or at best, He thought those things were true, and He was just totally deluded—a lunatic. Those are the only options for belief about Jesus, unless He is Who He said He was: Lord.
Know and Trust what You Believe about the Cross
Which then leads us to know and trust what we believe about the cross, because Who Jesus is has everything to do with what He came to do: to seek and save the lost.
How could He do that? I already talked about this. He came to live a sinless life, fully obedient and completely righteous. Jesus came to die a substitutionary death, to make propitiation for the sins of the people and to die in the place of the disobedient and the unrighteous. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
This is sinless substitution. The essence of sin is that man substitutes himself for God. The essence of salvation is that God has substituted Himself for man. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the cross, God the Father expresses His judgment on sin; at the cross God the Son endures His judgment against sin; and at the cross, God enables salvation for sinners.
Know and Trust what You Believe about Salvation
Which leads us to know and trust what we believe about salvation: that we can’t be saved by what we can do, but by what He has done. It’s not by obeying God’s laws, which is what we’re seeing in Islam. Follow the rules. Follow the instructions and you’ll be saved. Martin Luther said it well:
The law is divine and holy. Let the law have its glory, but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified, and shall live through it. I grant it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbor; also to live in love, soberness, patience, etc., but it will not to show me how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death, and hell. Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. Most necessary is it, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.
So, just beat the gospel into your head continually! It’s a gospel which proclaims that we’re saved by grace alone. If God marks iniquities, who of us can stand before Him (Psalm 130:3)? We’re only saved by grace alone, through faith alone, trusting in Christ alone. How are you righteous before God? Listen to how the Heidelberg Catechism explains it:
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have not kept any one of them, and that I am still ever prone to all that is evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of my own, out of pure grace, grants me the benefits of the perfect sacrifice of Christ, imputing to me his righteousness and holiness as if I had never committed a single sin or had ever been sinful, having fulfilled myself all the obedience which Christ has carried out for me, if only I accept such favor with a trusting heart.
Yes! So hold fast to that.
Know and Trust what You Believe about the Bible
Which leads us then to know and trust what we believe about the Bible. I wish we had more time here. We’ll have more time a year from now to talk about this, because amidst all the questions in our culture—and in cultures around the world—these questions need to be focused on. Is the Bible true? Is it antiquated and outdated? Is it chauvinistic? Is it offensive? Is it deceptive? Do people really believe this Book? Should people really believe this Book? I want to dive into all those questions and show the beauty of the Bible. So I’ll have six hours to do that, Lord willing, a year from now.
For now, here, why do we believe the Bible, that it is the Word of God, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)?
We believe the Bible because of its historical accuracy, because the Bible squares with history. Norman Geisler sums it up well when he says, “There have been thousand—not hundreds—of archeological finds in the Middle East that support the picture presented in the biblical record.” It’s historically accurate.
We believe the Bible because of its manuscript reliability. So, has it been changed or corrupted since its origination? We need to realize that thousands more manuscripts exist for the New Testament than for any other ancient writing. The earliest manuscripts are dated within decades of the original manuscripts. Those manuscripts are approximately 99.5% textually consistent. In other words, you don’t have two manuscripts that are totally different so that you have to choose one and burn the others. They are 99.5% the exact same. In the words of F.F. Bruce, “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”
We believe the Bible because of its fulfilled prophecy. There are over 300 specific prophecies that were fulfilled in the coming of Christ. We believe the Bible because of its clear unity—how all of it together points to Jesus. Over 40 distinct authors, in three different languages, across 1,500 years, are combined together in one Book, concerning one central theme: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Clear unity. We believe the Bible because of its internal testimony that it is the Word of God. It contains the law, the testimony, the precepts and the commandments of God Himself (Psalm 19:7-9). “Thus says the Lord…” is a phrase used over 3,000 times in the Bible. This is God’s Word according to Jesus and according to other biblical writers. For all these reasons and more that we’ll talk about a year from now, we can believe the Bible is the reliable, unchanged, uncorrupted Word of God.
To recap, it’s helpful when sharing the gospel with Muslims first to know and understand what they believe about Christianity, and then to know and trust what you believe about the Bible and what the Bible teaches about God, Jesus, the cross, and salvation.
Some Encouragement when Witnessing to Muslims
So on that basis, here’s some encouragement. On areas of disagreement with Muslims—which obviously there are many, and they are significant—do less debate and more dialogue. Utilize questions. Think about this in light of what Muslims believe.
Muslims believe and might say to you or me, “You worship three Gods.” So instead of jumping right into a debate on this and quoting the Athanasian Creed, ask a question. “Are you thinking of God, Jesus, and Mary? Far from it. We worship one God, revealed in three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Let me ask you a question. Which existed first in eternity: God or His Word or His Spirit?” Basically, you’re asking a question to create a category for saying God the Father and God the Spirit, as well as God the Son—the Word—were existing together from the beginning.
Or maybe a Muslim might say, “You think Jesus is God’s Son,” which they find abhorrent. It would be the same for you and me if someone was saying God the Father had intercourse with Mary, and they had a son. So put it out there. “Yes, I believe Jesus is God’s Son.” Don’t in any way shy away from the truth of the gospel. But then say, “But probably not in the way you’re thinking. Christians believe Jesus’ conception resulted from a miracle of the Holy Spirit. You don’t believe God would defile Himself through a physical relationship with a woman, do you?” To which they would respond, “No way.” To which you then respond, “Me either.”
Or maybe a Muslim tells you, “Jesus was only a prophet.” How might you respond? Well, think question. Consider something along the lines of this. You’re not attributing authority in any way to the Qur’an, but you could say, “Hey, I know in the Qur’an it says that Allah named Isa ‘Isa Masih,’ which means ‘the promised salvation.’ Why do you think Allah gives Isa (Jesus) this title?” So we’re not attributing authority to the Qur’an as an inspired book. But as a starting point, get them thinking, “Okay, who is Isa? Why would He be called the promised salvation?” And then begin to cross the bridge to the Word of God.
A Muslim might say to you, “Jesus didn’t die on the cross.” You might say, “You might be thinking, how could God let His Prophet lose by dying on a cross? But let me ask you a question. Which is greater—for God to save His Prophet by keeping Him from death, or to save Him by raising Him up and defeating death?” That’s a good conversation to have.
A Muslim might say, “You have to pay for your own sins. Jesus can’t do that for you.” You might say, “You’re right in that sin is serious. Would you like to look with me at what the Bible says about Jesus forgiving our sin so that we have hope on Judgment Day?” Just think through ways to turn their objection into opportunity.
Much like we mentioned, a Muslim might say, “The Bible has been changed and corrupted.” How do you respond to that? Just go into a full explanation of all the apologetic arguments for the reliability of Scripture? Well, maybe at some point you’re going to walk through some of those things, but maybe as a starting point, ask: “If all the holy books were originally true and given by Allah, who is able to preserve His Word, why is He able to keep the Qur’an free from corruption but He wasn’t able to preserve the first three holy books, including the Bible and the New Testament?”
Or maybe you can ask, “Wouldn’t you agree that if God is powerful enough to protect His Word? Who would be strong enough to corrupt God’s Word and when would they have done it?” Then maybe ask, “How about studying the holy books with me to see what they actually say?” Again, you could use the Qur’an as a starting point to lead back to the Scriptures. “In Qur’an 10:94, Allah tells Muhammad to go to the people of the Bible if he has a question or a doubt. If the Bible was changed or corrupted, why would Allah tell Muhammad to go to the Bible?”
You see, create categories for dialogue. You might even ask, “Which versions of the Qur’an say the Bible has been changed or corrupted?” Or more directly, “Which verses in the Bible have been changed or corrupted?” The goal here is to create dialogue instead of just immediately becoming defensive. Use questions.
Then, much like we talked about with Buddhism, use illustrations. I think about sinfulness and how the severity of sin is determined by the one who is sinned against.
Azim, a friend of mine who is an Arab follower of Jesus, was in the Middle East sharing the gospel with a taxi driver in his country. This Muslim driver believed his sin wasn’t enough to keep him from heaven. He hadn’t done too many bad things. So Azim said to him, “Hey, if I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?” The driver replied, “I’d throw you out of my taxi.” Azim said, “Well, if I went up to a random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?” The driver responded, “He’d probably call his friends and beat you up.” Azim said, “What if I went to a policeman and slapped him in the face? What would he do to me?” The driver replied, “You’d be beat up for sure and thrown in jail.”
Finally, Azim posed the question. “What if I went to the king of this country and slapped him in the face. What would he do to me?” The driver looked at Azim and awkwardly laughed. He told Azim, “You would die.” To which Azim said, “So you see that the severity of sin’s punishment is always a reflection of the position of the person who’s sinned against.” The driver realized, “Okay, if God is God, then one sin against God is infinitely serious.”
Or take the subject of incarnation. I was a meal during Ramadan, sitting around with Muslim men who were talking about Jesus. They immediately told me, “Jesus is not God. God would not debase Himself by becoming a man.” So I just told them a story I had heard someone else tell. “Well, think about this. Imagine there was a girl whom I loved and wanted to ask to marry me. Do you think I would just find a friend to go tell her that I loved her and to ask her to marry me? Or would I go myself?”
They said, “Of course you would go yourself.” I said, “Why?” “Because in matters of love, one must go himself.” I said, “This is the good news of the gospel, that God loves us so much that He didn’t just send us this person or that person. He came to us Himself. It’s actually a show of great love—infinite love—that He would come to us.”
Now, I’m not saying that in that conversation those guys fell on their knees and trusted in Christ. It didn’t happen. But, look for illustrations for thinking through and dialoguing about the gospel. Your goal is not to win an argument. Your goal is to gain a hearing, to work toward openness to the gospel. And as you do, trust in God’s Word and the truth of the gospel. Give them Scripture. Now, you might think—and you might have been thinking this all night long—we’re talking to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and they don’t believe the Bible! Or at least Muslims don’t believe the Bible is reliable. So why use the Bible?
It’s true that you need to keep that in mind, but here’s the deal. You know the Bible is true. You know it’s not just reliable, it’s also powerful. The Bible has supernatural authority. As we read earlier, it’s living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, able to penetrate the heart (Hebrews 4:12). So trust the Bible. Use it in conversation with Muslims. Talk about what the Bible teaches. Read or quote specific verses or passages. Don’t ever shy away from the Bible in evangelism. Give them Scripture in conversation. Give them Scriptures as follow-up, to read and look at, trusting that God will use it by the power of His Spirit to open eyes to its truth.
A couple months ago, I was in North Africa where there are very few Christians. Almost every Christian I talked to heard the Word initially—either via radio or some other means—and they started studying more through mail. One guy heard a radio show and wrote a nasty letter, just laying into the people who were broadcasting this radio show. He sent it off, and they sent him back some Scripture and a Bible study, saying if he was interested he could dive into it. He was so mad he started looking through it and he’s now a follower of Christ.
There was another guy who was walking through a market one day and saw a Bible just laying on the ground. He picked up and started reading it. Now he’s a follower of Christ. This Word is good. It does the work. So let it do the work. Give them Scripture.
Tell the story. Frame the gospel in light of the big picture. Trust in God’s Word, and point to God’s love. Tell them that God loves us. He is love, and He loves us so much that He forgives us of our sin.
Psalm 108:1-13 is such good news: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” That is great news! God adopts us as His children, so we can call God, “Father.”
Point Muslims to basic beliefs—not just in the judgment of God, but also the love of God. Tell them how He justifies us by His grace and adopts us into His family. Point to God’s love, trust in God’s Word, and pray in Jesus’ name. Much like we talked with other religions, pray for Muslims and pray with Muslims in Jesus’ name. There are several stories I could tell you about how God has opened hearts to the gospel through people just praying for Muslims in the name of Christ. When they’re walking through challenging times, pray in Jesus’ name.
Then, be holy in your lifestyle, particularly because a lot of what Muslims perceive as being the product of Christianity in the Western culture. Show them it’s not true. Show them that Jesus makes a difference in your life that’s totally distinct from Western culture. Be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Be hospitable and loving. Hospitality is huge in most predominantly Muslim cultures in the world. Hospitality should be huge in every Christian church and household. Invite Muslims into your home. Respect your differences and be sensitive to their diet. Muslim dietary codes forbid the eating of pork and the drinking of alcohol, so don’t serve wine and for crying out loud, don’t serve barbecue.
Be hospitable and loving. Be patient as you share. It’s much like we’ve talked about with other religions. They may not come to embrace the gospel overnight. Be particularly cognizant of the suffering a Muslim may face if they come to believe in Christ and choose to follow Him. Most Muslims come from an honor and shame culture, and a Muslim converting to Christianity brings a great deal of shame—not just on that person, but on their family. This is why Muslims who convert to Christianity are often ostracized from their families—and sometimes even killed. I remember talking to a woman in the Horn of Africa who knows that if her family finds out she’s a follower of Christ, she’ll immediately have her throat slit. We need to be cognizant of that.
We also need to be cognizant that suffering may come our way when we proclaim Christ. This is not by any means the case when sharing the gospel with every person who’s Muslim, particularly in North America. But the reality is if we’re going to be intentional about spreading the gospel to Muslims around the world today, that will inevitably mean going to places like west Africa in the middle of Boko Haram, Syria, Northern Iraq in the middle of ISIS, and Somalia in the middle of al-Shabab. Are we willing to relinquish our rights for the spread of the gospel in the world?
Two final exhortations regarding sharing with Muslims. Number one, get to the gospel. With dialogue and conversation, questions and illustrations, the goal is always to get to the truth of the gospel. Let me give you a few more questions that lead to bridges across to the gospel.
- “Do the Muslims in your community know the book Injil Sharif, the Gospel? Do they know that the meaning of the word ‘Injil’ is good news?”
- “I found one verse in the Injil that summarizes the good news. Can I share it with you?” Then go to Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- “Is there one verse in the Qur’an that summarizes the entire Qur’an? I found one verse that summarizes the Injil. Can I share it with you?”
- “Can I ask you two questions about a verse in your Qur’an? In Surah 5:64, the Qur’an says that the Injil contains light and guidance. What do you think is the light and guidance in the Injil?” Remember, the Injil is the Gospel, the New Testament.
- “Do you think the Injil contains information that can guide us on the Day of Judgment? I’ve read the Injil. I’ve found one verse that is like light and gives guidance for the Judgment Day. Can I share it with you?” Then go to Romans 6:23.
Your goal ultimately is to get to the gospel, and as you do so, to do it with humble confidence in the Holy Spirit. Get to the gospel, and trust in God, believing what we talked about earlier in John 5:17— that He is at work and that when you’re sharing the gospel with a Muslim you’re not alone. God the Father is working to draw people to Himself—and that includes Muslims. God loves the world, including over 1.7 billion Muslims. He loves Muslims so much that “he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Sundara was a Muslim who was working with a team of four to get Christians to convert to Islam. In the process, he came to faith in Christ. Then the other three people on his team eventually came to faith in Christ as well, so they turned into a missionary team, working to lead Muslims to Christ. So this gospel is good. This gospel is good, and Muslims need to hear it from our mouths.
Session 7 Discussion Guide
Study Guide pp. 96-125
1. What was your impression of Muslims prior to this study? What misconceptions did you have?
2. How is being a Muslim different than being an Arab?
3. What factors make it likely that Islam will continue to grow in the near future?
4. Both Muslims and Christians believe there is one God, so how do their conceptions of God differ?
5. Respond to the following statement and include relevant Scripture passages: Christians worship three gods.
6. What do Muslims believe about Jesus? How is this different from Scripture’s view of Christ?
7. Muslims believe that man’s great need is instruction. What does Scripture identify as our greatest need?
8. What would you say to a Muslim who claims that the Bible has been corrupted?
9. How might you use the truth of God’s grace and of the Christian’s assurance of salvation in evangelizing Muslims?
10. Muslims don’t believe that God would debase himself in order to take on flesh and be crucified. Come up with a question that might help to start a conversation with a Muslim on this point, with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel. See pages 102-125 of the Secret Church 16 Study Guide for help, as there are several examples of a “question to ask” or a “bridge to cross” when sharing the gospel with Muslims.
Key Terms, Concepts, and Scriptures
Who are Muslims?
- Not all Muslims are Arabs, nor do all Muslims hate Americans.
- Though Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was divine or that He was crucified, He is a respected prophet according to the Qur’an.
- A Muslim is someone who submits to God based on the teaching of Muhammad, Islam’s founder. Muslims do not worship Muhammad.
- Muhammad was a prophet who had a vision of the archangel Gabriel (610 A.D.) and then began to preach that there is only one God, Allah, and that we are obligated to submit to his will.
- Muslims were divided over who should succeed Muhammad. Sunni Muslims believed successors should be chosen by consensus/election, while Shiite Muslims believed successors should be from Muhammad’s descendants.
- Islam has (and continues to) spread through personal conversion and military coercion.
- Muhammad’s recitations were recorded in Islam’s most holy book, the Qur’an. Supplemental teachings can be found in Hadiths, which inform and prescribe Islamic belief and practice, and in Shariah, which are legal interpretations of Muslim teachings that prescribe duties, laws, and penalties for breaking laws.
What Do Muslims Believe?
- The Five Pillars of Muslim belief are . . .
- Shahada: The Confession (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet)
- Salat: The Prayers (five times daily facing Mecca)
- Zakat: The Giving of Alms (at least 2.5% of income to the poor)
- Sawm: The Fast (takes place during month of Ramadan)
- Hajj: The Pilgrimage (those who are able must go to Mecca)
- The Six Basic Beliefs of Islam are . . .
- Belief in God: Allah is the only God, and idolatry (shirk) is the primary sin.
- Belief in Angels: angels worship and serve Allah.
- Belief in the Prophets: out of twenty-five main prophets, Muhammed is the last and most significant.
- Belief in the Holy Books: the four most holy books were brought about by four prophets—Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad. The Qur’an is the supreme holy book.
- Belief in Divine Decree: God is all-knowing and whatever he wills happens.
- Belief in Final Judgment: a day of final reward is coming when all people will go to either Paradise (Jannah) or Hellfire (Jahannam).
How Do We Share the Gospel with Muslims?
- Know (and understand) what they believe . . .
- “The Bible is not reliable.”
- “It has been changed.”
- “It has been corrupted.”
- “Christians are immoral.”
- “Just look at Western culture.”
- “Christianity is an easy way out.”
- “Christians worship three gods.”
- “God the Father.”
- “Mary the Mother.”
- “Jesus the Son.”
- “Jesus did not die on the cross.”
- Some Muslims believe Allah took Jesus to heaven before crucifixion because it was unthinkable for an approved prophet to face such a humiliating defeat.
- Other Muslims believe Jesus was taken down from the cross in a coma and that he later revived.
- “The Bible is not reliable.”
- In light of what Muslims believe, we need to know what we believe about:
- God (the Trinity)
- Jesus (fully man, fully God)
- The cross (sinless life, substitutionary death)
- Salvation (by grace, through faith, in Christ)
- The Bible (historical accuracy, manuscript reliability, fulfilled prophecy, clear unity, internal testimony)
- On areas of disagreement, do less debate and more dialogue
- Utilize questions.
- Use illustrations.
- Trust in God’s Word.
- Point to God’s love (1 John 3:1).
- Pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14; 1 John 5:13-15).
- Be holy in your lifestyle (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:16-17).
- Be hospitable and loving (John 13:34-35; Romans 12:13).
- Be patient as you share (1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
- Be cognizant of suffering (Matthew 10:16-22).
- Get to the gospel (Romans 6:23).
- Trust in God (John 5:17-21).