These questions and answers are from Dick Bailey who has serve most of his life as a missionary to Muslims. Dick served in Pakistan for 15 years and also spent many years in the New York City area ministering to Muslims. These answers come from a life of interaction and witnessing to Muslims. We hope that these questions and answers will encourage you and equip you to share the good news of Jesus Christ, even to Muslims.
“If Jesus is God, then to whom was he praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and who was running the universe when he was dying on the cross?”
“How could God die?”
“The Bible also says that God neither tempts anyone not can he be tempted of evil, so how could Jesus be tempted by the Devil in the wilderness?”
“The Bible says God neither slumbers nor sleeps, so how could Jesus fall asleep in the boat?”
The wording of this question about Jesus being God is not in the terms Muslims would normally ask (since they usually are not that familiar with what the Bible says), but is my own expansion of the wording. I have expanded it to show how basic this question is in the light of the Bible’s teaching. This question is a primary one for Muslims, and any person who did not grow up in a Christian culture would naturally ask it in one form or another. We Christians need to stop ignoring this question and face it squarely.
One Muslim wrote,
“…it is…demeaning to call God a human! God literally contained in a man named Jesus? God needing sleep? God needing food? God falling on His face in prayer? To whom? God going to the bathroom? God being born from between the legs of a woman? God at the mercy of His enemies; being spit upon, beaten, mocked? God dying? God a man?”
And the Qur’an says:
(Sura 2:255) “God! There is no God but He – the living, the self-subsisting, eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep…and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them…”
ANSWER: In the beginning of the Bible we read that Almighty God created everything simply by speaking his Word: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light…” (Genesis 1:3-27). This fact is repeated in the New Testament (Injil): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1-3,14) Almighty God, who is omnipotent and can do anything, chose to reveal Himself to us by becoming a man. He did this by causing His eternal Word (through whom He created everything) to become a human being. That eternal Word of God who became a man is our Lord Jesus the Messiah. That is why he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58), and “I came from the Father and have come into the world…And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 16:28;17:5).
It is not difficult to believe that Almighty God could do this, but it is very difficult to understand how that man could continue to be God at the same time. It is important to realize that when the eternal Word of God became a man He did not cease to be God. Rather, in order to function completely as a man, he chose to put aside his godly powers and to not function as God. Certainly He could have used His powers as God if he wanted to, but he chose instead to function only as a man. He chose to be confined within a human body, subject to all the limitations of humanity. In Philippians 2:5-8 we read, “…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” So he changed his “form” but not his essence or being. He was still God – but now he also became man – the “God-man” as some theologians call him.
Jesus never stopped being almighty God’s Eternal Word. He added being human to being divine. It doesn’t say He stopped being the Word of God when He became flesh. Nor is He sometimes God and sometimes man, nor is He half God and half man. Rather, He is both fully God and fully man at the same time! He did not become a “let’s pretend” man, God dressed in a human body -like someone wearing a suit – looking and talking like a man, but really God in disguise. No, He became a real man. God had previously “appeared” to Abraham and others, looking like a human man and then disappearing again, but this time he actually became human like us.
He also did not become an “instant man,” suddenly appearing as a full grown, mature man. No, in order to be a true human being, he was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), and that woman was a direct descendant of Adam and Eve like we are. So each of us can now say that he is “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23). Yes, He was born from the womb of a woman, a helpless child who slowly grew up to become a mature man. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that Jesus “learned obedience” through the same difficulties of life we experience and grew up to become a complete and perfect man. He got tired and hungry just like we do. Like us, He was grieved and hurt when people rejected him and accused him of being possessed by a demon. As a man, he prayed to his heavenly Father, submitting to Him in faithful obedience. In other words, Jesus became like us “in every respect” (Hebrews 2:17), and He “…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). What awesome love! There certainly was no need for him to go through all of that suffering, but he did it because of his love for us – his self sacrificing, self giving love! He did it in order to become our perfect representative and substitute.
An illustration from nature might help us to see more clearly the triune nature of God. When we look up at the sun in the sky and feel its warmth on our skin, we may say, “I see the sun” or “I feel the sun.” Actually, we see the light of the sun, and feel the heat of the sun. We cannot see or feel the sun itself, the source of that light and heat, since it is made of invisible burning gas. Does that mean that there are three suns – the gas, the light and the heat? No. There is only one sun, but we see its light and we feel its heat, both caused by the burning of the gas. The sun is more than light or heat. In the same way God is more than Word, although the Word of God is truly God and not a second god. God is also more than Spirit, although the Spirit of God is truly God and not another god. We can accurately say that God, whom Jesus the Messiah referred to as the “Father,” is the source of all things. The Bible tells us we can never directly see or know that source. In John 1:18 we read that, “No one has ever seen God.” In Colossians 1:15 he is called, “the invisible God,” and in 1 Timothy 6:16 he is described as the one, “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” Jesus, the eternal Word of God, has revealed the Father to us and the Holy Spirit of God is the Father’s power, who is at work in our lives.
In the beginning, when God spoke to create all things, His eternal Word came out of Him to cause the physical universe to come into being. He did not become a part of the physical universe, but caused it to exist by His limitless power. When he spoke His Word into the virgin Mary, the eternal Word of God again came out of God. Only this time the Word of God Himself “became flesh.” He became the man Jesus; God’s Word to mankind in the form of a human being called the “Son of God.” At that time He took on a new form – the form of a man like us.
But how can God be on earth praying to God in heaven and there be only one God? If the Word of God became a man and yet continued to be God, to whom was he praying and submitting? Is there another god to whom this god was praying? No, never! The Bible emphatically declares over and over (at least 28 times) that there is only one God. Because he had put aside his powers as God and become a man, Jesus the perfect man was praying to God, whom he called his heavenly “Father.”