I have a friend who is a Muslim, and as most people know, they believe in
only one God. My friend asked me if I thought that Jesus was God and
further emphasized that the Bible does not talk about the trinity. He also
pointed out that Jesus never refered to himself as God. He stated that if
Jesus was God, why would he pray to himself in Gethsemane or say to
himself “Father why have you forsaken me.” My friend also makes the point
that if we worship Jesus and God that would not be considered monotheism.
Here are my questions. 1. How literal is the term “Jesus is the Son of
God?” 2. Is Jesus God? 3. Why do we pray to him? 4. Why do we say, “In
Jesus name we pray. Amen?” 5. Also, if God is a jealous God, and
the first of the ten commandments says, “You shall have no other gods
before me.” Why do we worship Jesus?
I think it is understandable that Muslims could be confused with
Christianity’s claim to be monotheistic, given the Bible’s description of
God. John 1:1 says that the Word (ie. Jesus in the context of the
passage) was both with God and was God in the beginning. From a human
perspective it is impossible to both be with God and to be God. This is a
deep thought. It is difficult to understand. It is difficult to
explain. Yet, it is what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the
one God, creator of the universe, is formed of three “persons” who make
one God. We will have to admit that this is a difficult teaching, and
should not be surprised that our Muslim friends find this hard to accept
Nevertheless, this is what the Bible teaches. Your critical friend is
correct is saying that the “trinity” is not taught in the Bible per se.
What I mean is that there is no passage in the Bible which uses a word
which can be translated as trinity. Nevertheless, what is crystal clear
is that the Bible claims deity for Jesus, the son of God. Let us look at
some of the passages which claim deity for Jesus. Consider Colossians
1:16 and Hebrews 1:2. Here we have it stated about Jesus that all things
were created by him and for him. It says that all things hold together in
Christ. It says that the universe was made through Christ. The Old
Testament says that God is the Creator. The New Testament says that Jesus
is the Creator. Both are true. Jesus is God. Your critic claims that
Jesus never claimed deity. This is a false statement. Jesus said in John
8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I AM. At this, they picked up stones to
stone him, because he claimed to be God. Notice, Jesus never corrected
their conclusion that he claimed to be God. God’s name in Exodus is I
AM. Jesus said I AM. This is the clearest possible claim of deity.
Colossians 2:9 says that in Christ, the fullness of deity lives in bodily
form. This is a very clear statement of deity for Christ. In John 20:28,
Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Notice that Jesus did not
correct him! In Titus 2:13 Paul says of Jesus, “Our great God and savior,
Jesus Christ.” Again, to claim that the New Testament does not claim
deity for Christ is to make a false claim. The Old Testament also views
Jesus as God. In Zechariah 12:10, God says “They will look on me, the one
they have pierced….” Again, God refers to Jesus as himself, as the one
pierced is obviously Jesus.
So, if your friend finds it uncomfortable to allow God to be both father
and son, then he has a problem with the Bible. I believe you should admit
that this teaching is difficult to understand in human terms. The
question we should ask is not if we like the idea of one God being
expressed in three persons. The question we should ask is whether this is
true or not. The evidence of Jesus’ life, his living without sin, his
miracles, his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, his resurrection from
the dead speaks for himself. Even if our Muslim friends find it hard to
accept, it is true. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is
deity. As Jesus said, “I and the father are one.” (John 10:30).
You ask one other question, which is why do we pray to or through Jesus.
Your friend claims that a jealous God would not tolerate us praying to
Jesus. Let me point out that God said of Jesus on the mount of
transfiguration, “This is my son, of whom I am well pleased.” The father
is proud of the son. He is not jealous. Given that Jesus is deity, as
proven above, I would imagine that the father does not mind at all that we
pray to Jesus or through Jesus. As it says in 1 Tim 2:5, there is one
mediator between man and God, Jesus Christ. This may be one reason many
pray to God in Jesus’ name. As far as I know, there is no requirement for
us to pray in Jesus’ name. This is a tradition. It is not necessarily a
bad tradition, but it is a tradition. We can pray in Jesus’ name or not.
If Jesus is God, we certainly can pray to him. “In the beginning was
Jesus, Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.” (John 1:1). The pattern of
the New Testament is praying to God or praying to the Father. We do not
have examples of praying to Jesus in the Bible, but I find it hard to
criticize praying to Jesus, as Jesus is God.