Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 8, 1962
NUMBER 43, PAGE 1,12

The Religion Of Islam

Robert H. Parish, Lufkin, Texas

Jesus Was Approved Of God By Signs

Jesus was certified to men as having authority from God by miraculous signs. "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know." (Acts 2:22) When Nicodemus came to consult Jesus he knew that he was "a teacher come from God," by the signs which he did. He said, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him." (John 3:2) The gospel records abound in accounts of the miracles which Jesus performed as signs of his divine authority. He healed the sick, caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, calmed the storm, fed the multitudes miraculously and raised the dead. And John wrote that, "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." (John 20:30, 31) The divine authority of Jesus was established by these signs; they were the credentials by which his authority was confirmed. His teaching must be accepted as the will of God.

Quite different is Mohammed's case. He had nothing to support his "revelation" but his assertions. He asserted that he was God's prophet and demanded that people accept him as such on his unsupported assertion. He evidently felt the force of the contention that miracles were the only proper credentials for one who professed to speak for God. For the Koran abounds on references to the lack of signs, and in efforts to explain the lack. He wrote in the Koran, "They say, unless a sign be sent down unto him from his Lord, we will not believe. Answer: signs are in the power of God alone; and I am no more than a public preacher. Is it not sufficient for them that we have sent down unto thee the book of Koran to be read unto them? Verily, herein is a mercy and an admonition unto people who believe. Say God is a sufficient witness between me and you: he knoweth whatever is in heaven and earth; and those who believe in vain idols and deny God, they shall perish." (Al Koran chap. 29) The answer to the people's demand for divine credentials, which Mohammed tries to put in the mouth of God, doesn't touch the problem. The question itself recognizes that signs are in the power of God; that is why they are demanding signs. The assertion that the Koran was sent down from heaven and thus was a sufficient sign is ridiculous. The precise point to be proved is that the Koran came down from heaven. How does he prove his point? He simply asserts the point and then triumphantly exclaims, "Is it not sufficient for them that we have sent down unto thee the book of Koran?" The proper demand for credentials of authority can not be construed as in any way questioning the knowledge of God. Yet Mohammed, in his attempt to get out of his predicament of claiming to be a prophet without the signs of a prophet, launches out on an affirmation of the omniscience of God. He says, "Say God is a sufficient witness between me and you: he knoweth whatever is in heaven and earth " The sufficiency of God is not questioned; the insufficiency of evidence that Mohammed was a prophet of God is the thing which Mohammed needed to deal with.

It is apparent that the charge of impostor greatly disturbed and irritated Mohammed. He brings it up over and over and threatens the "infidel" with terrible things. He argues that prophets of God with their "evident signs" were not accepted. He claims victories as sign of God's approval, and defies men and genii to produce a book like the Koran. "Say, verily if men and genii were purposely assembled, that they might produce a book like this Koran, they could not produce one like it, and although the one of them assisted the other." (Al Koran chap. 17) These in substance are the efforts at proving the divine authority of the Koran.

But quite the contrary is the case of Jesus. God always provided and Jesus never refused in any proper circumstances to show his signs from heaven. The signs were his credentials. His claims were on every proper occasion amply supported with signs. But some one may object to this by pointing to those instances where Jesus refused to comply with the demand to "show us a sign." To answer this possible objection, we shall examine two cases recorded in the scripture where the peoples' demand was rejected.

Signs Refused

The first case is recorded in Matt. 12: 38. "Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee." To this Jesus replied, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet...." (Matt. 12:39) To understand our Lord's response to this request, one needs to examine the circumstances in which this request was made. They said, "We would see a sign from thee." What kind of sign? They had just witnessed the miracle of his healing the dumb man and had listened to the Lord's scathing condemnation of those who assigned the power by which that sign was performed to Beelzebub. Their request is directly in response to Jesus' discourse on the sign already performed. Furthermore, this was not by any means the last sign that was given before the climatic sign of the Son of Man's being "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" and then coming forth. "The sign of Jonah the prophet" in the case of Christ was his corning forth from the grave. But between the time of his statement that "no sign shall be given....," and his being raised from the dead, Jesus performed many signs. He fed the five thousand miraculously, walked on water and healed "all that were sick" (Matt. 14); he healed "the lame, blind, dumb, maimed and many others." (Matt. 15) Thus Jesus performed many signs which actions disprove the idea that Jesus' words "no sign shall be given" expressed his intention to withhold signs after that time. This, plus the fact that they asked him to show them a sign, when they had just witnessed a sign, shows that they were asking for a sign different from the ones they were witnessing. They were demanding a more impressive sign — actually, an irresistible demonstration.

The kind of sign they demanded would in its effect, to all practical purposes, amount to a direct operation upon their hearts. Their demand is in substance the demand by present day religionists for a direct operation to bring conviction to their hearts. Jesus declined and told them that no such sign should be given except "the sign of Jonah the prophet." The resurrection of Jesus is the closest thing to an irresistible sign that God would grant. That was not enough to "bring conviction to the hearts" of that evil and adulterous generation of scribes and Pharisees. For after the "sign of Jonah the prophet" was given, they still resisted and opposed Jesus who had been declared to be God's Son by this sign. God respects the sovereignty of human will. He will not, by a direct operation, or by a sign which makes it impossible for man to resist, irresistibly force man into acknowledging his authority and submitting to his will.

On another occasion Jesus declined to perform a miracle in response to the peoples' request. On this occasion, the people said, "What then doest thou for a sign, that we may see, and believe thee? What workest thou? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, he gave them bread out of heaven to eat." (John 6:30, 31) These people's motive was wrong. Christ had told them, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves and were filled. Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you." (John 6:26, 27) They were seeking out Jesus not for the teaching which he gave, which teaching (food) would abide unto eternal life but they were putting forth their efforts to obtain the loaves which he had, the day before, provided for their bellies. Their interest was not in the food for the soul (his teaching) which had been confirmed by the signs; but was in the food for the body which had been provided. They, too, demanded a sign different in character from the signs which they had seen. The continuous provision of manna which their fathers enjoyed, suggested to their minds the argument by which they sought to answer the charge that their interest was not in the signs but only in their physical need. Their proposal involves a continuous supply of food like the continuous supply of manna. And after he explained the true bread to them, they exclaimed, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." When Jesus explained that this bread was not obtained by a direct operation but that human effort was involved, "many of the disciples went back and walked no more with him." He presented the human effort involves under the figure of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. They did not "work" for that bread, but rather than trying to understand, they charged him with requiring cannibalism.

The will of God with reference to eternal life has never been imposed upon man by a direct operation. God will not work a miracle and over-ride man's will. He will not bring his power to bear in such a way as to irresistibly force man to submit to him in this life. Such would have been the case if he had given a sign such as was demanded and such would be the case if he today brought conviction to men by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, upon the hearts of men.

This concludes this study of the religion of Islam. It is hoped that this series is of profit, not only to those who are brought in contact with Moslems, but for all who read it. No effort is vain, if it has contributed to an increase in people's knowledge of God and strengthened their faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.