Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Turning the Tables Pt. 1b

Sam Shamoun

We continue our response here by discussing the early Church’s practice of praying to the Lord Jesus in worship immediately after his physical ascension into heaven.

The NT documents indicate that the first Christians were known for their habit of calling upon the name of the risen Lord in their corporate worship, 

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place CALL UPON THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, AND FROM the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:2-3

A practice which began among Jewish believers in Jerusalem of all places!

“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, LORD? And THE LORD said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, LORD, what wilt thou have me to do? And THE LORD said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said THE LORD in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, LORD.  And THE LORD said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, LORD, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to THY saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on THY NAME. But THE LORD said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear MY NAME before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for MY NAME’S sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, THE LORD, EVEN JESUS, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them WHICH CALLED ON THIS NAME IN JERUSALEM, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” Acts 9:1-21

Christians would even call upon the Lord Jesus upon dying, beseeching him to receive them into his glorious presence:

“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59-60

To say that what these Christians were doing is nothing short of astonishing would be a wild understatement, since these early followers were praying to Christ in the exact same way that the OT saints prayed to Yahweh God Almighty!

Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

“Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them. He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7 – cf. 116:1-4, 13, 17; 145:18; Genesis 4:26; 12:8; 21:33; Deuteronomy 4:7; Jeremiah 29:12; Joel 2:32

In fact, the God-breathed Scriptures emphatically proclaim that such devotion is to be rendered to God alone:

“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him ONLY shalt thou serve.” Luke 4:5-8 – cf. 2 Kings 17:34-39; Acts 10:25-26; 14:8-15; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9

Therefore, the only way to justify this kind of reverence to the risen Lord is if both Christ and his followers believed and preached that Jesus is God in the flesh.

In this next example, the Apostles even went as far as to acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord who knows the hearts of every man:

“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom HE HAD CHOSEN… When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, LORD, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power… Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that THE LORD JESUS went in and out among us… And THEY PRAYED, and said, THOU, LORD, WHICH KNOWEST THE HEARTS OF ALL MEN, shew whether of these two THOU HAS CHOSEN,” Acts 1:2, 6-7, 21, 24

It is crystal clear that the disciples were praying to Jesus here, since the context of the chapter shows that he is the Lord that chose the Apostles from the very start. It therefore makes sense that Jesus’ followers would invoke him to reveal to them which of the two men he had chosen to be Judas’ replacement.

The following verses provide additional evidence that the Lord whom the Apostles addressed in their prayer was actually Jesus Christ:

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye IN YOUR HEARTS? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.” Luke 5:17-26

Not only is Jesus portrayed as knowing what his opponents were thinking within themselves, he is also depicted as possessing the divine authority to both heal diseases and forgive sins. Nor is the only text that describes Jesus as having the divine power to completely pardon a person’s transgressions:

“And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Luke 7:48-50

“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:26

“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:60

Other texts that show Jesus knowing the inner thoughts of men’s hearts include the following:

“And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:5-11

In this particular text, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath in order to prove that he is the sovereign Lord who has the authority to define what can and cannot be done on this most sacred of days, even though the Hebrew Bible clearly teaches that this day belongs solely to the Lord God! (Cf. Exodus 31:12-17; Leviticus 23:3)

Here are a couple more passages:

“But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” Luke 11:17

“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Luke 24:36-39

John’s Gospel supplies further evidence that Jesus is the omniscient Lord that knows all things:

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” John 2:23-25

“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?” John 16:25-31

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

Again, that these are mind boggling assertions can be easily seen from the fact that the Scriptures testify that God alone is able to forgive sins, and that he alone knows the secrets of the hearts of men,

“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” Luke 16:15 – cf. Acts 15:8; Romans 8:27

“Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou ONLY, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)” 1 Kings 8:39

“If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:20-21

Something that the Quran itself agrees with:

Say, (O Muhammad): Whether ye hide that which is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knoweth it. He knoweth that which is in the heavens and that which is in the earth, and Allah is Able to do all things. S. 3:29

And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins – Who forgiveth sins save Allah only? – and will not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did. S. 3:135 – cf. Q. 39:53

In fact, Jesus is depicted as doing all of the things that the Hebrew Bible attributes to God, namely, forgive sins, heal diseases, and redeem people from destruction:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;” Psalm 103:2-4 – cf. Isaiah 43:25; Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:18-19

What makes this rather ironic is that Badawi stated in another program that even though the Holy Bible describes the disciples as worshiping Jesus, it does not depict them as praying to him!

Host: It is claimed that some of the disciples worshiped Jesus and he did not object.

Jamal Badawi: It is a misunderstanding of a term that cannot be interpreted literally. In Matthew 14:33: “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Notice it does not say that they prayed to him. The term worship does not necessarily mean between the creator and the creation. Some times worship means intense love (ie money). (Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200, "Jesus: Beloved Messenger of Allah”, K15. Did Jesus Claim Divinity V: Other "Claims")

Since the examples we have provided conclusively establish that Jesus’ own followers did in fact pray to him, both individually and collectively, this should sufficiently expose Badawi’s utter desperation to deny the express biblical witness to Jesus being worshiped as God the Son.

We are now ready to proceed to the final part of our discussion.