Sharing the Gospel with Muslims1
This is the tenth (and final) in a series of posts about Islam. For more articles in this series, click on the links at the end of this article.
The Gospel Message of Liberty and Redemption
Nothing can replace the gospel’s liberating message: the Holy Creator of the universe has condescended to live among sinners in human form, tempted in every way yet without sin, died an atoning death, rose from the dead in vindication and triumph, and was exalted to the majesty on high so that we can draw near to him with confidence, be released from our bondage to sin, be reconciled to God, spread his aroma to the world, and have full assurance of eternal life and glory with him. Without the proclamation of this gospel, people cannot believe (Romans 10:14).
While it is not our responsibility to convert people, it is our responsibility to sow seeds of the gospel. In doing so, we are to speak of how infinite God’s holiness is, and how infinitely rebellious and offensive man’s sin is. This may lead our conversation to the concept of sacrifice where we may speak of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son. While Muslims believe it was Ishmael rather than Isaac whom Abraham was called to sacrifice, we don’t need to debate the point. We can move from this story to how God himself sacrificed his own Son on our behalf. While most Western believers speak of Christ’s work in legal terms, we should also present the concept of him taking our shame away and giving us honor. These concepts are also clear in the Bible and are close to Eastern cultures.
We must use the Bible frequently, know it well, and quote it from memory. It must be open before us: it is powerful and authoritative, and it shows that we trust it. Treat your Bible with respect, for Muslims treat their copies of the Quran with respect, never placing it below other books or objects, and never writing in it, because it is very sacred to them. In our conversation with Muslims, it would benefit us to use a copy of the Bible that has not been written in, that is not lying below other objects, showing that we too respect our copy of our religion’s holy book.
Encourage your Muslim friends to read the Bible, at least one of the four Gospels. The Quran frequently mentions the Old Testament (Tawrat) and the Gospels (Injil). While Islam teaches that the Bible was corrupted by early followers, no evidence is usually cited to corroborate this. We can share that there is plenty of evidence that is concordant about the inerrancy of both Old and New Testaments. Nonetheless, invite Muslims to read one of the Gospels. Matthew was written to the Jews and Mark 1:1 refers to Jesus as the Son of God, so these may not be the top choices (although we cannot go wrong with the Bible!). Luke or John may be the best choice, the latter particularly since the Quran mentions that Jesus is the word of God (Surah 4:171). One way I encourage Muslims to read the Bible is by telling them that I have read the Quran. In fact, I am rereading it again and I can quote some of its verses from memory. I would encourage you to at least read a few parts of an English translation of the Quran which would help you understand some of its message, literature, and grammar, and may give you a small edge in your conversation.
Devout Muslims pray five times a day or more. These are not intercessory prayers but prescribed sayings or verses from the Quran that are repeated. Christians, however, pray differently. We are called to pray at all times, with all supplication (Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 5:17). Our prayers are powerful because our God is powerful and we pray in his name (Jn 16:23). When I pray around Muslims, they will immediately realize that I am praying to a personal God, whom I regard as holy, before whom I am humbled, to whom I look for guidance and grace, to whom I give thanks.
Several months ago, I visited a Muslim family in a refugee camp in the Middle East in an attempt to offer medical aid to a sick child. Following the medical visit and a lot of tea, I found myself answering questions from the surprised household when they knew I was both an Arab and a follower of Christ, a concept they found hard to grasp. God used our long and serious conversation to give me the opportunity to share the gospel, while the family took pride in how much better they were because of how many times they pray a day. They were astonished that I too prayed and wanted to know what I would recite. Even more surprised were they when I told them that every one of my prayers is not from memory but spontaneous and from the heart. I eventually offered to pray for their household, to which they agreed with anticipation. As I knelt on my knees, face down, and poured my heart out before the Lord for this family and for the sick child, they listened attentively. At the end, they realized what I meant earlier and they knew that I prayed with full assurance and trust in the One who listens to his children. Their entire countenance changed because I prayed to the One in whose name I trust.
I have prayed many times in the presence of Muslims and they are always intrigued at how I speak to my Father and want to know more. Some even want to emulate the prayer they hear me say. What a great opportunity it would be to have a gospel conversation at that point. Moreover, in our effort to talk to people about God, let us talk to God about them. Let us pray for the Muslims we are trying to reach. Let us fast before we share the gospel with them. And let us trust that he who has put this desire in us is faithful to fulfill it. His word does not return empty.
For more articles in this series on Islam, click on the links below: