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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: When the God of the Bible Is Rejected

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is Christianity Unique among the World's Religions?

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In What Sense Is Christianity Unique among the World’s Religions?

When the God of the Bible Is Rejected – Question 3

Throughout history many religious leaders have come on the scene and attracted large followings of people. The Buddha, with his teachings on how to cope with life’s suffering, gained millions of adherents, Confucius, with his precepts, on how members of society should get along with each other, likewise numbers his followers in the millions. The same can be said for Muhammad and the religion of Islam.

Yet, Jesus is different. He has demonstrated that He is in a different class from these, as well as all the other founders of world religions. This can be seen in a number of ways:

1. Jesus Made Himself the Issue

Several things make Jesus different from all other religious leaders. First, He made Himself the issue while other leaders made their teachings the prime concern. Central to religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Confucianism, etc. are the teachings. What is stressed in these religions are the things these founders taught, it is not so much who they were. The teachers, therefore, are secondary to the teachings. The teachings of these leaders are what is all-important.

However, in Christianity, the opposite is true. The all-important issue is not so much what Jesus taught, as it was whom He claimed to be. The religious leaders of His day became infuriated when He claimed authority over everything. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, contrary to their tradition, they became incensed. The Bible says,

Then some of the Pharisees began to say, “This man is not from God, because he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” Thus there was a division among them. (John 9:16 NET)

They were upset because He was breaking the cherished traditions.

Jesus answered this charge by declaring the following to the people of His day:

“For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8 RSV)

He claimed that He Himself had the ultimate authority over the Sabbath issue as well as every other issue. This is one of the major differences between Jesus and the founders of other religions. Indeed, Jesus made Himself the issue. We find Jesus asking His disciples the following question:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NKJV)

He wanted a clear statement from them. Who did they think that He truly is?

Peter, speaking for the rest of Jesus’ disciples, answered the question:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” Jesus replied, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! No human revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you.” (Matthew 16:16-17 God’s Word)

Jesus acknowledged that He was God the Son. In fact, He said the revelation of this truth came from God the Father in heaven.

Jesus asked this question to secure a commitment, either for Him or against Him. We do not find the founders of the other world religions doing such a thing.

When the Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate they accused Him of claiming equality with God. We read in John’s gospel,

The Jewish religious leaders replied, “We have a law, and according to our law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God!” (John 19:7 NET)

It was the claims of Jesus which infuriated the religious leaders. He made Himself equal to the only God who exists.

Therefore, in contrast to the founders of all the other major religions, it is the identity of Jesus Christ, not His teachings, that is the major issue.

2. Jesus Demonstrated His Authority

Another aspect that separates Jesus from other religious leaders is that He demonstrated He had authority to make such monumental claims. While other religious leaders have made great claims, they have given no legitimate evidence to substantiate them. One can only take their word for it. They have nothing else to back it up.

Jesus, on the other hand, backed up His claims with objective proof. He not only made the claims He backed up the claims with objective evidence. We can cite why this is so.

A. The Difference That Jesus Makes: He Performed Miracles

The account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man illustrates this point. When this man was brought before Him, we read the following:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5 NRSV).

This claim to forgive sins upset the religious rulers. Mark records their response to these claims of Jesus:

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6, 7 NRSV)

They accused Jesus of blasphemy because He claimed the right to forgive sins. They said that only God could do this! Indeed, they were absolutely right in their assertion that only God could forgive sins. The prophet Isaiah records the Lord making the following claim:

“I, I am the one who blots out your rebellious deeds for my sake; your sins I do not remember.” (Isaiah 43:25 NET)

Jesus certainly knew this particular Old Testament passage where the Lord, the God of Israel, made this claim to be the only One who could forgive sins. Therefore, by claiming to forgive sins, He knowingly made Himself equal with God.

But making the claim to forgive sins is something that cannot be publicly verified. There is no observable sign that comes with the forgiveness of sin. How could anyone have known that Jesus had this authority? Why should they believe His claim?

Knowing this to be the case, Jesus demonstrated what makes Him unique. Mark records what occurred:

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12 NRSV)

We note how Jesus dealt with the situation. He asked the following question, “Which is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?”

The answer is that it is much easier to say to someone that their sins are forgiven. Since forgiveness of sins comes with no observable sign, nobody is able to tell, at that moment, whether or not they have been forgiven. The forgiveness of sin is not something that can be objectively verified.

But, if someone says to a paralyzed person, “Rise up and walk,” immediately it will become apparent to everyone whether or not the person has the ability to supernaturally heal. Therefore, it is much easier to say your sins are forgiven.

When Jesus instantly healed the paralytic, as recorded by Mark, He showed the religious rulers He had God’s authority. Indeed, since this miracle occurred where everyone could see it with their own eyes after Jesus made such claims about Himself.

Jesus, therefore, demonstrated His authority in the realm we can see, the visible realm. It also illustrated the fact that He also had supernatural authority to forgive sins in the realm we cannot see, the invisible realm.

Therefore, Jesus did not merely make claims about Himself; He backed up those claims with observable miracles which testified to His power and authority. This is the difference which Jesus makes.

B. He Personally Fulfilled Prophecy

Another thing that separates Jesus from other founders of religions is that He fulfilled predictions about Himself that were written hundreds of years before He came into the world. These predictions could not have been fulfilled by chance.

In fact, on the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He held the people responsible for not paying attention to these truths. Luke records what happened in this manner:

When Jesus came closer and could see Jerusalem, he cried and said: It is too bad that today your people don’t know what will bring them peace! Now it is hidden from them. Jerusalem, the time will come when your enemies will build walls around you to attack you. Armies will surround you and close in on you from every side. They will level you to the ground and kill your people. Not one stone in your buildings will be left on top of another. This will happen because you did not see that God had come to save you. (Luke 19:41-44 CEV)

Judgment was pronounced upon the people of Jerusalem for rejecting Jesus. The reason for this is that He was the One whom the Old Testament prophecies spoke of.

On the day in which Jesus came back from the dead, He scolded two of His disciples who were walking with Him on the road to Emmaus. He told them they did not listen to all that the prophets had said:

Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are! You’re so slow to believe everything the prophets said! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then he began with Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets to explain to them what was said about him throughout the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27 God’s Word)

Jesus did indeed fulfill prophecy in His First Coming to the earth.

Furthermore, Jesus not only fulfilled prophecy by certain events in His life, He Himself made predictions that were literally fulfilled. In other words, Jesus fulfilled prophecy as well as being a prophet Himself.

No one else who has ever lived, either a religious leader on a non-religious leader, can claim anything like this (we have covered this in detail in our course, The Case For Christianity).

C. Jesus Conquered Death

A final fact that separates Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders is that He conquered the ultimate enemy that everyone faces, death. By coming back from the dead, Jesus provided a solid answer to the question, “What will happen to us when we die?” No other religious figure has returned from the dead to verify his claims except Jesus of Nazareth.

The evidence that Jesus came back from the dead is sufficient to convince even the most skeptical. In fact, the New Testament writer Luke put it this way.

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 NRSV)

He demonstrated that He came back from the dead through many convincing proofs. In addition, the bodily resurrection of Jesus can be tested by the most rigorous historical methods. While many other religious traditions have an idea of spirit resurrections (an untestable hypothesis), only the New Testament proclaims a bodily resurrection that passes all tests of historical reliability.

This provides the believer with a genuine hope of life beyond the grave and it is one of the many things which separate Jesus from all other religious leaders.

Thus, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ separates Him from all other religious figures, whether past or present, for He alone conquered the greatest enemy we all face, death.

To sum up, in every important area, Jesus showed the difference between Himself and the religious leaders. Other religious leaders have made claims but Jesus backed up His claim. Indeed, He demonstrated that He is unique. Jesus has no equal.

Summary – Question 3
In What Sense Is Christianity Unique among the World’s Religions?

It is not possible to place Jesus Christ in the same category as other religious leaders. While many of them have made astounding claims none of them have backed up these claims with objective evidence. The New Testament records that Jesus also made some unique claims. Yet there is a difference, Jesus claimed to provide evidence which would back up these claims.

If these claims are true, then Jesus is in a different class than all the other religious leaders, and Christianity is different than all other religions. We find that the evidence shows that Jesus is different from the founders of other religions in at least four ways.

First, contrary to the other religious leaders, Jesus made Himself the issue instead of His teachings. Everything rode upon His identity. It was the Person of Jesus Christ which was the main issue. Who exactly was He? This is the overriding issue.

Next, He backed up His claims with observable miracles. He did things that nobody else has ever done. These miracles testified to the validity of His claims.

He also fulfilled predictions from the Old Testament about His life and ministry. These predictions were made hundreds of years before He was born. Humanly speaking, there is no way in which He could have done this. Again, this demonstrates that He is distinct from all other religious leaders.

Finally, He conquered the greatest enemy we all face, death. In doing so He verified that He was indeed the unique Son of God. Jesus Christ showed that He had the authority over life and death.

In addition, these claims of Jesus Christ can be put to the test. No one has to accept them by blind faith. Scripture invites us to weigh and evaluate these claims. When weighed, we find that these claims prove to be true.

There is much more which we could add to this. However, it is fair to conclude that Jesus is indeed in class by Himself.

Don't All Religions Ultimately Teach the Same Thing? ← Prior Section
Can a Person Experience the True God through Religions Other than Christianity? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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