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

Don Stewart

Throughout history many religious leaders have come on the scene and attracted large followings - 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 Mohammed and the religion of Islam. Yet, Jesus has demonstrated that He is in a different class from these, as well as all the other founders of world religions.

1. Jesus Is The Issue

Several things make Jesus different. 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 are the things these founders taught, not so much who they were. The teachers, therefore, are secondary to the teachings.

However, in Christianity, the opposite is true. The all-important issue is not so much what Jesus taught, as 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:

Therefore some of the Pharisees said, 'This Man is not from God because he does not keep the Sabbath.' Others said, 'How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?' And there was division among them (John 9:16).

Jesus answered this charge by declaring, "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:8).

Jesus Is Different From All Other Religious Leaders

This is one of the major differences between Jesus and the founders of other religions - He 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).

He 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 their accusation against him was as follows:

We have a law, and by that law he ought to die because he made himself out to be the Son of God (John 19:7).

Therefore, contrary 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. Jesus, on the other hand, backed up His claims with objective proof.

Jesus Illustrates The Difference

The account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man illustrates this point. When this man was brought before Him, Jesus said:

Son, your sins are forgiven you (Mark 2:5).

This claim to forgive sins upset the religious rulers:

But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 'Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' (Mark 2:6,7).

Only God Can Forgive

They were absolutely right in their assertion that only God could forgive sins. The prophet Isaiah records God as saying:

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25).

But making the claim to forgive sins is something that cannot be publicly verified. How could anyone have known that Jesus had this authority? Knowing this to be the case, Jesus responded.

Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins - he said to the paralytic, "I say to you arise, take up your bed and, and go your way to your house." And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all (Mark 2:8-12).

We note how Jesus dealt with the situation. He asked, "Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?' " It is much easier to say, your sins are forgiven because no one can tell, at that moment, whether or not they have been forgiven. The forgiveness of sin is not something that is accompanied by some observable sign.

Everyone Will Know Who Has The Authority

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. When Jesus instantly healed the paralytic, He showed the religious rulers He had God's authority - since this miracle occurred where everyone could see it with their own eyes. Jesus, therefore, demonstrated His authority in the realm we can see. It illustrated the fact that He also had supernatural authority to forgive sins in the realm we cannot see.

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

3. 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. No one else can claim anything like this (we have covered this in detail in our course Jesus).

4. Jesus Conquered Death

A final fact that separates Jesus from all others is that He conquered the ultimate enemy that everyone faces - death. By coming back from the dead, He 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. As we shall later see, the evidence that Jesus came back from the dead is sufficient to convince even the most skeptical.

The Evidence Can Be Tested

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.

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

Summary

Jesus made unique claims about Himself. If true, then He is in a different category than all the other religious leaders and Christianity is different than all other religions. The evidence shows that Jesus is different from the founders of other religions in at least four ways: He made Himself the issue instead of His teachings. He backed up His claims with observable miracles. He fulfilled predictions made about His life and ministry. These predictions were made hundreds of years before He was born. He conquered death to verify that He was the unique Son of God.

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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