Lesson on Comparing God’s Character in Christianity and Islam

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Program Summary and Notes:

Quick Summary: Christianity and Islam are based on their understandings of the character of God or Allah. To understand how the faiths are the same and different, it is very important to know how they see God’s character.

In the video lesson, guests Bob Siegel and James Anderson join Dr. Cynthia to compare God’s character versus Allah’s, and God in the Old and New Testaments. It includes two reality segments from everyday life that connect with the topic.

This study guide gives more details, yet focuses on only a few important characteristics and differences between God and Allah. More on their names and characteristics is in the Appendices after the Study Questions.

Reality – a quick Visit to Boston and a Graveyard

The video lesson starts with a visit to Boston, Massachusetts, USA with Dr. Cynthia and some friends. 

This region of the United States was active in bringing freedom to America. Freedoms to worship, to express ourselves, and work as we choose are tremendous blessings. Because of its great freedoms, for centuries people have been coming to all over the world to America. In the last 30 years many of these have been from Muslim countries. 

Even greater than the freedom a country can give is our freedom in Christ. Through him, we can be free from sin and its destructive forces in our lives. (Romans 8:2)

Today, we visit the Old Burying Ground on the edge of Boston. Look at the old tombstones, with dates from long ago. Right next to this old graveyard we hear the busy noise of traffic driving past, within feet of the graves. Someday not many years in the future, those in a hurry now will also be asleep in the dust. 

Visiting a graveyard reminds us that no matter how good we may feel at the moment, there will come a day when we do not walk upon the earth but lie beneath it. Jesus told us that he will come again for those who believe in him and take us to our heavenly home. 

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  John 14:2, 3

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.  I Thessalonians 4:16-18

We can count on this because our God is faithful to his promises!

The Character of God in Christianity vs. Islam

God and Allah are both seen as all-powerful beings, but they are not identical. There are areas of both agreement and disagreement in the ways God and Allah are described in their respective holy books. 

AGREEMENT: Muslims and Christians agree on some of the characteristics of God/Allah. We agree that there is a single Creator God. We agree that God is all powerful, merciful, compassionate, and that he sent prophets to warn people not to sin, and to worship God only. 

We agree that God is over all, including humans and angels. He will hold us accountable for what we do on earth and has ordained a Day of Judgement. We agree that Jesus is the Messiah and the Word of God, although we disagree about what these terms mean.

DISAGREEMENT: Muslims and Christians have strong differences in our views of the character of God. 

The Name of God Controversy

The differences are so many and so strong that some Christians say God and Allah are totally different gods. True though this may be, telling it to Muslims directly burns a potential bridge. 

In Arabic, Allah is the word for Creator God, so even Arabic Christians pray to Allah. Similarly, English-speaking Christians use the pagan word God for Jehovah, the one true Creator. Other religions also use this English word for false ideas of God.

Some Christians have been taught by non-Arabic speaking Christians that it is wrong to use the word “Allah” in talking about God.  In our opinion, a rose by any other name is as sweet. THE MAIN THING IS TO KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING. We want to preach the gospel to Muslims, not waste time arguing.

We prefer to take a positive approach. Our goal is to bring Muslims to Christ. We start with small truths that we agree on about God, such as that he is the Creator, and gradually reveal more truth until they come to understand the full gospel. 

An essential difference in the characteristics of God in Christianity and Islam is in the balance of Justice and Mercy. In Islam, God’s mercy can overcome his anger at our sins. When he wants to Allah can forgive with no penalty. In Christianity, God’s justice is equal in strength in his character to his mercy. The two must balance, as they do when he came to earth as Jesus and died in our place on the cross.

The Character of God in the Bible

Because understanding the character of God is so essential, in our presentation of the gospel to Muslims we dedicate the first page of our gospel booklet The Path of the Prophets to that topic. Here is what it says,

  • God is one. He is the Creator of everything. 
  • God reveals himself to us through creation, and the words and lives of his prophets.    
  • Through creation, we see that he is powerful, creative, and wise.  
  • The Prophets told us more about God and his way.  They told us that God is good!  
  • He is merciful and compassionate, perfect and just, loving and giving.  Every good thing in your life is a gift from God.  

Since there is one God, and he is good, we must find and follow his way.

Throughout the content of this gospel booklet, we come back to the character of God. Each of the characteristics we mention in the booklet are used to explain why the gospel is the gospel. 

GOD’S GOODNESS: The Path of the Prophets booklet begins with telling us that God is good. It is so very important to believe that God is good. When we clearly see that he is good we will be willing to trust him with our salvation and follow him every day.

The Bible tells us, 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

So many adjectives of wondrous characteristics apply to God, as well as a few special names.

GOD IS I AM:

God is Jehovah. The name of the independent, self-complete being. “I AM WHO I AM” is how God introduced himself to Moses. Our proper response to Him is fear and awe of the One who possesses all authority. (Exodus 3:13,14)

One discussion we constantly run into with Muslim apologists is whether or not Jesus claimed to be God. They like to say that Jesus did not claim to be God or the only Son of God. That is not true.

It is very important to understand the culture of the people that Jesus was speaking to in the New Testament. One way that Jesus presented himself to the Jews of his day was as the “I AM.” They clearly understood that he was claiming to be God. He used many other ways as well.

Jesus was not condemned to death for healing people and telling stories. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that at his trial Jesus admitted under oath to be the Son of God. Blasphemy was the charge against him for which the religious leaders turned Jesus in to Rome for crucifixion. 

It is important to bring this to attention of people who say that Jesus did not claim to be God.

The Character of God in Islam

The character of God in Islam shares some characteristics with the God of the Bible; yet is very different. 

Characteristics of Allah that Muslims emphasize are: 

  • Oneness or “Tawhid” with absolutely no partners (no Son of God or trinity)
  • Merciful and Compassionate – is mentioned at the opening of nearly every surah, or chapter of the Quran.
  • Sovereign will over all
  • High and Distant
  • Judge of the Day of Judgement

Remember, our main goal at Christian from Muslim is to make mature Christians out of Muslims. We do not want to get caught in non-productive arguments. We could spend all day arguing with Muslims about their description of God, and still not get close to sharing the gospel. So we need to be strategic in our discussions with them, focusing on what is essential for them to understand and accept the gospel.

Nevertheless, we think you will find it an interesting exercise to examine the list of the 99 names of Allah in Islam and compare them to God’s names in Christianity (see Appendix 1 and Appendix 2). The 100th name of Allah, some Muslims say, is known only to the camel.

Dear friends, when you look at the list of the 99 names of Allah, do you notice any names of God that are missing? God is Love and God is Savior are two characteristics notably absent from Allah’s list, but are very important to Christians.

Brother E, the Arab evangelist who trained Dr. C in Muslim thinking, made T-shirts with those 99 names in Arabic – but he added a few more to show Muslims what they had left out, including Lamb of God, and Savior!

COMPARISON of God’s Characteristics in Christianity and Islam

It is not unusual to find Christianity and Islam using the same word, but with different meanings. For example, our understandings of heaven and hell, righteousness, and messiah. We find the same thing when discussing the character of God. Here we will compare some of the important characteristics and their differences: 

  • God’s Love
  • God’s Justice
  • God’s Greatness
  • God’s Way

#1 GOD’S LOVE

In Christianity, God’s love is one of the most outstanding features. Very rarely you will hear a Muslim saying this. If they do, it is because they live in the West and have absorbed it from Christians. 

Do not be fooled! Allah is NOT love. You may notice that in the list of the 99 names of Allah in the appendix that #47, al Wadud, is translated as the “the Loving One.” That is not how former Muslims describe Allah. In fact, Wafa Sultan, whom we interview in another lesson, says that Allah is “A God who Hates” and wrote a book documenting that.

Usually, Christians talking about God’s love in Arabic will usually say mohub. This is the word that you will find in the Arabic Bible. We asked a former Muslim from Saudi Arabia to explain the difference between wadud and mohub. Here is the response:

Arabic is a very complicated language. Wadud doesn’t exactly mean “God is love.” It is like “God is near and merciful.” Allah’s love and mercy are only for those who worship him – based on deeds. It is conditional. Jesus came for the world. He loves sinners but hates their sin. 

This is in keeping with how other former Muslims describe God’s love in Islam. 

QUESTION: Why is it important to know the difference in the words used for love?

ANSWER: So that:

  1. You will have an accurate picture of Allah in Islam: his love is conditional.
    • Say: “If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful… Allah does not love the disbelievers.”  Quran 3:31, 32
  2. You will be able to explain to Muslims that the God of the Bible truly loves. He loves us unconditionally, and died to save the world while we could not care less about him:
    • God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

#2 GOD’S JUSTICE

As we discuss in the video lesson and mention above, the difference between God’s justice in Christianity and Allah’s justice in Islam is one of the biggest differences between the two faiths. 

In the list of the Muslim names of Allah, #29 says he is Just. Although Islam claims this, it is not strong enough in his character that it requires a penalty for sin, what Islam calls hataiya. 

In Islam there is a hadith that says, “Allah’s mercy overcomes his wrath.” In practice this means that “Allah’s mercy overcomes his justice.” However, we know from the Bible that in God’s character his justice is equal to his mercy in strength.

We point out to Muslims that how God balances Justice and Mercy is most important difference between our two faiths. 

Here are two analogies of justice and forgiveness:

Example 1, A mouthy toddler. This kind of forgiveness would be like forgiving a child who had said something disrespectful, but not done any permanent damage. In Islam Allah can simply forgive if he has a mind to.

Example 2, A destructive teenager. What if the child does serious damage? What if an angry teen burns down a house? Will the judge say, “Oh, that’s OK. I forgive you. Just don’t do it again.”  

How would the homeowner feel about that? Where would he live? There is a debt and that needs to be paid, both financially, and personally. But if the father pays to rebuild the house, and if the teen does time in juvenile hall learning how to respect property, that would be just.

Allah’s forgiveness is like the first example. God’s justice is like the second. God forgives when asked, but justice must be done.

Muslims think that Allah can just forgive his followers because he cares. We tell them that if we were making up a religion, we would probably say that too. But God is not like that. How do we know? Because he told us in his word, and through the lives of his followers since the time of Adam.

(Note: See also the study guide, video tract, and Lesson on the Gospel for Muslims: The Path of the Prophets for more details on how to explain this to Muslims.) 

God’s love/mercy is strong, but it cannot overcome his justice. That is why he came to earth once to die for our sins. He took our place in human form.

A Muslim Question – why would God make Jesus die for us?

QUESTION: Muslims are quick to point out that it would be unfair to make Jesus, whom they say was perfect, die for the sins of others. They say it is unjust. How do we answer that?

ANSWER: If Jesus were a mere human, they would be right. It would not be fair to have a good prophet suffer for someone else. Not to mention that he would not be able to make up for the evil deeds of absolutely everyone.

The reason that the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins works in ONLY because he is GOD. He did not commit the sins, and he told us not to do them. Yet since he made the world, like a loving father he took responsibility for its wrongs. 

So, in a unique way, Jesus’ death was God suffering with us. He took the blame for everything his creatures did. And no one can say to God, “You don’t know what it’s like down here. If you did you would be more understanding!” 

God did walk down here. He was mistreated in almost every way imaginable. He understands how we suffer. And so, he is qualified to be:

  • fittingly associated with his creatures in suffering Hebrews 2:10,11
  • both just and the one who justifies Romans 3:26
  • our sympathetic high priest Hebrews 4:15, & 7:25
  • the one who brings together heaven and earth Colossians 1:20

#3 GOD’S GREATNESS

Both Christians and Muslims believe that “God is Great,” but we mean it and express it differently.

Examples of Proclaiming that GOD is GREAT in ISLAM:

General Example: One of the things that Muslims are inclined to shout out about Allah, literally when committing acts of terror, is Allahu Akbar. This Arabic phrase is roughly translated, “God is Great,” or more literally, “Allah is Greater!” If you have seen or read reports of Muslim acts of terror, such as those of 9/11 you will have heard this.

Specific Example: Once Dr. C attended a regional Muslim convention on a prominent American university campus where she had been doing outreach for over a year. She was the lone Christian in a group of about 300 Muslims. A Muslim woman had been appointed to chaperon her and sit with her so that she would not be able to talk to any Muslims present. Dr. C sat quietly.

Although she had said or done nothing offensive, simply knowing that a Christian was in their midst riled the attendees. The speaker was amazing – and not in a good way. An Islamic scholar, he worked up the crowd in a way that Dr. C had never seen before, and hopes to never again. 

He started out speaking calmly, but ever increased the pace and intensity of his delivery. He spoke louder and louder and began to mention the early days of Islam when Muslims were persecuted. When he had worked the crowd into an indignant and passionate frenzy, he started waving his arm, yelling and pointing. He screamed,

“And today, we have Christians here among us, against us as in the early days of Islam!”

The audience became frenetic. Someone yelled, “Takbir!” and the crowd answered loudly in unison, 

Allahu Akbar!  Takbir!  Allahu Akbar! Takbir!  Allahu Akbar!

Over and over they yelled this as a mob, incensed at the presence of a Christian in their presence and expressing hostile anger!

Praise God, they did not attack Dr. C physically. But the violence of their zeal was unsettling and unforgettable. Dr. C then knew that if this were Pakistan, she would be dead.

May the Lord have special mercy on Christians who daily face persecution under the proclamation of the greatness of the Allah of Islam, especially in regions where, unhampered by Western values, they are tortured and killed.

(Note: “Allah he greater” is the word for word translation, in the way Arabs express things without the verb “is.” By an ironic twist, the word akbar in Arabic is “mouse” in Hebrew. So, if a Hebrew speaker hears them yelling Allahu akbar, to them is sounds like, “Allah is a mouse!”)

 Examples of Proclaiming that GOD is GREAT in CHRISTIANITY: 

General Example: In contrast, when Christians pray or sing, “God is Great!” it is in worship. By it we recognize that God is more powerful than our problems – and more powerful than the gates of hell, which try to stop his kingdom from moving forward (Matthew 16:18). We are not proclaiming that he is violently imposing his will on unbelievers.

Specific Example: Once while in a mosque in a major city, an Imam was trying to convert Dr. C. He said many things against the Bible, and tried to pull Jesus down from his lofty position. Dr. C had been patient for a long time, behaving modestly because this mosque was extremely conservative. The Imam misunderstood her patience and was convinced that she was going to become a Muslim.

Then, the Imam started chanting from the Quran in Arabic that God did not have a son. In response, Dr. C had had enough! Filled with the Holy Spirit, she started singing loudly, and drowned out his falsehood. She sang in Spanish a song that she had sung daily as she stepped onto the port in Spain. It encouraged her to share the gospel with Muslims by remembering – God is Great!

Proclamaré mi Dios es grande.
Te exaltaré tu eres santo
Y te daré la gloria y honra
Yo te adoro y me postro ante ti.

I proclaim my God is Great!
I will exalt You for you are holy.
I will give you the glory and honor.
I adore you, and I bow myself before you.

The imam, who had used Arabic as an incantation, did not understand the words of the Spanish song; but he surely understood the message:

The God of Christians is Great! He is not overcome by your falsehoods. This is how we proclaim him – with peace and joy, not with force!

#4 GOD’S WAY 

God’s way reflects God’s character. His character does not change, and it is peaceable.

God does not Change

“I the Lord do not change.”   Malachi 3:6

When talking to Muslims it is important to keep in mind that the Bible presents a God that does not change. (See also: Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 13:8)

In the Old Testament God’s people lived under law, and in the New Testament under grace; but in both they are saved through faith, based on blood sacrifice for their sins. 

The way of Allah of Islam is so different to the way of God in the Bible, that for Islam to be a true path of God, God’s character must have changed over time. This is especially true concerning sacrifices. 

Two excellent questions to ask Muslims are:

  1. If in both the Old and New Testaments God required blood sacrifice for sin, why is it absent from Islam?
  2. If God’s justice previously required sacrifice, how can he forgive without it in Islam?

These are especially important for those who have converted from a nominal Christian or Jewish background, and so might have a recollection of sacrifices in those faiths. They should be challenged to reconcile these differences. 

Muslim responses when we ask these questions are usually:

  • Initially surprise. They are focused on a life of law. The only sacrifice they are aware of is that of Abraham, which they follow annually in ritual as Eid al AdHa. 
  • Some say that they will have to think about it.
  • After thinking about it they may:
    • if trained, pull Bible verses out of context that say God does not want sacrifices. But remember, these were said in a context of his desiring a pure heart and relationship rather than ritual. (Isaiah 1:11-17, Hosea 6:6-7, Micah 6:6-8)
    • say that the Bible is corrupted. However, they cannot reasonably deny that Judaism and Christianity were based around sacrifices because:
      • There are abundant references to sacrifices throughout the Bible, not just a disputable few. The Quran affirms the prior scriptures, and these references were in manuscripts present at the time of Mohammed,
      • Historical and archaeological evidence of sacrifices in Jewish history, and crosses in early Christians culture, for example:
        • Babylonian and Roman reliefs of stolen temple furnishings
        • Mention of Jesus’ crucifixion in Roman writings

Peace or Force? 

The way of God in spreading the faith differs in the Bible and Islam. In the Bible’s Book of Proverbs God’s wisdom is spoken of as a woman.

Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. Proverbs 3:17

Neither Jesus nor Moses, nor the Bible itself teaches promoting the faith by violence. This is in contrast to Islam. The religion which calls itself “The Religion of Peace” is anything but peaceful and does not present a god whose paths are peace. 

In our video Lesson on Islam and Violence, Arab Pastor George Saieg tells us that jihad in Islam clearly includes violence. The word in the Quran usually translated as “fight” in English, he says in Arabic clearly means to fight with the sword. There are many verses in the Quran which promote violence:

  • defensive
  • as offensive against non-Muslims until they die, convert, or pay jizya (the ransom tax) 
  • to protect the honor of Islam by killing:
    • apostates
    • adulterers 
    • those who insult the Quran or Prophet Mohammed
    • those who “spread mischief in the land” (selling alcohol, encouraging immorality, teaching against submission to Islam, questioning Islam.)
    • those who bring shame to Islam through their behavior 

In his teachings, Jesus told us to love our enemies. In forbearance with Samaria, and in his parable of the wheat and the tares, told us not to worry about the troublemakers now. At the time of harvest, the judgement, evildoers will be punished. (Luke 9:51-56, Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43)

Both the old and New Testaments of the Bible tell us not to take revenge. (Deuteronomy 32:35 & Romans 12:19)

We are told to fight with spiritual weapons like truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but …against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

(Note: For more information see the study guide and video Lesson on Islam and Violence.)

God’s Character in the OLD and NEW Testaments

Now we leave the comparison of God and Allah to discuss God’s character in the Old and New Testaments. 

The panel in our video lesson, Rev Anderson, Rev Siegel, and Dr. C discusses the question of a new believer from a Muslim background: 

“Is God in the New Testament different from God in the New Testament?”

Muslim apologists, along with other critics of the Bible, say that parts of the Old Testament of the Bible can give the impression that God is a God of anger, whereas the New Testament God appears more loving. Our panel points out that although we might see more of these traits in some Bible passages than others, the overall character and plan of God is the same throughout the Bible.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see the same characteristics of God in his:

  • justice
  • love and concern for his creation
  • faithfulness to his people and his word
  • eternal attributes such as being:
    • the only all-powerful God (omnipotence)
    • everywhere (omnipresence)
    • knowing everything (omniscience)
  • cohesive plan running through history

James Anderson on God’s Care in Creation

Dr. Jim uses Genesis 1 as an example of the tender care of God for humanity in the Old Testament. He says as we follow the creation of the earth, day by day, we see that God was making it into a place that would be suited for human habitation. His concern for his creatures was evident there, just as when he sent Jesus to save us.

Scientific facts support the same thing. There are many factors which must be exactly right for life on earth to exist. (Example: Watch this video, and visit the Reasons website .)

Bob Siegel on the Justice of God in both testaments

Rev. Bob tells us that God is loving in both the Old and New Testament. God has two attributes, he tells us. God judges. He holds us accountable for our wrong deeds. But he is also merciful and compassionate. We tend to see more of the judgement side in the Old Testament and more of the mercy in the New Testament, but we do see both in both testaments.

God has not changed between the Old and New Testaments, but his agreement with humans has changed. This agreement is called a testament or covenant. 

In the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 31:31, God told us that a new agreement or covenant would be coming. In it the laws would be written on our hearts. That is what happens when the Holy Spirit, which was sent in the New Covenant, directs our lives. When this happens we do good without laws, so fewer laws are necessary.

Progressive Revelation: Bob points out that God’s communication over the years was progressive, meaning more and more clear over time. 

This is a different view than the Muslim view which says that Allah’s prophets always brought the same message. In the Bible we learn that not only is God the only God, but he would one day come to earth. He would live as an example, die to create a new covenant or agreement in his blood.

Sometimes Muslims tell us that Muslims and Jews have the same view of God. Bob says this is correct mainly in denying that Jesus is the Son of God – God in human flesh. However, when Muslims claim that the Quran’s commands to fight are the same as the Old Testament wars, Bob says, 

“There’s a great, great difference…there was never a command given to the Jews to conquer the world for God.”

There were only specific instances where they were to fight for a cause, such as judgement of the people practicing child sacrifice, to destroy that nation and its way.

Bob concludes, 

“Jesus is leaving the choice to you,” he says. “God is a respecter of free will. God is a gentleman; he will not force himself upon you. He does not command Christians to force their message upon people. Some Christians have been forceful, but that is not the way Christ would have them be… God will leave it up to you, what you’re going to do with the mercy of Jesus.”

 Using Words

Examples of Faith Expressions that Christians and Muslims Share:

Our understanding of God and his character impacts the way we live, the way we talk and even the expressions we use.

Muslims are in the habit of often saying two Arabic word phrases:

Inshallah and Alhamdulillah!  

These phrases mean “God willing” and “Praise God!” respectively. 

Although we could argue that Muslims say these words by rote and for different reasons, Christians also say, “Lord willing” and “Praise the Lord.” 

Muslims usually respect that Christians do this. It helps distinguish us to them as people of faith, rather than the secular public they meet in the West who do not honor God.  We can also use these words as a bridge both to be friends with Muslims, and to share the Christian faith with them.

Muslims have an extreme view of fate. Belief that every single thing that happens has been predestined by Allah is their sixth article of faith. Living in an awareness of this doctrine encourages them to say, inshallah before any predicted plan, event, or outcome. 

Christians, whether or not we believe in the extent of predestination that Muslims do, are also instructed to say, “Lord willing.”

You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”    James 4:15

This humbly reflects the fact that we have very little control over our lives and what happens in the future. Our health, circumstances, and many other particulars must come together for us to follow through on a plan. We share this view with Muslims. That makes it a good connection for us.

Muslims say alhamdulillah for both good and bad events, because Allah is always to be praised. Christians usually only say “Praise the Lord!” for something good, like an answer to prayer. However, certainly can relate to the Muslim practice because as Job said,

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.   Job 1:21

and because,

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28

Really, we can learn faith lessons from Muslims from these two expressions which we could/do/or should share. In fact, you will find Christians who work with Muslims often using these expressions – in English or Arabic.

We would call these “word bridges” because we can use these words to start discussions with Muslims. You might also recall the “magic word bridge” asalaam alaykum, meaning “peace be upon you all.” 

(Note: We discuss these and many other bridges in our study guide and Lesson on Building Bridges with Muslims.)

Bible Teacher Keith on the Use of the Tongue

When Bible teacher Keith was asked to share with us something of importance to him, he chose to speak about the use of our tongues. Above, we spoke about one use of our tongues – to praise God. “God is Great!” 

Dr. Cynthia introduces the topic of the tongue by mentioning activities practiced everywhere, but especially common in the Middle East: gossip, criticism, lying and deception. 

Brother Keith reminds us of what the Bible teaches about the use of our tongues. He reads to us James 3:2-12. This passage, in the book by Jesus’ brother James and paraphrased here, tells us,

“Just like a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder are small, but they move a large object, our tongues can do the same thing. They are like a spark which can begin a big fire, or like a deadly poison. With our same tongue we praise God and yet curse people. This is wrong! A spring can produce salt or fresh water, not both. If we are never at fault in what we say, we are perfect.”

Dear friends, how should we use our tongues? Consider these Bible verses,

  • Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Proverbs 4:24
  • The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.  Proverbs 12:22
  • From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced. Proverbs 10:31
  • The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4
  • Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. I Peter 2:1
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

A Prayer for the Tongue:

As a devotion, reflect on these verses and how your use of your tongue matches up to their high standard. Then perhaps you will be ready to pray this:

Every day Lord, more and more, help us to use our tongues, mouths, and entire bodies to give you praise, and to benefit those around us. In Jesus’ dear name, Amen.

Reality – the Analogy of the Quilt

This segment in the video presents making a quilt as a reflection of God’s character. 

You might remember from other lessons that our approach to life is Peace and Purpose:

  • Peace with God, ourselves, and others.
  • and a Purpose to serve God for his kingdom. 

A lack of satisfaction in life generally comes from failure to find peace or recognize our purpose.

To simplify your life and intensify its success, everything that comes into your life should either contribute to your well-being, meaning Peace, or be part of your Purpose. If it does not, and you can, you should eliminate it. If you cannot eliminate it, it could actually be part of your purpose, which is good, or an addiction, which is bad. Either should be presented to God in prayer. 

Everyone needs some activities that they enjoy. These encourage them of the goodness of God in their life and strengthen them to serve God. That is part of their Peace. 

For Christian teacher Dee, quilt-making relaxes her and releases her creativity. Dee is from Connecticut. Part of her New England heritage is making quilts. Both of Dr. C’s grandmothers also made quilts. In the video, Dee demonstrates how she quilts, and some of the results.

Creativity is one of the characteristics of God. According to Genesis 1:27 humans were made in the image of God. For that reason, we are creative too!

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

One of the most rewarding experiences of human existence is to be able to look at our work and be pleased with it – whether it is something big like saving lives through medicine or building a house, or something small and personal like writing a poem or making a quilt. If you do not have such an outlet, even if you are busy it would be good for you to find one. Because,

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toilThis too, I see, is from the hand of God.  Ecclesiastes 2:24

Dee explains that making a quilt from fabric scraps is like the way God works with us. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and patches them back together into something beautiful.

God’s cool that way,” she concludes.

May God do that with the broken pieces of your life. Lift them to him in prayer. May he heal you and give you the gift of satisfaction with your work. For again,

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.  Romans 8:28

Scripture References for this Lesson:

  • II Corinthians 5:17
  • Exodus 3:13,14 & 34:6, 7
  • James 3:2 & 5:11, & 1:17, & 4:15
  • Job 1:21
  • Romans 3:26 & 6:26, & 3:23 & 5:8
  • Leviticus 17:11
  • Hebrews 2:10, & 4 :15, & 7:25 & 9:22, 26 & 1:3
  • Colossians 1:20
  • Psalm 75:7 & 118:1
  • Romans 14:12 & 8:2,28 & 10:9,10 & 12:19
  • James 1:19 & 3:1-12 & 4 :15
  • Deuteronomy 6:4
  • I Timothy 2:5
  • Genesis 1:27, 31
  • Jeremiah 31:31
  • Isaiah 43:10
  • John 1:17 & 3:17-19 & 8:58 & 14:2,3
  • Luke 9:51-56
  • Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 & 16:18
  • Deuteronomy 32:35  
  • Acts 6:7
  • Proverbs 3:17 & 4:24, & 10:31, & 12:22 & 15:4
  • Psalm 102:27
  • Malachi 3:6
  • Hebrews 13:8
  • Isaiah 1:11-17
  • Hosea 6:6-7
  • Micah 6:6-8
  • I Peter 2:1
  • I Thessalonians 4:16-18 & 5:11
  • Ephesians 4:29 & 6:12
  • Genesis 1:27,31
  • Ecclesiastes 2:29

Note: See also the references in Appendix 1, after the questions, listing the names and characteristics of God.

Quran Reference:

  • Quran 3:31, 32

Study Questions:

  1. Scientists, especially in the Intelligent Design community, describe how the universe seems custom-tailored for human life. 
    • Give an example of how this is true, either from science directly, or from the lesson.
    • How does this fit with Dr. Anderson’s view of Genesis 1, that the account of creation is an expression of God’s care?
  2. Rev. Bob Siegel, a Jewish background believer, has heard accusations that violent Muslims are no different that Old Testament Israelites. 
    • Does he agree with this? 
    • What do you think?
    • Give a good reason or verse to support your position.
  3. Does Moses, Jesus, or the Bible ever teach to spread the faith by force?
    • Does Islam teach spreading faith by force?
    • Give documentation for your answer, if possible.
  4. Does the panel think there is a difference in God’s character in the Old Testament and New Testament? 
    • How is the apparent discrepancy resolved? 
    • What do you think?
  5. Dr. Cynthia explains that it is very important for Muslims to understand God’s justice.
    • What is the basis of forgiveness in Islam?
    • What is the basis of forgiveness in Christianity?
    • How do God’s Justice and Mercy balance in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?
  6. When it comes down to it, even heirloom quilts are made from scraps. 
    • How does creating something like a quilt reflect God’s work with people?
    • Can you give an example from your own life, or the life of someone you know, of how God took the broken pieces and put them back together into something beautiful?
  7. In our lessons we talk about “peace” as something that gives us contentment, so that we can better appreciate God’s goodness and accomplish his special purpose for our lives. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us that one of the best things in life is to find satisfaction in the work of our hands.
    • What do you do that you find satisfying?
    • Is there something good that you could do that would bring you satisfaction?
    • How could you fulfill God’s blessing to someone else by helping them find satisfaction in their work?
  8. Consider the names and characteristics of God in the Bible. 
    • Which name of the God of the Bible especially touches you?
    • Which characteristic of the God of the Bible especially touches you?
  9. Consider the names of God and Allah:
    • Compare the lists of the names of God/Allah in Appendices 1 & 2. As a sort of game, 
      • What similarities do you find in the lists?
      • Do you think that most of the characteristics and names of God and Allah are similar?
      • Are any important names of God left out of the list for Allah?
      • Are there any names of Allah which would not fit for God?
  10. The human tongue can be used to recite spells and promote falsehood and bondage. However, it can also be used for good.
    • Give an example of a bad use of the tongue.
    • Give an example of a good use of the tongue.
    • How can we encourage our Muslim and Christian associates to use their tongues to build up rather than tear down?  (see I Thessalonians 5:11)
  11. WORKSHOP Option: (This can be brief or be expanded into a several hour workshop, at the choice of the study group leader.)  Muslims deny that Jesus Christ claimed to be God. At times they deny that the gospel writers claimed that Jesus was God. They will say that Paul invented the idea that Jesus is God and Savior.
    • List things that Jesus said about himself that would show that he is God.
    • What things that Jesus said especially told the Jews of that time that he was God?
    • Where do the gospel writers say that Jesus is God, or the Son of God?
  12. CONTROVERSY Resolution Option: (Because of its potential for controversy, this topic of discussion should be at the discretion of the study group leader)
    • Do you consider “God” and “Allah” as roughly equivalent neutral names for God?
    • What is the origin of the word “God?”
    • What is the origin of the word “Allah?”
    • What word do Arab Christians use for “God?”
    • What word or words does the Old Testament use for God?

Appendix 1, Names and Characteristics of God in the Bible

Below you will find names of God from the Bible, with a verse that demonstrates that characteristic.

NAMES of GOD:

Hebrew Names of God

  • God is Jehovah. I AM. Known in Hebrew by the “tetragrammaton” YHWH. God told Moses he is YHWH-Asher-YHWH meaning “I am,” “He who is,” or “He brings into existence whatever exists.” He is the self-sustaining one (discussed above).  It may be translated in English as LORD. Exodus 3:13-15
  • God is Jehovah-jireh. This name means “the God who provides.” He provides all good things for our needs and enjoyment, life, and salvation. Genesis 22:9-14, I Timothy 6:17
  • God is Jehovah-shalom. This name means “the God of peace” or “shalom.” God’s peace surpasses understanding and helps us through difficult times. God gives us Peace and Purpose. Judges 6:16-24
  • (Notice how similar shalom is to salaam, the Arabic word for peace.)  
  • God is Jehovah-rapha. This name means “Jehovah heals.” God alone provides the remedy for all our ills – physical, relational, and spiritual.  Exodus 15:22-26  (Note: also, Jehovah-rophe)
  • God is Jehovah-nissi. This name means “God our banner.” Under His banner we triumph and say, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Exodus 17:8-15
  • God is Elohim. This name means “Strength” or “Power.” Elohim is the great name of God, displaying His supreme power.  Genesis 17:7,8
  • God is Jehovah-M’Kaddesh. This name means “the God who sanctifies.” He requires that the people who follow Him be cleansed from all evil.  Leviticus 20:7,8
  • God is Adonai. This name means “Master” or “Lord.” God, our Adonai, is the Lord of all.          2 Samuel 7:18-20
  • God is YHWH Adonai. This double name means “Sovereign Lord.” Jeremiah 32:17
  • God is YHWH Sabaoth. This double name means “the Lord of Hosts” who is over all powers.    I Samuel 1:3
  • God is Adonai YHWH Sabaoth which means “the Lord, the Lord Almighty,” emphasizing his power. Isaiah 1:24
  • God is El-Shaddai. This name means “God Almighty,” the God who is all-sufficient and all-bountiful, the source of all blessings.  Genesis 17:1

Other Names of God

  • God is the Creator. All that exists was made by him and through him in action that involved Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Genesis 14:22
  • God is Father. God is called “Father” in both the Old and New Testaments. The Creator of the universe cares for each one of us as his child. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” Christians can even call him “Abba, Father,” which means “Daddy.” (Romans 8:15-17) Isaiah 63:16, Matthew 6:9
  • God is Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:11, 
  • The Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 49:7
  • God is Redeemer in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:16 & 49:7
  • God is Savior in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:8, Titus 2:13
  • The Faithful One.  Isaiah 49:7
  • The Counselor and the Spirit of Truth is what Jesus called the Holy Spirit of God. John 14:26, 15:26, & 16:7 (Note: Islam misinterprets these as prophecy of Mohammed.)
  • God is Refuge and Strong Tower Proverbs 18:10
  • God is the Potter we are the clay. Isaiah 64:8
  • God is the Gardener; he makes things grow and prunes the vines. John 15:1
  • God is the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 48:12, Revelation 1:17

Special Names of Jesus:

  • Son of God John 1:34
  • Son of Man Mark 8:31
  • Son of David Matthew 1:1
  • Lamb of God John 1:29
  • Lion of Judah Revelation 5:5
  • Root of David Revelation 5:5
  • Rose of Sharon Song of Songs 2:1
  • The Morning Star Revelation 22:16
  • The Good Shepherd John 10:11
  • The Bread of Life John 6:35
  • The Door John 10:9
  • The Light of the World John 8:12
  • The Way, the Truth, and the Life John 14:6
  • The Resurrection and the Life John 11:25
  • Wonderful Counselor Isaiah 9:6
  • Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6 
  • The Faithful and True Witness Revelation 3:14
  • The Ruler of Creation Revelation 3:14
  • The One Mediator I Timothy 2:5
  • The Righteous Judge II Timothy 4:8
  • Lord Philippians 2:11 
  • Master Luke 8:24
  • Teacher/Rabbi Luke 11:45
  • The Heir of All Things Hebrews 1:2
  • The Vine John 15:1
  • The Firstfruits I Corinthians 15:20
  • Husband/Bridegroom 2 Corinthians 11:2
  • Servant of the Lord Isaiah 52:13
  • Emanuel, God with us Matthew 1:23
  • Great High Priest Hebrews 4:14
  • King of Kings I Timothy 6:15
  • Lord of Lords I Timothy 6:15

CHARACTERISTICS of GOD:

  • God is unique. There is only one God. Isaiah 43:10
  • God is good. God is the embodiment of perfect goodness. He is kind, caring, and full of favor toward all of creation.  Psalm 119:68
  • God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. God’s love encompasses the world, but also embraces each of us personally.  1 John 4:7-10
  • God is just. God is righteous and holy, fair and equitable in all things. We can trust Him to always do what is right.  Psalm 75:1-7
  • God is merciful. God’s merciful compassion is never ending and does not run dry. Through His provision in Christ, He took the judgment that was rightfully ours and placed it on His own shoulders. He waits and works now for all people to turn to Him and to live under His justification.  Deuteronomy 4:29-31
  • God is infinite. God is beyond measurement. He has no beginning, no end, and no limits.  Romans 11:33
  • God is omnipotent. God is all-powerful. He spoke all things into being, and all things are sustained by Him. There is nothing too difficult for Him.  Jeremiah 32:17, 26
  • God is omniscient. This means God is all-knowing. He knows anything that currently exists, existed in the past, or will exist in the future.  Psalm 139:1-6
  • God is omnipresent. God is everywhere—in and around everything, close to everyone. “‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”  Psalm 139:7-12
  • God is immutable. This means that God does not change. All that God is, He has always been. All that He has been and is, He will ever be.  Malachi 3:6 
  • God is perfect. This means he is complete, lacking nothing, and does what is right. Matthew 5:48
  • God is the Church’s head. God the Son, Jesus, is the head of the Church. Ephesians 1:22,23
  • God is our intercessor. Knowing our temptations, God the Son intercedes for us. He opens the doors for us to boldly ask God the Father for mercy. Hebrews 4:14-16
  • God is faithful. Out of His faithfulness God honors His covenants and fulfills His promises. Our hope for the future rests upon God’s faithfulness.  Psalm 89:1-8
  • God is full of grace. God’s grace moves Him to give undeserved favor, and to forgive debts that cannot be repaid.  Ephesians 1:5-8
  • God gives comfort.  Paul writes that the Lord is “the God of all comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1:3,4
  • God is transcendent. God is the highest being, existing beyond and above the universe he created, as well as identifying with it.  Psalm 113:4,5
  • God is holy. God’s holiness is not simply our best image of perfection. God is uniquely without stain.  Revelation 4:8-11
  • God is wise. God knows and acts with perfect wisdom in all things. He always acts for our good, which is to make us like Christ.  Proverbs 3:19,20
  • God is sovereign. God rules all creation with knowledge and power. He is the ultimate authority and decisionmaker.  1 Chronicles 29:11-13

Appendix 2, Names of Allah/God in Islam

This is the official list of the names of Allah. You will notice that many of these names are also characteristics or adapted from characteristics. Many are similar to characteristics of God in the Bible.

Allah (الله) God The Greatest Name, is also known as:

  1. Ar-Rahman (الرحمن) The All-Compassionate
  2. Ar-Rahim (الرحيم) The All-Merciful
  3. Al-Malik (الملك) The Absolute Ruler
  4. Al-Quddus (القدوس) The Pure or Holy One
  5. As-Salam (السلام) The Source of Peace
  6. Al-Mu’min (المؤمن) The Inspirer of Faith
  7. Al-Muhaymin (المهيمن) The Guardian
  8. Al-Aziz (العزيز) The Victorious
  9. Al-Jabbar (الجبار) The Compeller
  10. Al-Mutakabbir (المتكبر) The Greatest
  11. Al-Khaliq (الخالق) The Creator
  12. Al-Bari’ (البارئ) The Maker of Order
  13. Al-Musawwir (المصور) The Shaper of Beauty
  14. Al-Ghaffar (الغفار) The Forgiving
  15. Al-Qahhar (القهار) The Subduer
  16. Al-Wahhab (الوهاب) The Giver of All
  17. Ar-Razzaq (الرزاق) The Sustainer
  18. Al-Fattah (الفتاح) The Opener
  19. Al-`Alim (العليم) The All-Knowing
  20. Al-Qabid (القابض) The Constrictor
  21. Al-Basit (الباسط) The Reliever
  22. Al-Khafid (الخافض) The Abaser
  23. Ar-Rafi (الرافع) The Exalter
  24. Al-Mu’izz (المعز) The Bestower of Honors
  25. Al-Mudhill (المذل) The Humiliator
  26. As-Sami (السميع) The Hearer of All
  27. Al-Basir (البصير) The Seer of All
  28. Al-Hakam (الحكم) The Judge
  29. Al-`Adl (العدل) The Just
  30. Al-Latif (اللطيف) The Subtle One
  31. Al-Khabir (الخبير) The All-Aware
  32. Al-Halim (الحليم) The Forbearing
  33. Al-Azim (العظيم) The Magnificent
  34. Al-Ghafur (الغفور) The Forgiver and Hider of Faults
  35. Ash-Shakur (الشكور) The Rewarder of Thankfulness
  36. Al-Ali (العلى) The Highest
  37. Al-Kabir (الكبير) The Greatest
  38. Al-Hafiz (الحفيظ) The Preserver
  39. Al-Muqit (المقيت) The Nourisher
  40. Al-Hasib (الحسيب) The Accountant
  41. Al-Jalil (الجليل) The Mighty
  42. Al-Karim (الكريم) The Generous
  43. Ar-Raqib (الرقيب) The Watchful One
  44. Al-Mujib (المجيب) The Responder to Prayer
  45. Al-Wasi (الواسع) The All-Comprehending
  46. Al-Hakim (الحكيم) The Perfectly Wise
  47. Al-Wadud (الودود) The Loving One
  48. Al-Majid (المجيد) The Majestic One
  49. Al-Ba’ith (الباعث) The Resurrector
  50. Ash-Shahid (الشهيد) The Witness
  51. Al-Haqq (الحق) The Truth
  52. Al-Wakil (الوكيل) The Trustee
  53. Al-Qawiyy (القوى) The Possessor of All Strength
  54. Al-Matin (المتين) The Forceful One
  55. Al-Waliyy (الولى) The Governor
  56. Al-Hamid (الحميد) The Praised One
  57. Al-Muhsi (المحصى) The Appraiser
  58. Al-Mubdi’ (المبدئ) The Originator
  59. Al-Mu’id (المعيد) The Restorer
  60. Al-Muhyi (المحيى) The Giver of Life
  61. Al-Mumit (المميت) The Taker of Life
  62. Al-Hayy (الحي) The Ever Living One
  63. Al-Qayyum (القيوم) The Self-Existing One
  64. Al-Wajid (الواجد) The Finder
  65. Al-Majid (الماجد) The Glorious
  66. Al-Wahid (الواحد) The Unique, The Single
  67. Al-Ahad (الاحد) The One, The Indivisible
  68. As-Samad (الصمد) The Satisfier of All Needs
  69. Al-Qadir (القادر) The All Powerful
  70. Al-Muqtadir (المقتدر) The Creator of All Power
  71. Al-Muqaddim (المقدم) The Expediter
  72. Al-Mu’akhkhir (المؤخر) The Delayer
  73. Al-Awwal (الأول) The First
  74. Al-Akhir (الأخر) The Last
  75. Az-Zahir (الظاهر) The Manifest One
  76. Al-Batin (الباطن) The Hidden One
  77. Al-Wali (الوالي) The Protecting Friend
  78. Al-Muta’ali (المتعالي) The Supreme One
  79. Al-Barr (البر) The Doer of Good
  80. At-Tawwab (التواب) The Guide to Repentance
  81. Al-Muntaqim (المنتقم) The Avenger
  82. Al-‘Afuww (العفو) The Forgiver
  83. Ar-Ra’uf (الرؤوف) The Clement
  84. Malik-al-Mulk (مالك الملك) The Owner of All
  85. Dhu-al-Jalal wa-al-Ikram (ذو الجلال و الإكرام) The Lord of Majesty and Bounty
  86. Al-Muqsit (المقسط) The Equitable One
  87. Al-Jami’ (الجامع) The Gatherer
  88. Al-Ghani (الغنى) The Rich One
  89. Al-Mughni (المغنى) The Enricher
  90. Al-Mani’(المانع) The Preventer of Harm
  91. Ad-Darr (الضار) The Creator of The Harmful
  92. An-Nafi’ (النافع) The Creator of Good
  93. An-Nur (النور) The Light
  94. Al-Hadi (الهادي) The Guide
  95. Al-Badi (البديع) The Originator
  96. Al-Baqi (الباقي) The Everlasting One
  97. Al-Warith (الوارث) The Inheritor of All
  98. Ar-Rashid (الرشيد) The Righteous Teacher
  99. As-Sabur (الصبور) The Patient One
  100. The 100th name of Allah, it is said, is known only to the camel.

(Note: Not listed, but important is Allah’s name/description as “the best of the deceivers.” Quran 3:54)

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