Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the issue of Matthew 28:18 Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Shortly after his resurrection the Lord Jesus appeared to his disciples informing them that he now has complete sovereignty over the entire creation:

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matthew 28:18

To say that this is a remarkable assertion is to put to mildly, since no finite creature could possess absolute power over all creation. This is an authority which belongs only to God, as we shall see shortly.

However, the Islamic Christophobes such as Muslim-turned apostate-turned Muslim again Paul Bilal Williams can’t allow for such a statement to mean what it says. Therefore, these dawagandists look for a way to undermine the divine significance of Jesus’ words, as in the case of Williams who wrote a blogpost which he titled, “Matthew 28:18”.

In this piece, Williams raises two specific objections that he thinks refute the plain testimony which this inspired text provides in respect to Christ’s absolute and essential Deity.

Let us see if whether Williams was able to accomplish his goal.

 

WILLIAMS

In my discussions with Christians over the years Matthew 28:18 comes up again and again as a favourite proof text that Jesus is God. There are just two problems with this argument,

1) as Calling Christians points out, if Jesus is God then how can God be given authority?

 

RESPONSE

Since Williams claims to have been a former “born again Christian” who has spent time pouring over the Holy Bible, he has absolutely no excuse for raising such an objection. After all, if he has truly studied the Christian faith, and has read so many scholarly books on the subject of Christianity as he says has, then he already knows (or at least should know) what the answer is.   

According to Matthew’s narrative, Christ is Jehovah God the Son (and therefore not the Father or the Holy Spirit) who became Incarnate for the purpose of establishing God’s rule in the life of all his followers,

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

As well as to save his people from their sins:

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: FOR he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Meth' hemon ho Theos).” Matthew 1:21-23

The name Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua, which is the shortened form of Yehoshua (“Joshua”), and means “Jehovah is salvation.” This explains the connection between Jesus’ name and his work of redeeming his followers from their iniquities, i.e., the angel is basically identifying Jesus as Jehovah God who has come to fulfill what the Psalter says Jehovah would one day do for his people Israel:  

“Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8

Matthew even ends his Gospel in the same way that he began it, namely, by announcing that Jesus himself is the God who has come to dwell with his people till the end of the age:

“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I AM WITH YOU (ego meth' hymon eimi) ALWAY, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:20

This claim of omnipresence provides further confirmation that Matthew intends to portray Jesus as God Almighty Incarnate who came to dwell with his followers. After all, only God is capable of dwelling with all of the believers at the same time, no matter how numerous or scattered they may be, since he alone is omnipresent.

Now if there was still any uncertainty that Matthew sought to portray Christ as Jehovah in the flesh then the following passage should remove any doubts that remain:

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” Matthew 3:1-3, 11-15

The Baptist is said to be the voice mentioned in Isaiah, the one who prepares the people for the coming of Jehovah God to his people:

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low:
 and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it… O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: 
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:3-5, 9-11

And yet John boldly testifies that he was sent ahead of the Christ in order to prepare his way.

This means that Jesus is actually the Jehovah God spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, the very One whom the Baptist was sent to herald his coming!

Moreover, Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18 are a deliberate echo of Daniel 7:13-14, as are his repeated self-references to the Son of man. Note, for instance, the following example:

“But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” Matthew 26:63-66

Jesus’ claim to being the Son of man who comes in the clouds of heaven is taken directly from Daniel’s great vision in which he sees a figure that he describes as one like a Son of man:

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, AND GLORY, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should SERVE (yipelachun) him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

This figure is truly remarkable since he clearly happens to be God appearing in human form. This is brought out by the fact that this entity rides the clouds like God does,

“The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3 – cf. Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 33:7-11; 40:34-38; Numbers 10:34; 12:4-10; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4, 33-34; 104:3; Isaiah 19:1

Reigns forever like God does, and receives the exact same worship that God receives,

“I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.” Daniel 6:26

“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall SERVE (yipelachun) and obey him.” Daniel 7:27 – cf. 3:12, 14, 17-18, 28; 6:16, 20; Psalm 145:18

By therefore identifying himself as that very Son of Man whom Daniel saw, Jesus was basically claiming to be an eternal divine King whom all the nations must worship as he rules over them forever!

This in itself shows the utter futility of using Matthew 28:18 to disprove the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, since Matthew has gone out of his way to identify Christ as Jehovah God in the flesh.

With that said, Matthew himself provides the answer to Williams’ objection. In coming to the earth to accomplish his Father’s will Jesus assumed the role and status of a Servant:

“But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; and charged them that they should not make him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold MY SERVANT, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” Matthew 12:15-21 – cf. 3:16-17; 17:1-5; Luke 22:27; John 13:3-17; Romans 15:8-9; Philippians 2:5-11

Christ himself plainly stated that he had not come to be served, but to serve by offering his life as a sacrificial ransom for the sins of many:

“even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 – cf. Mark 10:45

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:26-28 – cf. Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20

Therefore, as the Father’s beloved Servant Jesus would have voluntarily set aside the divine sovereignty which he possessed by virtue of being the unique Son of God.

This explains why Jesus could say that the kingdom of heaven/God,

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

“But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” Matthew 12:28

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

“Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you… Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Matthew 21:31, 43

Belongs to both the Father and himself: 

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13

The Son of man shall send forth HIS angels, and they shall gather out of HIS kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:41-43

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of HIS Father with HIS angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in HIS kingdom.” Matthew 16:27-28

When the Son of man shall come in HIS glory, and all the holy angels with HIM, then shall he sit upon the throne of HIS glory: and before HIM shall be gathered all nations: and HE shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and HE shall set the sheep on HIS right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on HIS right hand, Come, ye blessed of MY Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” Matthew 25:31-34

“But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29

Thus, the authority Christ was given was that which already belonged to him, but which he chose to relinquish for a season so that he could accomplish God’s will on earth.

 

WILLIAMS HAS A PROBLEM

According to the Quran, Allah is not the Father nor is Jesus his Son (cf. Q. 5:18; 6:101; 9:30; 19:88-93; 21:26; 39:4; 72:3). The Quran further attests that Allah does not share his sovereignty over creation with anyone, especially a son:

Do you not know that Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that besides Allah you have no guardian or helper? S. 2:107 Shakir – cf. Q. 3:189

He, Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and Who did not take to Himself a son, and Who has no associate in the kingdom, and Who created everything, then ordained for it a measure. S. 25:2 Shakir – cf. Q. 17:111

The Islamic scripture further contends that Jesus’ followers were Muslims (cf. Q. 3:52; 5:111). This suggests that Jesus was one as well.

Therefore, if Christ and his followers were actually Muslims then none of them would have went around preaching that Jesus is the divine Son of God who fully shares in the Father’s absolute sovereign authority over the heavens and the earth. And yet this is precisely what the historical Jesus and his disciples taught!

Hence, this not only proves that the Quran is grossly mistaken, it also demonstrates that Muhammad was an antichrist for expressly denying that God is the Father and that Jesus is his unique beloved Son:

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23

 

AN EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM FOR WILLIAMS

Williams’ problems are far from over. The Quran says that Allah is an heir who receives an inheritance from his own followers!

And certainly We! We it is Who give life, and cause death and We are the Inheritors. S. 15:23 Hilali-Khan

It is We Who will inherit the earth, and all beings thereon: to Us will they all be returned. S. 19:40 Hilali-Khan – cf. 19:80

Allah is even said to be the best inheritor of them all!

And (remember) Zakariya, when he cried to his Lord: "O my Lord! leave me not without offspring, though thou art the best of inheritors." S. 21:89 Hilali-Khan

Now this creates a massive problem for the assertion that Allah is the all-sufficient deity who owns everything. If this were true then why would Allah need to be given an inheritance from his creatures when he supposedly possesses all things that exist?

More importantly, per Williams’ objection wouldn’t this establish once and for all that Allah cannot be god, and that there must be someone greater than him? It should if Williams is going to be consistent; otherwise he will simply be exposing himself as a hypocrite who uses one set of standards to attack Christianity and a different set to defend Islam. 

For more on this topic of Allah being an heir to his creatures we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:

We are not through just yet since Williams makes another claim that we shall respond to in the next part of our rebuttal.