There are two important observations to keep in mind as Christians engage in gospel presentations among Muslims.
By A. S. Ibrahim
Editor’s note: According to the latest State of Theology study, almost 7 in 10 Americans (67%) say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As you equip and encourage your congregation to have evangelistic conversations that point people to Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6, CSB), this article is intended to help give a framework for communicating the gospel specifically to Muslims. However, many of the principles in this article are applicable in gospel conversations among broader groups of non-believers.
Whenever I meet with a Muslim, I remember Paul’s precious words: “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20, CSB). As gospel bearers, we are His representatives, speaking on His behalf. And He is making His appeal through us as we proclaim, “Be reconciled to God.” Pleading with Muslims, “Come back to God,” is what an ambassador of Christ does. Paul spent most of his life in afflictions and chains. But he knew the glorious reality that he was an ambassador for the Most High God. What an honor!
Paul calls himself “an ambassador in chains” who seeks “to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19–20, CSB). This is one reason he is not ashamed of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:12). It is not that Paul is spectacularly brave or uniquely bold. Rather, he is “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, CSB). Whenever we interact with Muslims, we must be consumed with the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s power for salvation. In order for people to be reconciled with God, the gospel must be proclaimed. You are the proclaimer—Christ’s ambassador.“In order for people to be reconciled with God, the gospel must be proclaimed.” — @al2ostaz Click To Tweet
Whenever you speak with a Muslim, it is important to remember that God, for centuries, has been saving multitudes of Islam’s followers. Seize this precious opportunity to proclaim the message of eternal hope and divine reconciliation. Expect that God will do it again, through you, here and now. Indeed, here and now, Jesus is mighty to save. Here and now, God is able to change lives. Here and now, the gospel penetrates the darkness and reconciles people to God. The Holy Spirit is able to make hearts soft and receptive to the gospel. In encountering Muslims, we need to be filled with God’s compassion to bring unbelievers to life. Why does God save Muslims or anyone else? Why does he accept fallen, hell-deserving, and depraved sinners? The answer is that God loves them (1 Timothy 1:15).
As you engage in gospel presentations among Muslims, here are two important observations to keep in mind:
1. Have gospel conversations with Muslims in the context of sharing a meal together
A growing friendship with a Muslim (the meal concept) is the best context for a sincere conversation about the gospel. While you can certainly present the gospel in its entirety early on in a meeting, sharing meals will open the door for further explaining the truth of the gospel. Comprehension of the gospel—and faithfully responding to it—usually takes time and is best done in the context of a growing friendship. As Christians, we should always remember we are ambassadors of Christ and our gospel proclamation is not merely a task on our to-do list. Our greatest proclamation is living a life that reflects the image of Jesus to Muslims.“As Christians, we should always remember we are ambassadors of Christ and our gospel proclamation is not merely a task on our to-do list.” — @al2ostaz Click To Tweet
We must remember that we are dealing with humans created in the image of God. Muslims are not objects or projects. If we treat them as such, they will immediately sense the disingenuous attitude and assume we do not truly care about them as people. In this way, our witness will be ineffective. Sincere conversations in a steadily growing friendship naturally lead to the effective sharing of the good news. It is important to remember that God works in the hearts of each unbeliever differently. Some Muslims accept Jesus immediately and spontaneously, while others pass through stages of questions and answers.
2. Anticipate various turns in the gospel presentation when evangelizing Muslims
This is evident in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14–39. The sermon is short and concise, but Peter presents the gospel entirely, openly, and clearly. The sermon teaches us what to expect when proclaiming the gospel.
Peter uses both logical and scriptural apologetics. You will need these in conversations with Muslims. Peter refutes charges by asserting logical facts: “These people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning” (Acts 2:15, CSB). Peter also relies on Scripture to make his case, declaring, “This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16, CSB). We need to be prepared to use logical and scriptural apologetics in our evangelism to Muslims.
Moreover, Peter is laser-focused on Christ as the center of everything. This is a significant point for us as Christ’s ambassadors: Do not be distracted. Peter proclaims the supremacy of Christ, His life, death on a cross, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:22–33). This is the heart of our gospel proclamations.“Our gospel proclamations should always conclude with the call to repentance.” — @al2ostaz Click To Tweet
The culmination of the sermon comes when Peter declares, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36, CSB). Although this is the peak of the sermon, Peter does not stop here. He is concerned with helping his listeners know what they should do next: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, CSB).
This concluding step gives direction and provides an explanation. Our gospel proclamations should always conclude with the call to repentance and be accompanied by an explanation of what baptism means for a new believer. Finally, it is important to explain to those who believe in Christ that, upon accepting Christ, the power of God’s Spirit will begin transforming their lives.
Sharing the gospel with Muslims
Peter’s sermon serves as a broad model—not necessarily as a template to be replicated—that highlights important aspects of our gospel proclamation. These are aspects we must not miss. But we also do not need to be preoccupied about applying all of them in each encounter with a Muslim. Every Muslim is different. God uses us all in different ways and changes people’s lives at different paces. Pray for God’s wisdom to guide you, and be flexible under the Spirit’s leadership.
Whether we present the gospel in one short sermon—like Peter’s—or over a longer process with a Muslim, it is necessary that we follow up with those who hear it. We should always ensure that they understand the message as we explain the important gospel components related to us as sinners and to Jesus as the focus of the gospel. We must be prepared to use apologetics and scriptural texts as we call Muslims to repent and believe in Christ.
A. S. Ibrahim
A. S. Ibrahim (PhD, University of Haifa; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a professor of Islamic studies and the director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Conversion to Islam and Reaching Your Muslim Neighbor with the Gospel.
Content taken from Reaching Your Muslim Neighbor with the Gospel by A. S. Ibrahim ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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