The Gospel and World Religions

By   •   January 29, 2007   •   Topics:

The world’s fluid boundaries offer ample opportunity to share the Gospel with those of different religious backgrounds. As we rely on the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin, we can use the following information to help explain the reason for the hope that we have.

ISLAM
1.3 billion adherents worldwide

The Quran, Islam’s sacred book, claims to supersede the Bible, which it states has been corrupted. The Quran calls Jesus a prophet but denies the existence of the Trinity, as well as the deity of Jesus and His atoning death on the cross. Allah displays mercy to whomever he wishes, but he is capricious, vengeful and unknowable. Salvation is not assured, even for those who observe Islam’s “five pillars”: confession, prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage. Only a Muslim who dies in jihad, or holy war, is guaranteed entry to heaven.

Witnessing Tips

  • Display the character of Christ. Avoid debates and arrogant or superior behavior. Emphasize what Jesus has done in your life.
  • Muslims believe in much of the Old Testament. Jesus and the Apostles used the Old Testament to prove that He was the Christ, and we can do the same.
  • Sin separates us from a holy God. Explain that God’s holiness requires consequences for sin, yet God’s love was so great that He sent Jesus to take our punishment.

HINDUISM
870 million adherents worldwide

Hindus hold that all living things exist as a manifestation of Brahman, or the universal consciousness, so every living thing is god. Karma is the principle that you reap what you sow, either in this life or in the next. One commits sin against self, not God. Sin’s penalty is reincarnation until one reaches nirvana and becomes one with Brahman. Nirvana is achieved in various ways, depending on the branch of Hinduism observed.

Witnessing Tips

  • Hindus are drawn to Jesus’ humility and simple, sacrificial lifestyle. Live a Christ-like life and show genuine concern for the needs of others.
  • Explain that Jesus is God, not merely a teacher or one of millions of deities. He loves us and came to earth to pay the consequences of our sin so that we could know God.
  • Reincarnation and karma give Hindus a hopeless view of life. Talk about Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and explain that we can’t earn salvation. It is a gift from God.

BUDDHISM
379 million adherents worldwide

Buddhism shares karma and reincarnation with Hinduism but teaches that nirvana is an end to existence–not just an end to reincarnation. There is no greater consciousness in the universe; only a great void. Most Buddhists believe that suffering is unavoidable and that ceasing to exist is the only escape. The Buddhist reaches nirvana by letting go of the impermanent physical world, as did Buddha, the religion’s founder.

Witnessing Tips

  • Buddhism does not provide practical answers to life’s problems or give a purpose for living. The Gospel provides assurance for this life and for eternity. Talk about your assurance of eternal life and the meaning that Jesus Christ has given you.
  • Buddhists can only speculate about how one reaches nirvana and what happens next. Christianity is based on eyewitness accounts about a historical Person. Jesus’ sacrifice assured salvation and freedom from spiritual death. Point to His physical resurrection as reason for that assurance.

All three of these religions focus on human efforts to reach God or a desired eternal state. In contrast, the Bible teaches that God reached out to us by sending Jesus to die for our sins. Remember that, in many cases, making a commitment to Christ can lead to physical harm, rejection by one’s family and other trials. Be prepared to offer support and encouragement to new believers.

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