“Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn’t we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? … What does God care what we call him?”
These are not the words of a Unitarian Universalist. They are not the words of a New Age guru polytheist. They are the words of a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands who has proposed that people of all faiths should begin referring to God as Allah to foster understanding in the midst of a heated debate on relgious tolerance in the Netherlands which now is host to one million Muslims.
In a world of increasing diversity and political correctness, it seems that everyone is tolerant of just about anything except Christians who teach and preach the preeminence and uniqueness of Christ. This is really no surprise to those who know Christ and His gospel (Matt. 10:22; 24:9; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:17; John 15:18; 2 Tim. 3:12). The cross of Christ and His gospel is an offense to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15). But to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18b)!
Why is the exclusivity and uniqueness of Christ so offensive? There are many reasons. For example, if you look abroad in the world, you will find a vast multitude of men embracing Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Spiritism, Popery and more. All of these religions, though disagreeing on what must be done, nonetheless agree in this one point: It is by doing that man must live.
A legal method of salvation is most agreeable to the pride of man’s heart.
This is why the exclusivity and uniqueness of Christ and His gospel is so offensive. Thomas Boston writes,
“A proud heart will rather serve itself with the less, than stoop to live upon free grace, Rom. 10:3. Man must be broken, bruised, and humbled, and laid very low, before he will embrace the covenant of grace (i.e., the gospel- J.F.)…men…will rather live in a cottage of their own than in another man’s castle. To renounce all our own wisdom, works, and righteousness, and to cast away all those garments as filthy rags, which we have been at so much pains to patch up, is quite against the grain with corrupt nature, Rom. 7:4,” (Works of Thomas Boston, vol. 11, pp. 267-268).
Even though the statement by the Roman Catholic bishop is not surprising, it is amazing to see the contrast between this bishop’s response to a hostile, pluralistic world and the Apostles in the first century.
Paul’s teaching about the uniqueness and preeminence of Christ in Colossians developed in the midst of first century pluralistic Rome! The culture in which the Colossian church existed worshipped many gods. It was acceptable in Roman culture for anyone to teach about any god so long as no one claimed exclusive truth for their god.
Yet, every gospel truth Paul wrote in Colossians challenged the fundamental beliefs of the pagan culture of his day. For example, in Colossians 1:15-22, Paul, writing of the preeminence of Christ, declares,
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by  him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…
Colossians is a very up to date book. Its message is timeless and speaks to the problems and crises of our age just as it did nearly 2000 years ago in Paul’s day.
Postmodernism is simply a mood (i.e., a state of mind) against truth, meaning and certainty. Our culture (and our many of our churches!) increasingly rejects the idea that objective, absolute truth exists.
It is fashionable to believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Religion is fashionable. In our times, it is fashionable to believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true. It is acceptable to talk about “God” because the term God has no meaning in society today. The term God in our culture is a very neutral, open term. God can be Allah, you can be god, the earth can be god, God can be your force that goes with you, etc…
However, as soon as someone invokes the name of Jesus they are immediately labeled as exclusionary and intolerant. In recent years, the person and work of Jesus has come under severe attack from the mainstream media.
The Jesus Seminar and the ABC News Special, The Search for Jesus, hosted by Peter Jennings, are just two contemporary examples of the systematic efforts by some to re-write the historical account of the person and work of Jesus.
Several years ago at the UN Millennium Summit, some 1,000 representatives of various global religions and religious systems met to work on plans to create a United Nations Church of the World, in which all religions will be embraced with open arms — with the exception of exclusionary religions like biblical Christianity which insists that Jesus is the only true God (of course).
In Orange, California, Rev. Dirk Ficaa, a Presbyterian minister and executive director of the Council for a Parliament of World Religions spoke at a Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference. In his message, he asked, “So what’s the big deal about Jesus?” He warned that Christians should not to attempt to make converts of non-Christians. He described Christian evangelism as “ethnic cleansing.” He then compared all religions to stained glass windows. Each is different but the light of God comes through each just the same.
Is this true? Are all religions equal? Do all religions allow the truth of who God to shine through equally? Was Jesus just another emanation from God along with all the others? Is it true that we all come through different routes and end up in the same place?
Is it true that all religions worship the same God but give Him different names? If so, why not call Christ Allah?
The apostle Paul in Colossians 1 didn’t think so.
First, it must be understood that God is not a place, an experience, or a feeling.
The God of Scripture is revealed as a personal being objectively defined by an inerrant record, the Bible. It is a catastrophic error to think that all religions are right and that it does not matter whether the claims they make are objectively true.
Second, the fact is all religions are not the same.
Ravi Zacharias writes,
“All religions do not point to God. All religions do not say that all religions are the same….Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even the best-known one. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”
At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not.
Jesus said to Thomas in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” That is a very exclusive claim. Every word of that verse challenges the fundamental beliefs of every major religion in the world. One can read throughout Scripture and see that every claim that Jesus made of Himself challenges every religion’s assumption about who God is, and the purpose and meaning of life.
What is the big deal about Jesus, one Presbyterian minister may ask? Well, Paul answers this in Colossians 1. The big deal is this:
Christ is preeminent because He is the only True God (Col. 1:15, 19).
In v. 15, Paul describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God…” The word, image, is where we get our English word, icon, referring to a statue. It is used in Matt. 22:20 of Caesar’s portrait on a coin. What Paul is telling us is that in Jesus, we see the full reality of the invisible God.”
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…,” (Col. 2:9).
“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him,” (John 1:18).
Paul further describes Jesus as “the first-born of all creation.” Jehovah’s Witnesses (i.e., Arians) like to point to this description of Jesus to deny His deity. They argue that it speaks of Christ as a created being and thus negating His deity. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Paul meant to convey the idea that Christ was the first created being, he could have used the Greek word which means, “first created being.” But, he did not use this word in v. 15. Rather, he used a word that refers to rank or position.
What Paul is saying in v. 15 is that Jesus is the highest in rank or position over all creation (i.e., He is preeminent)!
Far from being merely the first created being, Paul says in v. 15 that Jesus is the perfect image of God and thus He is preeminent over all creation! Verse 19 is an amazing apologetic against a plurality of gods! What Paul is saying here is that the fullness of deity is not spread out in small doses to millions of gods. Rather, the fullness of deity resides in Christ alone! That is a big deal!
Christ is preeminent because He is the Sovereign Creator (Col. 1:16-17).
Jesus Christ must be preeminent because He created all things (v. 16a), existed before all things (v. 17a), sustains all things (v. 17b), and is glorified by all things (v. 16b).
Christ is preeminent because He is the Head of the Church (Col. 1:18).
The church is ruled by Christ. He is the “firstborn from the dead.” That is to say that Christ is the highest in rank of all who have ever or will be raised from the dead. He has come to have first place in everything. Jesus reigns over the all creation, visible and invisible (vv. 15-17) and He reigns over His church (v. 18). Every knee will bow and confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:8-11).
Christ is preeminent because He is the Savior of Sinners (vv. 13-14, 20-22).
The Gospel proclaims that Christ “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…,” (Col. 1:14). The Gospel proclaims that in Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…,” (Col. 1:14). The Gospel proclaims that though we were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled us in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before him…(Col. 1:21-22). The Gospel declares, there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).
Today many in the world and the church question the idea that there is only one way to heaven. Religious pluralism is on the rise. And though declaring Jesus as the only Savior in the Gospel may be viewed as arrogance and intolerannce, the truth is the exclusivity and preeminence of Christ is Good News for all people (cf., Luke 2:10).
“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20).