By Shabir Ally
Some will say that this whole discussion over the divinity of Jesus is unnecessary. They say, the important thing is to accept Jesus as your personal savior. On the contrary, the Bible’s writers stressed that, in order to be saved, it is necessary to understand who exactly is God. Failure to understand this would be to violate the first and greatest of all the commandments in the Bible. This commandment was emphasized by Jesus, on whom be peace, when a teacher of the Law of Moses asked him: “‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28-30).
Notice that Jesus was quoting the first commandment from the book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus confirmed not only that this commandment is still valid, but also that it is the most important of all the commandments. If Jesus thought that he himself is God, why did not he say so? Instead, he stressed that God is one. The man who questioned Jesus understood this, and what the man says next makes it clear that God is not Jesus, for he said to Jesus: “‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.’” (Mark 12:32).
Now if Jesus was God, he would have told the man so. Instead, he let the man refer to God as someone other than Jesus, and he even saw that the man had spoken wisely: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:34). If Jesus knew that God is a trinity, why did not he say so? Why did not he say that God is one in three, or three in one? Instead, he declared that God is one. True imitators of Jesus will imitate him also in this declaration of God’s oneness. They will not add the word three where Jesus never said it.
Does salvation depend on this commandment? Yes, says the Bible! Jesus made this clear when another man approached Jesus to learn from him (see Mark 10:17-29). The man fell on his knees and said to Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied: “Why do you call me good? No one is good — except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18).
By so saying, Jesus made a clear distinction between himself and God. Then he proceeded with the answer to the man’s question about how to get salvation. Jesus told him: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17, also see Mark 10:19).
Remember that the most important of all the commandments, according to Jesus, is to know God as the only God. Jesus further emphasized this in the Gospel According to John. In John 17:1, Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, addressing God as Father. Then in verse three, he said to God as follows: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).
This proves beyond doubt that if people want to get eternal life they must know that the One, whom Jesus was praying to, is the only true God, and they must know that Jesus was sent by the true God. Some say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. But Jesus said that the Father alone is the only true God. True followers of Jesus will follow him in this too. Jesus had said that his true followers are those who hold to his teachings. He said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31). His teaching is that people must continue to keep the commandments, especially the first commandment which emphasizes that God is alone, and that God should be loved with all our hearts and all our strengths.
We love Jesus, but we must not love him as God. Today many love Jesus more than they love God. This is because they see God as a vengeful person who wanted to exact a penalty from them, and they see Jesus as the savior who rescued them from the wrath of God. Yet God is our only savior. According to Isaiah 43:11, God said: “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Also God said according to Isaiah 45:21-22: “Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
The Quran confirms the first commandment and addresses it to all humankind (see the Holy Quran 2:163). And God declares that true believers love Him more than anyone else or anything else (Quran 2:165).