To a casual observer, how does the message of the gospel differ OUTWARDLY from Ahmadiyya Islam which also preaches peace and loving one’s neighbor? Ahmadiyya is quite unlike the radical Islam of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. When beheadings and savagery are excluded, the visible outward gap between Islam and Christianity is narrowed. Ahmadiyya therefore seems to offer an alternative to people who are not drawn to or dissatisfied with the traditional Church. It has even been reported that the message of Ahmadiyya can appeal to politicians in the United States. Another sect of Islam which also teaches love is Sufism.
Thus the message of the Church is outwardly similar to that propagated by Ahmadiyya Islam. They both claim to worship the Creator, the one true God. They both preach peace and love on earth. They both claim to offer the only way to God. Yes, unlike Islam Christianity offers the assurance of eternal life, but this is not visible to casual observers on the outside not familiar with their respective theologies.
Is there any obvious or noticeable difference between Ahmadiyya Islam and Christianity to outsiders?
As the traditional Church exists today, the answer is sadly no. Yes, we claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But Islam also claims to teach an exclusive way to God (Allah). Presently there is no visible outward difference between the two which can be seen by observers. However, in John’s gospel Jesus gives his disciples a powerful way by which we can show the world, including Muslims, convincing evidence that He is in fact the only way to the Father—that is, miraculous works done in His name.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. …10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? …11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…
Jesus here is clearly not referring to the gift of healing, or any gift of the Holy Spirit for that matter. The gifts of the Spirit were obviously not available to the disciples until the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, bringing along with him the gifts. By contrast, in the gospels Jesus had already given power and authority over demons and diseases to His disciples for proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
This power and authority were clearly different from the gifts (charisma) inasmuch as they were for preaching the gospel to the lost. According to 1 Corinthians 12 the gifts by contrast are clearly for building up the body of Christ—the Church. During the time of the gospels before Jesus died, rose, and ascended, the body of Christ—the Church—did not yet even exist on earth.
We at The Elijah Challenge are not to be identified with some charismatic groups (fondly called charismaniacs by some conservatives) who teach and witness supernatural manifestations not supported by New Testament scripture. And although we certainly do not deny them, we do not teach about the operation of the gifts of healing as listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Our emphasis is on the proclamation of the gospel to those who never heard and are resistant to the gospel—the billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, idol-worshipers, and followers of witchcraft around the world who greatly outnumber Christians. Our emphasis is on winning them for Christ and discipling them—not on spreading charismatic teaching (or charismania as feared by cessationists) in the Church.
To win these gospel-resistant peoples in appreciable numbers during these very difficult last days when Islam is experiencing their worldwide “revival” and looking to establish their Caliphate, we must return to Jesus’ words in John 14:12. In order to fulfill the Great Commission and disciple these very resistant peoples, we must do the miraculous works that he did two thousand years ago—healing the sick and casting out demons.
Apart from that, there is no visible outward difference between Ahmadiyya Islam and Christianity.
John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, …
How dare we nullify the words of Jesus Christ which are so crucial during these difficult last days for effective and fruitful evangelism to these people groups for whom He suffered and died?
What about “sign gifts”?
The term “sign gift” coined only recently is nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Technically, the two terms are incompatible. “Miraculous signs” are for convincing the lost to believe in Jesus, while “gifts” (charisma) are for ministering to believers. Perhaps the term originated from someone who attempted to interpret Hebrews 2:3-4.
Hebrews 2:3 …This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (NIV)
According to Strong, “gifts” in the Greek text here is merismos (μερισμός): “a separation or distribution, dividing asunder, or gift.” It is not the same word as charisma which refers to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit taught in 1 Corinthians 12. Young’s Literal Translation renders Hebrews 2:4b as “distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to his will” instead of “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” as in the New International Version. These distributions of the Holy Spirit according to Matthew Henry are for “qualifying, enabling, and exciting them [the disciples] to do the work to which they were called”—that is, proclaiming the message of salvation to the lost. The context here is clearly not referring to gifts of the Holy Spirit (charisma) for building up the Church. The Greek word merismos should be more accurately translated “distributions” instead of “gifts.”
The only other occurrence of merismos in the New Testament is found in Hebrews 4:12.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Here merismos is translated “dividing asunder” and not “gifts.”
Therefore we should not on the basis of the sole occurrence of merismos in the New Testament translated into English as “gifts” in Hebrews 2:4 discount the strongly-supported conclusions already made about the differences between “gifts” (charisma) on the one hand, and power & authority on the other. That sole incidence of merismos is literally translated “distributions” enabling the disciples to preach the message of salvation to the lost, and does not refer to the gifts of the Holy Spirit (charisma) as taught in 1 Corinthians 12 for building up believers.