Christian theology in a Sudanese context. God's chosen Saviour - Jesus!
While it is true that Jesus Christ is unique, it is also true that He told His disciples: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16,7. In English, ‘another’ means ‘one more’. It can also mean ‘a different example of the same sort’. The Greek New Testament uses two words, both of which are translated ‘another’ in English. However, they actually have separate meanings. ‘Allos’ signifies a numerical difference, another one of the same kind. ‘Heteros’ signifies a qualitative difference, another of a different kind. This is an important distinction to make. Think about oranges and grapefruit. You buy three oranges in the suk. You want to get some more later on. The man in the suk does not have any oranges, but he offers you some grapefruit. It is a similar kind of fruit, a citrus fruit, but it is quite a different size, colour and shape. You do not want these. You want three more oranges– not exactly identical to the ones you have eaten, but very similar. Jesus promises the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, is another One like Himself. The Holy Spirit will not be a stranger to those who have known Jesus. They will recognise Him. Just as Jesus had lived with His disciples, so the Holy Spirit will live with them. In fact, the Holy Spirit will be living inside of them as well as with them. We must try to understand this truth, even though we are thinking about God. God is so great and beyond our full understanding. Whatever we can grasp of Him, there will always be so much more that we know is there but we cannot understand. I know that when it rains in places like Fittihab, Omdurman, there are large puddles of water and mud left around for days afterwards. Someone looking at the puddles may say, ‘that’s a lot of water just lying around’. But compared to the flow of water in the river Nile that puddle is nothing at all!
The Nile starts in south-central Burundi as a remote stream, called the Luvironza. That flows into Lake Victoria and then leaves as the Victoria Nile, flowing into Lake Albert. The water then flows through the Albert Nile into the WhiteNile on the border between Uganda and Sudan. In Khartoum this is joined by the Blue Nile from near Lake Tana in Ethiopia. From Khartoum the River Nile flows north into Egypt and the Mediterranean sea. Altogether, it is 6741 km (4187 miles), the longest river in the world. Yet even the water in the whole of the rivers and lakes that make up the Nile is nothing at all, compared to the water in the mighty Pacific Ocean. The world’s deepest and largest Ocean is between Asia, Australia, South and North America. It’s area is about 165,760,000 sq.km. (64,000,000 square miles). It is 11,033 metres deep at it’s deepest point, the Marianas Trench. Our understanding and appreciation of God is more like that of a man looking at a puddle and thinking about the river, while the reality of God is that our God created the Pacific Ocean and told it to stay in its place! (Genesis 1:9,10). Before He left the disciples, Jesus told them He would not leave them on their own. He would come to them Himself (John 14:18). And the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 14:15-17; John 14:25-26; John 15:26-27; John 16:7-11; John 16:12-15). What we have learned already will help us here. The doctrines of the Unity of God: God is One complete God; the Holy Trinity: one God in three Persons; and the Omnipresence of God: God is everywhere present at the same time (see chapters 8, 9 and 11), must be brought into our minds to think about how this can all happen. God has disclosed all of these things about Himself. It is up to us to enlarge our minds and hearts by thinking about them. As we do, we have a wonderful promise from God to claim for ourselves. In those verses from John’s gospel we discover that the Holy Spirit will teach us all we need to know. He will remind us of the teachings of Jesus. He will continually bear witness to Jesus and to the truth. He will convict people of sin, of righteousness and of judgement – making us conscious of our accountability to God for falling a long way below His purposes. The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus by representing Him and His word to us. The focus of everything the Holy Spirit does will be to make Jesus bigger and more important in our lives. He will prompt our minds and our hearts as we learn to love Him in the right way (Matthew 22:37). Some Muslims today claim that Muhammad is the ‘other one’ referred to by Jesus, in John chapters 14 – 16. They argue that the Greek text has been corrupted in John 14:16; 14:26; 15:26; and 16:7. They say the Bible’s word usually translated “Counsellor” or “Comforter” (Greek – parakletos), was originally “the praise-worthy one” or “Muhammad” (Greek – periklytos). This view is helped for them by twelve predictions in the Gospel of Barnabas that Jesus announced the coming of Muhammad after Him.
We must remember that there is not one single Bible manuscript in existence that has this word ‘periklytos’ in these texts. None at all! Also remember, the Gospel of Barnabas is not in the Bible, and is not accepted by Christians as the real teaching of Jesus. It makes the false statement that Barnabas was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. The New Testament tells us that Barnabas was a close friend and fellow-worker with Paul, after Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 9:26-28; Acts 11:25-26; and Acts 13:1-4). The only surviving manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas is written in Italian, a language that was not spoken in the time of Jesus. It is kept in a library in Vienna, Austria, and was probably only written in the sixteenth century.
Thinking it through.
(a). Why do people who know Jesus in their experience, also know the Holy Spirit?
(b). What limits our understanding and appreciation of God?
(c). From John chapters 14-16, what can we be sure God the Holy Spirit will do?
Give chapter and verse reference for each one.