Muslim: Many people associated Christianity with Jesus but I think the Christianity that we know today was based more on the teachings of Paul than that of Jesus. There are also major differences between the two.
Christian: What are some of these teachings of Jesus and Paul that are different?
Muslim: In the most important topic on salvation, Jesus taught that obeying the laws are required whereas Paul taught that it was faith alone that saves us an not our good deeds.
Christian: Where did Jesus teach that obeying the law was the way to salvation and we are saved by our good deeds?
Muslim: When a rich young man asked Jesus the question, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”jesus replied, “If you want to enter life, keep the Commandments.”
Christian: This passage of the Bible has to be understood from its context. The rich young man came to Jesus with the wrong understanding that one can earn salvation by doing good. This can be seen from his questions to Jesus: “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Muslim: If this idea is wrong, why did Jesus go along with him and ask him to keep the Commandments?
Christian: When Jesus asked him to obey the Commandments, the rich young man replied that he had kept all of them. In other words, he failed to understand that trying to be good enough for God is impossible.
Muslim: How did Jesus make him understand that one cannot be perfect for God by obeying all the Commandments?
Christian: Jesus focused on that one Commandment that he could not obey. Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth.
Muslim: I see. Therefore, Jesus was not teaching that one can earn salvation by doing good and obeying the law?
Christian: Not at all. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Muslim: Jesus taught that believing in him and having faith is in the way to salvation?
Christian: That’s right. This is exactly what Paul taught as well. Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Muslim: I have always thought that Paul corrupted the teachings of Jesus and led the followers of Jesus astray.
Christian: If we study the teachings of Jesus and Paul and understand the context behind them, we will see that this is not true. Furthermore, the Quran teaches that false teachers will not be able to corrupt the teachings of Jesus.
Muslim: Really? Where does it say that in the Quran?
Christian: In Surah 3:55, Allah said, “Oh Jesus. I will take you and raise you up to myself. I will deliver you from those who disbelieve and elevate your followers above the disbelievers until the day of judgment.” Allah promised Jesus that his true followers will prevail over the deviant followers from the time he ascended to heaven until the time of the Day of Judgment, not until the time of Prophet Muhammad.
Muslim: That means that even up to today, we will not be able to say that false teachers like Paul have corrupted the teachings of Jesus?
Christian: That’s right. If we believe that Allah is all-powerful and he has kept his promise to Jesus, we cannot come to the conclusion that the false followers of Jesus have prevailed over the true followers and that Christianity today is the corrupted version from Paul. In Surah 61:14, the Quran confirms that it was the true believers of Jesus who prevailed: Said Jesus the son of Mary to the disciples, “Who will be my helper to (the work) of Allah?” Said the disciples, “We are Allah’s helpers!” Then a portion of the children of Israel believe and a portion disbelieve but we (i.e. Allah) gave power to those who believed against their enemies and they became the ones that prevailed.
Muslim: I see. I did not know that the idea that Paul corrupted the teachings of Jesus cannot be proven from either the Quran or the Bible.