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God's Purpose in the Crucifixion of Christ

How This Reconciliation was Accomplished

Adam disobeyed his Lord (that is, he sinned) and was expelled from Eden (Genesis 3). This is echoed in Sura al-Baqara 2:34, Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and brought them out of that they were in. He thus deserved eternal death. Evil desires grew in him, and the tendency to commit sin took root in his heart. His descendants also inherited these tendencies and so they followed in their father's footsteps. The earth became full of evil, and men's destruction became inevitable so as to satisfy God's justice, since they could not find a way to reform and return to their original state: the state of purity and holiness which befits heaven, where only the pure can enter. Furthermore, God cannot deviate from his own laws, because his justice demands that the sinner pay with his life and that justice run its course. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him (Ezekiel 18:20). If the legislator does not enforce his own laws, then there is no such thing as justice left!

Linguistically, justice is the opposite of injustice and means fairness, correction, requital. Mercy, linguistically, signifies tenderness of heart, graciousness, benevolence and forgiveness. Others have said it is to forgo punishing one who deserves it. Since God is merciful, he wanted to show mercy to man and save him from the fires of punishment (albeit, without ignoring justice). Therefore he has ordained the work of redemption from eternity. At first it started with blood sacrifices, which are pivotal to the Mosaic Law. The sons of Adam offered sacrifices even before the written Law was sent down. Those coming after them did the same until the Law was given to Moses, God's spokesman, where the subject is given in detail. In it we see how God, to impress on men the ugliness of sin and its painful consequences, proceeded to teach them as children. He divided the animals into clean and unclean and taught them the principle, In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Thus he instructed the sinner to offer as a sacrifice for his sin a clean animal, in whom was no blemish. He was to slay it and place it on the fire to remind him that the sinner deserved to be put to death. However, by means of the substitute sacrifice he could obtain forgiveness. All these sacrifices pointed to Christ's great sacrifice, since they could never in themselves redeem one man because of their inferior value.

When the time came, God sent his Word, Christ, who took on him human form and became man like us. He shared many things with us, but he never committed sin, neither was there any deceit in his mouth. (See a discussion of Christ's sinlessness in the fifth discourse of this book). This Word, that is, Christ, offered himself up on a cross as a victim and substitute for the souls of men. In this way Divine justice was satisfied because God accepted this offering in exchange for all souls. He also reconciled God's justice with his mercy, fulfilling the Prophet David's saying, Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other (Psalm 85:10). All who believe in Christ's death on the cross obtain this salvation. Also all who will have this same faith will obtain salvation, on the condition they go on to live according to God's commands, as recorded in the Torah and Gospel. Thus, Christ was crucified as a man and not as God, as some of our Muslim brethren imagine, raising great objections before they understand the Christian's real belief in this matter.

I don't think I need to show in detail the place given in Islam to sacrifices as do other religions. Namely, that it is a way to obtain forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God. All Muslims know that the slaying of sheep in the al-Adha feast is not for food, but is regarded as a redemption to obtain God's bounty and beneficence. Likewise, the ram which Abraham offered was a substitute for his son, And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice (Sura al-Saffat 37:107). Thus, every sacrifice is regarded as a substitute for the offerer and a means to obtain pardon. Even Muhammad himself considered the blood of sacrifices a means to atone for sins and to obtain pardon, as we know from the following hadith:

He told his daughter Fatima, Be present, Oh Fatima at the head of the victim for as soon as the first drop of his blood falls to the ground your sins will be forgiven. And on the basis of another hadith attributed to Muhammad, Muslims believe that on the Day of Reckoning they will mount the sacrifices which they offered during their lifetime, and cross the straight and narrow path to paradise. These sacrifices are not equal to the souls for whom they were offered; in fact all the animals offered are not worth one rational being. They are not adequate to atone for sin, but are only a symbol of the greatest sacrifice of Christ about whose institution we hear in the Torah, and we read the account of its fulfilment on the cross in the Gospel. This is the sacrifice which God considered equal to the souls of all mankind, 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).

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