Sin and Salvation in Christianity and Islam
God, who created us and whom I serve and love more and more, allows me in His sovereignty to pass on to you the teaching of sin and salvation as found in the Bible and the Quran. I count it as a great privilege to write on this most important subject. Before we examine the facts in detail let us look at the bigger picture. In doing so we shall realize that Muslims and Christians have a great deal in common. Perhaps this is the reason why the Quran speaks very highly of us Christians when it says, I quote Surah 5, Al-Maidah, verse 83:
Thou shalt certainly find the Jews and those who associate partners with God to be the most vehement of men in enmity against the believers. And thou shalt assuredly find those who say, 'We are Christians', to be the nearest of them in love to the believers. That is because amongst them are savants and monks and because they are not proud."
I am glad that the Quran uses the words "amongst them" when it praises the Christians, because as it points out later and also as we see today, not all who call themselves "Christians" are living up to their name. Many people who are born in what some people still call mistakingly "Christian countries" are indeed far away from following Jesus. They practice adultery, homosexuality, get drunk, do not care for their neighbors, they live in selfish ways. Together with practising Muslims, those Christians who practice their faith condemn all those horrible acts.
Furthermore, both communities believe that:
-God is one.
Jesus answered, "..... the Lord our God, the Lord is one."
(Mark 12:29, see also Psalm 50:1, Maleachi 2:10.15, Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Galatians 3:20, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timoty 2:5, James 2:19)
"And argue not with the People of the Book except with what is best as an argument, but argue not at all with such of them as are unjust. And say 'We believe in that which has been revealed to us and that which has been revealed to you; and our God and your God is One; and to Him we submit.'"
(Quran, Surah Al-'Ankabut, 29: 47)
-God creates. (Genesis 1-3, Surah Al-Baqara 2:22.30, etc)
-God rules. (Psalm 22:28, Surah Al-Sajdah, 32:6, etc.)
-God reveals. (Amos 4:13, Surha Al-Nahl, 16:102, etc.)
"....There is no changing the words of Allah-that indeed is the supreme triumph."
(Surah Yunus, 10:65)
Since the Bible consists of the Torah, the Zabur, and the Injil, all of which are accepted by Muslims and Christians to be God's word, it can not have changed according to th Quran. (For many more arguments supporting this fact please read, "The Quran confirms: Today's Bible is unchanged", and "The History of the Quran and the Injil", both by A. Ibrahim, 1996, published on this web page:
-God loves. (John 3:16, Surah Al 'Imran 3:135, etc.)
-God judges. (Psalm 9:8, Surah Al-Mumtahanah, 60:11, etc.)
-God forgives. (Psalm 103:3, Surah Al-Fath, 48:15, etc.)
Both, Christians and Muslims can emphatically underline the above statements, even though we may differ on the "how" and the "what" of the above. However, as an accepted rule of inerpreting God's revelation in both communities, we always must look at apparent differences or contradictions in the light of ALL the verses in the Scriptures.
Take for example the Christian and Muslim belief that God is One. Christians have been misunderstood by Muslims to believe in three gods. We need to look at this charge in the light of the following facts quoted above. According to both, Christianity and Islam,
-God is one.
-God's revelations can not be changed.
Therefore, Muslims should, and really can not say that Christians believe in three gods otherwise they contradict both the Bible and the Quran. The only alternative is to look at passages that may give rise to the misunderstanding and explain them in the light of other, clear passages. That is exactly what Christians have done when they formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. They did this as a response to misunderstandings that arose from looking only at parts, instead of the whole revelation of God. In doing so they realized that for example time by itself consists of past, present and future. If any one of these is removed then universe and time will cease to be! Fire generates heat and light. Thus fire, with its light and heat is one thing. Multiplicity in unity is a very common phenomena. This kind of spiritual unity which reflects the Biblical understanding of the Trinity is distinguished from mathematical unity where 1+1+1 = 3. In mathematical terms one could compare Trinity with 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.
"Further, some have pointed to the fact that Muhammad was simultaneously a prophet, a husband, and a leader. Why then should a Muslim reject the idea of a plurality of functions (persons) in God." ("Answering Islam", by N.L. Geisler&Abdul Saleeb) Baker Books U.S.A. 1993, page 269"
The main stream of Christianity throughout all the world believes in one God, the Holy Trinity. It is indeed a mystery, as God Himself is, and as eternity and infinity are. "It is held that although the doctrine is beyond the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended though it may not be comprehended by the human mind." (See, "Encyclopedia Americana", "Trinity", by F.C. Grant, Danbury, Con.: Americana Corp., 1980)
The religion of Islam too faces such intellectual challenges. The Quran speaks about God anthropomorphically (it uses human terms to describe him). Orthodox Muslims do not explain the "how". Similarly, it is a fact that God's word was revealed in a book, but how the infinite can be expressed in the finite is not clarified.
Both, Christians and Muslims, believe in an Almighty, All powerful, All present, sovereign God who therefore can not be known unless he makes himself known to us by revelation. This knowledge puts us in the right position of humility when dealing with the awesome subject of sin and salvation. The awareness that our knowledge of God is limited to that what he has chosen to reveal to us makes us realize that logic, the science of reasoning, of common sense play a limited role when it comes to the ways of God.
In dealing with our subject we always must keep this God- given framework in mind: Both, Christians and Muslims believe God is One and that his word can not be changed. Whatever comes across our path that seems to say otherwise must be understood in the light of the former two facts. If it is not we contradict our own fundamental beliefs.
Quranic view of sin
Firstly, in the Quran we find an awareness that human beings will be corrupt once they are created.. About Adam we read:
"And when thy Lord said to the angels: 'I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth,' they said, 'Wilt Thou place therein such as will cause disorder in it, and shed blood?-and We glorify Thee with Thy praise and extol Thy holiness.' He answered, 'I know what you know not.'
Secondly, the following verses confirm the fear of the angels:
Iblis said, after disobeying Allah:
".............I will most surely bring his (Adam's) descendants under my sway except a few."
(Surah Bani Isra'il)
In another account of the same story Iblis is reported to have said:
Then will I surely come upon them (Adam's descendants)........and Thou wilt not find most of them to be grateful."
(Surah Al- A'raf, 7:18)
As our terrible history shows continually these verses came true and therefore it is very difficult to explain how human beings can be basically good in the light of all the horror they cause on a world wide scale.
Thirdly, some parts of the Quranic account of Adam's sin reflect the biblical perspective. God made a covenant with him (Surah Taha 20:116) and with his descendants. (Genesis 9:9) God generally relates to men through a covenant. In Surah Al'-Baqara, 2:40 we read:
"O children of Israel! remember my favours which I bestowed upon you, and fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfil My covenant with you, and Me alone should you fear."
A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties. The corresponding word in the Injil, the Gospel is, "testament." That is why Christians call the Injil, "New Testament". Throughout His revelation God has made promises and given laws to his creation.
When Adam and Eve sinned they violated the three following important aspects of the covenant:
1. The covenant is personal.
God Himself gave the covenantal commands in the Bible (Exodus 10:1-2) and in the Quran. (Surah Al-Ma'ida, 5:8-11) Therefore sin is the breaking of a relationship and disobedience or rebellion against God who is behind the covenant. (Isaiah 59:1-2, Nehemiah 9:26, Psalm 10:2-6. 51:4) This is confirmed when reading in the Quran about a tribe called "Thamud" who disobeyed God's command given through a prophet called "Salih":
"Then they hamstrung the she-camel and rebelled against the command of their Lord, and said, 'O Salih, bring us that which thou threatenest us with, if thou art indeed one of the Messengers."
Surah Al-A'raf, 7:78, see also 73 where people who sin are said to have: "rejected our signs", Surah Yunus, 10:16: "disobey", Surah Qaf, 50:28-29: "rebel", Surah Al-Furqan,25:22: "too proud of themselves")
2. The covenant is revealed.
Both, the Quran and the Bible speak clearly about God who reveals His will to men. ( (Amos 4:13, Surha Al-Nahl, 16:102, etc.) Man can respond to revelation either with belief or disbelief. If follows that another definition for sin is disbelief in God. The Quran makes this clear when it says:
"Remember when thy Lord said to the angels, 'I am about to create man from clay; And so when I have fashioned him in perfection, and have breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in submission to him.'
So the angels submitted, all of them together. But Iblis did not. He behaved proudly, and was of those who disbelieved."
(Surah Sad, 38:75)
Not to believe in God and his commandments means refusing to allow God to be God in one's life. It means a refusal to acknowledge and trust God as God. God is selfishly and proudly replaced with self. One starts to believe in one self or somebody else. It is the purest form of idolatry, possibly the root of all sin which is equal to committing "shirk" (associating partners with God, worshipping somebody or something else except God.
3. The covenant forms the basis of Law.
God's law is his revealed will made known through his commands. Therefore, the person that disobeys them transgresses the law.
"(Allah) taught man what he knew not. Nay! man does indeed transgress, because he thinks himself to be independent.
(Surah Al-'Alaq, 96:7)
Like the Bible (Matthew 12:34, Luke 18:11-14) the Quran too recognizes that the heart attitude is more important than the external act of obeying the law. In Surah Al-Ma'ida, 5:4 Allah forbids the eating of certain kind of meat. However the verse finishes saying that in certain circumstances the forbidden becomes allowed:
"But whoso is forced by hunger, without being wilfully inclined to sin, then, surely Allah is Most Forgiving and Merciful."
If it is possible to disobey God's law as long as one is not wilfully inclined to sin, then it follows that
it is also possible to obey God's law outwardly but still to commit sin.
Let us look now at Surah Al-A'raf, 7:20 -27:
(20) 'And O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden and eat therefrom wherever you will, but approach not this tree lest you be among the wrongdoers.' (21) But Satan whispered evil suggestions to them so that he might make known to them what was hidden from them of their shame, and said, 'Your Lord has only forbidden you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live for ever.' (22) And He swore to them, saying 'Surely I am a sincere counsellor unto you.'
Verse 21 makes it clear that Adam and Eve knowingly disobeyed or rebelled against God. Adam's supposed forgetfulness mentioned as reason for his disobedience in Surah 20, Taha, verse 116 is hard to reconcile with Satan's reminder of God's command. Moreover, if they had only forgotten what God said, then surely we would not read in the next verse that Satan deceived them:
(23) So he caused them to fall into disobedience by deceit. And when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them and they began to stick the leaves of the Garden together over themselves. And their Lord called them, saying, 'Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: verily Satan is to you an open foe?'
(24) They said, 'Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost.' (25) He said, 'Go forth, some of you being enemies of others. And for you there is and abode on the earth and a provision for a time.' (26) He said, 'Therein shall you live and therein shall you die, and therefrom shall you be brought forth.'
The fact that God said "Go forth" echoes the biblical account of separation from God because of sin. (Genesis 3:3, 23-24) In Surah Taha, 20:122 we read that his life became miserable as a result.
If Adam's sin was caused by mere forgetfulness then these severe punishments would in no way fit the light "crime". A deeper study reveals that the reason for the severetiy of it lay in the fact that in both, the Biblical and Quranic accounts Adam rejected the type of creaturehood God had assigned to him. He rebelled against His maker who is absolutely Holy and can not tolerate this.
More details on the teaching of the Bible on sin
The Torah, the Zabur and the Injil which together form what we call the Bible are in complete agreement on this subject. This is how it should be in the light of the above God-given framework.
Sin is "any lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God" (1John 3:4 Ro 4:15) in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of life, whether by omission or commission (Romans 6:12-13, 7:5-26). It is "not only a violation of the law, but an offence, a rebellion against God (Genesis 20:6, 39:9, Psalm 51:4, who vindicates his law with penalties. The person that sins is conscious that his sin is vile and polluting. It justly deserves punishment, and calls down the righteous wrath of God. Hence sin carries with it guilt and shame.
The moral character of a man's actions is determined by the moral state of his heart. The disposition to sin, or the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act, is itself also sin (Romans 6:12-17 Galatians 5:17 , James 1:14,15 The origin of sin is a mystery, and must for ever remain such to us. It is plain that for some reason God has permitted sin to enter this world, and that is all we know. His permitting it, however, in no way makes God the author of sin. Adam's sin Ge 3:1-6 consisted in his yielding to the assaults of temptation and eating the forbidden fruit. It involved,
1. the sin of unbelief, virtually making God a liar; and
2. the guilt of disobedience to a positive command.
By this sin he became an apostate from God, a rebel against his Creator. He lost the favour of God and communion with him.
Is there any connection between Adam's sin and the sins of his descendents?
Yes, there is, but someone may ask "Is this just?" Adam was constituted by God the federal head and representative of all his descendants, as he was also their natural head, and therefore when he fell they fell with him (Romans 5:12-21, 1Corinthians 15:22). The testing of his conduct was their testing of their conduct and his fall their fall. Because of Adam's first sin all the future generations came into the world in a state of potential sin and condemnation. Man's whole nature became depraved. Adam and Eve are the root of us, because of them we are. In that sense we are part of them.
How can a newborn baby be called a sinner by birth as described in Psalm 51:5 and 58:3? Is that not contradicting passages such as Deuteronomy 1:39, Isaiah 7:15 and Romans 9:11 which describe little children as being innocent and without guilt?
Here is what Dr.Norman Geisler, a renowned expert in the field of apologetics has to say in answer to this objection. "The sense in which a person is "sinful at birth" (Ps.51:5, NIV) is by way of inclination, not by way of moral action. All persons are "by nature children of wrath." (Eph. 2:3) because they are born with a tendency to sin, but they are not born in sin in reality. The condemnation over the head of everyone who comes into Adam's race is judicial guilt, not personal guilt. We stand condemned before God because "all sinned" in Adam our representative (Rom. 5:12). This situation can be summarized as follows. We are not born in sin actually, by action, in reality, personally. We are born in sin potentially, by inclination, in tendency, judicially."
("When Critics Ask" by Norman Geisler, by Victor Books, page 240)
The term "original sin" is frequently and properly used to denote only the moral corruption of the whole nature inherited by all men from Adam. This inherited moral corruption consists in,
1. the loss of original righteousness, that is our right standing with God, and
2. the presence of a constant proneness to evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin. It is called
a. "sin" (Romans 6:12,14,17. 7:5-17)
b. the "flesh" (Galatians 5:17,24)
c. "lust" (James 1:14,15)
d. the "body of sin" (Romans 6:6)
e. "ignorance," "blindness of heart," "alienation from the life of God" (Eph 4:18,19) It influences and depraves the whole man, and its tendency is still downward to deeper and deeper corruption, there remaining no recuperative element in the soul. It is a total depravity, and, as mentioned already, it is also universally inherited by all the natural descendants of Adam (Romans 3:10-23. 5:12-21. 8:7)
The doctrine of original sin is proved biblically and antropolgically,
1. From the fact that all men sin and are depraved. (1Kings 8:46, Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 130:3, Romans 3:19,22,23, Galatians 3:22, Job 15:14-16, Ge 6:5.6)
3. From its early manifestation (Psalm 58:3, Proverbs 22:15)
4. From the absolute and universal necessity, for supernatural renewal of the human nature by God (John 3:3 2 Corinthians 5:17)
5. From the universality of death (Romans 5:12-20)
The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human beings are incapable of doing anything good (Romans 2:14 and Acts 10:31). However, it means that we are prone to commit wrong things inevitably, unavoidably, because it is our nature to do wrong. From the polluted spring of our hearts flow streams of contaminated behavior. Original sin does not mean that we have an excuse for our own sinful ACTIONS and can say it is all Adam and Eve's fault. (see Surah Al-A'raf, 7:29) God has not designed us to act sinfully but he initially created us in the beginning as very good with the faculty of choice. Now we are not very good anymore but we can still choose to do good. Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31 speak about temporal consequences in this life regarding our own good or bad choices.
The religion of Islam (6th century) like a heretic group called the Pelagians (5th century AD) deny the concept of original sin, and regard man as by nature morally and spiritually well. However, as mentioned before, the Quranic account speaks about Adam and Eve having had to leave the Garden of Eden as a punishment for their disobedience. Since mankind still is excluded from Eden and therefore sharing in Adam and Eve's punishment to a certain degree it logically follows that human beings also share to a certain degree in their disobedience.
More recently the argument has come up that the concept of original sin is contradicted by the science of genetics. While it is true that thoughts can not be transferred to and encoded into the genetic system of human reproduction, it is equally true that certain character traits are passed on without scientists being able to know how. The same is true for animal instincts.
Joseph is quoted as having said in Surah Yusuf, 12:54:
"And I do not hold my own self to be free from weakness; for, the soul is surely prone to enjoin evil, save that whereon my Lord has mercy. Surely, my Lord is Most Forgiving, Merciful."
He does not place the blame on Satan or circumstances but points to a problem at the core of human nature!
In Surah Al-Nahl, 16:62 the universal effect of the problem is made plain:
" And if Allah were to punish men for their wrongdoing, He would not leave thereon a living creature, but he gives them respite till an appointed term......"
This truth is supported by at least two traditions:
Muslim recounts a story by Muhammad in which Moses says to Adam: "because of your sin you caused mankind to come down to earth." (Mishkat al-Masabih, transl. and ed. James Robson (Lahore:Sh.Muhammad Ashraf, 1963), I, 23 (Bk. 1, Chap. 4, Sec.1)
Al-Bukhari attributed to Muhammad the words, "Satan touches every child when it is born, whereupon it starts crying loudly, except Mary and her son." (Sahih al-Bukahari, VI, 54, Bk. 60, chap. 54, trad. 71)
Muhammad's earliest biographer, Ibn Hisham, quoted the prophet saying:
"Two men in white raiment...opened up my belly, extracted a black drop from it and threw it away; then they washed my heart and my belly with snow until they had thoroughly cleaned them.
(Ibn Hisham, ed., The life of Muhammad: (Ibn) Isahq's Sirat Rasul Allah, trans. Al Guillaume, London:Oxford University Press, 1955, p.72)
To quote a more resent example, Ayatholla Khomeini said:
"You should pay attention and all of us should pay attention (to the fact) that man's calamity is his carnal desire, and this exists in everybody, and it is rooted in the nature of man."
(Islamic Government does not spend for its own grandeur, by Kayhan International, September 4, 1985, p.3)
The following verses from the Injil echo that fact:
"They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them." (Romans 2:15)
"For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.
For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self,
but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:14-24)
The way of salvation according to Islam is by Allah's mercy and by striving hard to do good works according to the many laws described in the Quran. Through teaching, education, the passing on of knowledge, Muslims hope to improve their old nature which is inclined to do bad naturally into a nature that becomes inclined to do good. To use an example they try to change a bicycle into a space rocket. This of course is an impossibility since a bicycle naturally is made to ride on the ground and a space rocket is designed to fly into space. The solution found in the teaching of the Bible is not to improve the old nature but to get a new nature that is inclined to do good. There we read in Romans 7:22 - 8:18 as a continuation of the verses mentioned above:
"For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ--if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us."
In the passage above the old sinful nature is called "flesh" and the new nature is called "Spirit of God", "Spirit of Christ", "Spirit of Life." By the help of this Holy Spirit only can man live a live that pleases God! The latter is confirmed by Surah 58, Al-Mujadilah, verse 23:
"These are they in whose hearts Allah has inscribed faith with His own hand and whom He has helped with the Holy Spirit"
The question needs to be asked, "How will God help us with the Holy Spirit?"
Muslims believe that the only way to win the love of God is to love him first by obeying him with his help. This stand in stark contrast to what we read in the Injil:
"But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8-10, see also Ephesians 2:4-5)
The love of Allah in the Quran is conditional on man's behavior and is therefore inferior to the love of parents who love their children without any condition. They do however hate the way their sons and daughters often disobey them. Out of unconditional love for their rebellious children parents have to punish them. A difference is made between loving them as persons but disapproving of what they sometimes do. This is how the love of God is portrayed in the Bible, of course in a much more perfect way then parents could ever do that.
What is the punishment for sin?
Only with deep reluctance can we speak of the terrible consequences of sin. As we have seen in the story of Adam and Eve, they are separation from God, the very source of life. If we die in our sins the unspeakable result will be eternal, consciously experienced punishment in hell.
Out of the many verses (Isaiah 66:22-24, Daniel 12:1-2) that confirm this horrible fate here is what Jesus said when speaking about the day of judgement at the end of times in Matthew 25:41,46:
Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels......
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
In contrary, Muslims believe that punishment in hell is for them only temporary for remedial purposes.
let us think about the confusing implications it would have to look at punishment as a reformatory process only that intended to make the sufferer a better person. If even the greatest sin were immediately succeeded by hearty repentance, there would be no mercy of God necessary in witholding punishment; It could simply not justly be inflicted where reformation had been already produced by other influences.There are also cases in which repentance is less likely to be awakened by inflicting pain through punishment then by confering new joy and honor. In these cases the lightest penalty would be unjust, and justice would require that the life of the sinner should be made brighter and happier. By looking at these examples which applied the theory that rests the justice of punishment mainly on its reformatory power, it can easely be seen that it leads to all kinds of grotesque consequenses. (For more details see, The Atonement, by Dale, London Congregational Union of England and Wales, 1894, pages 380-381)
The reformatory aspect (the belief that chastisement will make the sinner better) which is ascribed to God's punishment in hell is further questioned by statistics that show clearly how most ex-prisoners committed offenses again once they were released.
Salvation, God's solution for man who had become a glorious ruin
Both, the Quran and the Bible agree that ultimately only God can save us from sin and hell.
"And those who believe and do good works will be admitted into gardens through which rivers flow, wherein they will abide by the command of their Lord.
(Surah Ibrahim, 14:24)
The second head of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, Khalifatul Mash II commented on this verse:
"Deriving their authority from the words, 'by the command of their Lord', commentators have generally held the view that man's going to Heaven depends not on his own good actions but upon the grace of God. This is not a wrong inference, for even the Holy prophet is reported to have once expressed the same view. To an enquiry of 'Aisha whether even in his case good actions would not establish the right of salvation, the Holy Prohphet is reported to have replied that even his salvation depended on the grace of God (Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir)" (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, published by Islam International Publications Limited, UK 1988, page 1239)
The Bible agrees with this view when it says in Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--
not the result of works, so that no one may boast."
If to belive in God is much more important than doing good works when it comes to salvation, the deliverance from guilt and pollution, we need to ask "How does God save us and allow us to go to heaven?"
We shall start our search for an answer in the purpose of sacrifices that are a reoccurring theme in the Torah. The Quran too acknowledges that animal sacrifice was commanded by God in the time of Moses (Surah 2, Baqarah, verse 67). Its main meaning was that it made atonement,it took away the sins of the people who offered it (Leviticus 17:11). In that way they became acceptable before God because the punishment for their sin was paid on their behalf symbolically by the animal that was sacrificed. The whole procedure was to point to a perfect sacrifice about to come in the future (Isaiah 53).
The story which is also found in the Quran where Abraham was commanded to kill his son confirms this truth. We read in the Quran about God's miraculous, personal intervention by sparing Abraham from this terrible ordeal through "ransoming his son with a great sacrifice"(Surah 37, Saffat, 108)!
Why is the sacrifice which Muslims, Jews and Christians believe to have been a ram (Genesis 22:13) called "great"? Its greatness can not just be found in the explanation that it serves as a symbol for an act of men's self purification or devotion. If that was the case, there would be no need for God to provide Himself with such a great sacrifice. For the same reason it is also unnecessary to call the sacrifice "great" just because since then an animal is offered by Muslims to commemorate Abraham's faithfulness and devotion.Furthermore, Surah Al-Baqara, 2:197 goes into great details about how an animal sacrifice is to be offered during the Hajj. If the purpose is only to remember Abraham and to think about men's self purifcation and devotion there would be no need for explaining all those details.
The solution to the problem lies in the word "ransom." It means that a person, in this case Abraham's son, is set free in exchange for someone or something else. When compared with Abraham's son, the ram by itself is not very special, in that sense it is not great. Therefore, the real importance of it has to lie somewhere else. It points to a perfect sacrifice provided by God on behalf of man.
A study of God's attributes will show us what the ultimate meaning of sacrifice is:
The Bible (Leviticus 11:45) and the Quran (Surah 59, Al Hashr, verse 23) tell us that God is holy. Ahmadiyyas describe God's holiness as the essence of all his attributes. Holiness means He is separated from anything that is unclean, bad, and hypocritical, in other words from anything that is sin. God is purity and righteousness. Sin seperates us from God, it brings as its wages death, spiritual and physical. Once a person is dead he can not do anything, he is completely helpless. That becomes clear by the fact that God will not judge according to our good or bad works alone (Romans 3:23-24, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 45). Another reason why sin has such terrible consequenses, is because God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Surah 95, Al Tin, verse 8). God's name Al-Adl, the Just, is listed by Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, the second head of the Ahmadiyya Community under the 103 attributes of Allah in the introduction to his commentary on the Quran. (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, published by Islam International Publications Limited, UK 1988, page cclix).He loves us so much as who we are but he hates the sin we do (John 3:16) Therefore, in His mercy he chooses to forgive our sins. But if He would forgive our sins without punishment, then in His mercy He would become unjust!
That is why God revealed Himself in Jesus and died on the cross for our sins. In Jesus God met the requirements of His justice and of His love! Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, for our sin. In Deuteronomy 21:23 anyone who hangs on a tree is described as being sinful and under God's curse. Galatians 3:13 explains that Jesus, himself without sin, became a curse for us because he took our sin on himself. After paying the penalty for sin through His death, Jesus rose again. By believing in his sacrificial death on our behalf, God promises everyone forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.
Salvation by substitution is in accord with a virtually universal practice. People consider it commendable for someone to die in defense of the innocent. Soldiers are honored for dying for their country. Parents are called compassionate when they die for their children.
Will you accept therefore God's invitation through Jesus and come to him in prayer? Will you confess your sins to him and ask him for forgiveness? Your eternal life in heaven depends on it!
The author lovingly pleads with you to pray to God to reveal to you who Jesus really is!
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