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Islam and the Atonement

It is instructive to note that the Koran mentions Jesus on several occasions. The Koran calls Jesus the Messiah. He is called a Word from Allah, and, the Spirit of Allah. The Koran claims Jesus was born of the virgin, Mary. Jesus did many miracles, including raising people from the dead. Jesus is alive today, according to the Koran. According to the Suni Muslims, Jesus will someday return. He is the Messenger of Allah.

Muslims assume they know all the important truths concerning Jesus. They already honor Him as one of the greatest prophets. He is second to Mohammed. Jesus has a special place in the hearts of many Muslims.

The problem is that the Koran denies Jesus died on the Cross. The argument is made that Jesus only swooned on the Cross, was refreshed in the tomb, and walked away from it as a man, not as the resurrected Son of the living God. Therein is the problem.

In contrast, the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central core of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there is no atonement. Without the atonement, the sufferings of Christ are tragic, but not redemptive in nature.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:1-9)

While a Muslim will read beautiful things about Jesus in the Koran, they deny the most fundamental truth about Him. Jesus is the Saviour of all who believe because He is divine, and because He died on a tree. No, says the Koran, Jesus did not die.

Sura 4:157 And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.

Sura 4:158 Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.

According to the Koran, Allah was involved in some kind of a trickery, which led people to assume Jesus had been crucified, when He had not been put to death on a cross by the Jews.

In Islam, there is a denial of the historical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, because they do not believe a prophet of Allah could be so humiliated, and die such a shameful death. Allah would never allow his honored messengers to be treated like that.

Moreover, there was no need for Jesus to die for others, because each person is responsible for their own moral actions, and their own future destiny.

The Christian protests such a view in favor of the historical evidence of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Christian protests such a view of Jesus, because it takes away any hope of a covering, or atonement, for sin. The Christians sings:

“He paid a debt He did not owe.
I owed a debt I could not pay.
I needed Someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace,” (all day long)
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

He paid a debt at Calvary,
He cleansed my soul and made me free,
I’m glad that Jesus did all my sins erase;
I now can sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace,” (all day long)
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.

You ask me why He paid the price
Why He would make the sacrifice
Why He would walk up that hill called Calvary
He loved me more than His own life
O glorious day (He saved my life!)
My Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

One day He’s coming back for me
To live with Him eternally,
Won’t it be glory to see Him on that day!
I then will sing a brand new song,
“Amazing Grace,” (all day long)
Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.”

The Muslim is found to have a hopeless mindset, filled with contradictions. The Muslim will believe some things the Gospels teach about Jesus, and restate the Gospel teachings in the Koran, but will reject other teachings about Jesus from the Gospels.

It is this selective belief that leaves the Muslim in darkness and despair, without Christ, without eternal life, without hope, except in their own innate goodness. Their eternal future is built upon a house of sand. It is doomed to fall.

Instead of allowing a Gospel text to speak, a preconceived notion is given to the passage. When the Gospels speak about the death of Christ, the Muslim exercises a preconceived notion ,and says, “That could not have happened because Allah would not allow His prophets to suffer.”

Since the Koran teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, the Muslim would be wise to go back to the Old Testament, and notice afresh that the motif of the Messiah was that He would suffer. Since Jesus is the Messiah, He must suffer in order to fulfill prophesy.

What is needed is for the Muslim to abandon his preconceived notions, and embrace what the Holy Scripture actually says.

Jesus did come to suffer and die, despite the protests of Peter, who did not want the Messiah to suffer.

The Muslim basis his preconceived notion about what Allah would not allow, not on the Bible, but on the Koran. To a Muslim, the final word of divine revelation was given to Mohammed, not the Jews.

Therefore, if the Koran contradicts the Bible, and it does, then the Bible is in error, even though it was completed 500 years before Mohammed was born.

The Bible cannot just be dismissed arbitrarily. Nor can one part of the Bible be embraced as being truthful, and another part of the Bible be dismissed as untruthful. Either the historical documents found in the Bible are reliable, or they are not.

The Bible says that Jesus had a human nature. He did not seem to be man, as some claim, Jesus was true humanity. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The Bible says that Jesus died a violent death on the Cross. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The Bible says that Jesus arose again from the dead. And yet, no matter how much historical evidence is presented to the Muslim for the actual death of Jesus, His resurrection, and the accuracy of the Bible, their presuppositional position will not let them believe.

How then, does a person witness to a Muslim? The answer is simple. Preach Christ. Proclaim the gospel and pray that God the Holy Spirit will do what no human can do and that is illuminate the soul, and change the heart, so that in the day of gospel hearing it wills to believe.

There are Christians who believe that if they present enough evidence to a Muslim, a Mormon, a skeptic, or a liberal, the evidence will demand a positive verdict. That is a false hope. “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” Only God can convert a soul. Only the Holy Spirit can give spiritual eyes to those who are spiritually blind. Salvation is of the Lord.

The heart of the unbeliever is so stubborn, and so wicked, it will emotionally deny what cannot be rationally denied. A billion Muslims deny the historical reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus, just like there are Holocaust deniers today.

There is a reason why Muslims want to deny the death of Christ and that is because of the meaning Christians give to the death of Christ.

In Christian theology, the death of Christ was atonement for sin. It is the atoning facet of the death of Christ which Muslims reject.

The Muslim does not believe atonement can be paid by someone else. The individual must pay their own debt. Therefore, a person must be their own savior. The Muslim actually thinks this is possible.

What the Muslim fails to distinguish, is the difference between a pecuniary debt and a moral debt. When there is a pecuniary debt, money will resolve the issue.

When there is a moral debt, someone else must forgive the individual. Only God can forgive a moral debt. God’s forgiveness can be extended, when His righteousness has been satisfied. Only Someone His equal can satisfy what is righteously demanded. That Someone is Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world.

The glory of the gospel, is that God accepts the payment of a Substitute, who willingly paid my moral debt. God extends His grace and mercy, but He is also just, for sin is punished.

There is more. The salvation of a sinner is not simply by the death of Jesus, but by the life of Jesus as well. There is a double transfer that takes place. The righteousness of Christ is transferred to me, while my unrighteousness, my moral debt, is transferred to Him. The life of Christ is transferred to me, while my death is transferred to Him by imputation.

Muslims may not like this, but God has a right to make this transaction. Christ stood in our stead, because we are incapable of redeeming ourselves.

The Muslim can face the justice of God, and be judged for his own righteousness, or he can stand, and be judged on the righteousness of Another, even Jesus.

Muslims forget that the idea of atonement is not a Christian novelty but a truth taught in the Old Testament, in the book of Genesis, and in Leviticus. A moral life was to be lived but a sacrifice had to be made.

It is the Muslim that has left the tradition of having an atonement for sin by a substitute. In the Jewish economy, that substitute was an animal. In the Christian economy, that substitute is Jesus.

Those who place their truth in Jesus shall be covered by His blood in the Day of Judgment and receive forgiveness of all sin.

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