Dear Muslim Friend,
The greatest act of love is sacrifice.
When Abraham went to kill Ishmael (Christians believe it was Isaac) as God had commanded, it was a demonstration of his love and obedience to God. But God stopped Abraham and provided a ram to be sacrificed instead of Abraham’s son. According to Quran 37:107, “Then we ransomed him with a great sacrifice”. This is the exact wording Jesus used about himself:
“ . . . just as the Son of Man (came) . . . to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). God doesn’t use insignificant words; there is deep theology in what He says. A ransom is a payment to release someone. Just as Ishmael (Christians believe it was Isaac) was released from death, so we are released from eternal death because of the ransom Jesus paid for us. The ram provided by God was a foreshadow of God’s love.
Muslims will say to Christians, “How could God let Jesus be a sacrifice?”, but that is exactly what God asked Abraham to do. The sacrificial love God required of Abraham to prove himself, is what the God of the Bible did to prove his love to us! The most loving act that he asked Abraham to do is what he himself would do by sacrificing Jesus. That is why Jesus is called the “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God’s sacrifice of Jesus was the payment to release us from our sin.
The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
“Shouldn’t God be capable of such an expression of love? Not only must God be capable of such an act, but God must also express love this way. He is, after all, the Greatest Possible Being! He must act self-sacrificially. It simply follows that the Greatest Possible Being would express the greatest possible ethic in the greatest possible way: through self-sacrifice. His love and his expression of love cannot just be equal to ours; it must be greater. As humans, we sacrifice ourselves for others all the time. We give of our time or talent, our treasure and even our lives for those who love us in return; but we do not sacrifice ourselves for the sake of those who hate us. Jesus did not die on the cross for those who loved him. No, he died for those who hated him.”1
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us . . . having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For . . . when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:8-10).
God cannot compromise his sense of justice by sweeping sin under the carpet. There are certain things God can’t do; for instance, the Bible says, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). It is also impossible for God not to punish sin. Sin is crime by man against his Maker; it is rebellion against God’s authority and rulership. If God doesn’t punish sin, then it reflects on his character. It would show he is unholy, unrighteous and corrupt.
Keeping the law doesn’t earn you credit with God, because keeping the law is an obligation. If you get a speeding ticket you can’t tell the judge you shouldn’t have to pay for it because all last week you drove below the speed limit. Your prior performance is irrelevant once you have broken the law. You deserve punishment.
The sacrifice for sins isn’t a doctrine that appeared out of thin air. It started in the very beginning of creation in the Garden of Eden.
Let’s look at a key passage :
“She (Eve) took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden . . . for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:6-9,21).
There are a few points that should be considered from this paragraph. In the beginning Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden. They had a deep personal relationship with God, and they lost it! They were banished from the Garden of Eden because they sinned. The fig leaf coverings they sewed for themselves could not cover their sin. God then sacrificed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve, to cover their unrighteousness. This is the first picture of a sacrifice for sin, at the very beginning of creation.
When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, God commanded him to sacrifice a lamb. Its blood was to be applied to the doorposts of their houses, and the Jews would stay in their houses. The Angel of Death would pass over all the homes that had the blood on the doorposts, but he would carry out God’s judgment on Pharaoh by killing all the firstborn of the Egyptians who were not covered by the blood.
“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying . . . every man shall take for himself . . . a lamb for a household . . . Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male . . . And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses . . . It is the LORD’s Passover. ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt . . . I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you . . . So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations” (Exodus 12:1,3,5,7,12-14).
The Passover clearly points to Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who came to shed his blood, and anyone who trust in his sacrifice will have death pass over them. “. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19).” Jesus Christ was crucified on Passover weekend, being the sacrifice that was prophesied to come (see Isaiah 53:1-12). The Jews observed the Passover for centuries, preparing for their coming saviour.
God also instituted the Day of Atonement as a statute for the Jews to keep forever. “Atonement” is a payment to correct a wrong. For centuries the Jews have kept the day of Atonement, a foreshadow of Jesus payment for sins.
“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, so he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; . . . This shall be a statute forever for you” (Leviticus 16:15-16, 29).
The sacrifice for the payment of sins is taught from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and it is not a pagan ritual adopted into the Christian faith. It was God’s plan for salvation from the very beginning that sins must be paid for by a sacrifice. The cross is where justice and mercy kiss. Justice demands payment for our sins, and mercy demands we be forgiven. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, took the punishment for sins to satisfy God’s anger at sin, and anyone who puts their trust in what Jesus did on the cross receives the mercy that God offers to repentant sinners. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. But this Man (Jesus) . . . offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (Hebrews 10:4,12).
Christ’s death for our sins is the only God-glorifying plan of salvation. Either God ransomed your soul and salvation is a gift, or God is in debt to you and owes you Heaven! In Islam you earn your salvation, “Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy, - they will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls, in Hell will they abide” (Surah 23:102-103).
According to Islam, you can also earn salvation by dying in Jihad
“Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah? Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph” (Surah 9:111).
Any theology that says God owes us Heaven admits to our stealing God’s Glory. Muslims can say, “I deserve Paradise because I did good works! I died for you, so you owe me, Allah!” But in Jesus’ death on the cross, God himself purchased salvation for those who believe, and no Christian can say they earn Heaven by their efforts. Christ paid the price for our sin and we give Him all glory! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
So, we don’t obey God out of fear; we obey out of gratitude for what He has done for us! “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Please recognize, dear Muslim, that if you reject the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins you will pay for every sin you committed, in Hell. God does not take it lightly when people reject His Son. Please repent of your sins, and trust that Jesus paid for them on the cross, and you will receive eternal life!
“Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29).