Bassam Zawadi has produced two responses (1; 2) to my articles which discuss the issue of salvation according to Jesus (*) and Paul (*).
Instead of responding to both articles separately, we have decided to address the main arguments of both rebuttals in one article. We encourage the readers to first read Zawadis responses carefully before reading our response to them.
Jesus and Paul Revisited
Unfortunately, Shamoun only appeals to the teachings of Paul in order to justify his arguments. We can never see Jesus teaching these things that Christians practice today.
What Zawadi should have really said was that it was unfortunate for me to quote Paul since the blessed inspired Apostle received his instructions from the Lord Jesus himself, and is therefore in complete agreement with the risen Master. More on this later.
He also claimed that:
Paul's teachings hold no authority unless backed up by Jesus. This is something that Shamoun can't do [sic].
The last part is rather incoherent. What does he mean that I cant do? Cant do what? Cant prove that Paul is backed up Jesus? That is rather easy to prove and I actually did this in the very articles that Zawadi claims to have read.
Here is what he says about the manner in which Jesus offers eternal life:
Shamoun keeps emphasizing on verses which speak about how faith in Jesus brings eternal life to the person. This is true. Even I, as a Muslim must believe this. For part of salvation is to believe in ALL the messengers of God and the message that they brought. Now as for the verses that speak about Jesus giving eternal life, what do they mean? Well we must examine all these verses in the gospel related to eternal life and connect them to together to arrive at a proper understanding.
After quoting a series of passages Zawadi states:
So when Jesus said that he "gives eternal life" it means that if you believe in him and the word that he came to preach from God the Father and follow the commandments then you will inherit eternal life. Therefore, in a sense Jesus had the authority to give eternal life because he was the one whom God has sent to give and share His commands to the people so that if they believe in it they will go to paradise. Jesus gave the key to eternal life to people through his preaching the word of God. This is because he had the words of eternal life to give to the people (John 6:68). Not his words, but the words of the Father (John 14:24).
It is truly amazing that Zawadi could make such assertions in light of the passages that he quoted. A careful reading of the specific contexts of the verses in question will show that what the Father commanded Christ to preach to the people was to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the One who came to give his life for the salvation of the world, and that he is the One who would resurrect them on the last day:
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, he said to them." Mark 14:24
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever BELIEVES in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:14-19
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son JUST AS honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS VOICE and come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:21-29
"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. Then they asked him, What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:27-29
"Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, BUT RAISE THEM UP AT THE LAST DAY. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:35-40, 47
"But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, unless you eat THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN and drink HIS BLOOD, you have no life in you. Whoever eats MY FLESH and drinks MY BLOOD has eternal life, AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY. For MY FLESH is real food and MY BLOOD is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:50-51, 53-58
These are the commands, the very instructions that God expects people to believe in if they are to be saved. Since Zawadi doesnt believe this he remains in his sins and under Gods wrath, unless and until he repents of his false religion and denounces his false prophet Muhammad who contradicts Jesus on these issues, and turns to Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Zawadi reposts some of the same citations which we have already addressed, so there is no need to constantly repeat ourselves. Yet there are two specific texts that we do want to respond to here:
Shamoun is saying that we need to live sinless but that's impossible and that Jesus did that for us. Shamoun forgets that God loves repentant sinners...
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
As a matter of fact, they are even better than sinless people...
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
If there is more rejoice in heaven for a repentant sinner than over a 99 sinless people, why does Shamoun find it necessary to live sinless?
Let us examine the context to see what Jesus actually meant:
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:1-7
In context, Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their self-righteous attitude, for thinking that they were better than those "sinners" whom Jesus was dining with. Jesus was using these parables to rebuke the religious leaders for thinking that they didnt need to repent and believe in him in order to be saved.
In other words, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were the so-called righteous in the parable who do not need to repent, indicating that Jesus was being sarcastic at this point. After all, there is no human being with the exception of Christ who doesnt sin:
"When they sin against you for there is no one who does not sin and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near;" 1 Kings 8:46
"There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Ecclesiastes 7:20
This means that everyone needs to repent, especially the Jewish religious leaders, and confess Christ as Lord for their salvation. This is precisely what he told them in another context:
" Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him." Matthew 21:31b-32
Which leads us to our next point. Jesus was identifying himself as the shepherd, the woman and the prodigal sons father in these parables (cf. 15:8-32). Christ was basically saying that he is the one who seeks after the lost in order to save them from their sin and despair:
"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. Follow me, he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthews house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and "sinners"? On hearing this, Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:9-13
"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, He has gone to be the guest of a "sinner." But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:1-10
Thus, repentance in this context refers to turning away from sin and turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. As the Apostle Peter proclaimed by inspiration:
"Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." Acts 3:19, 26
"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel." Acts 5:31
Moreover, Zawadi ignores what we said regarding Christs salvation being the basis upon which God can forgive repentant sinners. The reason why God can rejoice over sinners who repent is because Christ has taken their punishment and merited for them eternal life by his perfect life of obedience.
And to answer the question, I seek to live a sinless life since God saved me from my wickedness in order that I may live godly in Christ Jesus, which is the whole point of repentance.
Zawadi also mentions Matthew 16:27:
Jesus said that he will come back to judge people by their works...
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Why would Jesus judge people according to their works if people are not to be justified by them? Shouldn't he only be judging them according to their faith just as Shamoun believes?
But then he goes on to answer his own question right afterwards!
Jesus also says...
Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus is clearly stating that people would be in different degrees in paradise if they do more righteous deeds (by obeying the commandments) than others. We also believe this in Islam.
So clearly, Jesus was teaching that deeds do play a role in a person's salvation and justification before God.
Let me repeat one part of Zawadis comments since he basically answered himself:
Jesus is clearly stating that people WOULD BE IN DIFFERENT DEGREES IN PARADISE IF THEY DO MORE RIGHTEOUS DEEDS (by obeying the commandments) than others.
The good works that individuals do are not for their salvation, but for their ranks and rewards in heaven!
Moreover, if Zawadi had bothered to actually read my articles carefully he would have seen where I quoted Jesus saying that in order for a person to perform good deeds s/he must be good by nature. Yet Christ says man is evil by nature and therefore incapable of performing any good works in the sight of God. Here are some of those specific passages once again, along with another text for good measure:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree CANNOT bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:15-20
"MAKE A TREE GOOD AND ITS FRUIT WILL BE GOOD, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you WHO ARE EVIL SAY ANYTHING GOOD? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up IN HIM, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up IN HIM." Matthew 12:33-35
In these verses, the Lord Jesus expressly says that those who are bad cannot bear good fruit. This is why Jesus says that a person needs to be made good, must be transformed inwardly, what Christ calls the new birth, otherwise s/he will never be able to do what God requires:
"In reply Jesus declared, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. How can a man be born when he is old? Nicodemus asked. Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born! Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, "You must be born again." The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:3-8
This new birth results in a person trusting in Jesus for his/her salvation, and once that individual is united to Christ s/he will be empowered to bear the fruit that pleases God, fruit that will earn that individual a higher ranking in heaven:
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." John 1:12-13
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, SHOWING (PROVING) yourselves to be my disciples You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." John 15:1-8, 16
Notice here that Jesus says the disciples fruits show or prove that they are his followers, being the evidence that they are truly united to him. These fruits do not make them his disciples.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christto the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11
"If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." 1 John 2:29
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1 John 3:9
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." 1 John 5:1-5
The above references plainly say that those who have been born of God and united to Christ are enabled to believe that Jesus is Gods Son thereby overcoming the world, practice righteousness and avoid habitual sinning. These are all the necessary good fruit which results from being spiritually transformed.
To repeat: A true believer is not saved by what he does, but is saved to perform righteous deeds which will earn that individual a higher ranking and position in the kingdom of God.
To simplify it even further for Zawadi: good works are not the basis of salvation, but the necessary fruit which results from one who has been saved by grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:8-10
Finally, in his haste to "refute" me Zawadi forgot that in some of the passages he quoted Jesus refers to God as either the Father or his Father, further proving that Muhammad was a false prophet. After all, Muhammad plainly denied that his god relates to people as a spiritual father, insisting instead that everyone comes to Allah as a slave, no more and no less:
And they say, 'The All-merciful has taken unto Himself a son. You have indeed advanced something hideous! The heavens are wellnigh rent of it and the earth split asunder, and the mountains wellnigh fall down crashing for that they have attributed to the All-merciful a son; and it behoves not the All-merciful to take a son. None is there in the heavens and earth but he comes to the All-merciful as a servant; S. 19:88-93 Arberry
Here is what Jesus says about such a relationship:
"Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:34-36
A slave has no permanent place in Gods house, whereas a son does. That is why Jesus came into the world, to set us free from being slaves and grant us the right to become children of the Most High:
"because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Romans 8:14-16
"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father." Galatians 4:4-6
Since the highest relationship a Muslim can have with Allah is that of a slave, and since Jesus says that a slave does not have a permanent place, it isnt surprising that Muslims have no assurance of salvation. More on this issue later.
Hence, the NT teaching on Gods Fatherhood further proves that Muhammads god is not the same God revealed in the Holy Bible, the Father of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Zawadi may prefer to remain a slave, but as for us we delight in being children of God and choose to love and worship the Father of our blessed Lord Jesus:
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." Ephesians 3:14-15
James and Paul: An example of a Contradiction?
Zawadi claims that James in 2:20-26 contradicted Paul since the former believed that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone, whereas the latter taught that a person is saved by grace through faith apart from works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). He even has the audacity to say that:
Some Christians try giving a very desperate explanation for what James said by saying that James really meant that faith results in actions. Therefore, you need to have the right faith that results in actions and that this is the faith that Paul was speaking about. However, it is absolutely crystal clear that James said that one is justified by both works and faith...
Is this what James meant when he wrote that faith and works justify believers? Or is this just another example of Zawadis shallow understanding of Biblical teaching? Let us examine the text to see:
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. SHOW ME your faith apart from your works, and I will SHOW you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified (dikaioutai) by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted to him as righteousness-- and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." James 2:14-26
We want the readers to focus on Jamess comments about showing or demonstrating genuine faith by actions, since this will be important in understanding his point.
Zawadi has erroneously assumed that James is using the term justified in the same way that Paul did. But this is precisely where Zawadi is mistaken since the two authors used this term in different senses. The verb justify can have a range of meanings, as the following lexicon shows:
1) to render righteous or such he ought to be
2) to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered
3) to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be (Source)
As the above source plainly demonstrates, the verb can mean to show, to exhibit, to declare, to pronounce. It is the context that will determine the precise meaning of the term.
The context of James 2 shows that he was using the verb in the sense of a person needing to demonstrate or prove that s/he has genuine faith, and the way this was to be done is by works. James is using the verb similarly to the way Jesus used it in these specific texts:
"(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they justified (edikaiosan) God, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)" Luke 7:29-30
Neither the people nor the collectors made God just, but demonstrated by their actions that Gods purpose in Johns baptism is right. Jesus is using the verb to show that the peoples willingness to get baptized by John demonstrated that they agreed that Gods will is righteous and perfect.
"Yet wisdom is justified (edikaiothe) by all her children." Luke 7:35
The children who are endowed with wisdom do not make her righteous. Rather, divine Wisdom is proven correct or shown to be righteous by the actions of those who live in accordance with her dictates.
This explains why the NIV translated the above passages in the following manner:
"(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John But wisdom is proved right by all her children."
In a similar manner, James is not saying that a believer is justified before God by their works. Rather, his point in context is that believers are to prove or show that their faith is genuine by their deeds. James concern is with a person demonstrating before others that s/he has true faith, and the way to do this is by performing righteous deeds. James meaning here is similar to the point he makes in the next chapter:
"Who is wise and understanding among you? BY HIS GOOD CONDUCT let him SHOW his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:13-18
The above citation further proves that James primary focus in these specific chapters is to encourage believers to demonstrate that they have true faith and heavenly wisdom by what they do. As he says elsewhere:
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:22-25
Clearly then, James is not speaking of doing good works for salvation, that a person must perform deeds in order to be saved or justified.
Paul, on the other hand, is speaking of a persons justification before God, that God justifies or declares a person righteous by faith in Jesus Christ:
"What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, BUT NOT BEFORE GOD. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness." Romans 4:1-9
And Paul agrees with James that if a person truly has faith then s/he will pursue good works and righteous living:
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what FRUIT were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the FRUIT you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:1-23
And since Zawadi wants us to quote Jesus to back up Paul, here is what the risen Lord said about a persons justification before God:
"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
The above reference shows that Christ agrees with Paul that a person is justified before God on the basis of his mercy and grace, not because of any righteous deeds that a person has done.
As it stands, there is no contradiction between Paul and James, but only a further demonstration that Zawadi has little understanding of Biblical teaching.
Zawadi has basically justified (pun intended) what we have been saying regarding his inability to understand what he reads. He will provide further justification (again, pun intended) for our claims in the following sections.
For more on the issue of James and Paul we recommend the following articles and books:
The Message of Ezekiel 18
Zawadi turns to Ezekiel 18 to disprove that God requires perfect obedience for salvation:
God purposely created us weak and knew that we are going to sin. That is why he gave us the option to repent in order to come back to His grace and receive eternal life (Ezekiel 18:21-23). This is something that is in our control. God won't purposely create us weak and then demand perfection that is impossible for us to attain. No, perfection for God is to follow His Law. The very Law itself states that we are expected to sin and that afterwards we should repent. So when we do so, we are actually following the Law perfectly at the end of the day.
It is truly astonishing that Zawadi doesnt see how the above comments regarding God creating human beings weak actually prove my point. In the first place, Zawadi needs to explain the reason God created man weak if it wasnt for the purpose of demonstrating his grace and mercy, as well as his justice and holiness. Zawadi must tell us why didnt God simply create a race of perfect human beings who wouldnt sin and break his law.
In my article I pointed out how the Bible answers these very questions, but it seems that I need to repeat it here again. The reason why God created a people who were allowed to sin and who would be unable to live in perfect obedience to his Law was to show his great love and mercy. It was to show human beings that they could only be saved by the grace of God revealed in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus:
"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:5-8
"he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:26
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillmentto bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:3-12
To put it simply, Gods purpose in giving the people a Law that he knew that they would not be able to keep was to show mankind how wicked they truly are and that they desperately need a Savior to redeem them.
Zawadi also stated that:
Shamoun talks about how we as humans beings cannot follow the law perfectly and therefore cannot be saved unless we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. However, Shamoun erroneously assumes that God expects us to be perfect.
21"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.
22None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live.
So here we see that God does not expect us to follow the Law perfectly. He actually expects us to commit sin. However, what we must do after that is repent in order to get back to pleasing God. Repenting after you commit sins is actually part of the Law. So if one were to attempt to follow the law to his best but sins and afterwards he repents, he still following the Law at the end of the day! Us Muslims believe that if we follow the law prescribed and put forward by the infinite God, we are therefore in a way following a law whose source is from the infinite and therefore in a way meeting the standards of the infinite God in order to please Him. We believe that any other actions performed besides those set by God are useless. Now God does not need our actions. He does not benefit from them either. However, he loves that we obey him.
The obvious question that Zawadi should have asked is if God didnt want perfect obedience then why does he demand that the people repent for breaking his commands? In other words, why would repentance be necessary if God didnt expect his people to perfectly carry out his instructions? Doesnt the command to repent actually presuppose that God does want perfect obedience?
Furthermore, God clearly says that a person will die if s/he breaks his commands, which means that God must have a basis to forgive any individual who decides to turn from his/her wickedness. Otherwise, if God merely forgives without punishing the wicked for their failure to comply with his wishes, even though he said he would do so, then he ceases to be perfectly holy and just. It would further show that God doesnt do as he says, that he doesnt act upon his words, and therefore is unreliable.
With the foregoing in mind, we will now help Zawadi understand the point that Ezekiel was trying to make by reading the immediate context of 18, as well as reading other texts from this very book. We start with Ezekiel 3:
"At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, "You will surely die," and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not TURN from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself." Ezekiel 3:16-19
We now turn to Ezekiel 18:
"But if a wicked man TURNS away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they TURN from their ways and live? But if a wicked man TURNS away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and TURNS away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. Yet the house of Israel says, The way of the Lord is not just. Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. REPENT! TURN AWAY from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. REPENT and live!" Ezekiel 18:21-23, 27-32
As Zawadi noted, Ezekiel does emphasize the need for sinners to turn or repent from their wicked ways in order that they might live, which agrees precisely with the message of the Lord Jesus and the NT writers:
"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:14-15
"He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:46-47
"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? Peter replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:37-38
"When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." Acts 3:26
"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel." Acts 5:31
"When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." Acts 11:18
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31
"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:24-26
But, as we said both here and in our initial article, God has to have a basis in which to forgive and justify the wicked, since his justice and holiness must be satisfied. After all, God did plainly tell Ezekiel that the person who sins shall surely die:
"For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the sonboth alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die 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 But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not just. Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die." Ezekiel 18:4, 20, 24-26
Therefore, if God simply forgives the wicked without demanding that they die as a consequence of their sins then his justice and holiness would be severely compromised.
Thus, the very passages from Ezekiel actually prove our point, namely, that God must have a way to maintain his justice in order to have a basis to forgive repentant sinners.
Ezekiel himself gives us the solution to this dilemma. The way God is able to maintain his perfect justice while showing mercy and love to repentant sinners is through vicarious atonement!
Note the instructions that God gave concerning the restoration of the Temple and priesthood, both of which center around the need of sacrificial offerings for the forgiveness of sin:
"These are the measurements of the altar in long cubits, that cubit being a cubit and a handbreadth: Its gutter is a cubit deep and a cubit wide, with a rim of one span around the edge. And this is the height of the altar: From the gutter on the ground up to the lower ledge it is two cubits high and a cubit wide, and from the smaller ledge up to the larger ledge it is four cubits high and a cubit wide. The altar hearth is four cubits high, and four horns project upward from the hearth. The altar hearth is square, twelve cubits long and twelve cubits wide. The upper ledge also is square, fourteen cubits long and fourteen cubits wide, with a rim of half a cubit and a gutter of a cubit all around. The steps of the altar face east. Then he said to me, Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: These will be the regulations for sacrificing burnt offerings and sprinkling blood upon the altar when it is built: You are to give a young bull as a sin offering to the priests, who are Levites, of the family of Zadok, who come near to minister before me, declares the Sovereign LORD. You are to take some of its blood and put it on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of the upper ledge and all around the rim, and so purify the altar and make atonement for it. You are to take the bull for the sin offering and burn it in the designated part of the temple area outside the sanctuary. On the second day you are to offer a male goat without defect for a sin offering, and the altar is to be purified as it was purified with the bull. When you have finished purifying it, you are to offer a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect. You are to offer them before the LORD, and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the LORD. For seven days you are to provide a male goat daily for a sin offering; you are also to provide a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect. For seven days they are to make atonement for the altar and cleanse it; thus they will dedicate it. At the end of these days, from the eighth day on, the priests are to present your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar. THEN I WILL ACCEPT YOU, declares the Sovereign LORD." Ezekiel 43:13-27
"But the priests, who are Levites and descendants of Zadok and who faithfully carried out the duties of my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and perform my service On the day he goes into the inner court of the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he is to offer a sin offering for himself, declares the Sovereign LORD." Ezekiel 44:15-16, 27
"It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbathsat all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court. You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple. In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a feast lasting seven days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast. On that day the prince is to provide a bull as a sin offering for himself and for all the people of the land. Every day during the seven days of the Feast he is to provide seven bulls and seven rams without defect as a burnt offering to the LORD, and a male goat for a sin offering. He is to provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, along with a hin of oil for each ephah. During the seven days of the Feast, which begins in the seventh month on the fifteenth day, he is to make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings and oil." Ezekiel 45:17-25
What these citations show is that God accepts the repentant sinner on the basis of blood atonement. God basically punishes the sins of the repentant by substitutionary sacrifice, by permitting an animal to die in the place of the guilty. In this way God is able to forgive sinners while upholding the just requirements of his own law which demands that the wicked die for their sin.
Moreover, this further demonstrates the thorough inadequacy of a persons righteousness, that such righteous acts were/are not sufficient to sustain an individual forever. After all, if such righteousness was/is adequate then there would be no need for sacrificial atonement. The fact that God prescribed sacrifices for sin conclusively shows that the righteous were/are not saved on the grounds of their personal righteousness since this couldnt satisfy Gods perfect justice. These individuals were/are saved on the basis of Gods gracious provision of atonement, which provided a means by which God could overlook the imperfections and sins of a person who sought to live in obedience to Gods Law.
But even these sacrifices could only provide temporary satisfaction, a temporary covering of sin, which explains why they had to be offered over and over again.
This, too, completely agrees with NT teaching, specifically that sinners who repent are forgiven on the basis of the blood sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world:
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished" Romans 3:23-25
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all menthe testimony given in its proper time."1 Timothy 2:5-6
"while we wait for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:13-14
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10
In fact, the OT sacrificial system was actually a shadow of and pointed to the one sacrifice which could take away sin completely, namely, the Lord Jesus death on the cross:
"The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises." Hebrews 8:1-6
"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritancenow that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:11-15
"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are comingnot the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, "Here I amit is written about me in the scroll I have come to do your will, O God." First he said, Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, Here I am, I have come to do your will. He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:1-14
With the foregoing in mind we can now move on to the next section.
Were There Others Besides Christ Who Were Blameless?
Zawadi tries to prove from the Holy Bible that there were other individuals who were blameless before God:
Shamoun stresses on the need to live perfectly for God by quoting verses such as Deut. 18:13. However, Shamoun erroneously assumes that the only way to do so is by believing that Jesus died for us.
How can my statements be erroneous when they were based on the explicit teachings of both the Lord Jesus and the writings of the NT? Perhaps Zawadi can explain that to us.
However, we see that Job (Job 2:3) and Noah (Genesis 6:9) were blameless in the sight of the lord and they never believed in any sacrifice of Jesus. Imagine Noah being blameless in the sight of the lord even though he got drunk and lied in nakedness (Genesis 9:20-25). Shamoun will quote Hebrews to show that the sacrifice of Jesus even went back to the people in the past. But too bad for Shamoun, he can't prove that from the Old Testament.
What Zawadi fails to tell his readers is that these individuals were considered blameless because of Gods grace, which provided a sacrificial system of atonement, as well as intercession, for the forgiveness of sins:
"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." Genesis 6:8-9
"Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done." Genesis 8:20-21
Here, God swears to never again destroy the world by flood (cf. Gen. 9:11, 15) because of the smell of the burnt offerings!
"His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. This was Jobs regular custom." Job 1:4-5
"Then Job replied to the LORD: I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, "Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, "Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me." My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and REPENT in dust and ashes. After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before." Job 42:1-10
Again, notice just how important sacrifices are for the forgiveness of sins, along with intercessory prayers. God clearly commands sacrifices and intercession in order to have a basis to forgive Jobs friends.
These citations once again prove that God reckoned sinners like Noah and Job as being blameless on the basis of sacrificial atonement, which was made efficacious (effective) by their faith in God. In other words, the above references show that God must have a basis to forgive sinners and to view them as righteous.
And, as we saw earlier, these sacrifices and prayers point ultimately to Jesus once and for all sacrifice and his work of intercession, which forever satisfies God thereby procuring our eternal redemption:
"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us allhow will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who diedmore than that, who was raised to lifeis at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Romans 8:31-34
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all menthe testimony given in its proper time." 1 Timothy 2:5-6
"one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our needone who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." Hebrews 7:16, 23-27
"My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defenseJesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2
Furthermore, there is no need for me to prove from the OT that Jesus sacrifice extended to the past, since Jesus words will do just fine:
"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." Matthew 13:16-17
"He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:44-47
Jesus plainly says that the prophets of the Hebrew Bible knew and even announced beforehand that the people were/are saved and forgiven on the basis of the Messiahs death and resurrection. What this presupposes is that the prophets were made aware by God that their salvation was based on the work of the Messiah who was to come. Thus, the OT saints were saved by faith in Gods promise to send the Messiah to redeem his people from their sins.
Moreover, I can indeed show from the OT itself that believers are justified on the basis of the death of the Messiah. In fact, I even provided the quote in my initial article which Zawadi obviously failed to read. But here it is again:
"Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. BUT HE WAS WOUNDED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS; HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES; UPON HIM WAS THE CHASTISEMENT THAT BROUGHT US PEACE, AND WITH HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; AND THE LORD HAS LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, STRICKEN FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; WHEN HIS SOUL MAKES AN OFFERING FOR SIN, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, MAKE MANY TO BE ACCOUNTED RIGHTEOUS, AND HE SHALL BEAR THEIR INIQUITIES. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; YET HE BORE THE SIN OF MANY, AND MAKES INTERCESSION FOR THE TRANSGRESSORS." Isaiah 53:1-12
The prophet Isaiah expressly stated that the people are saved and justified on the basis of Gods Servant, the Messiah, offering his life as a sacrifice for sins. You do not get any clearer evidence that even the OT prophets knew that they were saved by believing in the One who was to come to redeem them than this!
What Did Muhammad Really Teach About Salvation?
Zawadi hinted that Islam teaches that a person is saved by faith and good works:
Sam Shamoun in this article tries to respond back to the argument being put forth that Jesus told his followers to follow the Law for salvation. Shamoun through out his article appeals to verses that show that salvation is by faith and that by observing the Law alone does not save you. Well, Shamoun is basically attacking straw man in his article. Because no one is arguing that Jesus taught that following the Law ALONE is enough for salvation.
First, the one attacking a strawman is Zawadi for claiming that I cited verses to deny that the Law alone saves a person. I challenge him to quote a single place where I said that.
Second, for a person to follow the Law s/he must first believe that the Law is from God! Otherwise, what is the point of a person carrying out the commands of the Law if s/he doesnt believe that it is from God? Thus, to say that obeying the Law saves a person presupposes that faith is a necessary component of that obedience.
Yet we saw the problem with trying to obtain salvation by faith and observing the works of the Law; no person is capable of living the Law to Gods satisfaction and therefore comes under the judgment of the Law. This is why God sent his Son to do for man what man could not do for himself, live the Law perfectly and die the death that we deserve. God extends the saving work and atoning death of Christ for salvation as a free gift to all who would believe.
Returning to the issue:
What people are arguing is that Jesus taught that salvation is by BOTH following the Law and having faith. And this contradicts the teachings by Paul that state that salvation is only by faith alone. However, it agrees with the Quran. Islam emphasizes on faith and works (Surah 2:25, 21:94, 47:2, 65:11, 85:11) and that works by themselves are not enough (Surah 9:17).
It is blatantly obvious that Zawadi not only doesnt understand the Holy Bible but also has no clue what Islam teaches regarding this issue.
The fact is that both the Quran and the so-called sound hadith are full of contradictions regarding how a person is saved. For example, although the Quran does claim that faith and works save a person it contradicts itself by claiming that individuals are actually saved by grace and mercy:
O ye who believe! follow not Satan's footsteps: if any will follow the footsteps of Satan, he will (but) command what is shameful and wrong: and were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you, not one of you would ever have been pure: but God doth purify whom He pleases: and God is One Who hears and knows (all things). S. 24:21 Y. Ali
The ahadith record Muhammad making the following admission:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise." (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet's companions) said, "Not even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Not even myself, unless Allah bestows His favor and mercy on me." So be moderate in your religious deeds and do the deeds that are within your ability: and none of you should wish for death, for if he is a good doer, he may increase his good deeds, and if he is an evil doer, he may repent to Allah." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 70, Number 577)
The Prophet said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will NOT make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 474)
To further substantiate that Islam teaches that a person is saved by grace alone apart from works, note what these next hadiths say:
Narrated Abu Dharr:
I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up from his sleep. He said, "Nobody says: None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise." I said, "Even It he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft." I said, "Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft? He said. "Even If he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft." I said, "Even it he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and thefts." He said, "Even If he had committed Illegal sexual intercourse and theft, in spite of Abu Dharrs dislikeness." Abu Abdullah said, "This is at the time of death or before it if one repents and regrets and says None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, he will be forgiven his sins." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 717)
Narrated Abu Dharr:
The Prophet said, Gabriel came to me and gave me the glad tidings that anyone who died without worshipping anything besides Allah, would enter Paradise. I asked (Gabriel), Even if he committed theft, and even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse? He said, (Yes), even if he committed theft, and even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 579)
412. 'Ubada ibn as-Samit reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Whoever testifies that there is no god but Allah alone with no partner and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger and that 'Isa is the slave of Allah and His Messenger and a word which He cast into Maryam and a spirit from Him and that the Garden is real and the Fire is real will enter the Garden WHATEVER HIS ACTIONS." [Agreed upon] (Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi, Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous), 51. Chapter: On Hope; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Notice here that Muhammad is claiming that a person is saved by his confession of faith, irrespective if s/he lived a wicked and immoral life!
To top it off, Muhammad also claimed that Jews and Christians would be punished in the place of the Muslims:
Abu Burda reported Allahs Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with AS HEAVY SINS AS A MOUNTAIN, and Allah would FORGIVE THEM and He would PLACE IN THEIR STEAD the Jews and the Christians. (As far as I think), Abu Raub said: I do not know as to who is in doubt. Abu Burda said: I narrated it to 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz, whereupon he said: Was it your father who narrated it to you from Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him)? I said: Yes. (Sahih Muslim, Book 037, Number 6688)
426. Mu'adh ibn Jabal said, "I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, on a donkey. He asked, 'Mu'adh, do you know what is Allah's right on His slaves and the right of the slaves on Allah?' I replied, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said, 'Allah's right on His slaves is that they should worship Him and not associate anything with Him. The slaves' right on Allah is that He will not punish anyone who does not associate anything with Him.' I said, 'Messenger of Allah, shall I tell the people that so that they can rejoice?' He said, 'Then they will rely on it.'" [Agreed upon]
432. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "On the Day of Rising, Allah will hand over a Jew or a Christian to every Muslim and say, 'Here is your redemption from the Fire." [Muslim]
In another variant from him is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Some of the Muslims will be brought on the Day of Rising with sins the size of mountains and Allah will forgive them." (Riyad as-Salihin)
This explains why Muhammad could say that a person wasnt saved by faith and works, but by grace through faith alone even if that individual lived a grossly immoral life. He believed that the Jews and Christians would be punished in the place of the Muslims in order that Allah could have a basis to allow wicked and vile Muslims to enter paradise. Thus, whereas in Christianity we have the sinless Son of God dying for our sins, Islam has sinful Jews and Christians dying in the place of vile Muslims!
Muhammad seemed to have been influenced by Pauls theology and decided to adapt it into his system of belief with some crucial differences. One major difference between the two systems is that whereas Paul taught that a person who is saved by grace through faith alone would go on to do good works and live a holy life, Muhammads instructions, on the other hand, give Muslims the license to live immorally and wickedly.
In other words, it is the teachings of Muhammad, not the inspired instructions of the blessed Apostle, which perverts the grace of God by turning it into a licence for Muslims to live in sin and immorality. The Holy Bible warns us about such false prophets and teachers:
"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." Titus 1:15-16
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought thembringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greedan accursed brood! They have left THE STRAIGHT WAY and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkeya beast without speechwho spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravityfor a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:1-3, 13-19
"For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:4
We conclude by paraphrasing Zawadis very own words to me:
When all is said and done, Muslim logic is exposed for what it is, irrational and weak. Moreover, Gods true Word as revealed in the Person of Jesus and through his beloved Apostles such as Paul will cause all honest seekers of truth to see very clearly that Muhammad was a false prophet and that Islam is a false, wicked religion.
For more on the topic of salvation in Islam we recommend the following articles:
Rebuttals to Answering-Christianity
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page