The Atonement

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37).

- Mark 15:21–39

Although we have taken a break from our study of 1 John in order to examine Islam, our study of this religion demonstrates that the doctrinal battles we fight today are not so different from those of the apostles. Like the false teachers who opposed John in the first century, Muslims also hold a high view of Jesus, albeit unorthodox.

While Islam reveres Mohammed as the last and greatest prophet sent to mankind, the Qur’an still has a high view of Jesus. With the Bible it affirms the virgin birth and that Jesus performed miracles. It also attributes many of the same titles to Jesus that are found in Scripture such as “Messiah” and the “Word of God.”

In the end, however, Islam is only paying lip-service to Jesus’ position. For at the same time the Qur’an affirms the greatness of Christ, it also denies essential facts about His work. Specifically, the Qur’an denies that Jesus ever died, saying that His death on the cross was only apparent, not real. Though they differ with regard to the precise explanation, Muslim theologians generally say that God rescued Jesus and put someone else with His likeness on the cross.

In addition to the severe theological difficulty this creates by making God a deceptive deity, there is the additional problem of historical corroboration for this claim. The different authors of the different New Testament books all agree that Jesus was truly crucified, and His death on the cross is corroborated by non-Christian historians living at or near the time of Jesus. This obviously creates severe credibility problems for the Qur’an.

The denial of the crucifixion is rooted ultimately in Islam’s a priori denial of the gravity of sin and the necessity of grace. If sin is really not all that bad, it is difficult to see how we need a merciful salvation from it in the first place. If God is not all that holy, it is impossible to see how His justice requires the punishment of sin.

Only biblical Christianity preserves God’s infinite justice and mercy. By denying the atonement, Islam denies the gravity of sin and thus our need for mercy. Only by punishing sin in Christ Jesus is God true to His righteousness and love for us.

Coram Deo

One of the reasons Islam is able to gain a hearing is because of humanity’s natural tendency toward self-sufficiency. We think that we are able to pay our debt and to do what needs to be done to save ourselves. However, God Himself promised to resolve the infinite debt incurred by the one sin, and He sent one person with infinite righteousness to rescue us from judgment. Meditate today on Romans 3:21–26 so to keep you mindful of your need for an atonement.

Passages for Further Study

2 Sam. 7:1–17
Ps. 89
Isa. 53
Mark 8:31
1 Peter 2:21–25

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343