A common question Muslims ask Christians is, “Why can’t your God just forgive sins? Why does he need a sacrifice? Allah is not like that. He is Most Merciful and will forgive you when you repent.”
My response is often, “This shows that Allah is unjust, lawless and corrupt.”
Let me explain why I say that and exactly what I mean.
If Allah forgives you for your sin, then he is merciful. But he is unjust.
If Allah punishes you for your sin, then he is just. But he is not merciful.
Do you see the dilemma?
I recently read a news story of an incident in Malaysia where a man was caught and sentenced for stealing infant milk formula to feed his kids. He was unemployed and had become so desperate that he resorted to theft. According to the law, the punishment for the crime is a fine of $300 and failure to pay the fine would result in two months jail.
Do you see the dilemma?
If the man is remorseful and repentant, and the judge forgives him and releases him, the judge may be merciful but he has failed to uphold the law and justice. That would make him unjust and unfit to be a judge.
But if the judge sentences him to pay the fine according to what is demanded by law, then justice is served. However, the judge has failed to show mercy to someone who cannot even afford to buy milk for his baby.
What do you think the judge should do? A righteous judge would be both merciful and just.
This is what I mean when I say that Allah cannot be both just and merciful at the same time. Think about it and tell me how you think this judge can be both just and merciful at the same time. While you think about this, let’s explore further.
This time, let’s take you to court.
Imagine that you were caught speeding. You come before the judge and admit your violation of the traffic laws. Now you have to pay a fine of $100. Whether you like it or not, and no matter how repentant you are, a judge who is fair and just must impose the punishment on you. If he doesn’t, he is undermining the law. Or maybe you can get out of it by trying to bribe the judge with some “good works”.
One of the tragedies for Muslims, I believe, is that Islam has trivialized the meaning and seriousness of sin. Muslims today will sweep sins under the carpet and think Allah too will just wave his hand and forgive your sins. After all, he is most merciful. Sin has been categorized as “small sins”. “It’s OK, that’s just a “little mistake”. No problem.”
What is sin? Sin is disobedience of God’s laws. Sin is rebellion against God. This is serious. Big sin or small sin, sin is sin! I’m not saying God cannot forgive sins. I’m saying God is also just and must punish sins. He will not excuse your “little sins.” He will not say, “Oh since you have repented and asked for forgiveness, you will not be punished.” That is an insult to His justice.
Coming back to court, you have to pay the $100 fine. Whether you have the money or don’t have the money, that doesn’t matter. You owe a debt that must be paid somehow. Someone has to step up and pay the fine for you if you can’t afford it.
Let’s say, your father or your son comes forward and tells the judge that they will pay the fine on your behalf. Is that acceptable to the judge? Of course. As long as the sentence is carried out, then you can go free.
The reason I mentioned your father or your son paying the fine is to remind you of a verse in the Bible that Muslims love to quote thinking that it refutes Christianity.
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.Deuteronomy 24:16
Your father or your son can pay your $100 fine because they are not guilty of your speeding violation. They are not under punishment. But if your father or your son is also guilty of speeding, then they cannot pay up the $100 and say that it is the payment for your penalty! Do you see? Obviously, the $100 pays for their own fine. He has to come up with an additional $100 to pay your fine as well.
Now let’s look at the verse above. Your punishment now is death! Not $100. Can your father or your son come forward and tell the judge that they would take the punishment for you? Can your father say that he would die on your behalf so that you can go free? Or can your son say that he will die for you, to save you so that you can go free? No! Why? Because they are under the same punishment as you! Your father is facing the death penalty. Your son is facing the death penalty. You are facing the death penalty. Each of you will die for your own sins. You cannot save one another by taking their place. That is what the verse in Deuteronomy 24:16 means. But only someone who is untainted by sin and not under the penalty of death could potentially take your place!
In fact the verse clearly says that everyone will die for their own sins. That is the punishment for sin. The Bible is clear that the wages (or punishment) of sin is death.
What is death? Death is not just a separation of your soul from your physical body when your heart stops beating, death is also a separation from God. The punishment is serious because sin is serious!
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.Isaiah 59:2
That is what happened to Adam when he sinned. He was cast out of the Garden, separated away from God’s presence. What did he do wrong? Wasn’t it just a “small sin”? Why can’t God just overlook it and just forget all about it and sweep it under the carpet and let Adam and Eve and their children live on in the beautiful Garden?
This is the seriousness of sin. Sin exposes your shame, guilt, and nakedness. Remember what Adam and Eve tried to do? They attempted to cover themselves with leaves. Did it work? The leaves represent their own “works”. All your good works will never cover your sin. Only God can do that.
Do you remember what God did? He took the skin of an animal to cover them. What happened to the animal? Died. Stripped and bloody, so that Adam and Eve could be covered. An animal died in their place as a substitute. It was a stark and grim reminder of the consequences of sin.
This is the reason the sacrificial system was instituted in Israel under the Torah. The animal sacrifice and the blood was to cover the sins of the people as their atonement, so to speak.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin.Psalm 85:2
The temple sacrifices were temporary but pointed to an Ultimate and Final Sacrifice for sins.
John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.Revelation 19:13
Remember I asked you earlier to tell me how that judge can be both just and merciful at the same time to the man who stole milk for his baby? Have you thought of an answer yet?
“This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”Matthew 26:28
He took your punishment of death so that you can go free. He gave his life as a ransom for you.
Will you accept this salvation He provides or not? Your call.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on himJohn 3:36
If you accept His death for you as the punishment for your sins, you don’t have to die for your sins.
That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.John 8:24
Does it mean if Jesus has paid the penalty for my sin, then I can sin as I please and do whatever I want?
This is a false and uneducated accusation that Muslims often charge Christians with.
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” Romans 6:1-2
If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume all adversaries. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled on the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and insulted the Spirit of grace?Hebrews 10:26-29
The Hidden Truth About Abraham’s Sacrifice