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CROSS 1 to 5 : Answering the Muslim accusation that Christ was not crucified


CHALLENGE: Some Muslims have abandoned Islam and the Koran and are searching for the truth. Other Muslims have understood from the Koran that Christ actually was crucified. Such Muslims ask themselves: Why did Jesus die on the cross? Does His death have significance for me? What does the Bible say about the sacrificial death of Christ? Does it explain to us why the death of Christ was not meaningless, but of great significance?

ANSWER: The shortest version of the gospel reads: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3) Why did He die for our sins? He died in order to take the punishment for our sins upon Himself, to absolve us of our guilt before God, to free us from the slavery of sin, to cleanse us from our sins, to raise us from death and to give us new life. He also died as an atonement for our sins. This last description of the reason for the death of Jesus comes from the Torah of Moses. It summarizes many of the other effects of the death of Christ.

Atonement in the Torah. The commandments of God in the Torah prescribe the following: Whoever does not keep the commandments of God, sins; and he who willfully sins must die! (Numbers 15:30) Only the one who unintentionally sinned is spared and not executed, but this only if atonement is effected for that sinner. (Numbers 15:22-25) In order to receive such an atonement for sin committed unintentionally, the sinner, according to the Torah, has to do the following (see e.g. Leviticus 4:27-31): He has to bring an animal to the Sanctuary (Tabernacle or Temple); then lay his hand on the head of the animal, to show that it will die in his place; and then he must slaughter it at the altar of the Sanctuary. The priest of the Sanctuary then takes some of the blood of the slaughtered animal with his fingers and applies it to the horns of the altar. In so doing, the priest effects atonement for the sinner, whose sins are then forgiven.

What do these deeds mean? In actual fact, the sinner would have had to be killed for the sins he committed unintentionally. But God commanded to let the animal die as a substitute in his place, so that he can stay alive. When the sinner lays his hand on the head of the animal, he thereby says: What happens to the animal is the same as if it happened to me. The soul of the animal is in its blood (Leviticus 17:11), and because it dies substitutionally for the sinner, the soul of the sinner through substitution is in the blood of the animal. The Sanctuary is the place where God dwells among His people (Exodus 40:34-35). The altar in the Sanctuary thus stands in the presence of God. The horns of the altar are symbols for the power of the presence of God. When the priest put blood from the sacrificed animal on the horns of the altar, the soul of the sinner substitutionally comes in contact with the power of the presence of God. This presence and power gives him life, but only through the death of the sacrificed animal.

That the animal has to die as a substitute for the sinner shows how seriously God takes sin: every sin leads to death and separation from God. That the sinner is allowed to continue living, when the priest effects atonement for him (through the blood of the sacrificed animal at the altar), shows how God overcomes sin: atonement renews the contact of the sinner to God and gives him new life. Atonement is the only way by which the deadly nature of our sin can be revealed and simultaneously overcome.

Atonement in the Gospel. These commandments of God in the Torah regarding atonement are taken up in the Gospel when the death of Christ is explained: Christ died as an atonement for our sins. (1 John 2:2; 4:10 – not only for the unintentional sins!) The difference between the atonement of the sacrificial animals in the Torah and the atonement of Christ's death on the cross in the Gospel is: The three elements that are mutually separate in the atonement of the sacrificial animals -- the sacrificial animal itself, the priest, and the altar -- these three elements are united in the atonement of Christ's death on the cross. a) Christ is the sacrifice, who substitutionally dies for the sinner, thus shedding His blood (Hebrews 9:12, 14). b) Christ simultaneously is the Priest commissioned by God to effect atonement for the sinner through the blood of the sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17; 9:11). And c) Christ, as Son of God, equally simultaneously, is the place where God is present, like the altar in the tabernacle from which new life for the sinner can proceed. (Romans 3:24-25; Hebrews 9:24)

If you believe that Christ died on the cross for your sins, you simultaneously do two things:

1. You confess your sin, and accept that because of it you have earned death according to God's commandments in the Torah and in the Gospel; and you also confess that Christ as a substitute took your death upon Himself when He died on the cross. Through this you profess the deadly nature of your own sin.

2. Through this you simultaneously profess that God overcame this deadly nature of your sin on the cross. For: a) you confess that your soul is in the shed blood of Christ, who died as a substitutional sacrifice in your place; and b) you confess that Christ, as a High Priest ordained by God, brought this blood into the presence of God to atone for your sin; and c) finally, you confess that Christ, as Son of God, is Himself the presence of God, and that, because your soul (in the blood of Jesus) comes in contact with the presence of God in Christ, new life is granted to you.

If in this way you put your life under the covering of the blood of Christ, no power in heaven, on earth, or under the earth can separate you from God. The substitutionally atoning death of Jesus for your sins is stronger than sin, the devil, death, and the wrath of God! If you claim this death on the cross for yourself, your innermost being, through the atonement in the blood of Jesus, is inseparably bound to God Himself, and neither sin, nor devil, nor death are stronger than God. Therefore demons have no power over you if you believe that Jesus died for your sins!

GOOD NEWS: Jesus died on the cross for your sins, so that, on the one hand, your transgressions might be revealed as an offence worthy of death, and so that, on the other hand, in spite of this, you would not be eternally lost, but would have eternal life. Through the atonement that Jesus effected through his shed blood on the cross, He overcame your separation from God caused by your sin and bound you inseparably to Him. If you believe this, no power in this world can separate you from God and His love!

TESTIMONY: My name is Taufiq and I live in Nigeria. Both my parents were Muslims. When I was a child, my parents entrusted me to the guardianship of an Islamic Sheikh. From him I learned much of the Koran by heart, but at the same time he used me to come in contact with demons. He did this, because he was a mystic and practiced magic. He gave me an amulet that held me spiritually captive. Later, when I was finished with school and attended a teacher training-college, I met Christians, who told me about the Gospel of Jesus. I saw a film about Christ and one part of the film especially touched me, where Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) I determined to follow Christ and was baptized. Yet I still hung on to the amulet, for I feared if I threw it away something tragic would happen to me. One day I attended a service in a church. The pastor preached about “Christians with amulets”. In the middle of the sermon he pointed to me and said: “You cannot serve two lords. If you have an amulet and want to follow Jesus, you need to destroy it!” His finger pointed directly at me. I still had my amulet with me. His sermon cut me to the heart. The following morning I asked Jesus for forgiveness, and then destroyed the amulet. I was finally free of it and nothing bad happened to me! On the contrary, Christ has richly blessed me since then. Through His death for my sins, He broke the power of the amulet.

PRAYER: Jesus Christ, I thank you from my heart that you died on the cross for my sin. I confess my sin and guilt before you. I believe in your substitutionary death on the cross for me. I place myself under the covering of your blood. Because you provided atonement for me, I am free from the power of sin, the devil, and death.

QUESTIONS: Why did Jesus die for your sins? What is the difference between the atonement of the sacrificial animals in the Torah and the atonement of Jesus' death on the cross in the Gospel?

FOR MEMORIZATION: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19 -- Words of the Apostle Paul)

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