How is it just for God to have Jesus die in our place

(Armando Bordales) #1

So, I am an expat worker here in Qatar. The Country is not that open when it comes to practice of other faiths but the religious folks are quite zealous to share their Muslim faith to non-Muslims. This gives me a big opportunity to engage our Muslim brothers in religious discussions. In a recent “conversation” with a colleague, I came to a point where I was explaining to him atonement. How that God is just, He will not let the guilty unpunished, and that Jesus took the punishment of sin in our place. And so my friend raises this point, he says, “Jesus is a very good man, how can God kill him in your place. If you committed wrong, can I kill your brother in your place? Do you call that justice?”

Thanks for your replies!

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(Kathleen) #2

Huge question, @Armando! Thanks so much for this cracker. :slight_smile: I won’t write much for now, but my initial thought on your colleague’s objection/question is: Yes, the death is Jesus is unjust. That’s the point. Jesus did not deserve the condemnation and execution that he received.

But there are a couple of questions here all together…

  1. Who killed Jesus?
  2. What’s the point of Jesus’ life?
  3. What’s the point of Jesus’ death? What is actually going on on the cross?
  4. How is substitutionary atonement just?

For now, though, I am curious if you believe that ‘punishment for our sins’ is all Jesus’ death accomplished? :slight_smile:

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(Brittany Bowman) #3

Love this question, Armando. Praise the Lord for your heart to share Him with others.

Kathleen has some great thoughts. I just want to add one resource. Wassim Sabry really digs into those questions in his talk, “What Does the Cross Look Like Through Middle Eastern Eyes?” I’ve not encountered a conversation similar to what you’re experiencing. Still, I’ve played his message over and over- so good!

(It’s part of the archived 2018 Understanding and Answering Islam Conference under Premium Content.)

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(SeanO) #4

Jesus is not only a good man - He is God. God came Himself to die in our place. God gave Himself so that He could both be just and justify sinners. God would not be good if He did not bring justice on those who have done wrong - yet we have all done wrong. So how could God both save us and remain just? He came Himself to die in our place.

Romans 3:25-26 - God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

You may find this thread on the atonement helpful:

Atonement is chiefly about one life for another - the sacrifice was never required to suffer emotional or physical torment in proportion to the offense committed. However, the lamb was required to be spotless. Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for all people not because of the amount He suffered, but because He was a perfect sacrifice undeserving of death - the perfect lamb of God foreshadowed by the old covenant sacrifices. Christ saved us not by absorbing the Father’s wrath, but by dying in our place to set us free from the law’s condemnation so that through Him we can die to ourselves and live unto God.

Jesus is the victorious king who reconciled us to God by His blood and in whom we become Spirit filled children of the Kingdom of Light, free from the law’s condemnation and sin’s power. The law of sin and death is replaced by the Spirit’s laws of life in Christ Jesus.

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(Mitchell Paukner) #5

Hi Armando,

I really like your question! I unfortunately am not capable of providing a sufficient response while also being brief. So what I’ll do is provide an answer and upload what you could call a derivation of my answer.

In short, the outcome justice or injustice is only a product of someone deserving something. If a man deserves something and does not receive it, that would be injustice(a guilty man not receiving punishment, a laborer not receiving his wages).

The flip side is fairness or unfairness, which is only a product of someone not deserving something. If a man does not deserve something, but still receives it, that would be unfair(innocent man being punished, man who didn’t labor receiving wages).

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the most extreme example of a man receiving something that was not deserved. Hence, it is an outcome that cannot be discussed as just or unjust, but instead as fair or unfair(and it most certainly was not fair). If you position this outcome as injustice, then every instance where people receive something they don’t deserve would also be unjust. All grace would then be unjust(since grace by definition cannot be earned). It would be unjust for any person to ever extend forgiveness and mercy.

Below should be access to something I tried to type up this morning to respond in more depth and rigor to your question. I have not had time to proof read it, so keep that in mind as you read it. I had previously been writing something which I somewhat hijacked to help answer this question, so it is a little dense/academic.

The Cross and Justice.pdf (101.1 KB)

Best,
Mitchell Paukner

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(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #6

Hello @KMac. I do agree with you that Jesus did not deserve the condemnation and execution He received. But as a brother, I would say that we have to be careful in seeming to insinuate that the atonement is unjust, because the dealings of God are all just. There is no injustice on the part of God.

Shabir Ally would say that Christ dying for our sins is cosmic child abuse. And if this is the case, then for Muslims who want to see a great God, then they would not see the Christian God as worthy of worship.

Because God’s greatness and majesty is very important in Islam (they have an Arabic word for it “Allahu Akbar” which means that God is greater), we have to be careful in a sense that when we communicate Christian doctrines, this must show God more majestic and greater than the God of Islam.

So yes, we assert that it is just for God to have Jesus die in our place. As an illustration, I would use Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York presided over a court case, which is about an old woman who was caught stealing bread so that she could feed her grandchildren. The shopkeeper demanded justice, and LaGuardia judged her guilty and imposed a ten dollar fine. At the same moment, LaGuardia took ten dollars from his own wallet and paid the fine on behalf of the old woman.

We sin against God. And we are all guilty. God himself pays for what we have done. This is not forced but is done on His own accord.

Another analogy I like is Abdu Murray’s analogy of someone agreeing to be a guarantor in paying for another person’s debt. If they freely accepted in paying for it, then there won’t be any injustice if another person pays for another person’s debt. If it’s possible for us in human terms, then there won’t be any injustice for Jesus dying on the cross for our sins in order to pay for the penalty of our sins and purchase a place for us in heaven.

This sacrifice of God aside from showing God’s justice, also shows God’s love as well. As I remember from a former Shia Muslim, Abdu Murray said, “the incarnation and the cross of Christ are the greatest possible demonstration of the greatest possible love from the greatest possible being.”

Since God is the greatest possible being, He would express the greatest possible ethic in the greatest possible way. This is through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our salvation from our sins.

This love far transcends human love. We can sacrifice for people who love us in return. But God made this sacrifice for those who hated Him. This is God’s love for us.

This reminds me of a quote I love from Nabeel Qureshi’s book, “No God but One”:

“…let’s imagine that you are on your way to a very important ceremony and are dressed in your finest clothes. You are about to arrive just on time, but then you see your daughter drowning in a pool of mud. What would you do? Let her drown and arrive looking dignified, or rescue her but arrive at the ceremony covered in mud?”

Her response was very matter of fact, “Of course, I would jump in the mud and save her.”
Nuancing the question more, I asked her, “Let’s say there were others with you. Would you send someone else to save her, or would you save her yourself?”
Considering this, Sahar responded, “If she is my daughter, how could I send anyone else? They would not care for her like I do. I would go myself, definitely.”

I paused for a short moment before continuing, “If you, being a human, love your daughter so much that you are willing to lay aside your dignity to save her, how much more can we expect God, if he is our perfectly loving Father, to lay aside his majesty to save us?”"

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(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@Armando, few things stand out to me in your friend’s question where he needs more understanding - 1) Why we cant correct our own wrong 2) Why Jesus is different from men 3) How justice is satisfied in Jesus

  1. Why we cannot correct our own wrong: Going back to the story of Genesis, we see how man at the time of creation was holy and perfect only as long as he was in submission to God. The moment he sinned, he stepped out of submission, becoming imperfect and unjust. How can someone who is by nature imperfect and unjust correct his own wrong when he is cut off from the source of perfection and justness? The smallest of sin and the biggest of sins have one thing in common - to have our own away rather than submit to God. We may try to be sincere and amend our ways but all our sacrifices are marred with sin and are unacceptable to God. God is holy and is committed to accept only perfection. Anything less than that compromises His character.
  2. Jesus is different from good men - To satisfy God’s justice for a perfect sacrifice, there was a need for someone who was perfect with the fullness of God and who lived in perfect submission to God’s law. Jesus is set apart from good men in being the incarnation of the second person of the perfect trinitarian God. He was untouched by sin, being born sinless and having lived an obedient life to the point of death on the cross. Some scriptural support on this - Jesus speaking of Himself says, no one has seen the Father except he who is from God (John 6:46), before Abraham was I Am (John 8: 48-48-59), He was born of a virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit ( Matt 1:18-23), He asks who can convict Him of sin (John 8:46) , He says he came to give His life as a ransom ( Mk 10:45). John the Baptist introduces Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world ( John 1:29).
  3. How justice is satisfied in Jesus - To satisfy God’s perfect justice, God had the choice of letting man suffer judgement or make a way for man’s debt to be paid. God being the lawmaker and the violated party, He alone can decide who satisfies the law. As our efforts to compensate for our sin fall short of God’s perfect justice, God sent Jesus to do what man couldn’t do, because of His great love. He became our substitute to suffer our death. But He didn’t stop there. He even gave us His righteousness (1 Cor 5:21) and seals all who believe in His sacrifice with His Holy Spirit ( Eph 1:13). Jesus said he had the authority to lay down his life and bring it back to life (John 10:18). That is not the same as God killing a good man. God is not being unjust or violating His own law. Its Jesus sacrificing His glory and bearing upon Himself the punishment of the whole world as the world couldn’t save itself. Its love of God accomplishing perfect justice so that we might live with Him. So the unjust are justified through the justness of God.

I think you already received several good points from reason in the previous responses. So, what I have tried to do is to highlight some areas of the gospel that your friend could have missed based on his question. God bless your conversations!

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(Brittany Bowman) #8

There are so many good responses, and @Lakshmismehta has added some especially helpful thoughts.

Also, I assume you’ve heard the recent Ask Away podcast? If not, you may find it helpful, too.

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(Armando Bordales) #9

@KMac, i believe there’s more to Jesus dying for us. :slight_smile:

(Armando Bordales) #10

Thank you all for your inputs, and materials. I guess I got reading (and listening) to do. :slight_smile:

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(Sabine Forck) #11

It can only be just, because in Jesus, the son of God, who is one with Him, God took the punishment on himself.
I once heard a story, that explains this. It is about a Captain of a ship, who took his old mother with him on one of his long tours. The food for the crew had to be strictly rationalized. One day the cook told him, that some of it was missing. He said, that the guilty person was to be whipped. The one found guilty was his mother. How could he spare his mother, who might have not survived the punishment and be still just? And be accepted as captain by his crew? He took the whipping on himself. Justice and love came together.

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