Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting The Greatest Commandment According to Jesus Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

This continues our discussion from part 1.

Salvation depends on trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ

Ally claims that the Holy Bible teaches that salvation depends on adhering to the Shema. He quotes Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler that there is none who is good besides God and that eternal life is based on obedience to the commandments (cf. Mark 10:17-20; Matthew 19:16-20; Luke 18:18-21).

Ally, once again, wrenches Jesus’ statements out of context since Christ made it abundantly clear that salvation does NOT come from keeping the commandments, but from giving up everything to follow him wholeheartedly.

Here is the context of that particular encounter:

“As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call Me good?’ Jesus asked him. ‘No one is good but One—God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.’ He said to Him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.’ Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. THEN COME, FOLLOW ME.’” Mark 10:17-21

Christ emphatically states that obeying the OT injunctions, specifically the last 6 of the 10 commandments, is not enough for salvation. The rich man had to be willing to forsake everything for Christ and follow him if he wanted to receive eternal life.

Unfortunately for the young man, this was too costly a price for him to pay:

“But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ So they were even more astonished, saying to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.’ Peter began to tell Him, ‘Look, we have left everything AND FOLLOWED YOU.’ ‘I assure you,’ Jesus said, ‘there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields BECAUSE OF ME AND THE GOSPEL, who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—AND ETERNAL LIFE in the age to come.’” Mark 10:22-30

The disciples on the other hand, as Peter’s response indicates, did give up everything they had for Christ, leading Jesus to say that whoever does the same will receive 100 times more in this age and everlasting life in the next.

This isn’t the only time that Jesus commanded his followers to give up everything they had, even their very own lives if necessary, for the sake of Christ and his Gospel if they wanted to be saved:

“Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, AND FOLLOW ME. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life BECAUSE OF ME AND THE GOSPEL will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? What can a man give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of ME and of MY words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of HIS Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

In light of the preceding examples, could Jesus have been any clearer that salvation comes by following him, not from obedience to the OT commandments?

Moreover, Jesus also went on to say in the very same chapter of Mark 10 that the purpose of his coming was to offer up his life as a ransom in order to bring about the salvation of many:

“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 a point which the Lord repeated at the night of his betrayal where he reclined with his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal:

“As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is My body.’ Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.” Mark 14:22-24

Jesus’ words indicate that he actually believed that he was completely good, in fact perfectly sinless, since the OT is quite emphatic that no individual is able to redeem the life of a single individual from ever perishing, let alone many lives. This is a work which only God can accomplish according to the testimony of the inspired Scriptures:

NO ONE can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—so that they should live on forever and not see decayBut God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.” Psalm 49:7-9, 15

And, according to the witness of John, Jesus went so far as to claim that he always and only does that which pleases the Father, since he is the good Shepherd whom no one could convict of any sin seeing that there is absolutely no unrighteousness in him:

“The one who speaks for himself seeks his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” John 7:18

“The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases HimWho among you can convict Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why don’t you believe Me?” John 8:29, 46

I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good Shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:11, 14-15

The Father himself testifies to Jesus’ absolute goodness since he explicitly says that Christ is his beloved Son with whom he is fully pleased:

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My beloved Son; In You I am well pleased!’” Mark 1:9-11

Even the demons realized that Jesus is the Holy One from God who could easily destroy them if he so chose!

“Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority. Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, ‘What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!’ But Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so they began to argue with one another, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.’” Mark 1:21-27

Even the disciples went around proclaiming the absolute moral perfection of their risen Lord and Savior:

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you. You killed the Source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this.” Acts 3:14-15

“Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.” Acts 7:52

“Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice.’” Acts 22:14

“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time." Hebrews 4:15-16

“who did not become a priest based on a legal command concerning physical descent but based on the power of an indestructible life… Now many have become Levitical priests, since they are prevented by death from remaining in office. But because He lives forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.” Hebrews 7:16, 23-28

“But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself WITHOUT BLEMISH to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Hebrews 9:11-15

“For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

“For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds.” 1 Peter 2:21-24

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

“My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure… You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him… Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works." 1 John 3:2-3, 5, 7-8

Now this puts Ally in a predicament. Since he quoted Jesus’ words in Mark 10 to establish that Christ distinguished himself from God who is the only One that is said to be absolutely good, he must therefore accept the ramification that Jesus’ statements have on his own self-understanding and identity.

Seeing that Christ is depicted as being absolutely good, and yet only God is supposed to be absolutely good, Ally cannot escape the conclusion that Jesus and those who knew him best must have believed that he is God. Otherwise, Christ could never be described in such an exalted manner, nor would he be able to ransom any one from perishing by means of his sacrificial death.

To put this in a logical syllogism so as to assist Ally in understanding the impact of these biblical statements, please notice the following points carefully:

  1. Only God is absolutely good according to Jesus.
  2. Both Jesus and his followers claim that Christ is absolutely good as well.
  3. Jesus must therefore be God (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

Again, since both premises are biblically valid this means that Ally is stuck with the fact that the very Gospel which he quoted from, as well as the rest of the NT writings, proclaim that Christ and his disciples taught that Jesus is God Incarnate. According to Mark, and the other inspired writings, Jesus is the unique divine Son of God who became flesh for our salvation.

There is simply no way that Ally can get around this, especially since he is the one who used these same Scriptures to establish his point. Thus, if these writings are good enough to prove Ally’s case then they are also good enough to refute and expose him.

We still have more to say in the third part of our rebuttal.