There is No Salvation Without Sacrifice!
by Ibn Anwar
Christians declare that there is no forgiveness or salvation except through the shedding of blood i.e. sacrifice. They will go on to say that the Islamic idea of God just forgiving a sinner's sin is unjust and they will then give their rationalisations for saying this. If asked,"Where does it say that God cannot forgive except through some sort of sacrifice?" the Christians will quote,".Without shedding of blood there is no atonement" (Hebrews 9:22)
Before I continue , I'd like to put forth several questions for you the readers to ponder on.
1. If I can show even one instance where God in the Bible forgave a person's sin without sacrificial rites how will that stand in light of the Christian notion that it is unjust for God to simply forgive?
2. If it is shown that God can forgive sin without blood sacrifice, what then is the significance of Jesus' alleged sacrifice?
3. If it is proven that God had no problem at all in forgiving sins without blood sacrifices then why did he have to crucify His only "begotten" son, Jesus and declare to the whole world that from then onwards the only way to forgiveness is through Jesus' death? Why would He radically change His nature when it's stated in Malachi 3:6,"For I am the Lord, I DO NOT CHANGE"?
Let us now proceed to the textual evidences.
The book of Jonah, Chapter 3 (In the NKJV, the heading "Nineveh Repents" is given)
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: "Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you."
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord's command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: "Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!" The people of Nineveh believed God's message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:
"No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us."
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened."
In short, God forgave the people of Nineveh without a single demand for blood sacrifice.
Is intercession between us and God for forgiveness required?
"As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?" (Ezekiel 33:11)
The word "turn" here in Hebrew is shuvu which is similar with the word teshuvah which carries the same meaning as tawbah in Arabic i.e. return/repent.
"And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right. For instance, they might give back a debtor's security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die. None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live." (Ezekiel 33:14-16)
Neither sacrifice nor intercession for forgiveness is demanded
"The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent's sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child's sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness. But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done." (Ezekiel 18: 20-22)
Firstly, in the verses quoted above one can clearly see that the idea of inherited sin is totally debunked. Secondly, repentance is taught as a means for salvation and that if repentance is sought and one adheres to that which is lawful, ALL one's past sins will be forgotten. This amazing show of mercy from God is again FREE of any blood sacrifice.
The same message is repeated again in the same chapter :
"And if wicked people turn from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives. They will live because they thought it over and decided to turn from their sins. Such people will not die." (Ezekiel 18: 27-28)
"Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don't let them destroy you!"(Ezekiel 18:30)
God is MERCIFUL and is not required to kill anyone for atonement of your sins!
"O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city?the city that bears your name?lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy." (Daniel 9:18)
What is true sacrifice in God's eyes?
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17)
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (I Samuel 15:22)
Christians as taught by Paul ALWAYS say that obedience and works are worthless. Accept Jesus' sacrifice and you will be saved! JUST BELIEVE! Faith comes first, then works will ensue. Yet, in 1 Samuel 15:22 we see a different idea. The Christian point of view is apparently in reverse to that of God's as portrayed in 1 Samuel 15:22 ! If God said once that obedience is better than sacrifice, how can He again radically change that and reverse the idea? Hmm..I think something fishy is afoot.
AGAIN neither sacrifice nor intercession is required!
"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. " (2 Chronicles 7:14)
"Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the Lord."
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone." (Psalm 32:5)
"Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins
and did not destroy them all.
Many times he held back his anger
and did not unleash his fury!
For he remembered that they were merely mortal,
gone like a breath of wind that never returns." (Psalm 78:38-39)
"Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy. " (Micah 7:18)
"Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings." (Jeremiah 36:3)
"Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously." (Isaiah 55:7)
God forgives not because of lamb, sheep or goat but.
"I?yes, I alone?will blot out your sins for my own sake
and will never think of them again." (Isaiah 43:25)
He forgives not because of all your sheep or goats, but, it is because He is Compassionate and Merciful!
"Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.
By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil." (Proverbs 16:6)
Again, no sheep, goats, elephants, chickens or humans, but, through love of God and faithfulness of men towards his Creator is sin atoned. In addition, the verse informs us that God says that people avoid evil due to their FEAR of God which is contrary to standard Evangelical thought which says evil is avoided simply because of faith in Jesus and the crucifixion.
The following passage is rather telling
"What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?"
says the Lord.
"I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me,
who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting?
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
Wash yourselves and be clean!
Get your sins out of my sight.
Give up your evil ways.
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
"Come now, let's settle this,"
says the Lord.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.
If you will only obey me,
you will have plenty to eat.
But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
I, the Lord, have spoken!" (Isaiah 1:11-18)
From the verses presented right from the beginning until now we see time and again God saying that the way to forgiveness and remission of sins is NOT just by believing in some sacrifice or do some sacrifice , BUT, OBEY OBEY OBEY and BE FAITHFUL TO HIM! In the above given passage of Isaiah we see that God did not just refuse to accept sacrifice but He even hated it and instead demanded REPENTANCE and OBEDIENCE. Thus after disclaiming and discrediting sacrifices, God gave them the following solutions(with no mention of sacrifice) :
1. Wash yourself and be clean
2. Give up sins
3. Learn to do good
4. Seek justice
5. Help the oppressed
6. Defend the orphans
7. Fight for widows
A Brief overview of the Islamic idea of sin and atonement
Islam like Judaism teaches that sin is not inherited. Every person is accountable for his own deeds and no one will be responsible for the error of another. The Qur'an says :
" Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his ownself. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another's burden." (Surah Al-Isra', verse 15)
"And no bearer of burdens shall bear another's burden, and if one heavily laden calls another to (bear) his load, nothing of it will be lifted even though he be near of kin." (Surah Fatir, verse 18)
"Whosoever does righteous good deed it is for (the benefit of) his ownself, and whosoever does evil, it is against his ownself, and your Lord is not at all unjust to (His) servants." (Surah Fussilat, verse 46)
Islam does not consider sacrifice a method of atonement for sins even though sacrificing animals is a feature in Islam. For example, during Eid Al-Adha animals like camels or cows are slaughtered. However, this is not done in order to remit sins but rather to remember and commemorate the incident between Abraham a.s. and his son Ismail a.s. i.e. that Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, which he attempted, but, God through His divine Mercy replaced that sacrifice with a ram. The Qur'an says about sacrifice :
"It is not their meat nor blood that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him."(Surah Al-Hajj, verse 37)
This message is somewhat similar to a Biblical verse which says:
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)
The Qur'an like the verses in the Bible presented in this article teaches that in order to gain atonement for sins one has to sincerely ask for forgiveness to God Almighty and resolve not to repeat the same error again. The Qur'an says :
"Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped" (Surah Al-Zumar, verse 53)
"Verily! Allah Accepts the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and repent soon afterwards, to them Allah will turn in Mercy, for Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them and he says "now have I repented indeed", nor of those who die rejecting faith: for them have we prepared a chastisement most grievous." (Surah Al-Nisa', verse 17)
From the overwhelming Biblical scriptures presented in this paper it is clear that blood atonement and sacrifice is not as significant or important as many Christians try to make it out to be. The fact that God had no problem and was not shy to accept the repentance of his servants free of sacrifice shows that Jesus' alleged sacrifice for the remission of sins of mankind was not really necessary on God's part. In fact, the idea seems quite contradictory to God's supreme Mercy and Compassion.
I would like to end the discussion with the following Biblical verse :
"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)
Wallahu'alam bisawab. Allah knows best.