Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Did Jesus claim that salvation comes from observing the Law?"


Bassam Zawadi

Sam Shamoun's article could be located here

Sam Shamoun in this article tries to respond back to the argument being put forth that Jesus told his followers to follow the Law for salvation. Shamoun through out his article appeals to verses that show that salvation is by faith and that by observing the Law alone does not save you. Well, Shamoun is basically attacking straw man in his article. Because no one is arguing that Jesus taught that following the Law ALONE is enough for salvation. What people are arguing is that Jesus taught that salvation is by BOTH following the Law and having faith. And this contradicts the teachings by Paul that state that salvation is only by faith alone. However, it agrees with the Quran. Islam emphasizes on faith and works (Surah 2:25, 21:94, 47:2, 65:11, 85:11) and that works by themselves are not enough (Surah 9:17). 

Shamoun talks about how we as humans beings cannot follow the law perfectly and therefore cannot be saved unless we believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. However, Shamoun erroneously assumes that God expects us to be perfect.


Ezekiel 18:21-22

21 "But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die.

22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live.


So here we see that God does not expect us to follow the Law perfectly. He actually expects us to commit sin. However, what we must do after that is repent in order to get back to pleasing God. Repenting after you commit sins is actually part of the Law. So if one were to attempt to follow the law to his best but sins and afterwards he repents, he still following the Law at the end of the day! Us Muslims believe that if we follow the law prescribed and put forward by the infinite God, we are therefore in a way following a law whose source is from the infinite and therefore in a way meeting the standards of the infinite God in order to please Him. We believe that any other actions performed besides those set by God are useless. Now God does not need our actions. He does not benefit from them either. However, he loves that we obey him. 


Shamoun discusses the passage in Mark 19. Here it is...


Matthew 19:16-21

    16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

    17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

    18"Which ones?" the man inquired.

   Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,'[d] and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'[e]"

    20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

    21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."


Here we see a man asking Jesus how to attain eternal life. Jesus didn't say "I am going to get crucified for your sins very soon. So if you believe in that you will have eternal life." No, Jesus told him to obey the commandments (which emphasizes on the aspect of good works) and then to follow him, which means to believe in him as a Prophet of God and do what ever he says (faith). So Jesus did not only say to put faith in him. Jesus also emphasized the importance of following the Law.

Just in case a Christian tries to argue back that Jesus was only emphasizing the ten commandments then I would simply respond back by showing that Jesus did not only emphasize on the ten commandments...


Mark 7:10

10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'


The law regarding putting someone to death for cursing his parents is found in Leviticus 20:29, which is not part of the ten commandments.



Luke 5:14

Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."


The concept of sacrifices is not found in the ten commandments. 

So Jesus did not only emphasize on the ten commandments. He emphasized that they should even do everything that the teachers of the law told them to do...


Matthew 23:1-3

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.


Obviously the teachers of the law are telling people to follow the law and Jesus ordered people to follow what the teachers say, which consequently means that Jesus is indirectly telling them to follow the law!


Jesus said that he will come back to judge people by their works...


Matthew 16:27

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.


Why would Jesus judge people according to their works if people are not to be justified by them? Shouldn't he only be judging them according to their faith just as Shamoun believes?

Jesus also says...


Matthew 5:19

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


Jesus is clearly stating that people would be in different degrees in paradise if they do more righteous deeds (by obeying the commandments) than others. We also believe this in Islam. 

So clearly, Jesus was teaching that deeds do play a role in a person's salvation and justification before God. 


James, the half brother of Jesus also believed that salvation is attained by faith and good works...


James 2:20-26

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.  25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.


Some Christians try giving a very desperate explanation for what James said by saying that James really meant that faith results in actions. Therefore, you need to have the right faith that results in actions and that this is the faith that Paul was speaking about. However, it is absolutely crystal clear that James said that one is justified by both works and faith...


James 2:24

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.


which directly contradicts with Paul's crystal clear statement...


Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith?and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God? 9not by works, so that no one can boast.


James didn't say that you are justified by the right type of faith that results in actions. It is clear that James was stating that salvation is by works and deeds. 


Shamoun keeps emphasizing on verses which speak about how faith in Jesus brings eternal life to the person. This is true. Even I, as a Muslim must believe this. For part of salvation is to believe in ALL the messengers of God and the message that they brought. Now as for the verses that speak about Jesus giving eternal life, what do they mean? Well we must examine all these verses in the gospel related to eternal life and connect them to together to arrive at a proper understanding.


Mark 10:17-21

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

    18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good?except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'[a]"

    20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

    21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

John 5:24

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

John 6:40

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

John 6:47

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

John 6:68

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 12:49-50

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

John 14:24

He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me

John 17:2

Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.



So when Jesus said that he "gives eternal life" it means that if you believe in him and the word that he came to preach from God the Father and follow the commandments then you will inherit eternal life. Therefore, in a sense Jesus had the authority to give eternal life because he was the one whom God has sent to give and share His commands to the people so that if they believe in it they will go to paradise. Jesus gave the key to eternal life to people through his preaching the word of God. This is because he had the words of eternal life to give to the people (John 6:68). Not his words, but the words of the Father (John 14:24).


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