Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Messiah Our Righteousness Has Come! Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Muslim polemicist Paul Bilal Williams recently published a blog post where he tries to pit Luke against the blessed Apostle Paul by showing that a person doesn’t need Jesus’ vicarious death to be saved. This is what he wrote:

In the beginning of the Gospel of Luke we read:

‘In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.’ Luke 1

This righteousness, according to Luke, had nothing to do with any messiah. Their righteousness came from blamelessly obeying all the Jewish law.

However, Paul wrote:

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21

Oh dear! The whole point of Christianity refuted by its own scriptures! (Oh dear! How awkward)

As we shall now demonstrate, the problem is not with Paul and Luke since they are in perfect agreement with each other. Rather, the problem lay with William’s gross perversion and misreading of the God-breathed Scriptures. 


What Blamelessness Does Not Mean

To begin with, a careful reading of Luke shows that by blameless, the inspired author did not mean that Zechariah and Elizabeth were sinless since the immediate context goes on to show Zechariah being reprimanded by the angel Gabriel for not believing in his message concerning the birth of John the Baptist:

“In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’” Luke 1:5-20

What blamelessness means in context is that Zechariah and Elizabeth did what was required of them by God so that they could be pleasing in God’s sight. This included the need for faith, repentance, and vicarious sacrifices in order to provide a temporary covering of their sins until Christ came to actually remove all their sins completely and forever by offering up his life as the final and perfect sacrifice:

“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” Luke 22:19-20

“but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” Hebrews 7:24-28

“And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God,’ and since then has been waiting ‘until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.’ For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,’ he also adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:10-18

Zechariah would have known of his need for vicarious sacrifices seeing that both he and his wife were from the priestly line. In fact, part of the responsibilities of the priests was to make atonement for the sins of God’s people:

“Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the other Israelites, and the Levites shall be mine. Thereafter the Levites may go in to do service at the tent of meeting, once you have cleansed them and presented them as an elevation offering. For they are unreservedly given to me from among the Israelites; I have taken them for myself, in place of all that open the womb, the firstborn of all the Israelites. For all the firstborn among the Israelites are mine, both human and animal. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, but I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn among the Israelites. Moreover, I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the Israelites, to do the service for the Israelites at the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the Israelites, in order that there may be no plague among the Israelites for coming too close to the sanctuary.” Numbers 8:14-19

This brings me to my next point, which we will pick up in the second part of our rebuttal.