Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Message of Salvation according to Luke-Acts Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

There are some Muslims who love to appeal to the parable of the prodigal son in order to disprove the assertion that Christ had to die in order for a person to be saved. Here are two examples:

4. Along the same lines, how are we to reconcile the idea that God cannot be reconciled with sinners without his wrath being satisfied with blood with the pervasive scriptural depiction of God forgiving people without needing his wrath appeased (e.g., Lk 15:11-32)? If God must always get what is coming to him in order to forgive (namely “a kill”), does God ever really forgive? (Shabir Ally, More Comments on the Dividing Line of Oct. 23, 2007)


Infinite sin (and is this not rather hard on Adam, the ‘hungry child’?) requires, for Augustine, an infinite sacrifice. God Himself must suffer. Hence Augustine’s church must deify the Messiah, even though the Messiah taught that the father forgave the prodigal son simply when he repented. In the Parables, a vicarious sacrifice is nowhere in sight. (Abdal-Hakim Winters, Original sin ended with Adam)

This is a gross misuse and misunderstanding of the purpose of the parable. As the context shows, Jesus’ point was to exemplify God’s willingness to embrace the very ones that the religious elite look down upon and marginalize:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’” Luke 15:1-10

As such, the parable wasn’t meant to discuss the basis upon which God grants mercy and forgiveness. Rather, Jesus’ purpose was to highlight the fact that he had come to the earth to personally seek lost souls in order to save them and show them just how much God loves them:  

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. FOR THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THE LOST.'” Luke 19:9-10

Yet an essential aspect of Jesus’ mission to save lost sinners included his vicarious death in their place in order to pay off their debt of sin:

“He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”’” Luke 11:1-4


“Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13

The payment that Jesus made for the salvation of sinners is given to all those who would believe and trust in him.

With that said, we will cite all the references found in Luke-Acts to see that this is what these inspired books actually teach about salvation. The reason I am also including Acts is because the same author that wrote Luke wrote Acts as well. For the most part we won’t be providing any in-depth exegesis of the texts since they pretty much explain themselves. Here goes:

“And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen THY SALVATION which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.’… And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan′u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking FOR THE REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM.” Luke 2:25-32, 36-38

“On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. AND WHEN HE SAW THEIR FAITH, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?’ When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know THAT THE SON OF MAN HAS AUTHORITY ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS’—he said to the man who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.'” Luke 5:17-26

“And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘WHO IS THIS, WHO EVEN FORGIVES SINS?’ And he said to the woman, ‘YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU; GO IN PEACE.’” Luke 7:48-50

“‘The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away THE WORD FROM THEIR HEARTS, that they may not BELIEVE AND BE SAVED.’… And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!’ But Jesus said, ‘Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.’ And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL; GO IN PEACE.'” Luke 8:12, 43-48

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samar′ia and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL.'” Luke 17:19

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: “God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, “God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!” I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”’” Luke 18:9-14 Holman Christian Standard (HCSB)

“As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me receive my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL.’ And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Luke 18:35-43

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer (I would probably highlight also the last five words, because his suffering and atoning sacrifice is the basis for the preaching of forgiveness, the very point you are trying to make here) and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins SHOULD BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME TO ALL NATIONS, beginning from Jerusalem.’” Luke 24:44-47

“And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And HIS NAME, BY FAITH IN HIS NAME, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is THROUGH JESUS has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all… God, having raised up his servant,[a] sent him to you first, to bless you IN TURNING EVERY ONE OF YOU from your wickedness.” Acts 3:12-16, 26

“On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Ca′iaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘BY WHAT POWER OR BY WHAT NAME DID YOU DO THIS? ’ Then Peter, FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that BY THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, BY HIM this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation IN NO ONE ELSE, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.' Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” Acts 4:5-14

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader AND SAVIOR, TO GIVE REPENTANCE to Israel AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS.” Acts 5:31

“To him all the prophets bear witness that every one WHO BELIEVES IN HIM receives forgiveness of sins THROUGH HIS NAME.” Acts 10:43

“And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, BUT CLEANSED THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved THROUGH THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS, just as they will.” Acts 15:7-11

“Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised… Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that THROUGH THIS MAN forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, AND BY HIM EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVES is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.’… And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life BELIEVED.” Acts 13:23, 38-39, 48

“and brought them out and said, ‘Men, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS, and you will be saved, you and your household.'” Acts 16:30-31

“And from Mile′tus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,  testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God AND OF FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.’” Acts 20:17-21

“Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘WHO ARE YOU, LORD?’ AND THE LORD SAID, ‘I AM JESUS whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified BY FAITH IN ME.” Acts 26:12-18

The foregoing verses make it abundantly clear that Christ is the Savior whom God sent to redeem people from their sins. People are therefore saved because of the grace of the Lord Jesus, a grace that is freely given to all those who would believe in his glorious name.

With that said we are ready to proceed to the next part where we will discuss the use of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in reference to Jesus’ death and glorification.