For Christians the crucifixion of Jesus is taken as a dangerous safety blanket. The cross has become somewhat of a crux in the sense that many feel they can live their lives however they like, without consequence, because they believe the sacrifice of Jesus has already guaranteed their place in heaven. It’s not uncommon to hear missionaries boast about this, putting forth scenarios of drowning Jews, Christians and Muslims with only a Christian being certain of salvation.
It should be no surprise that missionaries peddle such lies; a no-strings-attached religion represents an attractive package in an increasingly decadent world. What better way to stand out from the ‘competition’ and stem the haemorrhage that is dwindling Church attendance by offering joiners a free golden ticket to heaven. “Just confess with your tongue that Jesus is your saviour and you will be saved” – a tempting one-click shop for those of us in the West who live in a culture of convenience – what you want, how you want it. Sadly many have been duped into becoming Christian not because they have a deep understanding of its theology, but rather because it allows them to have their cake and eat it – sex, drugs, rock and roll in this world and the prospect of even more pleasure in the hereafter.
Like anything in life, if something appears to be to good to be true, then it probably is. There’s just one snag in this package deal, and that’s the New Testament. You can think of this as the fine print that salesmen, in this case missionaries, tend to gloss over. As we are going to see, the reality is that when we examine the New Testament, that golden ticket many have bought is not worth the paper it is printed on. This article is going to compare the concepts of sin and salvation between the Qur’an and Bible to see which best equips believers with the tools needed in order to manage sin and achieve salvation.
1. What is salvation built upon?
The Qur’an informs us that salvation is built upon belief and actions:
“And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow…” [Chapter 2, verse 25]
The Qur’an outlines exactly which beliefs a Muslim must hold:
“O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah , His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.” [Chapter 4, verse 136]
The Bible also has the concept of believing in a specific creed to be brought into the fold of those who are saved:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [Romans 10:9]
In fact salvation is linked to being ‘born again’:
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” [John 3:3]
Being born again is likened to becoming a new creation, a spiritual rebirth:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]
2. Is salvation guaranteed?
Muslims who believed and did righteous deeds in this world have a promise from Allah that He will enter them into Paradise:
“But the ones who believe and do righteous deeds – We will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. [It is] the promise of Allah, [which is] truth, and who is more truthful than Allah in statement.” [Chapter 4, verse 122]
Now perhaps a Muslim didn’t perform many righteous deeds, or perhaps they committed a lot of evil deeds. If Allah does not forgive them, then they may be entered into the Hell Fire for a temporary period of time in order to be purified of their sins. Ultimately though, every Muslim will enter Paradise. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who Muslims take as the ultimate authority for explaining the Qur’an, said the following:
Narrated By Anas: The Prophet said, “Whoever said ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of a barley grain will be taken out of Hell. And whoever said: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of a wheat grain will be taken out of Hell. And whoever said, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and has in his heart good (faith) equal to the weight of an atom will be taken out of Hell.” [Sahih Bukhari]
When Christianity is promoted, it’s not uncommon to hear statements like “confess that Jesus is your Lord and Saviour and you will have everlasting life”. Many Christians believe that if they have faith in Jesus and the Cross, then regardless of what they do they are guaranteed Paradise. They believe that once saved, they are always saved.
When we examine the Bible, there is strong evidence that Christians have no such guarantee:
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [Revelation 3:1-6]
Note that the above verses are addressed to a specific Church. Some of the believers in this Church have “not soiled their clothes” and are considered “worthy”. These are the believers who are “victorious” and will be “dressed in white”, meaning they will be successful in the Hereafter. By contrast, some of the believers in this Church are said to be “dead”, they are advised to “repent” and “wake up”. This is not on account of any disbelief, but rather those whose “deeds are unfinished in the sight of God”. Clearly this is addressing believers who are on the brink of losing salvation as they are advised to “strengthen what remains” (if they were not believers then there would be nothing left to strengthen!). If they do not turn themselves around then they will lose their salvation (“blot out the name of that person from the book of life”). The themes of life and death are not talking of literal life and death but rather spiritual life and death, this links back to the notion of being born again which we discussed earlier.
Moreover Paul himself made the point that anyone could fall from grace — even he himself! He explained this using the analogy of an athlete competing for a prize:
“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” [1 Corinthians 9:27]
Now, if a Christian can’t lose their salvation as some may claim, then why would Paul advise Christians to check themselves?
As you can see this is a very different situation to what Islam teaches, every believing Muslim will enter Paradise – whether directly or after some purification in the Hell Fire – whereas not every believing Christian has the same guarantee, they can lose their salvation based on their deeds. One has to wonder, what sort of deeds can cause a believing Christian to lose their salvation?
3. The consequence of sin on salvation.
Every action that we perform during our lives is being recorded and we will have to answer to Allah for everything we have said and done:
“On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see that.” [Chapter 99, verses 6 – 8]
We are told that our righteous deeds and evil deeds will be weighed on the Day of Judgement, and those whose scales are heavy with righteous deeds will be successful in the Hereafter:
And the weighing [of deeds] that Day will be the truth. So those whose scales are heavy [with good] – it is they who will be the successful. [Chapter 7, verse 8]
Whosoever’s scales are light, they are liable for punishment by Allah:
But as for one whose scales are light, his refuge will be an abyss. [Chapter 101, verses 8 – 9]
Therefore the believing Muslim must spend the time that Allah has granted them on this earth in order to perform as many righteous deeds as possible.
Many writers in the Bible indicate that a believing Christian can lose their salvation completely because of the sins they commit after having become born again. Here the Bible goes so far as to say that those who “continue to sin” are “children of the devil”, they can no longer be considered born again (remember, only the ‘born again’ will see the Kingdom of God):
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.
No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. [1 John 3:4-10]
This writer goes so far to say that those who “sin wilfully” are no longer under the saving grace of the Cross but should expect punishment:
“For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgement, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” [Hebrews 10:26-31]
Finally, this writer says that if believers “return to the pollutions of the world” then it would be better for them had they not been believers at all:
“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” [2 Peter 2:20]
In summary, a believing Christian can lose their salvation completely if they “continue to sin”, “sin wilfully” or “return to the pollutions of the world”. Contrast this with Islam – a believing Muslim’s sins are weighed along with their righteous deeds, and as long as they are a true believer who does not worship anything other than Allah then no amount of sins will cause them to leave the fold of belief and completely lose their salvation forever. In the Bible there is no such weighing of deeds, it doesn’t matter how many righteous deeds a believing Christian does. You are only as “saved” as your level of sinning permits. Perhaps you are wondering, just how much sin does it take for a Christian to lose their salvation?
4. Accounting for sin.
Since a Muslim’s success in the Hereafter is tied to the weighing of their righteous and evil deeds, then one would expect the Qur’an to provide detailed information about how to account for one’s deeds. For example, how much weight does a righteous deed carry, and how much weight does an evil deed carry? Are they counted equally? The Qur’an provides exactly such information, we are told that Allah, out of His mercy toward His believing servants, records each righteous deed as ten times that of an evil deed:
“Whoever has done a good deed will have it ten times to his credit, but whoever has done a bad deed will be repaid only with its equivalent– they will not be wronged.” [Chapter 6, verse 160]
The rewards of righteous deeds such as giving charity are multiplied by up to 700 times:
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [Chapter 2, verse 261]
Also, there is a special night in the year known as the “Night of Decree”; performing a good deed on this night is rewarded as if it has been performed for more than 1,000 months:
“Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months…” [Chapter 97, verses 1-3]
Prophet Muhammad taught that there is distinction between intending to perform a sin and physically carrying out an action of sinning:
“Whosoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it with Himself as ten good deeds, up to seven hundred times, or more than that. But if he intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it and does it, Allah records it as one single evil deed.” [Sahih Muslim]
In summary, what Islam provides is a framework that any Muslim can use to keep track of their “balance of deeds” in order to ensure that their righteous actions far outweigh their evil. As long as a Muslim is knowledgeable enough about their religion and conscientious enough about their actions then they are in a strong position to ensure that their righteous actions far outweigh any evil on a day to day basis. This is exactly the kind of guidance that one would expect to find in genuine revelation from our Creator.
Outside of the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins, there is very little information to help one account for sins. Here Paul does list examples of sins that can cause one to lose their salvation:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 6:9]
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” [Galatians 5:19]
Unfortunately for Christians, these verses do not provide a clear picture of the extent to which one has to practise such sins in order to lose salvation. The verses are clouded in the vague language “those who practice such things”. To what exact extent is Paul referring here? Is just one transgression enough? Perhaps it’s regular practice? If so, how regular? Are these various sins hierarchical, in other words are all the sins weighted equally or are some worse others? Don’t all Christians, all of humanity even, have “selfish ambitions” and “jealousies” to some extent? One may presume that a sin such as murder is far worse than selfish ambition and jealousy, but Paul lumps all of these together under the category “works of the flesh”. As you can see, there is too little information in order to go about accounting for oneself in any meaningful way.
In summary, Christians are in a precarious position. Sin can cause a believer to lose their salvation completely, but there is no detailed information which describes what quantity of sin makes a Christian lose their born again status, no clear way of accounting. You are either saved or doomed, there is no middle ground, and no definite means of determining which group one lies in. Thus all Christians are in an uncertain and dangerous position.
5. Atoning for sin.
The Qur’an tells us that Muslims should not despair of the mercy of Allah, because He can forgive all sins. He is the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful:
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [Chapter 39, verse 53]
Repentance brings about forgiveness, so much so that the evil deeds are replaced with righteous deeds:
“Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [Chapter 25, verse 70]
There is one sin which will not be forgiven by Allah if one does not repent before death, and that is associating partners with Him. This is the worst of sins which takes a person out of the fold of belief and will cause them to enter the Hell Fire forever:
“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.” [Chapter 4, verse 48]
Righteous deeds, such as prayer, wipe out sins:
“And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.” [Chapter 11, verse 114]
Giving charity also wipes out sins:
“If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah , with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.” [Chapter 2, verse 271]
There are some acts that are so virtuous that they can wipe out an entire lifetime’s worth of sins, such as a person converting to Islam or performing the pilgrimage of Hajj:
The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Did you not know that Islam wipes out what came before it, and that Hijrah (emigration in God’s cause) wipes out what came before it and that Hajj wipes out what came before it!’ [Sahih Muslim].
The concept of repentance is present in the Bible:
“Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” [Acts 8:22]
The Bible paints a picture of God having limited mercy, because there is a sin that if committed will never be forgiven, no matter how much and how sincerely one repents:
“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” [Mark 3:29]
Unfortunately for Christians, once the born again “falls away”, their repentance is no longer accepted and they are doomed:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. [Hebrews 6:4-6]
Notice the specific wording being used to describe what must be a saved and born again Christian:
“Those who were once enlightened”
“Have tasted the heavenly gift”
“Become partakers of the Holy Spirit”
“Have tasted the good Word of God”
Since one cannot be a “partaker of the Holy Spirit” unless they are saved and born again then this verse is clearly talking about believing Christians who have lost their way. Unfortunately for them, they can never find their way again because the door of repentance is shut forever.
So, falling away represents a point of no return, and any repentance thereafter is in vain. Remember that there is no absolute way of determining whether one is currently saved or not, because an unspecified quantity of sin causes one to lose their born again status, and one is unable to account for their sins because there is no framework provided to do so.
Many Christians think that they have a guarantee of salvation because of the Cross. Upon reading the Bible’s fine print however, it becomes apparent that the blood of Jesus is made inconsequential by virtue of the Bible’s ambiguity in relation to sin. If one cannot determine whether one has already fallen because one cannot properly account for sin, and being in a fallen state represents a point of no return, then being a Christian is a precarious proposition. If Scripture does not answer the big questions we have in life, then can it really be considered guidance from our Creator?
By contrast the Qur’an provides a robust framework and clear roadmap of how to deal with sin in order to preserve and protect one’s salvation. This is exactly what one what one would expect to find in a genuine book of God’s guidance. It is only through submission to Allah and a reliance on His mercy that one can attain true inner peace and success in the Hereafter:
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” [Chapter 13, verse 28]
To learn more about God in Christianity and Islam, please download your free copy of the book “Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah” from the Iera website: