In explaining the difference between God’s love in Islam vs. Christianity, Eric Davis says, “The greatest difference between the Qur’an and the Bible comes down to the death of Christ for our sin.” As 1 John 4:10 explains, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Why does this make all the difference?
God is a holy God. He loathes sin with righteous anger. And he must loathe sin because he is good; not relatively good, but absolutely good….
Can we simply be forgiven? The God of the Qur’an is said to be “all-forgiving, most merciful” (Surah 24:22). On the surface this seems loving. But it is not only lacking, but a fictitious forgiveness because it is a forgiveness without propitiation. If God is holy and just, then the only way to forgive is by propitiation through a righteous substitute.
Imagine a thief, rapist, and murder brought before a judge and he says, “Well, you’re all forgiven because I am all-forgiving and most merciful.” This would be an extraordinarily wicked judge. He releases the wicked apart from justice. Notwithstanding his claims to be all-forgiving and most merciful, he’s as bad as the criminals. But if that judge brought in a righteous substitute to receive the just sentence for each of those criminals, then the judge would uphold the law by forgiving justly.
To be sure, the God of the Bible is all-forgiving and most merciful. He forgives and forgives and forgives because he is loving. But how? How can a God of blazing holiness forgive even one monstrously depraved rebel like a human? Propitiation. Propitiation gives wheels and movement to the sovereign love of God. There can be a love from God in common grace towards his enemies (cf. Matt. 5:44-47), but propitiation-rendering forgiveness sends love to a jaw-dropping magnitude….
When we speak to Muslims, we must speak of the tangible and terrible love of God in propitiation through the finished work of Christ. For a deity to be deity—truly deity in holiness, righteousness, and love—he must love in propitiation, or he cannot love at all.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The cross amazes me with its brilliance. Romans 3:21–26 takes my breath away whenever I think about it:
[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Emphasis added.]
“Because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4), Jesus willingly took the wrath of the Father so that God would remain just while graciously expressing His love through mercy and forgiveness. No other religion has a way to reconcile justice and mercy—either there is forgiveness without justice, or there is justice without forgiveness. Either righteousness suffers, or we suffer for our sins without hope. But at the cross, in love and sacrifice, at His own expense, our God upholds both justice and mercy perfectly, and we see His glory.
Muslims reject the idea that Jesus died on the cross; they don’t understand why God would let His prophet suffer. As Eric Davis points out so beautifully, this is why. Love is why. It’s worth reading the rest of his post.