The Messiah Our Righteousness Has Come!

Muslim polemicist Paul Bilal Williams recently published a blog post where he tries to pit Luke against the blessed Apostle Paul by showing that. 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 https://bloggingtheology.net/2016/08/17/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 would come to then 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.

 

The Basis of a Person’s Salvation and Blamelessness

Zechariah himself prophesied that forgiveness of sins came from trusting in the Savior that God was raising up from the house of David:

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up A MIGHTY SAVIOR for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” Luke 1:67-80

As Luke goes on to show, that Savior is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ:

“Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David A SAVIOR, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and SAVIOR that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel A SAVIOR, Jesus, as he promised… Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:22-23, 38-39

Zechariah wasn’t the only believer to speak of the redeeming work of Christ:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:25-38

Even Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth, who was also filled with the Holy Spirit, testified to Jesus being her very own Lord from the moment of his human conception!

“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of MY LORD comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” Luke 1:39-45

Moreover, both Christ and his blessed disciples proclaimed that salvation comes from trusting in the Lord Jesus:

“Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the 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

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and TO SAVE the lost.’” Luke 19:9-10

“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed IN HIS NAME to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” Luke 24:44-47

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

“After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be SAVED through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’” Acts 15:7-11

“Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be SAVED?’ They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be SAVED, you and your household.’” Acts 16:30-31

 

Divine Confirmation

Christ and his Apostles also went around performing miraculous signs and healings in the name of Jesus as supernatural confirmation that a person can only be saved by having faith in Christ:

“One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying 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 middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw THEIR FAITH, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the one who was paralyzed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’” Luke 5:17-26

What makes this particular episode rather astonishing is that Jesus does and knows the very same things which the Hebrew Bible says only Yahweh is capable of doing and knowing, namely, forgiving sins, healing diseases and knowing the secret thoughts of men’s hearts:

“then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know—according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart—” 1 Kings 8:39

“would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:21

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” Psalm 103:2-4

Other miracles include:

“And it came to pass, in the turning back of Jesus, the multitude received him, for they were all looking for him, and lo, there came a man, whose name [is] Jairus, and he was a chief of the synagogue, and having fallen at the feet of Jesus, was calling on him to come to his house; because he had an only daughter about twelve years [old], and she was dying. And in his going away, the multitudes were thronging him, and a woman, having an issue of blood for twelve years, who, having spent on physicians all her living, was not able to be healed by any, having come near behind, touched the fringe of his garment, and presently the issue of her blood stood. And Jesus said, `Who [is] it that touched me?’ and all denying, Peter and those with him said, `Master, the multitudes press thee, and throng [thee], and thou dost say, Who [is] it that touched me!’ And Jesus said, `Some one did touch me, for I knew power having gone forth from me.’ And the woman, having seen that she was not hid, trembling, came, and having fallen before him, for what cause she touched him declared to him before all the people, and how she was healed presently; and he said to her, `Take courage, daughter, THY FAITH hath saved thee, be going on to peace.’  While he is yet speaking, there doth come a certain one from the chief of the synagogue’s [house], saying to him – `Thy daughter hath died, harass not the Teacher;’ and Jesus having heard, answered him, saying, `Be not afraid, ONLY BELIEVE, and she shall be saved.’ And having come to the house, he suffered no one to go in, except Peter, and James, and John, and the father of the child, and the mother; and they were all weeping, and beating themselves for her, and he said, `Weep not, she did not die, but doth sleep; and they were deriding him, knowing that she did die; and he having put all forth without, and having taken hold of her hand, called, saying, `Child, arise;’ and her spirit came back, and she arose presently, and he directed that there be given to her to eat; and her parents were amazed, but he charged them to say to no one what was come to pass.” Luke 8:40-56 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

“Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere… John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’” Luke 9:1-6, 49-50

“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go… ‘Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”’… The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” Luke 10:1, 8, 17-20

“As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man 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 see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your FAITH has saved you.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.” Luke 18:35-43

“Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!’ And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’ So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” Acts 9:32-42

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, 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, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you… When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:1-16

“The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their 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 questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.” THERE IS SALVATION IN NO ONE ELSE, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among mortals by which we must be SAVED.’ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” Acts 4:5-14

Peter’s Spirit-filled proclamation that salvation is found only in Jesus, and that it is his name alone that is able to save, identifies the risen Christ as Yahweh God in the flesh, since the Hebrew Bible emphatically teaches that it is Yahweh alone who is able to save anyone from their sins:

But Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in chaos.’ I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right. Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge—those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me. Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:17-22

The Apostle Paul, therefore, stands vindicated since a careful and accurate reading of Luke-Acts proves that this blessed servant of the risen Christ was right. Just as our examination of Luke-Acts demonstrated, even Zechariah and Elizabeth knew that no one could ever be justified by keeping the Law. Rather, the Holy Spirit had revealed to them that salvation comes from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s unique and beloved Son:

“Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.” Luke 9:28-36

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural citations taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible.

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