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"To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Has Done"

Reader comment on item: Counting Islamists
in response to reader comment: LACTANIUS

Submitted by Lactantius Jr (United Kingdom), Nov 25, 2008 at 07:58

To btilly

Thank you again for your kind words about my knowledge of what I truly believe, and although the exact date of Jesus Christ's birth is not known, virtually every historical and Apostolic church celebrates His birth on 25th.December, why should this be so? Is it because as you say, "Constantine just gave the Christians a day to celebrate like the pagans did, and thus, the birth of Jesus became December 25?"

Emperor Constantine was born ~285 AD and died 337 AD, and Hippolytus of Rome, born ~170 AD and died ~235 AD, writing around 225 AD, well before the reign of Constantine, mentions the date of Christmas as December 25 ("eight days before the kalends of January"). Cited in "Handbook of Biblical Chronology" (Jack Finegan, Hendrickson, 1998 revised edition) and quoted by Richard Ostling of Associated Press at,

http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/12/23/special_reports/religion/21_50_1412_22_04.txt

Was celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th.December chosen to counter pagan festivals?"

Christians of the late third and early fourth centuries, had been contending for the faith against pagans since the Emperor Aurelian (AD 214-275) established the Sol Invictus, the feast of the unconquered Sun, on December 25th. ("The Origins of Christmas" Joseph F.Kelly, Liturgical Press, 2004))

For Christians, Jesus is the true Sun, the Sun of Righteousness (a title derived from Malachi 4:2). In fact, Aurelian may have established the Sol Invictus because of the rising popularity of Christianity, and may have established the date of the Sol Invictus in response to Christian celebrations already occurring on that day!!

Joseph Kelly also explains the connection of Christmas to the Saturnalia feast of ancient Rome. Many claim that Christmas is really just the Saturnalia festival dressed up. According to Kelly, since the festival of Saturnalia always ended at the latest on December 23, the claim that Christmas was chosen to coincide with Saturnalia is rather weak. However, since the celebration of Saturnalia occurred around Christmas time, it is very possible that this made December 25th, already celebrated by many Christians as Christ's birth, even more of an ideal date, because it offered an alternative to the popular pagan Saturnalia festival in Rome. Is there anything wrong with Christians wanting to "steal the thunder" from a pagan festival? Christmas honours the true Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, and it is widely known that on December 25th. Christians from all over the world celebrate the birth of the Sun of Righteousness, Immanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ.

My previous postings have attempted to describe the authentic Christian understanding of the divine nature of Jesus Christ, and His relationship to God the Father, based on what the Bible says, and I will not say any more about that, but will comment on your closing remark, "If Jesus was God, why a mediator?"

The word "mediator" appears 4 times in the New Testament, 3 times in this passage from Galatians 3:19-20

"Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave His law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, Who is one, did not use a mediator when He gave His promise to Abraham."

And referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, it is used at 1 Timothy 2:5,

"For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus."

Do we need a mediator?

The book of Job is concerned with the all-important question of why suffering exists in God's world, and in it, we read Job saying,

"God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with Him or take Him to trial. If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together."

Job 9:32-33

Well btilly, today we have a mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because He is God the Son, He has one hand in the hand of God the Father, and He is a mediator because He became a man. He can hold my hand; He understands me. He understands you, you can go to Him, and He is not going to be upset with you. He doesn't have bad days, He will not lose His temper with you, strike you or hurt you in any way, He knows we've come short of the glory of God, He knows that and still loves us and wants to put His loving arm around us. This is why we "need" Jesus Christ, because He is able to stand between God and man and reconcile the two, and we should go through Him because there is really no use coming and telling me your troubles, I may not be sympathetic with you; I may not really understand your case. He does. He's human, He's an umpire, an arbitrator, a mediator. He has put His hand in mine, He puts His hand in mine and takes hold of me, also holding on to God because He is God, and He has brought us together.

What do Judaism and Islam say about mediators/intercessors?

Judaism and Islam are similar in regarding human beings as self-sufficient moral beings not in need of a mediator or intercessor, capable of overcoming their "evil inclinations" and struggling up the steep hill of morality, seeking to ascend ever nearer to God and to Allah.

Here are some typical fairly recent rabbinic comments,

"Between God and man stands no one, not God-man, not angel, not advocate. Nor is intercession or intervention required. As nothing comes between soul and body, father and child, potter and vessel, so nothing separates man from God, soul of his soul, his Father and Fashioner." (Steinberg, Milton, Basic Judaism, Harvest Book, Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., NY, 1947, p.57-58)

"Man occupies a position in the Jewish view which makes mediation not only superfluous but unbearable. It is an intrusion which violates man's rights and injures his dignity. Righteousness, to Judaism, cannot be imputed, it must be attained…man is able to stand by himself; herein lies his dignity." (Jocz, Jakob, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979, p.280.)

"Mediation implies the inadequacy of the human effort to reach out Godwards. Judaism is founded on the premise that man is capable by virtue of his moral effort of approaching God. Hence, God coming to man's aid not only becomes superfluous, but actually interferes with the progress of human development." (Jocz, Jakob, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979, p.278)

And Islam? What does Islam say about a mediator/intercessor between human beings and Allah?

The Qur'an has a lot to say about intercession on the Day of Judgment. In fact, the Qur'an says mutually exclusive, contradictory things regarding intercession as the following passages show.

"O children of Israel! call to mind My favour which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations. And be on your guard against a day when one soul shall not avail another in the least, neither shall intercession on its behalf be accepted, nor shall any compensation be taken from it, nor shall they be helped." Surah 2:47-48

"O children of Israel, call to mind My favour which I bestowed on you and that I made you excel the nations. And be on your guard against a day when no soul shall avail another in the least neither shall any compensation be accepted from it, nor shall intercession profit it, nor shall they be helped." Surah 2:122-123

"O you who believe! spend out of what We have given you before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, neither any friendship nor intercession, and the unbelievers - they are the unjust." Surah 2:254

"Not your desires, nor those of the people of the Book (can prevail): Whosoever works evil, will be requited accordingly. Nor will he find, besides Allah, any protector or helper. If any do deeds of righteousness, - Be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them" Surah 4:123-124

"And warn with it those who fear that they shall be gathered to their Lord - there is no guardian for them, nor any intercessor besides Him - that they may guard (against evil)." Surah 6:51

"Leave alone those who take their religion to be mere play and amusement, and are deceived by the life of this world. But proclaim (to them) this (truth): that every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts: it will find for itself no protector or intercessor except Allah: if it offered every ransom, (or reparation), none will be accepted: such is (the end of) those who deliver themselves to ruin by their own acts: they will have for drink (only) boiling water, and for punishment, one most grievous: for they persisted in rejecting Allah." Surah 6:70

"Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector': and on Allah let the Believers put their trust." Surah 9:51

"Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six Days. Then He mounted the Throne. Ye have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator. Will ye not then remember?" Surah 32:4

"Verily We have revealed the Book to thee in Truth, for (instructing) mankind. He, then, that receives guidance benefits his own soul: but he that strays injures his own soul. Nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs. It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed verily in this are Signs for those who reflect. What! Do they take for intercessors others besides Allah? Say: "Even if they have no power whatever and no intelligence?" Say: Unto Allah belongeth all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. And afterward unto Him ye will be brought back." Surah 39:41-44

"Again, what will explain to thee what the Day of Judgment is? (It will be) the Day when no soul shall have power (to do) aught for another: For the command, that Day, will be (wholly) with Allah." Surah 82:18-19

The Qur'an says that even prophets and angels can only hope for Allah's mercy:

"Say: Cry unto those (saints and angels) whom ye assume (to be gods) beside Him, yet they have no power to rid you of misfortune nor to change. Those unto whom they cry seek the way of approach to their Lord, which of them shall be the nearest; they hope for His mercy and they fear His doom. Lo! the doom of thy Lord is to be shunned." Surah 17:56-57

Regarding the permissibility of intercession however, the next passages contradict the foregoing,

"Allah! There is no god but He,- the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory)." Surah 2:255

"Verily your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority), regulating and governing all things. No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His leave (hath been obtained). This is Allah your Lord; Him therefore serve ye: will ye not receive admonition?" Surah 10:3

"On the day when We shall gather the righteous unto the Beneficent, a goodly company. And drive the guilty unto hell, a weary herd, They will have no power of intercession, save him who hath made a covenant with his Lord." Surah 19:85-87

"On that Day shall no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by (Allah) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him." Surah 20:109

"And We did not send before you any messenger but We revealed to him that there is no god but Me, therefore serve Me. And they say: The Beneficent Allah has taken to Himself a son. Glory be to Him. Nay! they are honoured servants They do not precede Him in speech and (only) according to His commandment do they act. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves and for fear of Him they tremble. And whoever of them should say: Surely I am a god besides Him, such a one do We recompense with hell; thus do, We recompense the unjust. Surah 21:25-29

"No intercession can avail in His Presence, except for those for whom He has granted permission. So far (is this the case) that, when terror is removed from their hearts (at the Day of Judgment, then) will they say, ‘what is it that your Lord commanded?' they will say, ‘That which is true and just; and He is the Most High Most Great'." Surah 34:23

"Those who sustain the Throne (of Allah) and those around it Sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: Our Lord! Thy Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Thy Path; and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire! And grant, our Lord! that they enter the Gardens of Eternity, which Thou hast promised to them, and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their posterity! For Thou art (He), the Exalted in Might, Full of Wisdom. And preserve them from (all) ills; and any whom Thou dost preserve from ills that Day,- on them wilt Thou have bestowed Mercy indeed: and that will be truly (for them) the highest Achievement." Surah 40:7-9

"And those unto whom they cry instead of Him possess no power of intercession, saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly." Surah 43:86

"How many-so-ever be the angels in the heavens, their intercession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He pleases and that he is acceptable to Him." Surah 53:26

And here's a verse implying that Muhammad cannot intercede for anyone to save them from hell, with the Qur'an asking,

"Is he on whom the word of doom is fulfilled (to be helped), and canst thou (O Muhammad) rescue him who is in the Fire?" Surah 39:19

This verse should not surprise us, because according to the Qur'an at Surah 46:9, Muhammad did not know what Allah would do with him, and I quote several translations of the Qur'anic Arabic, which all quite clearly show that even Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, did not know what Allah would do with him,

"Say: ‘I am no bringer of new-fangled doctrine among the apostles, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I follow but that which is revealed to me by inspiration; I am but a Warner open and clear.'"

Abdullah Yusuf Ali

"Say (O Muhammad SAW):‘I am not a new thing among the Messengers (of Allah) (i.e. I am not the first Messenger) nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner.'"

Hilali-Khan

"Say, ‘I am not different from other messengers. I have no idea what will happen to me or to you. I only follow what is revealed to me. I am no more than a profound warner.'"

Khalifa

"Say: ‘I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner.'"

Pickthall

"Say: ‘I am not the first of the apostles, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you: I do not follow anything but that which is revealed to me, and I am nothing but a plain warner.'"

Shakir

"Say, `I am no innovation among Messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow what is revealed to me; and I am but a plain Warner.'"

Sher Ali

"Say: 'I am not an innovation among the Messengers, and I know not what shall be done with me or with you. I only follow what is revealed to me; I am only a clear warner.'"

Arberry

"Say, 'I am not an innovator among the apostles; nor do I know what will be done with me or with you if I follow aught but what I am inspired with; nor am I aught but a plain warner.' "

Palmer

"SAY: ‘I am no apostle of new doctrines: neither know I what will be done with me or you. Only what is revealed to me do I follow, and I am only charged to warn openly.'"

Rodwell

"Say, ‘I am not singular among the apostles; neither do I know what will be done with me or with you [hereafter]: I follow no other than what is revealed unto me; neither am I any more than a public warner.'"

Sale

"Say, ‘I am nothing new among Allah's messengers, I do not know what will be done with me or with you; I only follow what is revealed to me; I only warn plainly.'"

M.A.S.Abdel Haleem

And to really "ink-it-in" here are Muhammad's words recorded in the Hadith of Sahi Bukhari,

Narrated ‘Um al-‘Ala:
An Ansari woman who gave the pledge of allegiance to the Prophet that the Ansar drew lots concerning the dwelling of the Emigrants. ‘Uthman bin Maz'un was decided to dwell with them (i.e. Um al-‘Ala's family), 'Uthman fell ill and I nursed him till he died, and we covered him with his clothes. Then the Prophet came to us and I (addressing the dead body) said, "O Abu As-Sa'ib, may Allah's Mercy be on you! I bear witness that Allah has honoured you." On that the Prophet said, "How do you know that Allah has honoured him?" I replied, "I do not know. May my father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Allah's Apostle! But who else is worthy of it (if not 'Uthman)?" He said, "As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me," By Allah, I will never assert the piety of anyone after him. That made me sad, and when I slept I saw in a dream a flowing stream for 'Uthman bin Maz'un. I went to Allah's Apostle and told him of it. He remarked, "That symbolizes his (good) deeds." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266)

What a counsel of despair, what bankruptcy, what hopelessness, what lostness, may I ever seek to hold out the glorious Gospel of Grace to all who will have it, and as I close, I'm singing some words from "To God Be The Glory," words written by Fanny ("Queen of the Gospel Hymn) Crosby, "To God be the glory, great things He has done, so loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who gave us His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life gate that ALL may go in," the refrain saying, "O come to the Father through Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, great things He has done."

MAY go in, not WILL go in. We're not worth it, we don't deserve it, and we can't earn it, do we want it? "it" being life in all its fullness, even eternal life, secured and guaranteed by Jesus Christ, the Jesus Who is,

" able to save to the uttermost (and from the guttermost) all those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." Hebrews 7:25

With kind regards and best wishes

Lactantius Jr

Submitting....

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