Objective: The purpose of this lesson is to clearly present the gospel, the biblical solution to our sin problem addressed last week. Participants should hear a clear presentation of the gospel and have an opportunity to voice objections or questions. When the lesson is over, each group member will ideally understand that:
When the study is over, each participant will hopefully take some time to honestly consider the claims of the gospel and, Lord-willing, place their faith in Christ. This may not happen in the short span of Thursday evening, so be prepared to follow up with the person you invited during the next few days to discuss the gospel further.
Discussion Prompt 1: Do you believe that a person can have a genuine relationship with God? If so, how? What is required?
This is designed to be a good discussion starter. This is not the time to clearly present the gospel. Instead, help each person present their view. If needed, ask follow-up questions like, “What would it look like to have a real relationship with God in this life? What would it be like to have a relationship with Him in the next life? How do other religions answer this question?” Use these follow-up questions only as needed to jump-start the discussion. Remember, the goal here for the Christians in the room is NOT to dominate the conversation or lay out the gospel, that will be later. The goal is simply to get everyone participating.
Discussion Prompt 2: If you were to stand face-to-face with God and He asked, “Why should I let you into heaven?” how would you respond?
Here’s another discussion generating question. Again, the goal is not to lay out the gospel (though do feel free to share your own view), the goal is to get everyone participating. This question is also designed to help you all determine the spiritual state of the non-Christians in the group. What are they trusting in to get to heaven? This will help you better explain the gospel to the person you invited as you follow-up with him or her in the coming weeks.
Discussion Prompt 1: Last week we studied humanity’s problem of sin and saw how seriously the Bible treats it. This week we’ll seek a solution to this problem. Let’s start by reading Ephesians 2:8-9, a summary of the biblical solution to our sin problem. How is the solution offered in the Bible different from the answer given by other religions? Do you agree that good works are unable to save a person? Why or why not?
This long question is designed to review the discussion from last week and transition from our problem to God’s solution. Read the question out loud once or twice and then have someone read the passage.
Your discussion at this point is not focused on what is the gospel, it’s more focused on what it’s not – salvation through good works. Other religions typically present salvation as something earned through human effort. In stark contrast, biblical Christianity claims that no human effort could ever fix our sin problem (Isa 64:6; Rom 3:20), and so we are left in absolute dependence upon the grace of God to fix our problem.
Discussion Prompt 2: If our good works cannot save us, then what hope do we have? Read Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as a group. According to the Bible, what did Jesus do about our problem of sin?
It is likely that even after discussion prompt 1, some participants may still not agree that good works can’t save us. That’s okay, we’re just introducing them to these concepts at this point. Regardless, move on to this second question by saying, “Assuming that the Bible is accurate in saying that our good works cannot save us, then what hope…” (and read the rest of the question).
Have a different person look up and read each reference. Now discuss the question. The goal here is to help participants see the radical solution God provided to fix our sin problem – the death of His guiltless Son in our place. Jesus died as our substitute, taking on Himself the penalty for our sins so that through faith in His death and resurrection, we would be forgiven by God. Then the Father raised Him from the dead conquering sin and death so that we would have hope of everlasting life.
These passages should be relatively straightforward. In the book of John, to have eternal life means that a person has been spiritually reborn – he or she was spiritually dead, separated from God due to sin, but now has been made spiritually alive and reconciled to God through forgiveness of sins. This eternal life is a possession of all believers now and forever that can’t be lost. How do we receive this free gift of eternal life? Simply through faith. A person permanently receives eternal life the moment he or she believes that Jesus, God’s own Son, died for their sins and rose again.
As believers, resist the urge to jump in and answer this one immediately. It will be far more effective if the unbelievers in the room are left to wrestle with these verses and draw out the implications. Yet once they’ve participated, do join in to share your thoughts. Hopefully, by the end of this question, the gospel as described in the previous paragraph has been clearly presented.
Discussion Prompt 4: Read Acts 4:12 and 1 John 5:11-13. According to these passages, what is the apparent consequence for those who do not believe in Jesus? Is there any other way to have eternal life apart from Jesus? Do you agree? Why or why not?
Here’s another question where it is best for the believers to hold off a bit and let unbelievers wrestle with the clear teachings of the two passages. The goal is not to get into debates about the destiny of infants or unreached people who die. Instead, the goal is to keep the discussion focused on the people in your group. Answer it from the perspective of participants in this study – is there any way other than faith in Christ that we in this room can fix our sin problem?
Obviously, our answer is “no.” A case can be made for the salvation of infants who die, but that’s not the point of this discussion. For all of us, the Bible says that the only way to be reconciled to God is through faith in His Son. Our goal with this question is to help participants begin to see the choice they have in front of them. If they value the Bible as the source of ultimate truth, then there is only one option for salvation – faith alone in Christ alone. Look for an opportunity to move the discussion to the next question….
Discussion Prompt: Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead? If not, what is keeping you from believing this?
Do you trust Jesus alone for eternal life? Why or why not?
Ask one or both of these questions in any order as you see fit. Ask it to each participant in the group (smaller, non-coed groups are better for this). This really brings our five week study to its climax. Having heard what biblical Christianity teaches, especially about sin and salvation, where do they stand? Faith is a conviction that something is true – are they convinced?
DON’T push hard for conversion here! If they do believe, then praise the Lord! According to the Bible they are at that moment saved. Tell them this fact. Stay with them afterwards and begin to tell them about what has happened – all of their past, present, and future sins have been totally forgiven, they’ve been given eternal life, and God’s Holy Spirit now lives inside them. Begin to teach them about eternal security – that they can never loose this eternal life. It may be helpful to lead them in a prayer, but explain that this is not for salvation – they were saved the moment they believed. Instead, lead them in a prayer of thanksgiving where they thank God for sending His Son to die for them and for giving them eternal life. Plan on following up with them once a week (or more) for the next few weeks to begin to ground them in their faith. Also invite them to church and to a small group!
What if they’re not yet ready to believe. No worries! Plan on following up with them in the coming weeks to talk about the gospel further and to discuss objections they may have. Keep praying for them and remember that it often takes multiple hearings of the gospel for someone to believe.
NOTE: In our groups, we found that some non-Christian participants were reluctant to open up on this question and share any objections or barriers to believing in Christ. If you find this to be the case, you might try asking the question more generally just to get the discussion going. For example, “What are some typical barriers that people might face in trusting Christ?” You can then follow up with individuals after the study is over to see where they stand personally. One of the advantages of the study being organized around personal invitation is that even if people are unwilling to share in the group setting, they might be willing to discuss these issues one-to-one with a friend.
If you need materials to begin new-believer follow-up with any of the participants, feel free to download our Essentials packet.