Names of God
The great purpose of man, especially the believer in Christ, is to glorify God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Essential to our ability to glorify God is the knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that knowledge.
The word “glory” in the Greek New Testament is doxa which means an opinion, an estimation, or reputation in which one is held. It refers to that which should accrue to God as praise, thanksgiving, obedience, reverence, and service because of who God is and what God does (past, present, and future). In other words, giving glory to God is tied in with the knowledge of God (revelation of God), and knowing God personally (response to God).
The Lord Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” The many names in Scripture constitute additional revelation of God’s character, His works, and His relationship to us based on His character and works. The names which God chose for Himself and which are ascribed to Him in the Word of God are additional revelations of the who and what of God that we may know and relate to God.
Note David’s declarations about God’s name and word in Psalm 138:1-2. God’s name declares much about His person, but it is God’s Word that reveals God and His name.
We know what God is like, not only by His perfections and works, but also by His names. They tell us many things about God’s care and concern for his own. This is one of the fascinating studies of Scripture. The various circumstances which bring forth each of the names of God are important.1
In our twentieth century Western culture, personal names are little more than labels to distinguish one person from another. Sometimes nicknames are chosen which tell something about a person, but even this is a poor reflection of the significance of names in the Bible.
Unfortunately, to many the names God or Lord convey little more than designations of a supreme being. It says little to them about God’s character, His ways, and what God means to each of us as human beings. But in Scripture, the names of God are like miniature portraits and promises. In Scripture, a person’s name identified them and stood for something specific. This is especially true of God. Naming carried special significance. It was a sign of authority and power. This is evident in the fact that God revealed His names to His people rather than allowing them to choose their names for Him. This is also seen in the fact that God often changed the names of His people: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel. Note also how this concept of authority and power is seen when Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of Daniel and his three friends.
The names of God in General
There are a number of instances where no name of God is employed, but where simply the term “name” in reference to God is used as the point of focus:
(1) Abraham called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:8; 13:4).
(2) The Lord proclaimed His own name before Moses (Ex. 33:19; 34:5).
(3) Israel was warned against profaning the name of the Lord (Lev. 13:21; 22:2, 32).
(4) The name of the Lord was not to be taken in vain (Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11).
(5) The priests of Israel were to minister in the name of the Lord (Deut. 18:5; 21:5).
(6) The name of God is called “wonderful” in Judges 13:18.
(7) To call on the name of the Lord was to worship Him as God (Gen. 21:33; 26:25).
Consequently, from this we can conclude that such phrases as “the name of the LORD” or “the name of God” refer to God’s whole character. It was a summary statement embodying the entire person of God.2
When we turn to the New Testament we find the same. The name Jesus is used in a similar way to the name of God in the Old Testament:
(1) Salvation is through His name (John 1:12).
(2) Believers are to gather in His name (Matt. 18:20).
(3) Prayer is to be made in His name (John 14:13-14).
(4) The servant of the Lord who bears the name of Christ will be hated (Matt. 10:22).
(5) The book of Acts makes frequent mention of worship, service, and suffering in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:18; 5:28, 41; 10:43; 19:17).
(6) It is at the name of Jesus that every knee will one day bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
So, just as the name of God in the Old Testament spoke of the holy character of God the Father, so the name of Jesus in the New Testament speaks of the holy character of God the Son.3
Overview of the Names of God in Scripture
Names of God, part 3
Overview of the Names of God in Scripture
(1) Elohim: The plural form of EL, meaning “strong one.” It is used of false gods, but when used of the true God, it is a plural of majesty and intimates the trinity. It is especially used of God’s sovereignty, creative work, mighty work for Israel and in relation to His sovereignty (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 32:27; Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:18; Deut. 5:23; 8:15; Ps. 68:7).
Compounds of El:
- El Shaddai:“God Almighty.” The derivation is uncertain. Some think it stresses God’s loving supply and comfort; others His power as the Almighty one standing on a mountain and who corrects and chastens (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:1; Ps. 91:1, 2).
- El Elyon: “The Most High God.” Stresses God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy (Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25).
- El Olam: “The Everlasting God.” Emphasizes God’s unchangeableness and is connected with His inexhaustibleness (Gen. 16:13).
(2) Yahweh (YHWH): Comes from a verb which means “to exist, be.” This, plus its usage, shows that this name stresses God as the independent and self-existent God of revelation and redemption (Gen. 4:3; Ex. 6:3 (cf. 3:14); 3:12).
Compounds of Yahweh: Strictly speaking, these compounds are designations or titles which reveal additional facts about God’s character.
- Yahweh Jireh (Yireh): “The Lord will provide.” Stresses God’s provision for His people (Gen. 22:14).
- Yahweh Nissi:“The Lord is my Banner.” Stresses that God is our rallying point and our means of victory; the one who fights for His people (Ex. 17:15).
- Yahweh Shalom:“The Lord is Peace.” Points to the Lord as the means of our peace and rest (Jud. 6:24).
- Yahweh Sabbaoth:“The Lord of Hosts.” A military figure portraying the Lord as the commander of the armies of heaven (1 Sam. 1:3; 17:45).
- Yahweh Maccaddeshcem: “The Lord your Sanctifier.” Portrays the Lord as our means of sanctification or as the one who sets believers apart for His purposes (Ex. 31:13).
- Yahweh Ro’i: “The Lord my Shepherd.” Portrays the Lord as the Shepherd who cares for His people as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture (Ps. 23:1).
- Yahweh Tsidkenu: “The Lord our Righteousness.” Portrays the Lord as the means of our righteousness (Jer. 23:6).
- Yahweh Shammah: “The Lord is there.” Portrays the Lord’s personal presence in the millennial kingdom (Ezek. 48:35).
- Yahweh Elohim Israel: “The Lord, the God of Israel.” Identifies Yahweh as the God of Israel in contrast to the false gods of the nations (Jud. 5:3.; Isa. 17:6).
(3) Adonai: Like Elohim, this too is a plural of majesty. The singular form means “master, owner.” Stresses man’s relationship to God as his master, authority, and provider (Gen. 18:2; 40:1; 1 Sam. 1:15; Ex. 21:1-6; Josh. 5:14).
(4) Theos: Greek word translated “God.” Primary name for God used in the New Testament. Its use teaches: (1) He is the only true God (Matt. 23:9; Rom. 3:30); (2) He is unique (1 Tim. 1:17; John 17:3; Rev. 15:4; 16:7); (3) He is transcendent (Acts 17:24; Heb. 3:4; Rev. 10:6); (4) He is the Savior (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10). This name is used of Christ as God in John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.
(5) Kurios: Greek word translated “Lord.” Stresses authority and supremacy. While it can mean sir (John 4:11), owner (Luke 19:33), master (Col. 3:22), or even refer to idols (1 Cor. 8:5) or husbands (1 Pet. 3:6), it is used mostly as the equivalent of Yahweh of the Old Testament. It too is used of Jesus Christ meaning (1) Rabbi or Sir (Matt. 8:6); (2) God or Deity (John 20:28; Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11).
(6) Despotes: Greek word translated “Master.” Carries the idea of ownership while kurios stressed supreme authority (Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4).
(7) Father:A distinctive New Testament revelation is that through faith in Christ, God becomes our personal Father. Father is used of God in the Old Testament only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament. As a name of God, it stresses God’s loving care, provision, discipline, and the way we are to address God in prayer (Matt. 7:11; Jam. 1:17; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:16; 16:23; Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 1 Thess. 3:11).
“Experience a life of freedom and joy!
Whether you have been a Christian for a long time but never been truly discipled in the basics of the Christian faith or just need a concise refresher course, this study is for you. Discover who Christ is, what he has done for us on the cross, and our new identity and way of living in him. The heart of this course is the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ and the reality of “Christ alive and living in me.”
Knowing and living this way leads to the kind of life Jesus means for you to have—a life of freedom and joy!
Start the adventure into graceful living today…
Using This Study GuideRelated Media
The Basic Study
This study guide consists of 11 lessons covering foundational principles of Christianity — who Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross for us, what his resurrection means for us, and our identity in him. As a topical study, the lessons cover a lot of scripture passages. Because of the importance of clearly communicating the truth of our faith in Christ, each lesson contains several paragraphs of teaching interspersed between the questions. If you cannot do the entire lesson one week, please read the teaching paragraphs so you will grasp the main idea of the lesson.
Process of Bible Study: Each lesson includes core questions covering the passage narrative. These core questions will take you through the process of inductive Bible study—observation, interpretation, and application. The process is more easily understood in the context of answering these questions:
- What does the passage say? (Observation: what’s actually there)
- What does it mean? (Interpretation: the author’s intended meaning)
- How does this apply to me today? (Application: making it personal) Questions identified as “Graceful Living” lead you to introspection and application of specific truths to your life. Feel free to use creative means to express God’s faithfulness to you in your life’s journey.
To aid in proper interpretation and application of the study, five additional study aids are located where appropriate in the lesson:
- Historical Insights
- Scriptural Insights
- From the Greek/Hebrew (definitions of Greek or Hebrew words)
- Focus on the Meaning
- Think About It (thoughtful reflection)
- Deeper Discoveries (optional research)
The core information provided in this study is derived from the T.E.A.M. Training course used at Crossroads Bible Church in Double Oak, TX. The heart of the course has remained the same—the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ and the reality of “Christ alive and living in me.”
What Jesus offers to his followers is life full of his grace. “Graceful living” is life overflowing with his grace, resulting in freedom and joy!
“Transformation takes place in the context of grace. Grace is commonly defined as unmerited favor…an undeserved gift. We understand grace is required for salvation and yet too often, grace is forgotten afterwards. We move into a graceless-centered life and instead tie our spiritual growth to works-based performance. God cannot love us more and he refuses to love us less. Performance does not earn salvation, love, transformation or spiritual growth.” (Debby Rowe, The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide, “Navigate” page 9)
Introduction: Graceful LivingRelated Media
Jesus Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus Christ presented himself as the answer to every need of the human heart. The New Testament writers unanimously taught the same. Multitudes of people throughout the centuries since have witnessed that he does indeed do what he promised for those who trust and follow him.
How Jesus Discipled Me
I have been a Jesus follower for more than 40 years now. Not once have I regretted that decision. I am a lifelong learner, a student of God’s Word and my Lord’s life. He teaches me in many ways. Recently, someone asked me, “How has Jesus discipled you? What has made the most impact on my life?” When it comes to knowing who I am and where I stand with my God, without a doubt, the best course I have ever taken was T.E.A.M. Training, created by Tim Stevenson and offered through Crossroads Bible Church in recent years. I found that this course effectively covered the foundational principles of Christianity—who Christ is, what He accomplished on the cross for us, what the resurrection means for us, and our identity in him. It communicated clearly and succinctly to me what I needed to know to live dependently on Christ and rest in my assurance of life in him and through him. Through T.E.A.M., I learned more about the purpose for the cross and the resurrection than I had ever heard before. I learned how to recognize the poison of legalism in a Christian’s life. It was through T.E.A.M. that I became aware that my flesh is not getting better the longer I know Christ. I need to depend 100% on him now as I ever did as a young believer in the 70s. Hundreds of others also found their lives transformed as they understood God’s grace toward them and active in their lives. They, too, experienced a life of freedom and joy!
Times change; people change; circumstances change. T.E.A.M. Training is no longer being taught. Yet, these truths are essential for every believer to enjoy the life God has planned for her. So, with permission from Tim Stevenson to adapt the course (given as a series of lectures) to a women’s Bible study, Graceful Living is the result and is freely available to everyone. The core of the study is based on what was taught in the original T.E.A.M. course, including many of the charts. I have revised the wording and added information where needed to make the studies flow better.
The heart of the course has remained true to the original—the message of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ and the reality of “Christ alive and living in me.” This study will help you build a foundation for successful, enjoyable Christian living and to equip you for personal ministry to others. All based on “grace.” You will experience a life of freedom and joy!
Importance of the Theology of Grace
It is critically important for women who know Christ to have sound theology (rational, systematic understanding of God). Theology is inescapable. Any thoughts you have about God or information you receive about God is theology. We live according to our theology. Our theology can be based on truth or error. Truth and error lead to dramatically different results. Jesus told those who believed in him, “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) If truth sets you free, then the opposite is also true: it is error that binds you.
Jesus Christ invites you to follow him in discipleship—not to imprison you but to give you abundant life and rest for your soul. What Jesus offers to his followers is life full of his grace.
What is grace? In particular, what is God’s grace?
Focus on the Meaning: “Transformation takes place in the context of grace. Grace is commonly defined as unmerited favor…an undeserved gift. We understand grace is required for salvation and yet too often, grace is forgotten afterwards. We move into a graceless-centered life and instead tie our spiritual growth to works-based performance. God cannot love us more, and he refuses to love us less. Performance does not earn salvation, love, transformation or spiritual growth.” (Debby Rowe, The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide, “Navigate” page 9)
Understanding God’s grace given to you is essential to enjoying the life that God has planned for you. May our “Grace-giving” God completely fill your heart with his grace so that you become a “Grace-giver” in your life. “Graceful living” is life overflowing with his grace—a life of freedom and joy!
1. Christ, the Grace-GiftRelated Media
“For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17)
Christianity is Christ!
You heard the good news of the gospel and believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who gave himself for your sins so that you could have eternal life just by believing in him—the Savior. But more than salvation, Jesus Christ calls you into a relationship with himself! Christianity is Christ! It is not a lifestyle, rules of conduct, or a society whose members were initiated by the sprinkling or covering of water. Christ calls us into a close relationship with him as brothers and friends.
Yet, he is also our Lord, the one who sits at the right hand of his Father God as head over everything else in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:20-22). As Lord, Jesus Christ is our master—the one to whom we should willingly give our obedience. He is our model of how to live as humans in a dependent relationship with God, and he is our mentor in walking with us in that dependent relationship. Jesus Christ calls us to a new life, clothes us with himself, commissions us with a purpose, and empowers us to fulfill that purpose.
Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to make disciples—the very ones who watched him make disciples of them. They saw him do it! They knew what he was commissioning them to do. They experienced that relationship with him that changed their own lives. So, they were willing to bring that experience to the lost, hurting, hopeless populace in their neighborhoods, cities, and destinations. They brought good news that was real, relevant, and life-giving.
Jesus’ disciples 2000 years ago were no different than we are except they physically beheld the risen Christ. We must see him through eyes of faith and allow the gospels to leap off the page revealing our Lord so that we may know this God-man who changed our lives as we received the Good News—Christ. We need to frequently read the Gospels, watch movies based on them, and tell the stories about Jesus as often as needed to know his life well because…Christianity is Christ! Let’s get to know this Christ who is the ultimate grace gift to us.
Day One Study
The claims of Jesus Christ
According to the Bible, God chose to reveal himself to the nation of Israel and, through Israel, to the world. Many truths about God (“attributes”) are taught in the Old Testament. Our God is:
If there is anything clearly and relentlessly asserted about God in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is that there is only one true and living God. The Jewish statement of faith is from Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
“Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”
God desires man to worship him alone (Isaiah 42:8; 43:10-13). Jesus of Nazareth appeared and issued his challenge within this most monotheistic of cultures. When he came on the scene, Jesus called people to a spiritual relationship with himself and God the Father (John 17:3; Matthew 11:28-30). He claimed to be the answer to the needs of the human heart. Of all the world’s religions, Jesus is the only “founder” who claimed to be equal with God. Let’s see what the scripture says about who Jesus Christ is.
1. Notice what Jesus claims about himself in each of the following sections of John 5:16-47.
- John 5:16-27—
- John 5:31-40, 46—
2. Christ made claim to divine rights and authority. What right or authority does Jesus claim in the following passages?
- Mark 2:1-12—
- Luke 8:26-33—
- Luke 17:11-19—
- John 14:12-14—
3. Jesus claimed preexistence. What do these verses reveal about his preexistence?
- John 6:32-35, 38, 49-51—
- John 8:56-59—
- John 17:5, 24—
Think About It: Was Jesus just a great religious teacher? “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse ...You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pages 54-55)
Day Two Study
Jesus Christ claimed to possess a unique relationship with God the Father, a unique authority from the Father, and to be the center and goal of the Hebrew Scriptures. He accepted worship, claimed the authority to forgive sins and pronounce judgment, demonstrated authority over demonic powers and claimed the ability to answer prayer.
4. What else did Jesus claim about himself in John 8:28-29, 46?
Scriptural Insight: The innocence of Jesus—Though Jesus was executed by Rome as a state criminal (the meaning of crucifixion), his innocence was repeatedly confirmed by others: Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:4,13-15,22), King Herod Antipas (Luke 23:8-12,15), a crucified criminal (Luke 23:41), and a Roman centurion (Luke 23:47).
5. Read Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14.
- What position of authority would the promised Messiah hold?
- What did Jesus claim about himself regarding this position in Mark 14:61-64?
6. Deeper Discoveries (optional): The coming of Jesus Christ into human history was not an event that suddenly burst upon an unsuspecting world. It was the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies that started with the beginning of human history in Genesis 3:15. The arrival of Jesus in human form was planned before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) as well as the mission he was sent to accomplish (2 Corinthians 5:18-20—reconciling the world to God.
- Some of the most astounding prophecies about Jesus concern his crucifixion. Psalm 22 was written hundreds of years before the life of Christ, yet it contains a detailed description of what took place at the cross. It is interesting to note that the practice of crucifixion was introduced hundreds of years after this prophecy. Read Psalm 22:1-18. List the prophecies from this Psalm that you see fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the gospels.
- The book of Isaiah deals more with the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, than any other Old Testament prophetic book. Every major aspect of the life and ministry of the Messiah is foretold. The most remarkable part of all of Isaiah’s prophecies are the detailed description of Jesus’ suffering and death by crucifixion in our place. Remember that Isaiah was written 700 years prior to the death of Jesus. Read Isaiah 53:1-12. What prophecies from this chapter do you see fulfilled by the death of Christ?
7. Graceful Living: Read Matthew 16:13-16. Notice the question Jesus asked his disciples. This is the world's most important question: "Who do you say Jesus is?" Evaluate the diagram below for your options then declare your response.
Day Three Study
What others claimed about Christ
Many modern skeptics say that Jesus never claimed to be God and that the writers of the New Testament never claimed that he was God. It is important that we test these statements against what the New Testament writers did claim about the deity of Christ.
8. Read the following passages to answer the question, “What claims do the New Testament writers make about Jesus Christ?”
- John in John 1:1-3, 14—
- Peter in Acts 2:32-36—
- Paul in Philippians 2:5-11—
- Paul in Colossians 1:15-18; 2:9—
- The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:1-4—
- Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18—
9. The New Testament writers are consistent in their claims about Jesus. What would you conclude about these writers if they knew that he was not God and yet claimed that he was?
10. Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. What is claimed about Jesus in these verses?
Historical Insight: A Historian’s View of the Resurrection—”There were, to be sure, ways of coping with the death of a teacher, or even a leader. The picture of Socrates was available, in the wider world, as a model of unjust death nobly borne .The category of ‘martyr’ was available, within Judaism, for someone who stood up to pagans, and compromising no-better-than-pagans, and died still loyal to YHWH (the Hebrew name for God). The category of failed but still revered Messiah, however, did not exist. A Messiah who died at the hands of the pagans, instead of winning YHWH’s battle against them, was a deceiver…Why then did people go on talking about Jesus of Nazareth, except as a remarkable but tragic memory? The obvious answer is the one given by all early Christians actually known to us (as opposed to those invented by modern mythographers). Jesus was raised from the dead.... The resurrection, however we understand it, was the only reason why his life and words possessed any relevance two weeks, let alone two millennia, after his death.” (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2)
From the beginning, the church has maintained that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, is Savior and Lord of heaven and earth. Apart from his resurrection from the dead, historians have no feasible theory for the birth and progress of the Church.
11. Read Acts 5:34-39. What advice is given to the skeptical ones back then?
12. Graceful Living: Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead according to the eyewitnesses who claimed this truth? How does your faith about this truth influence your life?
Scriptural Insight: “The Christian church rests on the resurrection of its Founder. Without this fact the church could never have been born, or if born, it would soon have died a natural death. The miracle of the resurrection and the existence of Christianity are so closely connected that they must stand or fall together. If Christ was raised from the dead, then all his other miracles are sure, and our faith is impregnable; if he was not raised, he died in vain, and our faith is vain. It was only his resurrection that made his death available for our atonement, justification, and salvation; without the resurrection, his death would be the grave of our hopes; we should be still unredeemed and under the power of our sins. A gospel of a dead Saviour would be a contradiction and wretched delusion.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 1, page 172)
Day Four Study
The God you can know
A relationship with God must be based on a true knowledge of the God who is (John 4:20-24; 17:3). The Bible teaches that man can know truth about God (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). God has revealed himself as tri-personal:
- The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one true God.
- From the start of the Christian movement, believers have worshiped Jesus Christ and have spoken of him in terms appropriate only of deity.
- The Bible clearly teaches that there are three Divine Persons, each rightly called God. The doctrine of the Trinity (or “Tri-unity”, a man-made label not in the Bible) is a summary of the teachings of the Bible regarding the nature of God.
- The New Testament asserts that the invisible God can be known through his Son.
13. What does John 14:6-10 reveal about our being able to know God?
Think About It: Jesus is our savior and our ultimate grace gift from God!
14. Graceful Living: Read 1 Timothy 2:3-6. God invites all men into a personal relationship with himself through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, then knowing him is the single most important issue in all of life. If knowing him is the most important issue in all of life, what choice(s) do you need to make in order to grow in the process of knowing him?
Think About It: “Today, all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected…Yet to know God is man’s chief end, and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all.” (John Calvin)
15. Graceful Living: You can have a personal relationship with God through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. Describe the significance of that relationship to you through words (prose, prayer, poem) or any other means (song, art, craft).
2. Grace-Covered SinRelated Media
“On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
Understanding the Gospel Message
The ultimate grace gift came—Jesus Christ. But, why did he come? What was his purpose?
From the time sin entered into mankind’s relationship with their Creator God, the one question that continually demands an answer is, “How can guilty sinful man be made right in the eyes of a holy God?”
Man’s spiritual problem can be compared to death caused by a fatal disease: (1) Sin (“the disease” Romans 3:23—all sinned) and (2) Death (“result of the disease” Romans 6:23—wages of sin). Man’s twofold problem demanded a twofold solution:
- For the problem of sin, man needs forgiveness and righteousness. Answer: Christ’s death (the cross). Mankind can now be cured of the disease.
- For the problem of death, man needs regeneration (the restoration of life). Answer: Christ’s resurrection. Mankind can now be given life that is forever.
The Gospel message included the answer to both spiritual problems. The following quote by 20th century Bible teacher, Major Ian Thomas, captures the gospel message in a nutshell.
“Jesus Christ laid down his life for you…so that he could give his life to you…so that he could live his life through you.” (Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ)
This summary provides our subject outline for the next few lessons. Lessons 2-4 examine what it means that Jesus Christ “laid down his life for you.” Lesson 5 then explains how he “gives his life to you.” Lesson 6 will cover how Christ “lives his life through you.”
The Cross: God’s Solution to the Sin Issue
Day One Study
God’s holiness & man’s sickness
Our God is a holy God, meaning he is completely separated from anything that is sinful or evil. There is no sin in him at all. He is perfect. It is a unique part of his character—who he is.
“Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Man is not holy.
1. What is revealed about mankind’s “sickness” in the following verses?
- Jeremiah 17:9—
- Romans 1:18-23—
- Romans 3:10-18—
2. What is God’s pronouncement of judgment on man’s “sickness” in Genesis 3:19 and Romans 5:12? See also Romans 1:18.
God’s response to all evil and sin is righteous, holy wrath (Romans 1:18). We must not project our experience with human anger onto God and assume that “his is the same, only bigger.” God’s wrath is not a mood or a fit of temper. God’s disposition toward sin and evil is as constant and unrelenting as his love and goodness. He hates and rejects evil in a perfect and holy anger. He will never bend or compromise with it. His own nature demands that he judge it through action.
Focus on the Meaning: “Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure. Wherever the holiness of God confronts unholiness there is conflict: This conflict arises from the irreconcilable natures of holiness and sin. God’s attitude and action in the conflict are His anger. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it. When He arises to put down destruction and save the world from irreparable moral collapse He is said to be angry. Every wrathful judgment of God in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, page 106)
3. Because God is holy, sin must be judged. God prescribed a substitute to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. What are the substitutes in the following verses?
- Genesis 3:21—
- Exodus 12:3, 5-7, 12-13—
- Leviticus 16:3-5—
Scriptural Insight: The purposes of the animal sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament were: (1) To teach the seriousness of sin, (2) To teach that God is forgiving, but that forgiveness comes only at a price, through the death of an innocent substitute, (3) To serve as an objective aid for man’s faith, (4) To provide a place for man to transfer his guilt & receive temporal forgiveness, (5) To point symbolically to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
Forgiveness under the Mosaic Law
People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today: by faith in the merciful grace of God (though the content of their knowledge was different). For daily living, however, forgiveness was taught and dispensed differently under the Law. Forgiveness under the Law came through “atonement,” literally, a “covering.” Guilt was “covered” for some undetermined time. Forgiveness under the Law was dispensed in a piecemeal fashion. Forgiveness could be obtained “up to date” but not given in advance. Forgiveness under Law was at best temporary.”
4. Forgiveness under the Law had its limitations. Read Numbers 15:22-31 and discuss what sacrifices could and could not cover regarding sin.
Forgiveness under Law was generally for “minor” or “unintentional” sins. For deliberate and serious offenses (the “sin with the high hand”), there was no forgiveness through the Law apart fro the once per year removal on the Day of Atonement. Otherwise, one must throw herself on the mercy of God. And, forgiveness under Law was not automatic! Heart attitudes were measured.
5. Read Hosea 6:6 and Micah 6:6-8. What does God say about his desire regarding man’s heart?
6. Read Hebrews 10:1-4. Why was forgiveness through the Law ultimately inadequate?
Day Two Study
Christ’s Finished Work On the Cross
7. What did Jesus teach about his purpose in Mark 8:31; 10:45 and Luke 24:25-27, 44-47?
8. What did the apostles emphasize about Jesus’ death in the following verses?
- 1 Peter 2:24 and 3:18—
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4—
- Romans 5:6-8—
9. Read Hebrews 9:6-15 and 10:11-14. In what ways is Christ’s offering superior to the old Mosaic Law system? See also what Jesus himself declares in John 19:30.
10. Compare the incident in Matthew 27:51 with the benefit to us described in Hebrews 9:7; 10:19-22.
Scriptural Insight: “God tore the curtain, for when the Lord Jesus Christ ‘became sin for us,’ and purchased our salvation by his own blood, the regulations of the old covenant were rendered null and void. Never again would God require the blood of a bull, a goat or a lamb. The priesthood was now defunct, the temple redundant and the law abolished.” (Charles Price, Alive in Christ, page 80)
Man’s disease problem is cured. Christ has through his sacrifice done all that needs to be done to reconcile guilty men to a holy God. This is the meaning of the phrase, “justification by faith.” All that is required to benefit from what he accomplished is to believe or trust in him.
Justification is God’s act as Judge, where he declares a guilty sinner to be totally righteous on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross and that person’s faith in him. Justification involves both a negative and positive aspect. Negatively, justification is the removal of guilt from the offender (“forgiveness”). Positively, justification is the addition of righteousness to the one who believes (Romans 5:17). This is called the “Great Exchange.” Paul describes it clearly in 2 Corinthians,
“God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
11. Read 1 John 5:10-13. What can we know for sure and why?
Think About It: Assurance of salvation can be known and experienced by (1) clearly understanding the gospel, and (2) trusting God’s promises in Jesus Christ. Assurance is not confidence in our own ability to hold on to Christ but confidence in him and his promises to hold on to us!
Day Three Study
Justification by faith alone
12. As you read the following verses, what evidence is presented that our justification before God comes through faith alone as a gift of God? (We’ll cover this again in Lesson 4.)
- Romans 3:19-28 (often called the heart of the Bible)—
- Romans 5:1-2—
13. What does Ephesians 2:8-9 teach about our salvation?
14. Graceful Living: Remember that grace is “unmerited favor.” What are some of the benefits of knowing that not only is your salvation by faith alone but also your justification (your “not guilty” standing before God) is by faith alone rather than through any works you must do to earn God’s forgiveness?
Think About It: “Do you want to give up the guilt? Or, do you prefer to hang onto it like an heirloom? Forgetting you’ve been cleansed from past sins makes you nearsighted and blind and keeps you from developing maturity in Christ (2 Peter 1:9). A failure to recognize and trust that the sin issue between you and God is over will effectively stop your spiritual growth in Christ…We can become totally preoccupied with the thing that God is finished dealing with—sin—that we neglect what God is trying to do with us today—teach us about life!” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, p. 60)
Day Four Study
13. Graceful Living: Reflect on the words to the song below. Two beautiful renditions of this song online are found at or . Respond in any way you choose (journaling, prayer, poem, art, song) to illustrate your thanks to God for ending the sacrificial system and completely forgiving you by your faith in Christ alone.
Before the Throne of God Above
This old Irish hymn by Charities Lees Smith was written in 1863 under the name “The Advocate.”
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea (Heb 4:15-16)
A great high Priest whose Name is Love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands (Isa 49:16)
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me to depart (Rom 8:34)
No tongue can bid me to depart
When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end to all my sin (Col 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied (Rom 3:25)
To look on him and pardon me (Rom 3:24-26)
To look on him and pardon me
Behold him there the risen Lamb (Rev 5:6)
My perfect spotless righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I am (Heb 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace
One with himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on high (Col 3:3
With Christ my Savior and my God! (Tit 2:13)
With Christ my Savior and my God!
3. Grace Triumphant, Part 1Related Media
“And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
Announcement to the World: It is Finished!
The gospel is an announcement to the world of an accomplished fact. What God set out to do for mankind, he accomplished. The apostles declared this from the time of Pentecost (Acts 2) and beyond.
“Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.” (Acts 13:38-39)
Salvation is available on the basis of a single condition: faith (or “belief”). God acted; we are to respond to his action.
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Those who respond with faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, receive a firm assurance of security (1 John 5:13), a secure new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a true knowledge of God as seen through all that he has done through Christ’s finished work on the cross. This lesson and the next will explore 6 “words of the cross”—the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross. These 6 terms describe how our relationship with God has changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The diagram below shows these 6 “words of the cross” and an image representing each. This lesson will cover 3; the next lesson will cover the other 3.
Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross
Day One Study
Propitiation: “God’s holy wrath is fully satisfied”
Propitiation is an old word we do not use in our daily vocabulary. Using a dictionary for its verb form propitiate, you would see that it means, “to conciliate or appease.” Basically, it means to satisfy or appease someone in order to win favor from him. That implies you have done something to lose their favor, usually something incurring anger.
Most of us can recall a time when we incurred the anger of those we love and needed to make some kind of restitution to “appease” their anger. The act of appeasement leads to that person now being satisfied because restitution has been made. So, the relationship can be restored.
Similarly, biblical propitiation represents an important change in our relationship with God. It is often associated with God’s mercy toward us. Mercy is commonly defined as “not getting what we deserve.” Our problem before Christ: God’s righteous anger toward man’s sin. [Remember in the last lesson, you learned that God’s wrath is an action against sin to preserve his creation, not a mood or fit of temper.] Without appeasement, all people are justly destined for eternal punishment. But God, out of his great mercy, provided a way for his anger against man’s sin to be satisfied through blood sacrifice on the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament (Leviticus 16) and finally through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
In the New Testament, the Greek word used to describe God’s “satisfaction” with Jesus’ blood shed for man’s sin is hilasterion. Interestingly, that word is used of the cover of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies (the “mercy” seat as in Hebrews 9:5), which was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice (a perfect lamb) on the annual Day of Atonement. By this ceremony, God’s anger at sin was appeased, and the people’s sins were forgiven up to that point. Jesus’ death on the cross provided the permanent way that God’s anger against man’s sin was appeased. The New Testament writers teach that Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement fully satisfied God’s righteous anger against man’s sin for those who trust in him (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 1:2; 4:10).
1. To help you get a handle on what this concept of appeasement of anger means, describe a situation where your anger was fully satisfied by restitution someone else made. If that happened, what was required? How did that feel?
2. Read Romans 3:25 and 1 John 4:10. What did God do for us? Why? How do we receive it? [Note: your translation will not likely read “propitiation,” but “sacrifice of atonement” or “atoning sacrifice” instead. The concept of God’s satisfaction is the same.]
Scriptural Insight: The NIV text note on Romans 3:25 says the phrase “a sacrifice of atonement” could also be translated as “the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin.” (NIV Study Bible, page 1710)
3. From 1 John 2:2, to whom does this mercy extend?
Think About It: Because Jesus Christ has endured in our place the full wrath of God for our sins, God is able to extend mercy without compromise with evil. His holiness has been fully satisfied with the offering of Jesus Christ. The payment has been made for the whole world; God’s mercy extends to the whole world. But it must be individually acknowledged. God acted. The response he asks is belief in his Son. Why would anyone not jump at the opportunity to take this wonderful offer?!
4. Why could the image of an empty, unused altar be a good symbol for propitiation?
5. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that God’s anger at man’s sin was fully satisfied by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The second verse of the beautiful song, In Christ Alone, says this:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones he came to save:
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.
(Watch a beautiful rendition of this song online at .)
Knowing that God is no longer angry at the sin of those who believe in his Son, how does that make you feel? Do you live with the confidence that God is no longer angry with you?
6. Graceful Living: If God’s holy wrath against you has been satisfied, and you live in the freedom of knowing his graceful love more than his wrath, how are you at being a grace-giver to those who have angered you? If you are holding onto anger toward someone and no restitution has been made, pray that God will enable you to surrender the anger and rest in his love and peace.
Day Two Study
Reconciliation: “The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built. Man is able to be saved.”
7. Define reconcile using a dictionary. What does it mean to reconcile?
8. Most of us are aware of personal relationships that have required reconciliation. Think about one such conflict. What were the circumstances? Describe the pain caused by the broken relationship. What was done to pursue reconciliation? How did it turn out?
How sad it is when a broken relationship continues to remain broken and isn’t reconciled. What joy we experience when we see a broken relationship repaired and healthy again! Reconciliation is certainly a reason for rejoicing! And, there is even rejoicing in heaven as we experience repentance (Luke 15:7, 10) that results in reconciliation with our God. Reconciliation is a present reality for Christians and is worthy of our rejoicing. Before Christ, our problem was a state of alienation (separation) from God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). But God did something about that…
9. What did our God do for us according to these verses?
- Romans 5:10-11—
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-20—
- Colossians 1:19-22—
Scriptural Insight: “Reconcile to himself all things” does not mean that Christ by his death has saved all people…When Adam & Eve sinned, not only was the harmony between God and man destroyed, but also disorder came into creation (Romans 8:19-22). So when Christ died on the cross, he made peace possible between God and mankind, and he restored in principle the harmony in the physical world, though the full realization of the latter will come only when Christ returns.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Colossians 1:20, page 1814)
10. According to John 3:16 and Romans 5:8, what was God’s motivation for reconciliation?
11. From 2 Corinthians 5:19, to whom does this reconciliation extend?
Think About It: Jesus Christ has fully paid man’s debt, removing the barrier between God and men. God’s “books” have been balanced, the debt having been paid. God stands eagerly welcoming anyone who will believe the good news and come home (repent).
12. Why would the image of a bridge in the form of a cross over a canyon be a good symbol for reconciliation?
13. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that the barrier of sin has been taken away and a bridge has been built between man and God because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. This was God’s act of reconciliation.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, announcing to our world that God is no longer counting men’s sins against them through Christ and imploring those in our sphere of influence to be reconciled to God. Suggest some ways you can be intentional in your outreach to nonbelievers. Where are you likely to run across them in your daily routine? Where can you go outside of your routine to interact with them? Make an intentional “connection” to spend time with one woman who needs to know Jesus this week. Being intentional requires being strategic, deliberate, and planned.
14. Graceful Living: The same power of reconciliation is available to you through Christ for your relationships. If you are in the midst of a relationship that is broken and in need of reconciliation, pray that God would work his mighty hand in the relationship and provide you with his wisdom in pursuing reconciliation. What steps can you pursue to reconcile the relationship?
Day Three Study
Redemption: “Man has been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom.”
15. Look up the definition of redemption. Try to think of modern examples of redemption.
Did you think of the payment of a ransom for a kidnapped person? Another example of redemption might be the pawning of an item of value then going back later to pay what is owed on the “loan” to get that item back. Some energetic people like to buy “fixer upper” houses and flip them, turning each into a beautiful home. All those are examples of redemption.
Biblical redemption is based on an understanding of the pain of slavery—a common practice in the Roman Empire at the time. Nearly 50% of the people were slaves—1 out of every 2 men, women, and children! The readers of the New Testament were very familiar with the hopelessness of being owned by a slave master, the buying and selling associated with the slave market, and the only two ways out of the miserable cycle—either die or be bought by someone who would set you free.
The biblical doctrine of redemption is found in the combined meaning of four Greek words:
Agorázo - the ordinary word, “to buy” or “to purchase.” (1 Cor. 6:20)
Exagorazo - “to buy out of the market”; i.e., to remove from further sale. (Gal. 3:13)
Lutroo - “to loose by a price; to ransom.” (Mark 10:45)
Apolűtrosis - “a loosing away.” (Eph. 1:7)
Redemption represents an important change in our relationship with God. Before Christ, mankind was in a state of slavery to sin and to death (spiritual & physical). Biblical redemption means that man has been purchased at a price, the blood of Christ, out of slavery and released into freedom.
16. Read Mark 10:45. What did Jesus declare about his purpose?
Focus on the Meaning: “Ransom” refers to the “price paid for release from bondage.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Mark 10:45, page 1515)
17. How are we redeemed (Ephesians 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:18-19)?
18. From what did Jesus Christ redeem us? Why?
- Galatians 3:8, 13-14—
- Titus 2:14; 3:3—
19. What do the following verses teach about the purpose and results of our being redeemed?
- Romans 3:24—
- Colossians 1:13-14—
- Revelation 5:9—
Spiritual Insight: In the Bible, to redeem means to free someone from something bad by paying a penalty or a ransom (see Exodus 21:30; 13:13). Likewise, in the Greek world slaves could be redeemed by the payment of a price, either by someone else or by the slave himself. Similarly, Jesus redeems believers from the “curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13) and “all wickedness” (Titus 2:14). The ransom price is not silver or gold, but Christ’s blood (Eph 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:9). (NIV Study Bible, note on 1 Peter 1:19, page 1889)
20. Why would the image of an opened chain be a good symbol for redemption?
Scriptural Insight: How far does this redemption extend? Some of the biblical words describe a work universal in scope (“for the whole world,” “the sovereign Lord who bought” the false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1), while others seem to be particular (“for believers” in Ephesians 1:7). While controversies occasionally erupt over which view represents the “true” one, the bottom line seems clear: The death of Jesus Christ is fully sufficient for the whole world, but it will be efficient only for those who put their trust in him.
21. Read Romans 6:15-23. Contrast the life of slavery to sin from the life of freedom offered through your redemption.
22. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that you, as a believer, have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery to sin and released into freedom as God’s act of redemption. The third verse In Christ Alone (see Question 5), says this:
There in the ground his body lay; light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day; up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am his and He is mine - bought with the precious blood of Christ.
Are you experiencing the freedom from slavery to sin in your life right now? If not, do you have confidence that you do not have to listen to the voice of your old slave master sin? Reflect on this.
You have a new master with greater power living inside of you, the Spirit of God himself, who can give you freedom from any entrapping sin. Claim that freedom now. Choose to obey the Spirit inside you who will lead you and empower you to say “no” to sin.
Think About It: Since Jesus Christ has paid a full ransom price, the believer is a possession of God and is secure in freedom until his complete redemption (of the body) is accomplished.
Day Four Study
23. The chart below gives a good review of what you have learned in this lesson. Each one of these is the result of Christ’s finished work on the cross on your behalf. The law of learning states that the best test of whether you have really learned anything or not is by explaining what you have learned to someone else. Review each of these “3 words of the cross” one at a time. Then, write how you would explain that concept (what the concept means for the believer, not necessarily the definition of the word) to someone who hasn’t had this course but needs to know what she has in Christ. Think in terms of someone from a particular age group or stage of life.
- How would you explain “propitiation” to a woman who thinks God is always angry with her because she makes mistakes?
- How would you explain “reconciliation” to a woman who feels that God is so far away because she has been taught she has to go through someone else to reach him?
- How would you explain “redemption” to a teenager?
- You get the idea. Now start explainin’…
Word of the Cross
The whole world.
1 John 2:1-2
The just wrath of God against man’s sin.
God’s justice has been satisfied. He is able to extend mercy without compromise.
The whole world.
2 Cor. 5:18-19
Man’s state of alienation from God because of sin.
The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built.
The whole world.
2 Pet. 2:1
Man’s state of slavery to sin and death.
Man has been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom.
4. Grace Triumphant, Part 2Related Media
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith.” (Romans 3:21-25a)
Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross
Salvation is available on the basis of a single condition: faith (or “belief”). God acted; we are to respond to his action. Those who respond with faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, receive a firm assurance of security (1 John 5:13), a secure new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a true knowledge of God as seen through all that he has done for us. Last lesson began our study of 6 “words of the cross”—the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross. These 6 terms describe how our relationship with God has changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The diagram above shows these 6 “words of the cross” and an image representing each. The last lesson covered the first 3 terms and their meanings:
- Propitiation: “God’s holy wrath is fully satisfied.”
- Reconciliation: “The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built. Man is able to be saved.”
- Redemption: “Man has been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom.”
Because of the cross, you can dwell on the FACT that God was fully satisfied by Jesus’ finished work on the cross. God is no longer angry at the sin of those who believe in his Son. You can dwell on the FACT that the barrier of sin has been taken away and complete reconciliation between man and God is possible because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. You can dwell on the FACT that you, as a believer, have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom as God’s act of redemption. You have a new master with greater power living inside of you, the Spirit of God himself, who can give you freedom from any entrapping sin.
In this lesson, we explore the blessings of forgiveness, justification, and sanctification.
Day One Study
Forgiveness: “Man’s guilt has been transferred to a substitute and taken away.”
Focus on the Meaning: The Greek word translated “forgiveness” means literally, “to send off or send away.” The result is “to separate the sin from the sinner” as described in Psalm 103:12 and Leviticus 16:20-22 (the “scapegoat” illustrated in the symbol at right).
Forgiveness represents an important change in our relationship with God. Our problem before Christ: Mankind is guilty before a holy God. God’s answer is to take away the guilt.
1. What did God promise in Jeremiah 31:34 about man’s sins?
2. Read Leviticus 16:20-22. What was the role of the scapegoat? Compare to what John publicly declared in John 1:29.
3. According to Hebrews 9:22, what was required for God to offer forgiveness?
4. Read Colossians 2:13-14. What did God do for us? How many of our sins are covered by this action?
5. What do you learn from 2 Corinthians 5:19 about God keeping track of our sins now?
6. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. The action of God described in this verse is called the “Great Exchange.” What is being exchanged?
7. According to Acts 3:19 and Acts 13:38-39, to whom does God’s forgiveness of sins extend?
Think About It: Since the believer’s sins have been taken away, God does not hold them (sins) against him/her. Sins are applied to Jesus who takes them on our behalf. Forgiveness is complete and continual. As 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, [God] is “not counting men’s sins against them.” Only one sin separates any man or woman from eternal life with God—rejecting faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18).
According to Ephesians 1:7, forgiveness is something we possess as believers through Jesus’ blood shed for us. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, many believers continue to live in guilt.
8. Read Hebrews 10:19-22. What has God promised to do with your guilt as a result of Christ’s offering?
9. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take him at his word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. You can simply tell God,
“Thank You for forgiving me, thank You for cleansing me, thank You for redeeming my sin and turning something evil into something good. Thank You for being bigger than my sins, and being able to turn things around in ways I cannot imagine. With Jesus’ help, I receive the assurance that You have forgiven me. Help my heart catch up with my head on this. Help me to see that You allowed me to go down that dark path into sin because You are able to redeem even the worst things we do.” (Sue Bohlin, Probe Ministries, Sept. 2012)
Now, choose to believe you are forgiven and allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for his amazing gift!
10. Graceful Living: Read Ephesians 4:32-5:1. Since you have been completely forgiven, what is Jesus now calling you to do in your relationships with others?
Day Two Study
Justification: “The believer in Jesus Christ is declared righteous before God.”
Justification is a legal term that literally means, “to declare righteous, to declare not guilty.” We introduced this in Lesson 2. English New Testaments use “justified” and “made righteous” interchangeably. Justification represents an important change in our relationship with God. Our problem before Christ: Man’s need for perfect acceptability before a holy God.
11. What did Jesus Christ do for us according to Romans 3:20-26?
12. God’s justice demands punishment for sin. Based on what you have learned, how is his justice satisfied?
Scriptural Insight: God’s forgiveness and justification of the believer are not due to compromise on God’s part or a relaxing of his holy standards. These are possible because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ fully honored and satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God.
13. Who gets to receive the “not guilty” verdict?
In our culture, we use the term “acquitted” for someone who is declared not guilty. And, this acquittal is for the one wrong act of which the person is being accused. Yet, we do many other wrong things. For us as believers, God declares us “not guilty” of all sin, once and for all, based on our faith alone in his Son! What a deal!
14. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, a “great exchange” is described. Jesus gets our sin. What gift do we receive?
Scriptural Insight: “The term ‘justified’ describes what happens when someone believes in Christ as his Savior: from the negative viewpoint, he [God] declares the person to be not guilty; from the positive viewpoint, he [God] declares him to be righteous. He cancels the guilt of the person’s sin and credits righteousness to him…God will declare everyone who puts his trust in Jesus not guilty but righteous…Christ’s righteousness (his obedience to God’s law and his sacrificial death) will be credited to believers as their own. Paul uses the word ‘credited’ nine times in [Romans] chapter 4 alone.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Romans 3:24, page 1710)
So, God not only declares us “not guilty” of all sin through our faith in his Son, he also gives us a new status called “righteousness before God.” It is not our own righteousness that does it. When God looks on you and me, he sees his Son’s righteousness taking the place of our sin—even our sin after we’ve been believers for a long time. Picture an accountant’s spreadsheet dedicated to your life. On the left side of the page is the heading “your sins”; on the right side of the page is the heading “Christ’s righteousness.” When you and I sin (intentionally or unintentionally) for the rest of our lives, God replaces that sin on the “your sins” side with Christ’s righteousness and puts your sin on his side—your sin is taken away (forgiveness). It is a continual balancing. Your sin never stays on your side of the page because God declares in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that he is “not counting men’s sins against them.” You are forever declared “not guilty” in his sight. Isn’t that great news?!
15. Read Romans 5:1-2. Another benefit of being justified is “peace with God.” What does “peace with God” mean? See also Romans 5:10 and Colossians 1:20-22.
16. Why would the image of a judge’s gavel be a good symbol for justification?
Focus on the Meaning: Justification is God’s act as Judge, where he declares a guilty sinner to be totally righteous in His sight, on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross and that person’s faith in him. Justification is by faith alone and not depending upon any works a believer can do to earn acceptability in God’s sight.
17. In Philippians 3:2-6, Paul describes his “confidence in the flesh” (including his efforts) to achieve righteousness before God.
- What “confidence in the flesh” did Paul have? Efforts he made?
- What did Paul conclude about his efforts in verses 7 and 8?
- In verses 8-9, what did he find to be better?
- What had Paul done to obtain his new righteous standing before God?
- How does he describe this in Galatians 3:27?
18. Graceful Living: Are you still wrestling with the notion that you are not good enough to please God? Can anyone ever be good enough on her own merits to please God? No! Dwell on the FACT of your justification—being declared righteous so that you are now perfectly acceptable to a holy God based on your faith in his Son. How do you feel about this? When you are tempted to think that God could not possibly accept you because of your weaknesses and guilty past, what should you declare to yourself?
Day Three Study
Sanctification: “Set apart as God’s possession for his exclusive use.”
Like propitiation, sanctification is a word we do not use in our daily vocabulary. To be sanctified means to be made holy. To be “holy” means to be “set apart for special use.” Every believer has been set apart as God’s special, beloved possession for his exclusive use. That’s sanctification. To be set apart for special use is similar to using fine china and silverware for special occasions (as in the symbol for sanctification at right). It carries the idea of being opposite of the ordinary and common.
Sanctification represents another important change in our standing with God. Our problem before Christ: Man’s need to be separated from the world and separated to God. God demands that we be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Because the two words are so closely connected, sanctified and holy are used interchangeably in our English translations. They mean the same thing, though.
19. Read Acts 26:17-18. From what are believers being separated?
20. Read Hebrews 10:10. How are we made holy/sanctified in God’s sight?
21. Sanctified ones are called “holy ones” and “saints” in the New Testament. Read Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:1, and Ephesians 1:1. Who are being called saints?
From the Greek: The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, “holy,” meaning separated from sin and dedicated to God. All believers are called “holy ones” (hagioi) based upon their faith in Jesus Christ, not on any exceptional behavior. A saint is identified by position, what God declares to be true about you. Every believer is one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by him—considered a saint of God by position, not by behavior. (Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, pages 307-308)
22. Believers are made holy by Christ’s death on the cross in their relational status before God. Believers are also “being made holy” in their thoughts, words, and actions by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is ongoing from the moment of salvation until the Lord comes or the believer dies when our “being made holy” is complete. What is the goal of the Spirit’s work?
- Romans 8:29—
- 2 Corinthians 3:18—
23. Graceful Living: Dwell on the FACT that God declares you holy because of your faith in Christ. You are set apart by him, for him. This is your status before God because of your faith. Your behavior matches your position when you submit to the Spirit’s work to intentionally separate you from what God calls sin and then commit yourself to being used for his purposes—24/7.
Describe how you could commit yourself to God’s use throughout a typical day as you dress, eat, interact with the people around you, care for your household, be a mother or grandmother to children, work for an employer…
Think About It: Mankind’s disease was sin. Because of this disease, we were: 1) never able to make ourselves well, 2) in bondage to the disease, 3) alienated from the one who could heal us, 4) carrying the guilt of having the disease, 5) experiencing cumulative effects of the disease, and 6) unable to live a purposeful life. Jesus’ finished work on the cross removed all these effects of the disease so that “by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24)”—truly healed!
Day Four Study
An understanding of Christ’s finished work on the cross is the basis for a firm knowledge of our identity in him—a foundational truth for successful Christian living. It was totally God’s work to make sinners acceptable again in his sight. Our proper response is to trust and rest in his work, and to continually offer him thanks from grateful hearts along with our willing service.
In a way—in spite of the power and importance of the six words of the cross—it can be said that they all have been accomplished to make the seventh great word possible: “Regeneration,” the restoration of spiritual life. This is the subject of the next lesson.
But, for now, the chart below gives a good review of what you have learned in this lesson. Each one of these “words of the cross” is the result of Christ’s finished work on the cross on your behalf. The last lesson stressed that the best test of whether you have really learned anything or not is by explaining what you learned to someone else. So…
Word of the Cross
Man’s guilt before a holy God
Man’s guilt has been transferred to his Substitute and taken away.
2 Cor. 5:21
Man’s need for perfect acceptability before a holy God.
God, as Judge, declares believers totally righteous in Christ.
1 Cor. 6:11
Man’s need to be separated from the world and to God.
The believer has been set apart as God’s possession for his exclusive use.
24. Graceful Living: Review each of these “3 words of the cross” one at a time. Then, write how you would explain that concept (what the concept means for the believer, not necessarily the definition of the word) to someone who hasn’t had this course but needs to know what she has in Christ. Think in terms of someone from a particular age group or stage of life.
- How would you explain “forgiveness” to a woman who has had an abortion in her past and is feeling awful about it?
- How would you explain “justification” to a woman from a very strict, legalistic background?
- How would you explain “sanctification” to a woman who has trusted Christ after years of rebellion and immorality?
You get the idea. Now start explainin’…