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2. Grace-Covered Sin

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“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: Christs death (the cross). Mankind can now be cured of the disease.
  • For the problem of death, man needs regeneration (the restoration of life). Answer: Christs 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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xUK2Dx5RkY or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0S5Z0H4SpI. 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!

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Curriculum, Discipleship, Hamartiology (Sin), Soteriology (Salvation), Women

3. Grace Triumphant, Part 1

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“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 Christs 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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWXcRVZWTb8.)

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.

For example:

  • 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

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Propitiation

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.

Reconciliation

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.

Redemption

The whole world.

2 Pet. 2:1

Believers

Eph. 1:7

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.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Curriculum, Discipleship, Soteriology (Salvation), Women

4. Grace Triumphant, Part 2

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“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 Christs 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 Gods 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 Christs 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

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Forgiveness

Believers

Acts 13:38-39

Man’s guilt before a holy God

Man’s guilt has been transferred to his Substitute and taken away.

Justification

Believers

2 Cor. 5:21

Man’s need for perfect acceptability before a holy God.

God, as Judge, declares believers totally righteous in Christ.

Sanctification

Believers

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.

For example:

  • 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’…

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Curriculum, Forgiveness, Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, Soteriology (Salvation), Women

5. Grace-Given Life to You

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“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Introduction

We stated in a previous lesson that from the time sin entered into mankind’s relationship with their Creator God, man had a spiritual problem that can be compared to death caused by a fatal disease: (1) Sin (“the disease” Romans 3:23) and (2) Death (“result of the disease” Romans 6:23). Man’s twofold problem demanded a twofold solution:

  • For the problem of sin, man needs forgiveness and righteousness. Answer: Christs death (the cross). Mankind can now be cured of the disease.
  • For the problem of death, man needs regeneration (the restoration of life). Answer: Christs resurrection. Mankind can now be given life that is forever.

The Gospel message included the answer to both spiritual problems and is simply illustrated by the quote by Ian Thomas (at right).

The powerlessness of much modern-day Christianity can be traced to its failure to clearly state and maintain two vital truths: (1) Christ’s finished work on the cross to secure our complete acceptance before God, and (2) “Christ in you” as the dynamic of daily Christian living.

As a result, the average Christian in our time has:

  • A fairly solid understanding of God’s grace as it relates to his initial salvation experience.
  • An inconsistent, wavering understanding of God’s grace in his ongoing life as a Christian.
  • Next to no understanding of the significance of his having received the very life of God through the Holy Spirit.

Thus, spiritual immaturity reigns. Christians are often being led down a path of failure, discouragement, and despair by attempts to be perfected “by human effort.” (Galatians 3:1-5)

The previous two lessons covered our complete acceptance before God because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. The next two lessons will address the life given to us by Christ himself as our power for daily Christian living. Through this life, we experience freedom and joy!

Historical Insight: “The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters [New Testament epistles] is that to us it is primarily a performance; to them it was a real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code or, at best, a rule of heart and life. To these men it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ living in them.” (J.B. Phillips, Introduction to Letters to Young Churches)

The Resurrection: God’s Solution to the Life & Death Issue

Day One Study

When God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27), mankind was created with a body, a soul (conscious life made up of mind, emotions and will), and a spirit that enables every man and woman to relate to God. Man’s spirit is the source of his inner drives for love and acceptance, a sense of identity, and for meaning & purpose in life. The human spirit was created to be a container for God’s Spirit and was the means through which both man and woman enjoyed perfect fellowship with God.

Based on that relationship, God had access through Adam’s spirit into his soul (teaching his mind, guiding his emotions, directing his will) and, thereby, influencing his behavior. The same was true of Eve. So, every thought, emotion, word and deed of Adam and Eve as created were a perfect representation of the invisible God. They were then truly fulfilling their purpose in life: walking in a dependent love relationship with their Creator and, through that relationship, bearing the image of God.

Focus on the Meaning: Is man a “trichotomy” (made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit) or a “dichotomy” (made up of two parts: body—the seen—and soul/spirit—the unseen)? The best answer seems to be “it depends”: Structurally, man is a dichotomy; Functionally, he is a trichotomy (the spirit of man being either inhabited by God or empty).

Through free choice (Genesis 2:16-18; 3:1-7), Adam and Eve forfeited the life of God and introduced sin and death into the creation. Adam died physically 930 years later (Genesis 5:5). However, he and Eve died spiritually that day in the garden—they lost the life of God.

Natural man (in Adam)

1. Read Romans 5:12, 18 and Ephesians 2:1-3. Describe the effects of Adam’s sin on every one of his descendants, including you.

Scriptural Insight: “Why did Paul and God hold Adam responsible (Romans 5:12) for the sinfulness of the race when it was really Eve who sinned first? They did so because Adam was the person in authority over and therefore responsible for Eve (Gen. 2:18-23; 1 Cor. 11:3). Furthermore, Eve was deceived (2 Cor. 11:3), but Adam sinned deliberately (1 Tim. 2:14).” (Tom Constable, Dr. Constables Notes on Romans, page 59)

Having been born into this world “in Adam”—i.e., out of his family line—all men and women are born spiritually dead and are sinners by nature. As A.W. Tozer, a 20th century Christian author, put it, “We may not understand how we can inherit evil from our fathers, but there is no argument with the fact that as soon as we are big enough to sin, we go directly into the business of sinning.” Anyone who has been around small children knows for a fact that this is true!

All men and women are also born spiritually wanting. A French philosopher and physicist (Blaise Pascal) described it this way in the 17th century, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” The diagram below illustrates this “vacuum.” Every human being seeks to fill this vacuum with something that gives them meaning and purpose in life.

2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. Contrast the understanding and behavior of the “natural” man/woman with the one who has the Spirit of God. [Note: natural man refers to unsaved man and woman.]

3. Read 2 Corinthians 4:4. Discuss the roadblock the “natural” woman experiences. How does that hinder her life?

Think About It: Natural man (outside of Christ) is already: (1) alienated from God, (2) under the wrath of God, and (3) spiritually dead to God. The problem of man is not just that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness. He is dead and in need of life!

4. Graceful Living: When we become Christians at a young age or forget what it was like to live as a nonbeliever before Christ came into our lives, we can be very harsh on those who are living without Christ in this world. We expect nonbelievers to think like we do. Considering how God describes the nonbeliever in his Word, shouldn’t their blindness and lack of understanding generate compassion in us rather than condemnation? Discuss.

5. Graceful Living: If you became a Christian as an adult, what was life like for you before you experienced Christ’s liberation? What drew you to him? In what ways do you recognize the above elements of the “natural man” in your life at that time?

Day Two Study

Jesus Christ – the Second Adam.

Although he was God from all eternity, the Son of God took on a human nature and flesh, totally identifying with us in our humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-18). Through his virgin birth, Jesus Christ entered the world spiritually alive and without sin (John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was the first complete man, from God’s point of view, to live on earth since the Fall—thus he is called the “Second Adam.”

6. Read 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. Compare the first Adam and the Second Adam.

7. Read the following verses to see how Jesus in his humanity demonstrated the way God designed mankind to live.

  • John 5:15-19,30—
  • John 12:44-50—
  • John 14:8-11—
  • Acts 2:22—

Jesus completely identified with us in our humanity, sin and death, so that we could be totally identified with him in his resurrected humanity, righteousness and life (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 6:4). God provided a cure for our sin disease through Christ’s finished work on the cross, BUT we were still dead and in need of life!

8. Graceful Living: If Jesus lives as a man dependent on God, how much more so should we recognize our need to do the same? In what areas of your life do you tend to live in self-sufficiency? Generally, it is in your areas of strength—the skills and abilities in which you are proficient.

The danger we face is getting too confident in our own abilities so that we don’t seek to rely on God in that area. What should you do when you recognize that you are acting through your own strengths and abilities without relying on the power of God to work through those same strengths and abilities but yielded to his way of doing it? Pray about this today.

Day Three Study

Regeneration: The restoration of life is God’s solution to man’s state of spiritual death

The English word “regeneration” [Gr. palingenesia, from palin (again) and genesis (birth)] means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order. Regeneration is often used to denote the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation, as a renewal or restoration of a piece of furniture or a car. In the New Testament, regeneration refers to the giving of life after death.

9. According to John 10:10, why did Jesus come?

10. Salvation is described as receiving "life." What do the following verses reveal about this?

  • Ephesians 2:4-5
  • John 3:3, 6—
  • John 5:24—

11. According to these verses, how do we receive this “life?”

  • John 14:16,17—
  • Romans 8:9-10—
  • Romans 8:15-17—

Focus on the Meaning: “The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.” (John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.1.1)

12. As the Holy Spirit indwells us, he unites (fuses) us to Christ (Romans 6:5). How is this further described in these verses?

  • Galatians 2:20—
  • Colossians 1:27—

We, who were once dead, are made alive by the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ so that “Christ in you” is a fact of our new existence. It happens at the moment of salvation (Romans 8:9) and lasts forever (John 14:16). We are born again as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

13. According to John 15:4-5 and Galatians 2:20, how should a new creature in Christ live? [Note: to remain/abide means to dwell.]

14. We are to live by faith (total dependency upon God) as Jesus himself lived (John 14:10). Read Romans 6:11-14. What now should be our relationship to sin?

15. Graceful Living: Give an illustration as to how living in a humble, teachable manner, saying no to sin, might look in someone’s daily life (perhaps yours). Consider an everyday situation in which the old slave master “sin” tempts you.

Think About It: Does grace give people a “license to sin?” No. A proper emphasis on Christ’s finished work on the cross does not promote sin for a simple reason: in forgiving us, he did not leave us as we were. God transforms our hearts through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. We who believe have God’s law written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). The Christian is not just a “forgiven caterpillar”; he has been transformed into a “butterfly.” His greatest daily need is, first, to grasp the freedom of God’s acceptance through Christ; and, second, to learn how to present his humanity to the indwelling Christ and experience true and abundant life. Salvation is not just receiving something we did not have before (i.e., forgiveness of sins). It is becoming someone we were not before!

16. Graceful Living: You should know with confidence that God’s life is now indwelling you forever. Considering the condition of the “natural man” you learned earlier in the lesson, thank God for his indescribable gift of life to you. What are the benefits of having his life in you?

Day Four Study

As Ian Thomas said, “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.” All this is possible because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. We’ll continue our study of how he “lives his life through you” in the next lesson.

The chart below contains all 6 “words of the cross” from previous lessons and the “word of the resurrection” from this lesson.

The Completed Work of the Cross and Resurrection

Word of the Cross

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Propitiation

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.

Reconciliation

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.

Redemption

The whole world.

2 Pet. 2:1

Believers

Eph. 1:7

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.

Forgiveness

Believers

Acts 13:38-39

Man’s guilt before a holy God

Man’s guilt has been transferred to his Substitute and taken away.

Justification

Believers

2 Cor. 5:21

Man’s need for perfect acceptability before a holy God.

God, as Judge, declares believers totally righteous in Christ.

Sanctification

Believers

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.

Word of the Resurrection

Extent

Need Addressed

Result

Regeneration

Believers

Ephesians 2:5-6

Man’s state of spiritual death.

The believer has been made alive spiritually through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

17. Graceful Living: As you did before, write how you would explain regeneration (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 they have in Christ. Why should “regeneration” make a difference in her life? If it helps, think how you would explain regeneration to someone who feels her life has no purpose. Now start explainin’…

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Resurrection, Spiritual Life, Women

6. Grace-Created Identity

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Editor's Note: Click here to download the accompanying PDF Notes material for this lesson. The PDF link in the additional media area contains the additional Believer's Identity Chart.

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A New Identity that Rocks the World

In our world, identity drives everything about life. You likely carry some kind of identity card (ID) with you—a driver’s license or a work-related card. What’s on it? Your name and picture, some identifying characteristics like address or job title, and the authority that issued the ID to you. Often, your signature is on the card representing your choice to enter into contract with the issuing authority. If someone asked, “Who are you?” you could answer with the information on that card.

Identities tell us who we are, where we live, how and where we can travel. Our identity drives what we can buy with our finances and qualifies us for employment. That’s why we are so devastated when it’s stolen! Knowing our spiritual identity is even more important.

The government offers a “Witness Protection” program to those who testify against organized crime. The witnesses, helpless against the revenge of the criminals, receive a new identity and all the details that go along with it—new name, new background, new address, and new career. They can never go back to being what they were before. That’s what God does for us. We each have a new spiritual identity. And, there are wonderful perks to discover about our new position in life.

The world is not going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, you and I are the same as we’ve always been—all our “baggage” is still hanging around our necks; nothing will ever change. And, the world does things to punish us, like credit scores and memories of all that we’ve done wrong in the past. But, every Christian is a new creation with a new identity in Christ, declaring how God, our authority, now views us! It’s what he has done for us and to us that counts.

So far in this study, we have learned how our faith in Jesus Christ sets us free from our previous sin-stained existence to enjoy a new life. But, our ability to live out this freedom depends upon our understanding of who we now are. How we see ourselves directs how we live our faith walk. We need to grasp the FACT that believers get a new life with a radical new identity—something we never had before. Something no one before Jesus’ resurrection ever had!! And this new identity sets us free to live a radically new kind of life—a joyful life. But, not knowing our identity enslaves us to shoddy thinking and behavior.

Most Christians throughout the past 1700 years or so only knew they could have their sins forgiven and go to heaven when they died. And, even then, they weren’t sure of that. The information about who they were in God’s sight got lost in 2 things: (1) illiteracy of the Bible—lack of education and knowledge of what it actually says, and (2) slavery to poor teaching that one has to live by the church’s rules to maintain God’s acceptance—any church.

About 500 years ago, Martin Luther and other faithful believers who followed him rediscovered this identity treasure by reading and studying the Scriptures. Imagine that! For 300 years after that, believers were taught their identity in Christ before the teaching waned. Once again, a Christian was mainly someone who had her sins forgiven and went to heaven when she died, as long as she lived by certain rules to maintain God’s acceptance. Enslaved once again to illiteracy of the Bible and poor teaching. A great Grace Awakening has taken place since the 1970s. Teaching about our new identity in Christ is everywhere in bookstores and on the radio, TV, and Internet. Yet, most believers still have no idea what their new identity is and all the benefits that come with it. Do you? And, if you and I don’t know who we are, how will we know we’ve been set free to live a different kind of life? This lesson will certainly fill your mind and heart with truth about your grace-created new identity—an identity that will fill your life with freedom and joy!

Day One Study

The basis of identity

1. List some ways that we try to establish our identity apart from Christ.

2. What happens to us when we try to determine who we are by these things?

3. Read 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. From God’s point of view, there are two kinds of people in the world: (1) those who are in Adam, and (2) those who are in Christ. Read Romans 5:12-21 and fill in the chart below contrasting Adam and Christ from this passage. Include in your chart contrasts between the consequences of being in Adam and being in Christ.

In Adam

In Christ

Who you are in determines your identity and your inheritance.

(1) To be in Adam means that you have inherited his nature (sinful), the consequences of his actions (condemnation), and his destiny (death).

(2) To be in Christ means that you have inherited his nature (righteous), the consequences of his actions (justification), and his destiny (eternal life).

4. Graceful Living: How you see yourself will influence how you think and live. How do you see yourself? In Christ? Or, as just another one of the billions of human beings walking around on our planet? Reflect on how the way you see yourself (past and present) influences your life.

Day Two Study

God has changed the believer’s identity through the baptism of the Holy Spirit

The word translated baptized came from the process for dyeing cloth. It didn’t matter if the cloth was sprayed, dipped, or immersed. The significance was taking on the identity of the dye. So, in Spirit Baptism, we are “dyed” with Christ. The practical outcome is a total identification (uniting) with him.

5. Read Romans 6:1-11. List all the ways we are identified (united) with Christ in this passage. [Note: Although water baptism is a picture of what the Spirit does to us, there’s no mention of water in this passage. Spirit baptism is much more significant and has far greater effects.]

6. What else is revealed about our union with Christ in Ephesians 2:4-6?

Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit—of which water baptism is a picture—the Christian has been totally identified with Jesus Christ. We are united with him in his death (Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20), in his resurrection (Romans 6:4), and in his ascension (Ephesians 2:5-6). The Greek word translated “united” in Romans 6:5 literally means, “to make to grow together, to fuse.” Being united with Christ, therefore, means that we become fused together with him. At that moment of fusing, we are no longer on our own, but Jesus’ transforming life-giving power now lives in us. We are now connected to the King who has supreme power and authority.

John Wesley, the great 18th century Methodist preacher, said this, “Never think of yourself apart from Christ.” We are continually fused together with him and can live to enjoy the benefits of being in him.

7. Graceful Living:

  • Consider items that are fused together (fabrics, welded metal, ingredients baked into a cake). What is the purpose of fusing? Does the fusing usually create something stronger and/or better than the original items?
  • Reread Ephesians 2:4-6, inserting your name in place of “we, us, or you.” Dwell on what it means to you to be fused with Christ.

Day Three Study

Benefits of being identified with Christ

The moment we believe, the old self that was born in Adam died; a new self with the same body but a new interior started life as a new person with a new nature and a new inheritance. This radical new identity means you can never go back to not being in Christ. Never!

8. Our new identity in Christ contains at least 35 characteristics or benefits. We get all of these benefits at once. God is not a vending machine parceling out these benefits one at a time. Everything about our new identity and all the benefits are God’s gift based on his love for us. We receive all of them at the moment of our salvation because we are in Christ. What God does to us is his choice, not ours. These benefits are unconditional. The burden of performance is upon God, not upon us.

Fill out the chart below by reading the word/phrase describing what is true about you. Then, look up the verse reference and reflect on what that means to you now.

Justified, declared righteous (Romans 3:23-24) —

Made at peace with God (Romans 5:1) —

Safe from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9) —

Reconciled to God (Romans 5:10) —

Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) —

Freed from condemnation (judgment) (Romans 8:1 )—

Indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) —

Adopted as sons (Romans 8:14-15) —

Accepted by God (Romans 15:7) —

Baptized into Christ’s body (the Church) (1 Corinthians 12:13) —

Chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4) —

Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) —

Freed from God’s Anger (1 John 2:2) —

Freed from the Law (Romans 7:4) —

Translated out of darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8) —

Forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14) —

Washed clean (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made holy and blameless (Colossians 1:22) —

Sealed in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14) —

Clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) —

Given Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) —

Made into a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) —

Made perfect forever (Hebrews 10:14) —

Translated out of death into life (John 5:24) —

Born again (1 Peter 1:3) —

Sanctified (made holy) (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) —

Made children of God (John 1:12) —

Made complete (Colossians 2:9-10) —

Made heirs of God (Romans 8:17) —

Made citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) —

Made into a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5,9) —

Given confident access to God (Hebrews 10:19-23) —

We have been given every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3) —

Secure in God’s Love (Romans 8:38-39) —

9. Graceful Living: One of the fundamental questions of the human race is that of identity, "Who am I?" The one secure, eternal answer is that through faith in Jesus Christ you can say, "I am in Christ, a child of God, one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by God"—an identity that no circumstance can change!

  • Write a short description of your identity in Christ based on what you discovered in the verses you just read. “I _____________ (your name) am in Christ,…”
  • Consider carrying an ID card with you that reminds you of who you truly are. See the sample card below that you can print and fill in with your name plus 7 of the benefits of your identity in Christ that are most significant to you. Put it in your wallet near your Drivers License and credit cards. Next time you get out your Drivers License, you will see it and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all Justified and Forgiven.” When you show your Drivers License at the airport, you will see your ID and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all accepted and loved.” A list containing the same 35 characteristics of your new identity is also found at the end of this lesson. Keep that handy for a quick reference when you are attacked by the world’s view of who you are!

Download a Believers Identity in Christ chart.

Day Four Study

Knowing our identity sets us free from the world’s viewpoint

As stated before, the world isn’t going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, we are viewed as the same we’ve always been—with the baggage still hanging around our necks. But, we can know our true identity—what God has done to change us from the inside out. And, knowing it sets us free from the world’s constraints and expectations, from our past, and from the garbage that others feed us about our failures.

Think About It: “Some of us are drawn in by circumstance [wearing ourselves out by our own efforts] because we don’t know who we are. The greatest crisis is not outside; it’s the identity crisis within those of the faith! Men and women of God are so focused on the darkness that they’re missing the adventure.” (Michelle Wallace, “Fruit of the Vine: The Greatness of God,” Living Magazine, October 2012)

10. Graceful Living: Read the chart below contrasting the world’s lies about who you are with the FACT of God’s truth about who you are. (Adapted from Dr. Timothy Warner, Resolving Spiritual Conflicts and Cross-Cultural Ministry, Freedom in Christ Ministries, 1993.)

Respond through any means you choose (journaling, prayer, poem, art, song) to illustrate what you have learned from this lesson.

The World’s Lies (are)

God’s Truth (says)

*You are still a sinner because you sometimes sin.

*You are a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sometimes sins.

*You get your identity from what you have done.

*You get your identity from what God has done for you.

*You get your identity from what people say about you.

*You get your identity from what God says about you.

*Your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself.

*Your belief about yourself directs your behavior.


Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Grace, Spiritual Life

7. Grace-Based Freedom

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“The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort? Have you suffered so many things for nothing? – if indeed it was for nothing. Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2-5)

Introduction to Law and Grace

You have a great foundation now, knowing what Christ has done on the cross for you and how his resurrection provides the means for you to receive a brand new life with a new identity. Praise God for his indescribable gift! But, as seen in the Galatians 3 scripture quoted above, many Christians start out accepting the gift of salvation but then are thrown into a works-related way of living out this brand new life in order to maintain acceptance before a holy God. The issue is broadly called “Law and Grace.” Understanding the difference between these two concepts is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the basis for experiencing a joyful Christian life.

Understanding the difference between Law and Grace answers important biblical questions:

1. What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments? What Old Testament promises can be claimed by New Testament believers?

  • Old Testament—The dietary laws, practice of circumcision, sacrificial system, and observance of the Sabbath by Jews.
  • New Testament—Freedom from those same laws and practices for both Gentiles and Jews based upon what Christ did on the cross to fulfill the purpose for the Old Testament religious laws.

2. What must we do to be saved or to even stay saved?

3. Where do we fit in God's plan of history? What should we expect from God and from life in this phase?

4. How are we to live to please God?

  • Our motivation for Christian living—Is our motivation to live the Christian life based on love and gratitude for what Christ has done for us, or is it based on fear of what God will do to us every time we fail?
  • Our power for Christian living—Do we think the power to live the Christian life is self-generated or Spirit-empowered? Through self-effort or through dying to self?
  • Our relationships—We often treat others the same way we think God treats us. If we think of God as mean and spiteful, we will often relate to others that way. Are we trying to motivate others to obedience through fear of punishment—given out by God or by us?

Probably the simplest way to understand Law & Grace is to see it as the issue of God’s acceptance: “On what basis is a person made acceptable before a holy God?” Based upon what you’ve learned so far in this study, how would you answer that question?

[Note: This lesson is longer than usual, containing more teaching to clearly communicate the topic.]

Day One Study

What is “The Law?”

Reading through the New Testament, you will often see this phrase mentioned—”the Law.” Generally, the New Testament writers mean “the Mosaic Law” by this phrase. The Law is, “The covenant between God and the nation of Israel instituted at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt.” Let’s gain some perspective on this.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised to Abraham that he would make Abraham into a great nation and that all the peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham. Abraham’s descendants multiplied greatly while living in Egypt, and God delivered them out of Egypt to form the nation he had promised to Abraham. At Mt. Sinai, God proposed a contractual agreement (the Law) to the new nation (Exodus 19:3-6). After God spoke the outline of the Law (the Ten Commandments) and the provisions of the Law to the people (Exodus 20-23), the nation agreed to keep the contract (Exodus 24:3-8).

From the simplest, big-picture point of view, the Law of Moses [Mosaic Law, hereafter designated as the Law] described the conditions under which: 1) Israel would be allowed to dwell in the land; and 2) the people of Israel would enjoy the presence of God dwelling in their midst. The Law was bilateral (two-sided), meaning that God offered earthly blessings for obedience and earthly curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28). The Law was not a means of salvation. The Law was primarily national in scope and earthly in application.

1. Read Deuteronomy 4:5-8. What was the purpose of the Law? See also 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

2. Read Galatians 3:19-26. What was the intended duration for the Law?

The nation of Israel was to be a holy nation as God was a holy God. “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). For a person to be holy required separation from sin. So, much of the Law includes animal sacrifices for the sin of the people so God could remove their sins from them (Leviticus 16:20-22), making them holy again.

God promised to redeem human beings from their sin based on his grace (to Eve and to Abraham) earlier than the Law was given to Israel (diagram below). That promise of grace was not nullified or changed. The Law—a separate arrangement for a temporary purpose—was for managing sinful people until fulfillment in Christ.

The purpose of the Law was to teach central truths about God. There had to be a nation on earth that knew something about God to teach the rest of the world (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). The purpose of the Law was also protective to preserve Israel as a distinct people through whom the promised Messiah would come to bless the whole world. And, the Law would lead people to a trust relationship with the Lord by showing them their sin and leaving faith—trusting in the mercy and grace of God alone to forgive one’s guilt—as the only way to be right with God (Romans 3:19-20), preparing the way for the work of Christ. Salvation for Old Testament believers came through faith in a merciful God (Habakkuk 3:17).

3. Because the Law had limitations, God promised a New Covenant. Read Hebrews 8:6-13. Examine the following chart. Notice the contrast between the old and the new. Comment on the differences in the right column of the chart.

Contrasting the Old & New Covenants (Hebrews 8:8-12)

Provision

Old Covenant (the Law)

New Covenant

Why the New Covenant Is Better

Motivation

External/reward & punishment

See Deuteronomy 28.

Internal / change of heart

“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” (v.10b)

 

Relationship

Conditioned on obedience

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:5)

Unconditionally established

“I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (v.10c)

 

Access to God

Open to the High Priest alone

"But only the High Priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year…” (Hebrews 9/7)

"...anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death.” (Numbers 3:10)

Open and equal access to all believers

“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (v.11)

 

Forgiveness &

Acceptance

Conditional and incomplete

“For the Law...can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1)

Unconditional and complete

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (v.12)

 

Under the Law (Old Covenant), blessings were conditional and the burden of performance was on man. Under the New Covenant, the promised blessings are unconditional and the burden of performance is upon God. Man’s sole responsibility toward the fulfillment of the New Covenant is to enter into that relationship through faith in Jesus Christ. God then commits himself to complete the work he began in us (Philippians 1:6) until we are conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). This doesn’t mean that Christians have no responsibilities at all! We are called to follow Jesus Christ diligently and live worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).

God’s plan is too easy for many to accept. And, old habits of performance-based religion are hard to die. Enter Galatianism…

Day Two Study

The problem of Galatianism

The term “Galatianism” developed because of issues addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians—believers in several churches in the area of what is now central Turkey. As recorded in Acts 13-14, Paul and Barnabas spread the gospel in this area on their first missionary journey about 15 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Galatian churches were composed of mostly Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. Many of the Jews in the region rejected the preaching of Paul about Christ’s death and resurrection. They did not respond with faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life (Acts 13:46). The Gentiles, however, were “glad and honored the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:47-48). After Paul left the area, some unnamed teachers (usually called “Judaizers”) followed in his wake, contradicting his teachings. Eventually the controversy grew so heated that it was brought to Jerusalem to be decided by the apostles (Acts 15:1-6).

4. Read Acts 15:1-5. What are the Judaizers teaching? [Note: though not capitalized in most translations, “the law” is referring to the Law of Moses.]

The diagram above (left) illustrates the Judaizers’ message, which was basically: “We have the promises, Christ, and salvation. If you want them, you must come over to our side.”

It is important to remember that the Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and the nation Israel only. At no time was it imposed on other nations of the world. While the Old Testament frequently describes prophetically the blessings the whole world will receive through the Messiah (Christ) and his kingdom, there was a great secret (a “mystery”) held in the heart of God: that the Gentiles, who were held separate from the Jews by the Law, would be included in God’s promises through the gospel.

5. Read Ephesians 2:11-22 and answer the following questions.

  • Describe the state of the Gentiles before hearing of Christ.
  • In verse 14, Christ made the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one by breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall. What was the dividing wall?
  • Why did the barrier have to come down?
  • What are the results of this barrier coming down? See also Ephesians 3:4-6.

6. According to Colossians 2:13-14, what happened to the Law (written code)?

7. According to Romans 6:14; 7:6 and Galatians 2:19, what is the Christian’s relation to the Law now?

8. After open debate, the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave an answer to the Judaizers’ position. Read Acts 15:6-11. What did the apostles conclude?

9. Although the book of Galatians as a whole was written to address the panic created by the Judaizers’ teaching, what is Paul’s response specifically in these verses to the Galatian believers (and us) who thought they had to follow the Law to be true Christians?

  • Galatians 1:6-9—
  • Galatians 3:1-5—
  • Galatians 5:1-3—

10. So, is the Christian under the Mosaic Law in any way, shape or form? Why not?

So, if Christians are not under the Law of Moses, why read and study the Old Testament? Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

“Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

When Paul wrote those words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, ALL Scripture at that time was the whole Old Testament. God has revealed himself through what is written—his holiness, goodness, sovereignty, omniscience, omnipotence, love and more. For the people of Israel (and for Gentile converts who voluntarily took on the yoke of the Law), the Law served as their rule of life—learning to approach life Gods way. The Law God gave to Israel included 3 sections: civil (how to govern the nation), religious (how to worship a holy God), and moral (how to treat one another). Though Christians are not under the civil or religious laws, God’s moral law has not changed and is reinforced in New Testament writings. So…

11. The Law can be properly used:

  • As a lens through which to see the perfect character and righteousness of God (though Jesus Christ is a far greater revelation of God: John 1:17-18; 14:5-8).
  • As a mirror in which to see oneself truly in comparison to the righteousness of God, especially the moral law (dealing with murder, marriage, relationships, etc.). It can’t clean you up, but it can reveal that you have a problem (Romans 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).

12. The Law is improperly used as a ladder on which to climb up to try to earn the acceptance of God.

By the time of Jesus, rabbis taught that the whole law could be summed up with two sentences,

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

That hasn’t changed. And, the rest of the New Testament describes how to live that way.

13. Graceful Living: Based upon what you just learned, what kind of message does a Christian’s insistence on propagating “The Ten Commandments” from Exodus 20 give to other believers or to the unbelieving world? Give some New Testament verses that would be far more effective in communicating God’s grace to an unbelieving world than posting the “Ten Commandments” (the Law).

14. Deeper Discoveries (optional): Which of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17)…

  • Emphasize “Love the Lord your God” and are repeated in New Testament writings as the right way to live for one who is forgiven and redeemed? Give verses.
  • Are related to God’s moral law – how we are to treat one another – and repeated in New Testament writings as the right way to live as one who is forgiven and redeemed? Give verses.
  • Is given specifically to Israel as a nation but not to the rest of the world, yet has been erroneously taught that it applies to the Church (and on the wrong day!)? See Colossians 2:16 regarding this one.

Day Three Study

The tendency toward legalism

You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me?” Be aware that Galatianism is still present in the modern church. We call it “legalism” (legal = relating to the law). Legalism has both a technical and a practical definition:

  • Technically: Legalism is the imposition of the Mosaic Law on Gentile (non-Jewish) believers (especially observance of the Sabbath and circumcision, but also paying a penalty or penance for sin).
  • Practically: Legalism is the addition of any other conditions to faith in order to gain and maintain acceptance from God.
  • The insistence of “faith plus _____.” In order to maintain good standing with God, you must have faith plus other evidences: good works… refraining from certain sins…church membership… ordinances or sacraments (baptism, communion), etc. Whenever Gods acceptance of you has an IF attached to it (other than faith in Jesus Christ), you know you are in the vicinity of legalism.
  • Another example involves repentance. Repentance means a change of mind. True repentance is changing your mind regarding your sin (that it separates you from God) and regarding Christ (that he alone is the answer to your sin problem). Legalism teaches that repentance means you have to give up your sins before coming to Christ.

Legalism has seriously damaged the church through the centuries. It leads to a dramatically different experience of Christian living. Many groups or individuals begin with a clear presentation of the gospel of grace to receive salvation, then proceed to live by works, trying to earn or maintain God’s acceptance by performance.

At this point, we move our attention from the Law as referring to the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, and all the statutes and ordinances (found in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) to law as a principle. Living by law can be any man-made system of works by which a person attempts to approach God on her own merits or performance. That’s what legalism does.

[Note: This discussion of legalism is not about what is clearly taught as right and wrong from God’s perspective in Scripture. That which God calls “sin” will be covered more in lesson 9.]

Whether a person is trying to live by the God-given Mosaic Law (particularly the 10 Commandments), by human laws imposed by others (standards of what they consider spiritual and necessary to please God and/or prove you are saved), or even by self-imposed laws, the effects on the individual are the same: fear, guilt, and condemnation.

A person is “living according to law” (legalism) whenever she tries to approach God on the basis of her own merits or performance. Though the outward effects are often subtle, a believer trying to live by legalism will actually be drifting her focus away from the Person of Jesus Christ. She is straying from enjoying a relationship to practicing a religion.

15. Give examples of modern legalism.

16. Read Colossians 2:20-23. Rather than producing righteousness, what can legalism produce? See also Ephesians 2:9.

Out of God’s mercy comes his grace. Remember that grace is unmerited favor. It is a gift that is undeserved. Grace is a gift God chooses to give because of his great mercy, apart from the Law (Romans 3:21). The Law (Mosaic or man-imposed religious standards) is incompatible with “Grace!” Like Jesus’ example of pouring new wine into new wineskins rather than into old ones (Matthew 9:14-17), grace cannot be added to the Law. It is one or the other. You cannot accept both. Which one would you rather guide the course of your life?

17. What examples does Paul give to show why law and grace are incompatible in the verses below?

  • Romans 4:4-5—
  • Romans 11:6—
  • Galatians 3:15-18—

18. Remember how we started this lesson with Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Read Galatians 5:1-6.

  • What does Paul tell the Galatians (and us)?
  • Based on what you have learned so far, discuss why falling away from grace cannot mean losing one’s salvation.

19. Graceful Living: Think back to your Christian life so far and try to recognize the influence of legalism on what you’ve been taught. List any “faith plus ______” teaching that has influenced your life and manmade rules you’ve been taught to obey to remain acceptable to God. If you have been taught any faith plus any other condition in order to maintain acceptance to God, get to heaven, or get any other blessing (which you already have in Christ!), how has this affected your life, your emotions, your thinking, your relationship with God and others?

Day Four Study

Part 1: “Law” motivates us to obedience by fear of punishment

The issue of “Law and Grace” often arises in practice because of two reasons: 1) the tendency to think you can control sin through lots of rules and 2) the persistent tendency to interpret events. Let’s explore the second reason some more.

Everyone must deal with disappointments, problems, and tragedies in life. The human tendency is to try to interpret events as signs of God’s anger or favor, asking questions such as: Why did this happen? What does it mean? What is God trying to tell me? Through this tendency, people (even Christians) lapse into the patterns of paganism, the natural religion of the human race. The underlying assumptions of paganism are: 1) When things go well, the gods are happy with us. 2) When things go wrong, the gods are angry with us. Therefore, the essence of paganism is this: how to stay on the good side of the gods so bad things won’t happen.

Professing Christians may acknowledge grace as true but live as though their own performance of religious standards determines their fate in life. They live in fear of God, not a healthy fear, but an unhealthy one—a fear of what God will do to them every time they fail. That becomes the motivation for their Christian living. Why do some believers succumb to this thinking? The answer is that we probably don’t understand the difference between punishment and discipline.

  • Punishment is a penalty imposed on an offender for a crime or wrongdoing, and generally connotes retribution (a payback) rather than correction of future behavior. It is backward- looking toward the offense, impersonal, automatic, and chiefly concerned with “balancing the books of justice.”
  • Discipline is training that develops character, self-control, orderliness and/or efficiency. It is forward-looking to a change of behavior and/or character, is individually tailored, personally applied, and is chiefly concerned with what will benefit the individual in question. Discipline is not always corrective or applied in response to sin; it is ongoing. Think “training.”

Punishment and discipline sometimes look alike (especially to the one on the receiving end), but the difference can be seen in both the attitude and the goal of the one applying them.

  • The attitude behind punishment is anger and indignation, and the goal is justice.
  • The attitude behind discipline is love, and the goal is the development of the person.

You can probably think of a time or two when you have confused these two concepts in your life.

20. What does the New Testament adamantly declare to you, as a believer, about freedom from punishment in Romans 5:9 and Romans 8:1-2?

Scriptural Insight: The Bible teaches that every believer will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This, however, is not a criminal trial where the fate of the defendant is in question, nor his guilt or innocence. It is an evaluation for the purpose of rewards (1Corinthians 3:11-15). Believers are already declared not guilty of sin…in Christ…forever!

21. What further confidence do we gain from 1 John 4:17-19?

Under the grace of the New Covenant, believers are disciplined (trained), not punished. God’s discipline stems from his love (Revelation 3:19). Confidence in his love for you should cast out any fear of punishment you may have.

22. Read Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:24-25 and 2 Timothy 3:16. What does God use to discipline his children?

23. For what purpose does God discipline his children?

  • Romans 8:28-30—
  • Philippians 1:6—
  • Hebrews 12:4-11 [Note: the Greek word translated “punish” in verse 6 means “to whip,” in essence “give a spanking.”]—

Because we live under the grace of God in Jesus Christ, believers can rest in the fact that all of God’s purposes for us are good. We have a loving Father who teaches, trains, and corrects. Even when evil occurs (because we still live in a fallen world), we can rest confidently in the promise of Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. Our God is good all the time to us—even in the tough times, in different ways to each of his children, and by what he allows and doesn’t allow into our lives.

24. Graceful Living: What has God used to train (discipline) you to trust him more? To depend upon him more? To say “no” to selfishness and “yes” to selflessness? Are you grateful for those lessons that overflowed from his grace and love towards you even if they hurt?

Part 2: Grace motivates us to obedience out of love and gratitude

So why do some Christians so easily stray away from grace into legalism? Why would someone want to retain the Law or create additional laws for Christians to follow? Often, it is because of the fear of lawlessness. All agree that lawlessness is wrong and is to be opposed. Yet, there is the tendency to think sin can be controlled through lots of rules. We all know how much that does not work! (See Romans 7:7-13.) The answer, however, is not that we should keep believers under law. It is teaching and exhorting believers to “live by the Spirit”—the better way.

Through our adoption as sons and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have received a status as spiritual adults. Adults live on the basis of mature character with freedom and responsibility. Knowing and understanding your new status in Christ, based on all that Christ has done for you and what you have in him, helps to answer the question, “Why should I live a godly life, if I’m not under law?”

25. Read Galatians 5:13-16. In contrast to living by law, how are Christians exhorted to live with our Grace-Based Freedom, and why would this be a better way? [Note: we’ll cover this more in the next lesson.]

26. According to Romans 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, what should motivate us to obey God with our lives if not legalism?

Historical Insight: “A preacher of the Law comes down on men with threats and punishments; a preacher of divine grace coaxes and urges men by reminding them of the goodness and mercy which God has shown them. For He [God] would have no unwilling workers nor cheerless service; He wants men to be glad and cheerful in the service of God.” (Martin Luther, comments on Romans 12)

27. What are the benefits of living by grace rather than by law?

  • Matthew 11:28-30—
  • John 10:10—
  • Titus 2:11-14—

Think About It: “What God wants is for us to trust him and His Word—the Word that tells us that Christ has done it all—and to act on it by approaching ‘the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16)…But if you don’t trust that you have been made totally acceptable in God’s sight, you will never have the boldness to approach him. You will linger outside His throne room, trying to find a way to get ‘worthy’ enough to go in. The end result is that you will avoid going to your only source of help (God) when you need him the most!” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, page 102)

28. Graceful Living: Read Philippians 3:3-10 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Paul understood the plight of those who had been relating to God through outward performance under the Law for years. He had been there! Those who have been freed from the Law (both Jews and non-Jews since Christ) can now have a relationship with God on the basis of his grace, as Paul describes about his own life (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Grace motivates us to obedience by love and gratitude for what Christ has done.

  • In what areas of your life have you been relating to God through outward performance (on the basis of law), with the accompanying feeling of obligation, guilt, and fear of punishment for not doing it right? How has that affected your life?

God wants you to relate to him on the basis of his grace, so that your motivation to obey him is based on his love for you, your love for him, and gratitude for what Christ has done for you. Relax! Thank him that you have FREEDOM to relate to your God on the basis of his Grace to you. And, enjoy your Grace-filled relationship with your God today, tomorrow, and forever! Paul responded to God’s grace call on his life with a statement of praise in 1 Timothy 1:17. How will you respond? Feel free to use any creative means including drawing a diagram of your freedom in Christ now.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Grace, Law, Spiritual Life, Women

8. Grace-Centered Living

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“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

How Are Christians Meant to Live?

God does not want believers to live by law, but by the Holy Spirit. Whether someone is living by law (God’s Law or man-made laws) or by grace is determined by two key issues:

1. The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God.
  • Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as her acceptance and works out of love and gratitude.

2. The issue of power: How you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources.
  • Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit.

Life by the Holy Spirit is consistently presented in contrast to living by law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:18)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.... Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:6,17)

“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:5-6)

Let’s explore what this looks like.

Day One Study

The Old Testament background of the ministry of the Holy Spirit

1. The Holy Spirit was active throughout history from creation until the New Testament age. Nehemiah recounts the role of the Spirit in the life of Israel as a nation. Read Nehemiah 9:19-20, 30. What was the Spirit’s role?

2. How did the Holy Spirit empower ("anoint") the following individuals for special service?

  • Exodus 35:30-36:1—
  • 1 Samuel 10:1,6-9—
  • 1 Samuel 16:12-13—

3. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on Old Testament believers was not promised to believers of that time nor promised to be permanent when given. (See 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11.) However, the prophets spoke of a future day, the time of the New Covenant or Kingdom. Read Joel 2:28-30 and Ezekiel 36:24-28. What did God promise about his Spirit at that time?

The announcement of the Kingdom and the coming of the Spirit

4. What announcement did John the Baptist make in Mark 1:4, 7-8?

5. What did Jesus promise about the Spirit in the following verses?

  • John 3:1-10—
  • John 7:37-39—
  • Acts 1:3-8—

6. How were the promises fulfilled in Acts 2:1-21, 32-36?

Scriptural Insight: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God himself, the Third Person of the Trinity. He is described as possessing all the divine attributes and is referred to as God (Acts 5:3-4). It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a “force” or merely an impersonal attribute or influence of God. He is described as having all the elements of personality: intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), emotions (Eph. 4:30), and will (1 Cor. 12:11). Personal pronouns are used of him, such as “he” or “him” (John 16:7-8).

7. Graceful Living: Does the concept of the Holy Spirit’s existence seem like science fiction to you? Like something out of a movie, e.g. “the force is with you” from Star Wars? We often feel this way because his name is more like a title. We have God the Father (we can relate to “father”) and God the Son (whose name is Jesus, we can relate to “son” and “Jesus”). Paul often refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ or God’s Spirit to help us relate to him. Be honest with God here. Let him know how you feel. Ask him to help you trust what he says in his Word about his Spirit’s presence in our world and in our lives.

Day Two Study

The relational ministry of the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that l am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?” (John 14:10). He then said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you (John 14:20). Authentic Christian living is when we live in the same relation to Jesus as he did with his father (faith, dependence). We trust; he supplies the life and power!

Your position in Christ is your:

  • Acceptance before God.
  • Assurance of salvation.
  • Identity.

Christ’s presence in you is:

  • Life (regeneration).
  • Power for living.
  • The basis of a relationship.
  • Promise and hope – the Holy Spirit is called a “deposit” or “down payment” on our salvation, giving assurance of the completion of his work. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

When a person hears the gospel and places her faith in Jesus Christ, several things happen instantaneously as a one-time event regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at these.

8. At the moment of salvation (when one believes), the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer is…

  • Titus 3:4-6—
  • Romans 8:9—
  • Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:4-7—
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13—
  • Ephesians 1:13-14—

9. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has established with believers a relationship to himself similar to the one he enjoyed with the Father. Read John 14:15-21, 26 and John 16:12-15. Describe the Spirit’s role in our relationship to Jesus.

From the Greek: The Greek word translated “Helper” or “Counselor” in John 14:16 is parakletos. Both of these English words have connotations that are absent from the Greek word. Helper connotes an inferior, which the Holy Spirit is not. Counselor can call to mind a camp counselor or a marriage counselor whereas a legal counselor is more in harmony with the Greek idea. In secular contexts parakletos often referred to a legal assistant, an advocate, or simply a helper (e.g., a witness or a representative in court). The verbal form of this word, parakaleo, literally means to call alongside and, therefore, to encourage or to strengthen.” (Dr. Tom Constable, Constables Notes on John, pages 219-220)

The Empowering Ministry of the Holy Spirit

From the beginning of our faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit anoints us with God’s presence and power. We need both to live the kind of life Jesus intends for us to live. After this one-time work of the Spirit to establish God’s presence within us, he has an ongoing empowering ministry in the life of the believer.

10. According to the following verses, how is genuine Christian life to be lived?

  • Galatians 2:20—
  • Philippians 2:12-13—
  • Colossians 1:29—

11. Read the verses below about the Spirit’s empowering ministry to the believer. What does the Holy Spirit empower or enable the believer to do in order to live the genuine Christian life described above?

  • Acts 4:31—             
  • Romans 5:5—             
  • Romans 8:26-27—             
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-16—             
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11—             
  • Ephesians 3:14-19—             

The Holy Spirit is the means by which Christ is “with us” and “in us” (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20). Christ is in a glorified human body in heaven. He is with us by means of the Holy Spirit. To sum up: The ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit has been well expressed by scholar Gordon D. Fee in the phrase, Gods Empowering Presence.” (Gordon Fee, Gods Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul)

12. Graceful Living: Briefly describe a great need that God has met in your life or a remarkable thing that God has done in your life through his Spirit’s empowering presence in you.

Day Three Study

The Holy Spirit’s Unseen Presence

We cannot see the Holy Spirit inside of us. But, we know he is working inside us because we become aware of the evidence. These are some of the things the Spirit does for us:

  • He helps us understand what the Bible teaches. Has someone explained something to you about the Bible, and you understood what she was saying? That’s the Spirit inside of you helping you to understand. John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13
  • He gives us the words to tell others about Jesus and say that Jesus is God. Have you wanted to tell someone about Jesus but didn’t know what to say, then all of a sudden the words just popped into your head for you to tell that person about Jesus? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you prompting you with the right words to say. John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3
  • He gives us assurance that we are Gods children. Have you ever felt really loved by God? That’s the Spirit inside of you letting you know for sure that you are God’s child, and He loves you. Romans 8:16
  • He makes us want to do what pleases God. Do you have a desire to please God with your life? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you giving you that desire. Romans 12:11; Jer. 33:31,33
  • He helps us to feel joy as we serve Jesus and when we do the right things. Have you ever felt really good when you chose to do the right thing or chose to be helpful? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you letting you feel God’s pleasure. Romans 14:17-18
  • He makes us not want to do what doesnt please God. Have you ever felt something tugging at you inside when you were tempted to do something wrong? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you nudging you, reminding you what doesn’t please God so you can choose not to do that. We can ask him to let us know in our thinking or feelings when we are tempted to do something bad. He promises to do that. Galatians 5:16
  • He makes us to become more like Jesus, especially in loving other people. Have you ever started loving someone even more after you started praying for him/her? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you doing that. Galatians 5:22-23
  • He makes us want to sing praises to God, in our hearts and out loud, and be thankful for Gods goodness. Do you like to sing praises to God? Do you feel thankful to God for his goodness to you? That’s the Spirit living inside of you filling your heart with praise and thanksgiving to God. Ephesians 5:18-20
  • He prays for us when we need help or dont know how to pray. Have you ever had a huge problem and didn’t know what to ask God to do about it, but God took care of the problem anyway? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you working to take care of your need before you even ask. Romans 8:26-27

13. Graceful Living: Which of the evidences you just read have you recognized in your life? Thank God for specific ways and times his Spirit has worked in your life.

Walking by the Spirit

The New Testament encourages believers to “live by the Spirit” (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:16, 25) and be “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18). The Greek word Paul used here in Galatians 5:16 means to literally “walk”—a common idiom for how one conducts one’s life or how one behaves, in this case one’s faith walk. What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Walking by the Spirit means walking in submission to and dependence on the Spirit. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” We exercise faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation. We exercise faith for our daily living out the life of Christ within us. This daily faith walk by the Spirit involves every area of life.

At the beginning of this lesson, we stated that you can recognize if you are living by law or living by the Spirit based on two areas:

1) The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do. Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God. Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his acceptance, and works from love and gratitude. You know you are living by the Spirit when your response to God is to serve him out of your love for him and gratitude for what he has done for you.

2) The issue of power: How you do what you do. Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources. Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit. You know you are living by the Spirit when you are stepping out in obedience to Gods Word, depending on God for the ability and power to do what he asks you to do, and trusting God with the results.

Think About It: The normal goal of human childrearing is to raise our children to become more independent of us over time. God’s goal is to raise his children to become more dependent on him over time.

14. Graceful Living: Think about different areas of your life—relationships, health, school, work, emotions, health, parenting, finances, other.

  • In which ones do you feel you are relying on your own power rather than the Spirit’s power?
  • Consider giving over those areas to your God where you are trusting in your own power and begin trusting in the Spirit’s power. Choose to live according to the Spirit and be led by the Spirit in those areas. Trust your God with the results and watch what happens!

Day Four Study

The filling of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit connects us with Christ so that he is with us and in us forever—God’s presence. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kind of life our God asks us to live—God’s power. He is God’s empowering presence. We are called to live by the Spirit, that is, to walk in submission to and dependence on the Spirit—by faith—daily.

18. Read Ephesians 5:18. What further instruction does Paul give? Why would the comparison to drunkenness be a good one?

What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? The contrast between being filled with wine and filled with the Spirit is obvious. Both forces are internal. “Be filled”/ “Be being kept filled by the Spirit” amounts to letting the Holy Spirit who indwells us control us completely. We do this by trusting and obeying him as his Word directs. The wine that fills a person controls every area of her life as long as that person consumes it. Drunkenness results in ungodly behavior. Likewise the believer who allows the Spirit to influence and direct his thinking and behavior will experience his control as long as she yield’s her will to the Spirit. This is our ongoing responsibility (present tense), and it is expected of every Christian, not optional.

Filling of the Spirit involves our yielding to God as God and yielding to his purposes and his truth. God fills what you open. Author Warren Wiersbe says this, “The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.” (Adapted from Dr. Constables Notes on Ephesians, page 61)

All that you learned in the Day Three Study regarding evidence of living by the Spirit would apply to evidence of being filled by the Spirit. Both result from yielding to and depending upon the Spirit’s empowering presence in your life, choosing God’s purposes and truth for your life. Both produce the characteristics of God’s life in yours.

15. In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul referred to four of the many results of the Spirit’s filling. What are they?

16. A parallel passage describing the same evidence of the Spirit’s filling is found in Colossians. Read Colossians 3:12-17. What are the evidences of being filled with the Spirit/living by the Spirit in each of the following verses?

  • Verse 12—
  • Verse 13—
  • Verse 14—
  • Verse 15—
  • Verse 16—
  • Verse 17—

Scriptural Insight: When he [Paul] speaks here [in Ephesians 5:18] of being with the Spirit and when he speaks in Colossians of being under the rule of the peace of Christ and indwelt by the “word of Christ,” he means to be under God’s control. The effect of this control is essentially the same in both passages: a happy, mutual encouragement to praise God and a healthy, mutual relationship with people.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Ephesians 5:18, page 1798)

17. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes similar evidences of living by the Spirit/being filled by the Spirit which he calls “fruit of the Spirit.”

  • What are they?
  • What similarities in this list do you see with what you discovered in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:12-17?

Think About It: “We aren’t able to produce the Christian life—only Christ can produce it. We are to maintain a dependent, receiving attitude—the same attitude of availability that Jesus presented to his Father for 33 years. And Christ will produce the fruit of his life in us. Our response should be, ‘Lord, I can’t, but you can.’” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, page 177)

18. Graceful Living: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Living by faith is acting according to the Word of God, depending on Jesus Christ for the power, and trusting him with the results. From the evidences of living by the Spirit you discovered in the verses above, choose a few that you desire in your life. Now, ask Jesus Christ to produce these in you by saying for each one, “Lord Jesus, I can’t, but you can. I want you to do this in my life. I trust you to do this in my life.” Watch what he does!

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Discipleship, Spiritual Life, Women

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