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Lesson 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's Articles