We are so happy that you have decided to continue your study with us! This course is designed to continue where we stopped in JESUS: MAN OF THE BIBLE and discover many more things about Jesus and his life here on the earth. However, before we continue our journey into new territory, we will review the major points learned in the previous material.
We began our study by looking at the religious world of today and noted that there are more than 41,000 different “Christian” religions and that no two of these groups teach the same thing! From what we learned from the Bible, this situation IS NOT GOOD and cannot be from God! God has only ONE church and it follows the ONE set of teachings given by Jesus and his apostles in the time of the New Testament.
We learned that the Bible is God’s book, and that it has come to us through a very interesting past. It contains two messages from God for the people of the world, and the second message (the New Testament) is the specific one God has given for us today! We also learned that the Bible is complete and that we are not to INTERPRET it, but rather our goal is to UNDERSTAND and DO exactly what HE says.
We also learned many interesting things about Jesus Christ. We looked at his origin, his humanity, his being God, and at how he was BOTH God and man while he lived on the earth. We looked carefully at his works and his sinless life and discovered that when he lived on the earth, Jesus was just like us in every way and that the only thing that made him different from us was his IDENTITY! We ended our study with the idea that Jesus came here to become an example for us and that he was the PIONEER and PERFECTER of THE FAITH!
Now that we have seen the basic information about Jesus, we will now continue by looking at what Jesus came to build – TRUE Christianity – and explore what God instructs men to do in his second message!
Over the next four lessons, we will explore many questions relating to Jesus and his death. The reason why we will spend so much time on this is the importance of the subject. This subject is often referred to in books as, “The SCHEME OF REDEMPTION”. The word “scheme” is another word for “a plan” and “redemption” means, “to exchange something” and so, in simple words, the “scheme of redemption” is “a plan to exchange something”. Does this sound a little confusing? In this course, we will research many of the details about this plan by applying the things we have learned about studying the Bible. We hope that the result will be that by the time we are finished you will clearly understand the Scheme of Redemption.
In PART 1 of this material, we will examine the reason why God had to make this SCHEME. This will provide us with a foundation on which we will build future lessons.
Please stop here and read all of Genesis chapter 3 before going any further. Record the main points in your notebook.
What do we learn about SIN from this story? The story goes something like this. Adam and Eve were created and placed in a garden. They were given specific instructions regarding what they were to do, especially regarding the eating of the fruit of a certain tree, which grew in the middle of the garden. They were not supposed to eat that fruit. Unfortunately, they did not do what they were told to do and they were punished because they did not obey God. It is a simple story.
As we consider the events of Genesis 3, we cannot help but notice that there was a sudden change in man’s relationship with God because of his decision to eat that fruit. One day, man was walking and talking with God as good friends should and do, and the next day he was sent out from the garden and from the presence of the Lord! What a dramatic turn of events that was, and all because Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction regarding a piece of fruit!1
Since this lesson is about SIN, let us ask, “What is sin?” Several very good passages explain sin and how it happens in the life of a person. 1 John 3:4, has the closest thing we have to a “dictionary definition” for SIN in the Bible. It is described as "living against God's law". God gives man laws to follow - as we saw in the case of Adam & Eve. When a person breaks one of these laws, this action is called a sin. Many people today misunderstand the meaning of sin because sin is a word we use only when talking about religion. However, the idea of sin is very common to us and we live with it every day. The country we live in has laws that every person is supposed to follow. When a person breaks one of those laws, they are said to have “committed a crime”. The idea of CRIME and SIN are almost exactly the same! Both involve laws and people deciding to break those laws. The main difference is that while crime is based upon breaking laws that come from man, sin is breaking laws that come from God. God’s laws are not always the same as man’s laws. In other words, not all sins are considered crimes and not all crimes are considered by God to be sins. Please keep this in your mind as we proceed further with this material!
Another passage that helps us understand about SIN is James 4:17, where we learn that when a person knows to do something that is good and they do not do it then this is also sin. From this idea, it should be easy to see that God is very serious about the things he wants us to do. Most people only think of sin as doing something that we are NOT supposed to do (like Adam and Eve and their fruit) but this passage shows us that it is also a sin if we do not do something God tells us to do. Sometimes God tells us to DO something and sometimes he tells us NOT TO DO something, and so we must be careful to understand what he is saying. From what we have seen so far, we can conclude that sin happens when we do something that God told us not to do (some people refer to this as “sin of commission” because you COMMIT it), or when we do not do something which God told us to do (some call this the “sin of omission” because you OMIT doing it.) What about a situation where God tells a person to do several things and they only do some of them (some refer to this as “partial obedience”)? Is that also sin? Yes it is! 2
“How does sin actually happen in a person’s life?” We already know that sin happens because of something called “temptation”. The word for temptation in the New Testament is peirazo3) You will be surprised to discover that this word can be used either “in a good sense”4 or “in a bad sense” and it simply represents the idea of a challenge! A challenge can be used to tear something apart or to strengthen it and this word is used both ways in our Bibles.
“How does temptation work in our lives?” If you will remember, we already studied about this topic when we tried to understand how Jesus could be sinless and still be a human. There was a special passage in the Bibles regarding the topic of temptation — 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here we learned several useful things about how temptation works. First, we saw that temptation is regulated by God. He knows our individual limitations and promises that each of us will never receive a temptation that is more than we can resist. Therefore, a person can never look at their sin and say that they were forced because the temptation was more than they could resist. Temptation is simply a moment where one must choose a course of action from among two or more choices. You will always have a choice in the matter because of God’s gift of “free will”. Since you have the freedom to choose any option you like then CAN you choose to do right thing EVERY TIME? Yes, you can! That is what FREEDOM OF CHOICE means! Therefore, is it not POSSIBLE for a person to freely choose the right way each time they receive a temptation and NEVER commit even a single sin? Yes, it is POSSIBLE! (Please remember that Jesus was sinless and he was just like you in EVERY WAY!) If sin happens in your life because you made a freewill choice to do wrong, when you did not have to do it, then that means you did it because you wanted to! It was your own decision and YOU ALONE must bear the responsibility for your decision before God!
Does God ever “tempt” a person to do sin? This is a very good question to think about because there are many people in the world who “blame” God for the sin in their lives. Many seem to believe that God wants them to fail and that he sends them all sorts of temptations! However, this topic is mentioned by James in 1:12-15. Notice that he begins by confidently saying that God does not tempt people to sin! Of course this makes perfect sense because how can a God who, publicly, says that he wants everyone to be saved turn right around and, privately, try to make the same people sin? James goes on to explain that most of the sin in a person’s life actually begins inside of that person’s own mind! The thoughts and desires we have inside of us often lead us away from God more often than outside forces do.5 Notice also how James says that when the thoughts of a person get out of control then this leads the person to commit sin. How do thoughts become out of control? Do thoughts control themselves? If a person’s thoughts CAN get out of control then they can also be kept under control. Once again, we see that it is a matter of freewill choice!6
Let us summarize what we have seen so far. SIN comes into a person’s life as a result of a freewill decision, so that no one is forced against their will to sin. It therefore MUST BE POSSIBLE for a person to live their entire life without ever committing even a single sin! Even though at first this might sound crazy it is true!7 1 Corinthians 10:13 is very clear! 1) God limits temptation so that a person will never be tempted beyond what they are able to bear. 2) “Freewill” means that a person can choose whatever choice they want. If this is correct then I CAN choose to do right EVERY TIME if I want to! I CAN, because I have the right to choose whatever I want. However, does having the possibility of being sinless mean that I will, in fact, BE SINLESS? NO! Being sinless is not what is guaranteed by God. God only guarantees the possibility of being sinless!
There are TWO basic requirements for being sinless. One requirement is a knowledge of what is required. In other words, you must know the rules! A person has to know what can and cannot be done before he can decide whether to follow them correctly. The second requirement is a willful decision to follow those requirements EVERY TIME temptation comes! Since God is the one who determines what is “right” and “wrong” then a person who does not know what God says will be in a situation where they will have to make choices based upon WHAT THEY THINK IS RIGHT AND WRONG! Since what that person thinks may not be the same as what God thinks then it is only a matter of time before that person will make a wrong choice and when that happens, it is sin! The only way to be sinless is to listen to God and do what HE SAYS each and every time the challenge of temptation comes! This is another reason why Bible study is so important, so that we can KNOW what God wants us to do when we face temptation! How can we be prepared for temptation if we do not study? How can we know the way of escape?
The next question is, “Who is guilty of committing sin?” This is another very good question. From what we hear from religious leaders these days you would think that everyone MUST become a sinner8 and some people even say that we are all born sinners! However, from what we have already learned in this lesson, we know that sin is ruled by a system of JUSTICE and we know that justice is a simple idea, which says that the person who commits a crime is the one who must be punished. In order for justice to be confirmed, 1) a violation must be proven to have happened, and 2) this violation must be proven to have been committed by the one who will be punished. Once this has been done, then justice is not fulfilled until the punishment has been carried out.
Can sin be inherited?9 Earlier, we made a comparison between sin and crime, so a parallel question would be, “Can a crime be inherited?” Of course, we know that it cannot because that would not be JUSTICE! If your father commits murder then the Police cannot arrest you, because YOU did not murder anyone! If your father is guilty then HE ALONE must suffer the punishment for his actions. It would not be FAIR for you to be punished for a crime that was committed by someone else! However, this is what would be happening IF it were possible to inherit sin! You would be held responsible for the sin of your parents and THAT would not be fair!
That may sound very reasonable by human standards, but what does God say about this matter? Does God make us accountable for the sins of our ancestors? To answer this question let us consider a story we read in Ezekiel 18:1-20. In the introduction to the story, God spoke with his prophet about some things the people of that time were saying about the way he seemed to punish people. In verse 2 of the story, we discover that the people of Israel had made up a saying; “The fathers ate some sour grapes, but the children have the sour taste in their mouths.”10 God instructed the prophet to tell them not to say that any longer! To explain his point God tells a story about three generations of men in a certain family. Each man was different in his actions and the good men were accepted and the bad man was punished, and each one was judged by God according to his own actions. The resulting idea shows that God will not judge one person for the things another person does. Each person stands before God alone and is accepted or rejected according to his own actions!
The same idea is echoed in practically every passage we can find in the Bible regarding the “Judgment Day”. A clear example of this is found in 2 Corinthians 5:10, which explains that each person will be judged, by Christ, according to the things he or she did while they were alive in their body. Each person is accountable only for his or her own sins!
Now that we have seen what sin is and how it works, we will now examine what happens to a person’s relationship with God once they have committed sin. We can begin by simply thinking back to the details of the Genesis story, which we discussed earlier. What happened to Adam & Eve after they sinned? They lost their home, their innocence, their immortality, and, their relationship with God! The Bible has several passages that help us to better understand this problem. Please turn to and read Isaiah 59:2. Here we see that sin causes a person to become separated from God. It describes the details of the situation. God turns his back on the person and does not hear him. In short, sin destroys a person’s relationship with God! Sin is like a river that separates two pieces of land. GOD is on one side and MAN is on the other!
In religion today, we hear people often refer to this separation as something called “spiritual death”. There is an interesting passage connected with this idea, Romans 6:23, and it tells us that when a person sins they earn what sin pays—death! Is the death mentioned here physical death? Most likely it is not because if it were, then the fact that you and I are still alive would be proof that we must be without sin! (BOTH of us know that this is just not true, right!) Why did he use the word “death” here? Think about the meaning of “death”. If we read James 2:26 we see him using the word to emphasize the idea of separation.11 From what we read in this passage, we can conclude that the people of that time understood that death meant “separation” and so then, the idea of “spiritual death” would simply represent a separation between God and man and that agrees with what we learned from Isaiah 59:2!
As we close this lesson, we will SUMMARIZE what we have learned about SIN. First, we learned that sin is something that is "committed"—a freewill action (and remember that this "action" can also include a person's thoughts). Sin involves freewill and making choices, and there is no forced action (either for bad or for good). Sin also involves “authority”. God is the one who decides what is “right” and “wrong” and we do not know these differences by natural feeling. Therefore, each person must seek to learn what God teaches on these matters and then choose to submit to his will each time a temptation comes. We learned that a person can sin by doing what God said not to do, by not doing what God said to do, OR, by not doing ALL that God said to do.
Furthermore, we have learned that God has promised all people that he will NEVER allow us to be forced into "doing wrong" and that there will always be a way of escape so that we can endure it. Therefore, sin really is a matter of personal choice! If a person wants to live without sin, he or she can! If a person has sin in their life then he or she alone is to blame because each sin is the result of a situation where the decision was made to do something when a decision could have been made not to do it! We also learned that the possibility of a person living their life without committing a single sin must also be true because, if not, then there would be no JUSTICE on the "Judgment Day". If God requires that a person must be sinless in order to escape being sent to Hell, and, if it is impossible for that person to satisfy that requirement, then God would be asking the person to accomplish something that is impossible. It would be BOTH unfair and cruel to punish a person for a violation of something that was hopelessly impossible, while knowing all along that it was IMPOSSIBLE for the person to do! The Bible says that God is BOTH faithful and fair!
We also learned some things about accountability. God considers each person responsible for his or her own actions and, consequently, he will "give to each according to his action" in the Judgment. This is based upon the principle of justice, which teaches us that, “The one who does the crime is the one who must be punished." We also learned that a person cannot inherit SIN anymore than a person can inherit crime because that would not be justice!
Therefore, since we see that 1) God is serious in his demand that we not sin, and 2) sin is from us, we should make every effort possible to avoid following our selfish desires and, instead, seek to learn God's path and follow it without question. Sin IS A KILLER and people who sin WILL GO TO HELL! The only question that remains to be answered is whether you and I will be among them.
As a note about where we are going in our study... WE control whether or not we will sin in our future, but unfortunately, we ourselves cannot do anything to get rid of any sins that we have committed in our past! We drag our past sins along with us everywhere we go, just like a bunch of old rusty chains!
However, we know that God made a PLAN (a scheme) to help people get rid of past sins, but he never intended for this way out to be used by us (as some today mistakenly teach) as an excuse for our not concentrating on every encounter with temptation in our PRESENT and FUTURE and choosing the right way every time! Many people reason in their minds, "I'll just do the wrong thing this one time because, anyway, Jesus died for me and I can always ask God to forgive me..." Is this the right attitude for someone who understands our lesson today? Would JESUS, who is our example, say this? As a closing thought for this lesson, please read Hebrews 10:26-31 and notice the words of the writer of Hebrews as he speaks to his readers regarding the topic of “deliberate sin”!
1 By the way, did you notice that the fruit they ate WAS NOT an apple? It was simply called the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is an example of how many people THINK that the Bible says a certain thing, but in reality, it says something different. Another example from this story is the snake. Does the Bible actually SAY that the snake is Satan? No it does not! The snake lost its legs. Did God take Satan’s legs away? No, he did not!
2 Consider the example of the wife of Lot recorded in Genesis 19:12-26. They were told 1) to run away, 2) to go to the hills, and 3) not to look back. Lot’s wife did two of the three things correctly. Was she rewarded or punished? She was punished!
3 This word is pronounced pāy-răd'-zō.
4 One example of “temptation” in a “good sense” is found in the case of Abraham, back in Genesis 22:1, where it says that God “tested” Abraham. The word in the Greek version of the Bible (Septuagint) is PEIRAZO! It is interesting to note that whenever the word PEIRAZO is found regarding something God does to a person the Bible translators almost always use the English word “test”, but when PEIRAZO is found not referring to God, they use the word “tempt”. However, please understand that it is the same idea.
5 We can see the point of James’ clearly illustrated in what Jesus said in passages such as Matthew 5:27-28. You can sin without even doing an action! You can sin with your thoughts!
6 This is a very good illustration of the point in Proverbs 14:12 from our previous course.
7 If it is impossible, as many people today teach, for a human to live a sinless life then how can there be any JUSTICE in the Judgment? Consider this point. “Fairness” in judgment requires that a guilty person must have had the ability to be innocent, and, therefore, became guilty BY CHOICE. If mankind does not have the capability to live innocent, then how can it be fair for God to judge him guilty?
8 The subject of, “Who sins?”, has resulted in a number of popular passages being misunderstood and misapplied. One major example of this is Romans 3:23. It is suggested by many that this verse is proof that the Bible teaches that it is impossible for any human to live without sin. After all, it says, “For ALL have sinned…”, but is this what the writer intended to say to his readers? Remember our discussion of this verse in our previous course material. Verse 23 is part of a summary Paul made regarding his previous points about the history of the conduct for the groups of people called Gentiles (chapters 1-2) and Jews (chapters 2-3). His meaning is simple. It does not matter whether you are from the group called Gentile or from the group known as Jews, ALL (groups) decided to sin and are lost. Notice that nowhere in this entire section (chapters 1-3) is Paul discussing the topic of the POSSIBILITY of man living sinless, but rather is tracing the historical facts of the choices for these two groups of people.
9 It should be pointed out that experiencing the consequences of a person’s sins does not mean that we are responsible for (are guilty of) their sin. If the man in the illustration we discussed earlier should destroy the power plant in protest for his late penalty fee, others living in town will lose electricity due to HIS destructive act. However, they will not be charged with any crime because they did not blow up the power plant! While it would be true to say that we experience the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin (physical death, hard work, pain in child bearing, etc..) it would be wrong to say that we are guilty of their sin. Many people like to say that sin is “inherited” from our ancestors and they call it “Original Sin”. It is suggested that this idea is actually taught in Romans 5:12. If you look carefully at what is said there, you will see that Paul is comparing the actions of one man (Adam) with those of another man (Jesus). His main point there is that the result of sin was DEATH and this death spreads to ALL MEN. Notice HOW this “death” spreads to all men. Is it because it is inherited and passed along from generation to generation? No, it is spread to all men simply because all men choose to commit sin.
10 It seems that since God’s punishments for the nation of Israel were often great and long lasting in time, the ones who were guilty and those who were innocent BOTH suffered the same things! For example, if God punished the guilty people of Israel all over the land with a drought that lasted several years, and there were innocent Israelites living among the guilty, then ALL Israelites – BOTH the guilty and the innocent – would suffer the effects of that drought. On the other hand, if God decided to punish the people with an invasion by a foreign army, then that army would occupy the whole land of Israel, taking over the property of BOTH the guilty and the innocent. After seeing this happen many times, the people of Israel concluded that God was PUNISHING the innocent people for the sins of the guilty people! However, the suffering of the innocent was a coincidence. The reality of God’s attitude about the guilt of a person is clarified in this passage through the prophet Ezekiel.
11 When a person dies they do not cease to exist. What happens is the body becomes separated from the soul and since the soul keeps the body alive, the body dies. Death then is a separation! Therefore, SPIRITUAL death is SEPARATION from God!
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