Having a good relationship with God is the ultimate goal of man. Some people describe this as a journey to return to Eden! To recover that close relationship with God that Adam and Eve had back in the beginning. Sin came into their lives and destroyed that relationship just as sin has continued to destroy it for all their children ever since! We discovered how sin happens as well as the consequences we face if we sin. We learned about the separation and our becoming “spiritually dead”, “lost”, and “separated from God”. The simple fact is that SIN destroys a person’s relationship with God and the only way to restore it is to get rid of the sin! We studied the PLAN that God made to help mankind get rid of sin and we saw that God brought his PLAN into action—in stages—beginning with some promises to Abraham and, later, through the use of the TWO special agreements found in the Bible. Upon closer investigation of the first agreement we learned that the animal sacrifices were never intended to be the end of man's problem of sin but only a temporary measure, which symbolically pointed to the final solution which would come about only when Christ died on the cross.
We specifically noted that the animal sacrifices and rituals of the OLD AGREEMENT were:
We learned that it is only in the NEW AGREEMENT that these problems are solved. Christ’s sinless human blood was shed in order to fulfill the price for sin!1 When Jesus died, he started the much-awaited NEW AGREEMENT between God and man; an agreement in which all men everywhere CAN BE included!
However, we still have several questions that remain unanswered at this point. In our lesson today, we are going to learn the meaning of some very important words, which we have all heard spoken in religion, and perhaps read in our Bibles, but most of us would have a difficult time explaining what they really mean.
The first word we will look at is RIGHTEOUSNESS, which is a very BIG English word! It is an important word because it is included in the Bible discussions about salvation and living the Christian life. As with all the words in the New Testament, this English word is a translation from a Greek word.2 One of the first interesting things we learn if we study the background of this Greek word is that it was not a “religious” term. This means that it was not specifically created and used for religious discussions. It was used in “everyday” language by the people of the New Testament and it had two primary areas of use.
One area of use was in the financial world, where the term was used to communicate the idea that something “added up” or was “balanced”. An accountant would use this word to describe the books of a company if they were “balanced.” The other area of use during that time was in the judicial system (the courts of law) where it was used to indicate that a person was “not guilty”, or “RIGHT in the eyes of the law”. The people of that time would use the adjective form of this word to suggest that someone or something was “just” or “fair” and they would use the noun form of the word to represent the idea of JUSTICE or FAIRNESS!
For some reason, the Bible translators have traditionally chosen the English word RIGHTEOUSNESS to represent this Greek word. However, you will sometimes see another very big English word, JUSTIFICATION, (or one of its various forms) in the verses of your English Bible to represent these same Greek words! This can be confusing because while we would not necessarily see a connection between the words RIGHTEOUSNESS and JUSTIFICATION, the fact is that they BOTH represent the very same Greek word in the original Greek!
Whenever this Greek word was used to describe someone’s relationship with another, it communicated the idea of “being RIGHT with the person” as opposed to “being WRONG with the person.” Therefore, whenever we see the words righteous or justified, speaking about mankind and his relationship with God, we are speaking about the idea of mankind being right with God—as opposed to him being wrong with God.
We can put this idea into our “River of Sin” diagram so that we can get a better understanding of what the passages about RIGHTEOUSNESS are really tying to communicate to us. When man sins he becomes UNRIGHTEOUS or “WRONG with God”. He is guilty, and so he becomes separated from God.
When man receives the blood of Jesus, he becomes RIGHTEOUS or “RIGHT with God”. Since only Jesus’ blood can take away sin then ONLY JESUS’ BLOOD can make a person “right with God”!
When we look at the picture it all seems so simple. In actuality, the situation could not be more complicated.
To get a better understanding of what we mean we need to go to the book of Romans in the New Testament. In Romans 1:18 we are told that the anger of God will be revealed against ALL people who do not follow him. This anger being mentioned here, which is coming, is one of the many ways the New Testament writers spoke about what we more commonly know of as “Hell”!3 This simply brings back to our minds the reality that for a person to be separated from God, on the other side of the river, is a very bad and dangerous situation! Therefore, we can easily see that SIN PLACES MAN IN A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION!
Believe it or not, OUR SIN ALSO CREATES A DIFFICULT SITUATION FOR GOD! At first, this statement might sound hard to accept, but it IS true! Consider what we know about God from our study so far.
Here is where God’s difficult situation becomes very clear to us. How can God be JUST and punish us, and, at the same time, accomplish HIS DESIRE to forgive us? Is it possible to forgive and punish someone AT THE SAME TIME? No it is not! To FORGIVE someone means to RELEASE him or her from whatever is owed! However, PUNISHMENT demands that the criminal RECEIVE what he is owed! Therefore, if God is going to forgive us, then he must release us from the punishment we deserve, but JUSTICE demands that the GUILTY people MUST get what they deserve! If he releases us from what we owe (eternal punishment in hell) then what happens to JUSTICE? It is a VERY difficult situation!
What is the answer? How do we (BOTH MAN AND GOD) get out of our respective difficult situations? We certainly DO NOT WANT to go to Hell and God certainly DOES NOT WANT to send us there!There IS an answer to the problem! Here is where JESUS and God’s SCHEME OF REDEMPTION fit into the picture!
We know, from the hundreds of verses in the Bible, that Jesus came here to give us a way to be SAVED – a way for us to be taken out of our difficult situation! John 3:16, perhaps the most well known passage in the whole Bible, tells us that God sent Jesus to die for us, but HOW does it work? How can Jesus’ ONE death pay the price for ALL the sins of ALL the people and how can JUSTICE accept an innocent sinless Jesus dying as a substitute in the place of guilty mankind? Do you remember the problem we saw with the animal sacrifices in Hebrews 10:1-4? Justice would not accept payment by substituting an innocent victim in place of the guilty one who is sentenced to die! That would not be FAIR and so how can we say that Jesus simply substituted for us and took our place?
We left you thinking about this question at the end of Lesson 4!
The solution is a bit complicated… Looking at it from the point of justice, the guilty person ALONE must bear the punishment. Therefore, the problem we have is that Jesus IS NOT GUILTY, and so HOW can he die and justice accept his death? An innocent person cannot die and so Jesus cannot die for us because JUSTICE will not allow a substitution.
Fortunately, God found a way to help us! He made a PLAN! Here is where the situation becomes interesting. God did not let Jesus simply take our death!
Please read 1 Peter 2:24 very carefully, take your piece of paper, and write the main points. What does Peter say about Jesus’ death? It specifically says that Jesus TOOK OUR SINS on his body at the cross. Now please read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and write the main points on your paper. What does this passage say about Jesus’ death? It says that God MADE JESUS TO BECOME SIN so that we could become “right with God”. Another passage we need to look at is Hebrews 9:28. Write the main points down on your paper. It also points out specifically that Jesus TOOK THE SINS of many people.
Look at the diagram “Option C” to the right. Jesus did NOT simply TAKE OUR DEATH! God’s PLAN WAS FOR JESUS TO TAKE OUR SIN and MAKE IT HIS OWN SIN! In doing so, Jesus WOULD BECOME GUILTY and IF he BECAME GUILTY then he HAD to die - because that is what JUSTICE demands. This may sound a bit strange, but let us look at these things from the viewpoint of JUSTICE. Justice asks, “Was sin committed?” The answer is, “Yes”. “Was the punishment carried out?” “Yes.” “Was the one that received the punishment guilty?” “Yes!” Then JUSTICE IS SATISFIED!
WOW! That is truly amazing!
HOW was Jesus able to take all of the sins of other people, put them on himself, and MAKE THEM his own? The answer goes back to what we just read in 2 Corinthians 5:21. It was God who MADE Jesus become sin. The only requirement for Jesus in this was that he be a sinless human because if Jesus personally made his own sin, then he could not have taken the sins of other people. If that had happened then he would ALSO have needed someone to pay for his own personal sins! However, since he committed no sin of his own this qualified him to take the sins of everyone else and MAKE THEM his own sins.
Doesn’t this create a difficult situation for Jesus? Yes it does. It means that, aside from taking the sins and making them his own, he MUST die and experience the separation from God that every sinner deserves! With this thought in mind, let us look at a very interesting passage. Please read Matthew 27:46, get your paper, and write down the main points. What is happening in this passage? Jesus is hanging on the cross in the process of dying when all at once he shouts out “My God, my God, why have you left me alone?" Why would Jesus shout out something like that? Do you remember Isaiah 59:2 - the place we learned about “separation from God” as “the wages of sin”? Well, AT THAT VERY MOMENT, Jesus took the sins of the world upon his body, God turned his back on his own son, and JESUS WAS ALONE! Then the shedding of Jesus’ sinless blood (the death of Jesus’ sinless PHYSICAL body) paid the price for those sins, freeing both himself and any person who is covered by THAT BLOOD from the separation of eternal punishment!
The FINAL RESULT was the completion of God’s PLAN - a way for HIM and the people to escape their difficult situations! However, this escape is not automatic for every person who will live! God can only escape being FORCED - BY JUSTICE - to send a person to hell IF, and ONLY IF, that person’s sins are included in those that Jesus paid the price for ON THAT CROSS! At the same time, a person can only escape paying for his own sins IF, and ONLY IF, his sins are among the ones Jesus TOOK and paid the price for! This means that SALVATION is CONDITIONAL and a person IS NOT automatically saved just because Jesus died on the cross!
Therefore, we now have a way to escape our sin problem! We can become RIGHTEOUS (JUSTIFIED) because of Jesus, and what HE did! It is very important that we remember that a person is helpless to do anything to save himself! There is absolutely nothing a person can DO to remove even one sin from his or her own life! Why is this so? Do you remember what we learned about getting rid of sin? There is only ONE THING that removes sin and that is BLOOD/DEATH! (Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22) Now we added to that knowledge the fact that ONLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS can take away our sins and make us righteous—“right with God.” This is God’s JUSTICE!
There are a number of passages that speak about this “justice”. One of the better ones is Romans 5:9-11. Please read it, take your paper, and write down the main points. Paul explains that we are "made right" with God by the blood (death) of Jesus. Remember that being right with God (righteous) requires the removal of our sin - because our sins made us “wrong” with God to begin with. The Bible is very clear in stating that ONLY JESUS’ BLOOD can take away our sins.
Another important passage about God’s justice is Romans 6:17-18. Please read it, take your paper, and write down the main points. Here we learn that a Christian has been set free from slavery to sin - through the death of Jesus - and has become a new slave…. A SLAVE to JUSTICE—to being right with God.
There is another important religious word we often hear people speak of that we need to understand; GRACE. It is used many times in the New Testament in connection with the topic of “salvation”. A good example of this is Ephesians 2:8-10. Please read it, take your paper, and write down the main points. Here we find that people are saved by GRACE and so we need to find out exactly what GRACE4 really is. If we go to the original Greek language, we find that GRACE represents the idea of a favor someone does for someone that they do not deserve to receive.
What does it mean when we read that people are “saved by grace”? If we apply the definition for “grace”, then it is saying that people are “saved by a favor which someone did for them which they did not deserve”. That makes sense! Didn’t God do a favor for all people? Yes, we call it “Option C” - letting Jesus take all sins and die to pay for them! Does this favor save people? Yes it does! Do the people deserve to receive this favor? No, they certainly do not. They deserve punishment and death!
Therefore, the UNDESERVED FAVOR God did for us all was letting Jesus take our sins, make them his own, and then shed his own blood to pay for them. This is the favor and the thing that actually saves us! We must never be confused about this!
The Ephesians 2:8 passage is often misquoted and many people have the wrong understanding of how God’s PLAN of salvation works. You will commonly hear people read Ephesians 2:8 and then say that this passage teaches that a person is saved “BY FAITH and NOT BY WORKS”. However, what did you write down as the first main point for verse 8? It should have been that that we are “SAVED BY GRACE”. The passage does not say that we are saved by faith. It says that we are saved BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH.5 We are not saved by faith, because FAITH cannot take away sins. Only BLOOD can take away sins. In addition, FAITH is something that YOU DO, and we must never forget there is nothing we can do to remove our sin!
This is the GOOD NEWS of the NEW AGREEMENT! We have a way to get rid of our sins so that we can come back to God! A FAVOR has been done for us by God, which we did not deserve, and he offers its benefits to anyone from any nation on the earth!
As we close this lesson, let us consider a few facts.
First, every person IS NOT saved simply because Jesus died! There are certain conditions that apply. We expect these conditions to be present because the GRACE we have learned about was given in order to bring man into an AGREEMENT with God. All agreements have conditions.
Second, is the fact that God offers salvation to anyone who wants it, and it is FREE! It is a gift! Therefore, a person must receive it in order to benefit from it.
Finally, we must remember that RECEIVING the gift of God's grace into our lives (or ANY gift for that matter) involves our DOING something. There are always actions involved in receiving a gift. Let us say that it is your birthday, you invite some friends over for a party, and each friend brings you a gift. Do you deserve these gifts? No. Did you do anything to earn these gifts? Again, the answer is NO. In order to receive these gifts, do you need to DO anything? Yes you do. You must reach out and pick them up, use your hands to unwrap the gift and then you must remove the items from inside of the wrappings. These are all acts that are done to RECEIVE or take possession of a gift. Would you say that by completing these actions you have now "earned" these gifts? Of course not and while they were in fact ACTIONS, they were only being done for receiving.
In Romans 6:17-18 we find a very interesting note written to people who were Christians. It describes their being transformed from being “slaves to sin” to being “slaves to God”. It states that the way they did this was by being set free from their sins. It also tells that they became set free from their sins by “being obedient” to the teaching they received. The context seems to be pointing to teachings that they “obeyed” in order to receive salvation. Therefore, it seems that receiving the gift of God’s grace for salvation is going to involve our doing something! However, in doing these things, we are not earning our salvation, but only receiving it. Salvation cannot be earned because it is a gift!
Now that we know what God’s JUSTICE is, the next topic we need to study is the instructions about how we can receive Jesus’ death into our lives. This will be the topic for the remainder of the lessons of this course. To prepare for these discussions please study through all of the passages in the WORKSHEET for Lesson 6 and bring the results of your research to our next class meeting.
1 Remember that only blood can take away sin! Hebrews 9:22
2 The word is DIKAIOS (pronounced dē΄-kī-os) for the adjective form, and DIKAIOSUNE (pronounced dē-kī-o-sūn΄-ā) for the noun form.
3 For a more detailed explanation of this punishment, please look at 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Hebrews 10:26-27, 2 Peter 3:7-12, Jude 14-16, and Revelation 21:8.
4 It comes from another ordinary Greek word, CHARIS (pronounced kăr΄-is) which simply means an undeserved favor!
5 A good parallel illustration for this is to think of how water satisfies your thirst. The water satisfies your thirst, but the water gets inside your house through a pipe. However, you would never say that THE PIPE satisfied your thirst. The pipe is simply what the water passes through. This is the way GRACE and FAITH work. GRACE is like the water because IT “satisfies the thirst” and FAITH is like the pipe because it is what the GRACE passes through! Faith DOES NOT pay for sins because ONLY BLOOD pays the price for sins! We are saved by the FAVOR and NOT by our BELIEVING the FAVOR! FAITH is something WE DO, and we know that nothing WE DO can take away sins? ONLY BLOOD can take away sins! Do not forget that the passage DOES NOT say that we are saved BY FAITH! It says that we are SAVED BY GRACE – BY THE FAVOR GOD DID FOR US THAT WE DID NOT DESERVE!
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