Thursday, October 25, 2012

Salvation: The Only Solution

Lesson 4 Salvation: The Only Solution (Genesis 4, Leviticus 1 & 6, Galatians 3, Romans 3)
Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: . Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.  Introduction: My wife recently attended a conference of clergy and church school teachers. Through the wizardry of modern technology, in one session the audience could give electronic feedback that was instantly computed and displayed on a screen at the front. The question posed to the audience was whether they were confident of their salvation.  The positive response was discouragingly low. 

If you have made a decision for Christ, but are uncertain of your salvation, you must get this “big picture” theology right. Join me in this important journey through the Bible to discover the true meaning of grace!
I.      Old Testament Grace
A.      Read Genesis 4:2-5.
Why is Abel’s offering more acceptable than Cain’s?
Is this occupation discrimination?
A.      Read Genesis 4:6-7.
What similar things did both sons do?
(They both labored in the field. They both chose their best (first fruits) for God. They both brought an offering to God.)
1.      What, then, is God talking about when he says that Cain must “do what is right?”
Cain and Able have done essentially the same thing! (It is not that one did work and the other did not. It is that one followed God’s instructions for an offering.)
1.      What is the purpose of this offering?
A.      Read Leviticus 1:1-2.
What is being discussed here? (Animal offerings - the same subject as in the Cain and Able story.)
A.      Read Leviticus 1:3-4.
What work was required under the Old Testament system to have a person made right with God?
(No work was required for the forgiveness of sin. Atonement came solely from having the animal die on behalf of the person. Note, however, that God is interested in property rights, and in Leviticus 6:1-7 requires stolen property to be returned with a 20% penalty. However, this reflects God’s concerns for property rights between individuals, the thief is not repaying God for his sin.)
1.      What does our short journey into Leviticus teach us about why Cain’s offering was unacceptable? (Read Genesis 3:2-4. The penalty for sin is death. The death of the animal brought atonement for sin. The “death” of an apple does not. Blood, not apple juice, makes atonement for sin.)
A.      Under the Old Testament system, could hard work ever bring a right relationship with God? (Ask Cain.  Cain’s arrogance and anger over being wrong on this point of truth caused him to kill his brother.)
A.      Have you previously considered that the Old Testament system for forgiveness of sins modeled grace?  Read Titus 1:1-3.
How long has God had His grace plan in effect? (It was promised “before the beginning of time!”  It makes perfect sense that the sanctuary system would serve as a model of grace.)
I.      The Cain Problem Today
A.      Whenever I teach about grace, I receive notes from readers protesting that we are “saved from our sins, not in our sins.”  What do you think this means? Does it mean that if we are sinful we cannot be saved? If so, who is free from sin?
And, what, exactly, is meant by “sin?”
A.      Read Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 5:14, Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:9-12.
Based on these texts, if we cannot be saved “in our sins,” who can be saved? (No one.)
A.      What is the problem facing those who believe, like Cain, that some work on their part will make them (their offering) acceptable to God?
(They are lost.  No one is righteous. If you think that your behavior saves you in any way, you are like Cain. Not only did Cain become angry with his brother, but he was rejected by God for failing to follow the only path to salvation.)
A.      Let’s get back to the introduction. If a Christian has given his heart to God, and he is uncertain of his salvation, what does that mean?
(It means that Christian believes that his actions have in some way caused him to lose salvation. This is Cain thinking.  That belief, rather than sin in the life, poses the greatest danger to salvation. Cain’s works offering was unacceptable to God.)
1.      Does this mean that once a person is saved they are for all times saved?
(No! The issue is whether you choose to be an Abel, choose to be on God’s side, and to accept His method of salvation.  You can always turn away from God, you can break that connection with Him, and you can choose to live a life outside God’s will.)
I.      Assurance of Salvation Through Grace Alone
A.      Read Galatians 3:6-9. Who does Paul point to as our example of righteousness by faith? (Abraham, an Old Testament hero.)
A.      Read Galatians 3:10-14.
What is so dangerous about having the Cain attitude that our works determine our standing before God? (“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse.” Trying to keep the law is a no-win situation.)
A.      Read Romans 3:21-23.
When Paul says “there is no difference,” what difference is he talking about? (There is no difference between us sinners. We have all sinned. Some sin greatly, others sin less, but because we are all sinners, there is no difference in God’s eyes.)
A.      Read Romans 3:24-26.
What is the only path to salvation? (Grace! We are justified freely by grace.)
1.      If a person is uncertain of salvation, what would be the reason for that?
(They would be thinking about some imperfection in their life. Something they needed to work on.)  a.      What does the “no difference” statement say to this person concerned about still being “in sin?” (You have no “minor sin” in your life. As far as God is concerned, there is “no difference” between you and a serial killer! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. If you fall short, you fall short whether it is by an inch or a hundred miles. Grace is a gift, it does not turn on your works.)
A.      Read Romans 3:27-30.
Paul says “no boasting.” Why?
(Because our works have nothing to do with grace.)
1.      What is the opposite of boasting?
(Feelings of inferiority or inadequacy.)
a.      If boasting is out, are feelings of inadequacy out?
(Yes! Praise God they are no more logical than boasting. A lack of confidence in our Lord’s grace, is no better than our boasting about our role in the Lord’s gift of grace.)
A.      Read Romans 4:4-5.
What is our obligation when it comes to grace?
(To trust God.)
1.      If we are uncertain of our salvation, are we trusting God?
(No. We are considering whether we have enough “credit” from our own works!)
I.      The Path to Holiness
A.      Read Romans 3:31.
What does a correct understanding of unmerited grace do to the law?
(It is not against the law. It upholds the law.)
A.      Read Galatians 5:13-18.
Once we have full and complete assurance of salvation by grace alone, how shall we live? (We are free!  We do not need to obey the law to continue in grace.  But Paul says “do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.”)
1.      Why would it be unnatural for us to indulge the sinful nature?
(God died for my sins. He gave up His life for your sins. Sin has created a flood of pain and suffering for God and for humans. If God so greatly loved you, how can you fail to live a life of love towards others? The essence of the law is love.)
A.      Read again Galatians 5:16-18.
What is the key to living a life of love, a life pleasing to God?
(Live by the power of the Holy Spirit!)
A.      Read Galatians 5:19-25. Are we called to live a holy life? (Yes. Without doubt.)
1.      Does living a holy life, and refraining from living a sinful nature life, save us?
(No! We are still saved by grace alone. It is a gift.)
1.      Assured of our salvation, what is the goal of our life?
(To have the Holy Spirit crucify our sinful nature, with its “passions and desires.”)
A.      Dear friend, accept God’s free gift of salvation by grace alone with joy and confidence!  If you choose to confess sin, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf, you are saved. You need have no doubt of your salvation. On the other hand, if you believe your salvation turns on your right works, you are following Cain - and you are under a curse.  Will you, today, take the gift and not the curse?      
Next week: Growing in Christ.                                    

Saturday, October 20, 2012

God's everlasting covenant is with you

2 Samuel 23:5

 “If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
  arranged and secured in every part; surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
  and grant me my every desire.