Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die on the cross? Couldn’t there have been another way? What is God’s plan for us? What does He expect out of us? Why did He give us the Bible? Why does He expect us to obey all that is in it? Is it true that a person can go to heaven if they live a good moral life, or is there more to it than that? These are the questions that we want to answer in this lesson. The answers center around the fact that we need a Savior.
The first question that many people ask is: why the Bible? Contrary to what some might think, God did not give us the Bible in order to restrict us from doing things that are enjoyable. God told Israel in Deuteronomy 10:12-13that His laws were given for their good. It is just like an automobile manufacturer that includes an owner’s manual along with the car. The purpose of the owner’s manual is not to restrict the car owner, but to inform the owner how to get the most enjoyment possible from the car. The Bible is just that: an owner’s manual sent from God so that we can get the most out of this life.
The primary reason for the Bible, though, is so that we can become like God so we can live with Him. In fact, the ultimate reason God made us is because He wants us to live with Him. This fact is evident by all that He has done for us to make living with Him possible. Read Titus 1:1-2,“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began….” Therefore, the Bible, or God’s law is simply a reflection of who He is; it represents perfection. If we did all that God’s law requires, as Jesus did, we would be like God and would therefore have earned the right to live with Him.
To further emphasize that God wants us to be like Him, read the following passages noticing especially the “even as” or “just as” statements to show that we are to live in such a way to be like Him: Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” 1 John 2:6, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”
So all we have to do is live like God. Of course, there is one big problem with all of this: we do not always live like God. We have not kept His law. We have sinned, that is violated law (“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” –1 John 3:4. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and Romans 3:9-10 tells us that there is none righteous, not even one.
What is the result of our sin? In this condition, we cannot live with God. God cannot have us in heaven with Him with our sin. We learn this from Romans 6:23 which says, “the wages of sin is death.” Death is separation from God. Read Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”
It is also interesting to note that it does not matter how many times we have sinned or how “bad” our sins were. Even one sin separates us from God and leaves us in the condition of not being able to live with Him. In Luke 7:41-42 Jesus told a parable to a Pharisee who thought he would be saved because he had sinned far less than a very sinful woman who was also in Jesus’ presence. In the parable Jesus showed that the Pharisee was in exactly the same condition as the sinful woman. Even though his sins may have been fewer, he could not pay the penalty for his sins any more than she could. Thus, we are all in the same boat: LOST AND UNABLE TO GET OUT OF THIS CONDITION BY OUR OWN GOOD WORKS.
We must emphasize this last point. No one will be saved because they lived a good moral life. We cannot make up for our sins by being good. Even sinning once is like owing a million dollars to the bank with nothing but a weekly paycheck to try to repay. The paycheck cannot make a dent in the interest, much less repay the debt. In Acts 10:2 we read of a man named Cornelius who was “devout, feared God with his whole house, gave much money to the poor, and prayed to God always.” Yet Cornelius was lost because he had not done what the Lord required to obtain forgiveness. Forgiveness is the only way to be saved.
GOD’S ANSWER TO OUR PROBLEM
Here is where the love of God and the grace of God comes in. While it is true that we are lost, God does not want us to stay in that condition. Remember, He made us so that we could live with Him. So how does God provide forgiveness? Read Romans 3:21-26: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Notice the following points from this text:
- No one could be saved by works or deeds of the law. Paul means by this that no man could do God’s law good enough to be worthy of salvation based on their goodness. The law by itself only shows man where he has sinned. The Jews tried to be saved by a system of law and many religions since have done the same. When we think we can do something good in order to make up for our sins, we are believing in a salvation by works. Paul said this is impossible.
- Apart from this salvation by works, God has revealed a way for man to become righteous. This is the meaning of the phrase “righteousness of God.” This is God’s way of making men righteous instead of a way of works which causes man to rely on himself.
- God’s way is for salvation to come by a gift. The gift does not come by God just pronouncing people forgiven. Since we are doomed to death for our sins and sold under the power of Satan, we need to be bought back from Satan’s grip. This is the idea of “redemption” which is the ransom price for our sins. God set the death of a perfect man being offered as a sacrifice as the “ransom price” for our sins. Since no one could pay this price for themselves, Jesus came to this earth and offered Himself up as a sacrifice of atonement thus paying the ransom. Through this God could in mercy offer us forgiveness.
HOW DO WE OBTAIN THIS GREAT SALVATION?
We obtain this forgiveness through faith. Romans 4 explains this system of faith by using Abraham as an example. We are told in verse 12 that we must “walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had.”
In looking at the life of Abraham we notice two things he did that expressed his faith:
- He trusted God’s promises (Genesis 15 and 17).
- He obeyed God’s commands (Hebrews 11:8 and James 2:21-24).
How does all of this fit with the command to be baptized? Look at Colossians 2:11 12, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Notice that we are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands. Thus, this is something God is doing, not man (therefore not of works). Next, notice who does the “circumcision.” It is the circumcision of Christ, so he is the surgeon. Now, what is He cutting off? “The body of the sins of the flesh.” Therefore, in this surgery, Christ is cutting off sins. Everyone should want such a surgery! Where and how is the surgery done? Verse 12 tells us that the surgery is done when we are “buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through faith in the working of God.”
In that sentence you have
- our obedience in baptism;
- our faith in the working of God; and
- the working of God or, that is, the grace of God.
Thus we can get on the surgery table by having faith in the surgeon to cut off our sins when we are buried with Him in baptism.
How do we remain forgiven after we are baptized? The beauty of the gospel is that once we are in Christ, we can continue to have forgiveness of sins. We did not live perfectly before we became Christians and we will not live perfectly after we become Christians. Our salvation continues to be on the basis of forgiveness. How do we obtain forgiveness after we have been saved? Read 1 John 1:7-2:5, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” By obeying God and confessing our sins to Him when we fall short we can maintain ourselves in a state of being “cleansed from all sin.”