The following points are useful for explaining grace to skeptical hearers. Students should learn the logic of salvation and memorize the relevant verses to back up each point.
I. The Rationale for Salvation
John 3:16 ". . .for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
A. "God. . .loved the world" (What is God's attitude toward people?)
- God loves all people and desires a relationship with them.
B. ". . .that. . .(we) should not perish. . ." (What is man's dilemma with God?)
- God is absolutely righteous and absolute righteousness.
- James 2:10 - the Law is like a chain--only one link needs to break and the chain is broken, not all of them or even most of them; God does not grade on the curve.
- The payment for sin is death - separation from God (Romans 6:20).
- Genesis 2:17 - refers to separation from God (spiritual death) rather than mere physical death.
- God cannot merely forgive or forget sin - it must be paid for.
- The purpose of the Law is not to provide a "ladder" of good works, but rather:
- to show man clearly that he cannot be saved by his works. Like an X-ray, it only shows the problem - it does not give power to heal it.
- to show the way God would provide a solution - the Old Testament sacrificial system teaches that God will provide a blameless substitute to pay for our sins.
C. ". . .that He gave His. . .Son. . ." (How did God resolve our dilemma?)
- John 1:29 - Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial system.
- Mark 15:34 - Jesus experienced separation from God because He was identified with our sins and punished for them (II Cor. 5:21a).
- John 19:30 - He paid for all of man's sins in full (see also 1 John 2:2).
Q: How could He pay for all our sins in a short period of time?
A: We can consider that one perfect man could take the place of one sinful man, but not for the sin of all people of all time. Therefore, it was necessary that the perfect substitute not only be a man to represent the human race to God, but that He (Jesus) also be God himself. To satisfy the judgment of God for all sin of all time, only an infinite being could with stand such a judgment.
D. ". . .that whoever believes should. . .have eternal life" (How do we receive this salvation?)
- Jesus' death was sufficient to pay for everyone's sins, but it becomes effective only when we choose to receive it for ourselves.
- ILLUSTRATION: A man is in debt to the IRS $1 million. It's April 15th and they permit no extension of deadline and are sending an agent at midnight to receive payment or take him into custody. The man could raise only $43--hopelessly short. A knock on the door and a man comes in offering a check for $10 million made out to the debtor. The check is sufficient to pay the man's debt, but effective only if he receives it, endorses it and deposits it.
- See 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 - the cross did all that is necessary to pay for the world's sins, but Paul goes on to entreat people to "be reconciled to God" (vs 20) - they must receive the work of the cross to make it apply to them.
- The word "believe" needs some definition:
- The Greek word (pisteuo) means to "to trust in" - to personally trust Christ's work to pay the penalty for your sins.
- John 1:12 links this word to receiving Christ (see also Revelation 3:20).
- To sum up:
- Ephesians 2:8-9 - Salvation is "by grace. . .through faith." Vs. 8b, 9 explain this in greater detail. Salvation is "not of ourselves" - that is, it does not come from us or by our power, but from God's power and work. "Grace" means "it is the gift of God" - not a wage, but a free, undeserved gift. "Faith" means "not as a result of works" - not labor, but simply humbly receiving the gift.
- Galatians 2:16 also shows clearly that salvation is by faith, not good works. Vs. 21 goes on to point out that if men could get back to God by good works, God committed the greatest crime in history - He sent His Son to die needlessly.
- ILLUSTRATION: The pope could go to hell while Charles Manson could go to heaven. What kind of people are offended by this? Why? What kind of people are glad to hear this? Why? The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14) illustrates this well.
II. How God Views Us Now
A. Complete forgiveness of our sins - past, present and future.
- Ephesians 4:32 "has forgiven"; Colossians 2:13 "all our transgressions"
- Romans 8:1 "no condemnation" - period
- John 5:24 - "does not come into judgment" - we do not even appear at this judgment
B. Unconditional acceptance, regardless of our behavior.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21b - "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" - God is free to view us as having Christ's righteousness because Christ took on our sins.
- Hebrews 10:10-17 - vs. 14 "has perfected for all time those who are sanctified". We have been "brought to completion" (meaning of "perfected") in regard to our acceptance before God. Therefore, God does not remember our sins against us as far as our acceptance with Him is concerned.
- ILLUSTRATION: One day you wake up praising God, witnessing to your neighbor, going to fellowship, studying your Bible and ending with long prayer. The next day you wake up in a foul mood, get in a fight with your spouse, goof up at work, and get so depressed that you don't show up at fellowship. Which day are you more/less acceptable to God??
C. Eternal Security
- Ephesians 1:13,14; 4:30 - God has "sealed" us in Christ with the Holy Spirit for heaven. Paul is using a term familiar to all in the Roman Empire. When a Roman official sent a document, he put the seal of Rome on it. That seal was the tangible proof that all the power of Rome guaranteed safe passage of the document to its destination. In the same way, God has put His seal on us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) to give us tangible proof that all the power of God guarantees safe passage of His property (us) to its destination (heaven).
- Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4,5 - The term "predestined" means to set or fix someone's ultimate destiny. God has set the believers ultimate destiny - we will be conformed to Christ, or made holy and blameless at Christ's return (see also Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).
- Note that this does not teach that God predestines us to believe in Christ. God fixes our ultimate destiny as believers, having foreknown that we would choose to believe in Christ.
- ILLUSTRATION: A man walks up to the edge of a cliff. He can choose to back off from the edge, or he can choose to jump. If he jumps, certain other laws take over which fix his ultimate destiny - namely, that he will hit the bottom of the cliff. Now if I could know beforehand that he would jump, I could safely predict beforehand his ultimate destiny - even though he made a free will decision. In the same way, God does not make us choose Him. But if we do, He tells us that our ultimate destiny is fixed - we will be conformed to Christ in heaven. Since God knew how I would choose even before the foundation of the world, He could safely predict my ultimate destiny, even though He did not make me choose Him.
- John 1:12*
- John 7:17*
- Ephesians 2:8-10*
- Revelation 3:20*
- Romans 8:1*
- Ephesians 4:30*
- Colossians 2:13*
- 2 Corinthians 5:21*