11 Aug Quarter One Lesson Four
What is the gospel?
In our last lesson, we saw that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and did that which God said would bring them death.
And while Adam and Eve’s sin did indeed bring consequences they were not put to death immediately. Though their sin would indeed bring death, not only to them but to all their descendants, yet remember this verse?
“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21 (ESV)
Let us now think through exactly what God did for them, the consequences it had, and what that means for us today.
First, we remember that Adam and Eve had already tried to cover themselves. They “sewed fig leaves together” in an attempt to clothe their nakedness; that is, to cover their exposure to God.
But the fact that God came and clothed them in garments of skins teaches us that their own effort to clothe themselves was not effective. Something more substantial, and of a different kind, was needed in order for Adam and Eve to be fit for God’s presence. In essence God said to Adam and Eve, “12 I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you.” Isaiah 57:12 (NIV)
Similarly, we cannot attempt to work off our wrongs, or try to clothe ourselves with good deeds that will somehow make up for our bad ones. Our righteousness and our works will not benefit us. We need something more.
Please notice the following passage and provide your thoughts below:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)
Question 1. In Isaiah 64:6 what are our “righteous acts” or good deeds compared to? What do our sins do to us?
Isaiah 64:6 shows the picture of a man or woman trying to cover up their sin by doing good deeds, by “righteous acts” like Adam and Eve working hard to clothe themselves. But God says our righteous acts are like “filthy rags”; all our attempts to clothe ourselves by righteous acts do not make us fit for God’s presence. They “do not benefit us.”
So there has to be another way. And the good news is that there is another way. As Adam and Eve stood there in the “filthy rags” of their fig leaves, God came to them and clothed them with garments of skins. He removed their fig leaves—their attempts at clothing themselves—and replaced them with garments of grace, freely given to them. This grace was shown to those who were undeserving.
But where did God get these garments of skins? To get these garments God had to have put an animal to death (possibly a lamb), taken the skin from the animal, fashioned garments and clothed Adam and Eve with them.
And here is where we learn something very valuable and life changing: God provided a substitute. Adam and Eve were under the death sentence, but God loved them and so He put an animal to death in their place so that they might live. Then He clothed them with their substitute, so that whenever He looked at them He did not see their sin but rather their substitute.
In clothing Adam and Eve in this way God is shown to be just and righteous, as well as gracious and merciful. He is shown to be just and righteous because Adam and Eve’s sin demanded death, and God shed the blood of an animal in keeping with His justice. With God, sin is never overlooked, there has to be an accounting, a payment made. Yet God is shown to be gracious and merciful in that He put to death a substitute in the place of Adam and Eve, thereby forgiving Adam and Eve and allowing them to live.
A very important point to understand from this situation with Adam and Eve is this: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).
Question 2. Why do you think that God required death in order for Adam and Eve to live?
Adam and Eve’s attempt to clothe themselves in fig leaves did not work because there was no shedding of blood. By this we learn that our sin is much more serious than we thought; it requires death as payment. The “fig leaves” of our “good works” will not suffice as payment.
To illustrate this let me tell you about a crime documentary I watched. A young man, named John, killed his older brother. John was greedy and believed that he would get the full inheritance from his aging parents if his older brother were out of the way. What a horrible thing to do!
Now what if John had decided to make up for his wrong, came to his parents and said, “Dad, Mom, I’m so sorry for what I’ve done, and to make up for it I am volunteering to sweep the kitchen floor for a full week.”
Well, John would not have understood the seriousness of his crime, nor what is required by the state as payment for the wrong. And this is the same with us when we try to pay for our own sins by doing good works. Our good works are as “filthy rags” and filthy rags can never pay for sin nor provide an acceptable covering.
So God has done something that meets His own requirements as payment for sin, which allows Him to forgive us who have done wrong. Just like in Adam and Eve’s case, God has put to death a Substitute for us, and that Substitute now clothes all who believe. Indeed, Adam and Eve’s substitute, a lamb or an animal of some kind, didn’t actually forgive their sin but merely pointed forward to this Substitute. Let’s examine this truth:
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
We remember that Jesus Christ was the Word Who was with God in the beginning. He is the second Person in the Trinity, God’s Son.
Question 3. According to 1 Peter 3:18 above, what did Jesus Christ do for us? What was His purpose in doing so?
Question 4. How do we see the concept of substitution in 1 Peter 3:18?
Jesus Christ came to this earth over 2,000 years ago, and He lived a completely sin-free life (Hebrews 4:15). He was completely righteous. And then this righteous one was falsely accused and wrongly condemned. He was put to death on a cross, which was a Roman instrument of execution. He died on a tree.
But it is important to understand that He died for our sin. He died for us, “the righteous for the unrighteous.” This is substitution. God substituted His Son (the righteous) for you and me (the unrighteous). His Son took your place. Died your death. Paid for your wrongs with His own blood. This is tremendously good news, for it means that, just like Adam and Eve, all who believe are forgiven of all our sins.
Notice the concept of substitution in this passage about Jesus Christ, which was written 700 years before Jesus even came to earth:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:4-11 (NIV)
Question 5. According to this prophecy, written 700 B.C., why was Jesus pierced when He was nailed to the cross? Why was He wounded and punished?
Question 6. Isaiah 53:6 tells us that we’ve all gone astray. Like Adam and Eve we’ve been disobedient. According to this verse, what did God do with our sin?
Question 7. What animal is Jesus compared to in verse 7?
Jesus is prophesied to be like a “lamb led to the slaughter”, and when He came to this earth a prophet by the name of John the Baptist saw Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NIV)
Question 8. According to Isaiah 53 verse 10 above, what was Jesus life and death called?
This passage of Scripture written 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem tells us the purpose of why He would come to this earth. It tells us that Jesus carried all our sorrows up the hill on His way to the cross. He carried your sorrows so that you might have eternal joy! And there at the cross He would be pierced and punished for us. There He would be wounded to make us well, healing us from our sin-sickness and making us healthy by the stripes He would receive at the cross.
Then God put our sin on Him: “the iniquity of us all”, and He was cut off from the land of the living. His life and death were a “guilt offering”; meaning that Jesus took your guilt on Himself and died under God’s judgment, so that you might be forgiven and live guilt-free. He was condemned that you might be justified. He died that you might live.
Question 9. Let us just stop for a moment right here and let these truths, the truths of the cross, sink in to our hearts. I am amazed, stunned even, at what God has done for me, a sinner. How about you? As you contemplate what Jesus Christ has done for you what are your thoughts just now?
You have read the gospel in this lesson, but let’s remind ourselves exactly what the gospel is:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 (ESV)
Did you notice that the gospel is that which is of “first importance?” The two points of the gospel are that Christ died for our sins and that He rose from the dead. And this is the most important thing you will ever learn. It’s important for salvation, it’s important for growing in the Lord, it’s important for a mature Christian and it’s important to keep us safe to the end. The gospel is everything. This is why we have called our ministry Gospel Growth Ministries.
Next, notice that the wonderful thing that Jesus did on the cross is actually meant to provide a covering for us, to clothe us:
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 13:14 (NIV)
Even as Adam and Eve were clothed with the sacrifice, clothed with the lamb (or other animal), even so we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and clothe ourselves with Him.
How do we do this? How do we put on Jesus? The answer is by believing the good news that you have read today. By believing the gospel.
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV)
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31 (NIV)
Finally, to close this lesson today, we need to see what believing this good news does for all who believe it. In closing, please read the following passage:
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)
Question 10. What did the knowledge that God had clothed Isaiah with “the garments of salvation” do for Isaiah?
Isaiah “delighted greatly” in the Lord, he rejoiced in God because God had not left him naked in his sin, but rather had clothed him in His Son. Isaiah rejoiced that he was fully clothed in the garments of the gospel.
And I would like to encourage you today that this experience of rejoicing and being glad grows and expands with time, and with greater knowledge and understanding of the gospel. The Christian life is one of great joy because of the good news. It just seems that the good news gets better and better over time, and it becomes more and more important to us, causing us to rejoice more and more.
If you will believe in Jesus Christ, here is your future: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 1 Peter 1:8 (ESV)