Lesson Goal: Help the student understand the nature of saving faith and determine whether or not they have trusted in Christ.
Instructor’s Notes: We cannot be reconciled to God without repentance because we cannot be reconciled with God while we are still making war with Him. So, in this sense repentance is required for salvation. But it is only the grace of God that makes God willing to forgive us. And God has offered that grace to mankind in Jesus Christ. The grace of God cannot be found anywhere else except in Jesus Christ. In this Bible passage we read that we can only receive the grace God offers us by believing in Jesus Christ. We must place our trust in Jesus to be saved. Faith is the condition God gives us for salvation.
- Can repentance earn God’s forgiveness? (No, we must repent to be in fellowship with God, but repentance is not what makes God willing to accept us as His children.)
- What makes God willing to forgive us? (God’s grace is what motivates Him to welcome repentant sinners.)
- How did God offer His grace to us? (God sent Jesus as a sacrifice to wash away our sins so we could be reconciled to Him. We can only find God’s grace through Jesus Christ.)
- How do we receive the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ? (We must trust in Christ.)
- Besides the grace that is received through Jesus Christ, what are some other ways we can receive God’s grace? (There are no other ways. Christ is the only way.)
Romans 4:17-25, John 1:29
Instructor’s Notes: In Romans 4 we see the nature of faith. Though Abraham and his wife were too old to have children, he did not focus on the weakness of their bodies, but on the promise and character of God. In the same way, saving faith looks away from our sin and inability to save ourselves and looks to Jesus Christ. In faith we believe that what Jesus did by dying for us and rising again is able to save us from sin and the wrath of God. We must believe that God offers us grace in Jesus Christ and we must believe that God is faithful to save us when we trust in Christ. Faith is not a feeling, it is a dependence on the promise and character of God. Faith believes that what Jesus did for us satisfies the demands of God’s justice so that He can now freely pardon and accept us as His children. We must trust not in ourselves, nor despair in our weakness, but we must trust in the promise God has given us in through His Son.
- Describe saving faith. (A person must believe that God accepts them not because they are good, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Saving faith does not look to our own goodness, but accepts the gift of grace that is freely offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Saving faith believes that Christ offered up His life for us as a sacrifice to God, and that God accepted that sacrifice on our behalf.)
- Have you trusted in Christ?
- If yes, how do you know?
- If no, why have you not placed your trust in Christ?
Instructor’s Notes: When someone stops trusting in themselves and places their trust in Christ they have a measure of assurance and hope. This doesn’t mean they never doubt their salvation, but it does mean they genuinely expect mercy from God because they believe that what Jesus has done for them satisfies God’s just wrath against them. When the apostle Peter was walking on the water he did fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. But when he began to pay attention to the wind and waves he began to sink. He then had to turn his eyes back onto Jesus and cry out to Jesus for help. When someone turns from self-righteousness and trusts in Christ they will have a deep sense of assurance and hope, but if they start looking to their own goodness and worthiness as the source of that hope they will quickly begin to sink in fear and doubt. At that point they must do what Peter did; they must put their eyes back on Jesus and ask Him to help them with their doubt.
A person who has truly trusted in Christ can have doubts, but in general they should have a sense of joy and hope in regards to their salvation. If they believe that Christ died for them and that God accepted that sacrifice on their behalf, then they should know that they have eternal life. If they have no sense of assurance then that is a clear sign they have not fully trusted in Christ; a believer might doubt, but he never despairs.
On the other hand, some people might have a false assurance. If the person has never been convinced that they are lost and deserve to go to hell, it is likely their faith and assurance are not founded on what Christ has done for them. Maybe they believe they are going to heaven because they are sincere. In such a case it is the duty of the instructor to help the student see the folly in trusting in themselves instead of acknowledging their guilt and casting their souls at the feet of Jesus for mercy. Maybe they imagine that they have always trusted in Christ because they grew up in a Christian environment and always believed in the truths taught in the Bible. It is the instructor’s task to help such a person understand the difference between believing in the truths taught in the Bible and trusting their eternal destiny into the hands of Christ. The instructor must help the disciple discern whether or not he has genuine saving faith.
- If you die today will you go to heaven or hell? Why?
- When did you place your trust in Christ?
Romans 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
Instructor’s Notes: We have lived in rebellion to God. We have been enemies of God by choosing our own way instead of His. But God has offered us peace if we will trust in Jesus Christ. If we remain hostile to Him, we will eventually face His eternal wrath. But if we trust in what Jesus Christ has done for us, we will be reconciled to God.
- What does it mean to have peace with God? (It means that we are no longer living in rebellion to Him as His enemies, but have been reconciled to Him and welcomed by Him into fellowship with Himself.)
- Have you been reconciled to God? If yes, why do you believe you have been reconciled to Him?
Acts 15:8-9, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 1:9
Instructor’s Notes: Through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God, and all our past sins are washed away. Forgiveness comes through faith in Christ.
- What does it mean that God washes away our sins when we place our trust in Christ? (It means that He pardons our previous rebellion and forgives all of our past sins.)
- Have your sins been forgiven? How can you be sure?
Galatians 3:26, John 1:12-13
Instructor’s Notes: Not only are we offered peace and forgiveness through faith in Christ, but God will even adopt us as His children. We will not just have our past forgiven and our guilt washed away, but we will be accepted as God’s very own children!
- How is adoption as God’s children different than the forgiveness of our past sins? (When we are forgiven God no longer holds our past sins against us. We will not be punished for them; we are no longer guilty in His eyes. When we are adopted we are not only innocent in His eyes, but we are made part of His family and favored as His children. Through forgiveness we do not receive the judgment we deserve. Through adoption we receive the blessing and favor that we do not deserve. We are accepted not only as forgiven enemies, but as dearly loved children!)
- We are forgiven through faith, but how do we receive adoption as God’s children. (We also receive adoption through faith in God’s grace that He has offered through Jesus Christ.)
John 3:16-18, John 5:24
Instructor’s Notes: We are forgiven, reconciled, and adopted through faith in Christ. But we are also given the gift of eternal life. We will live with God and His Son forever if we trust in Christ.
- What is the most important thing about eternal life? (The most important thing about eternal life is not that we will get to live in heaven, but that we will always be in fellowship with God and His Son. God is everything, to be with Him and His Son will be eternal joy!)
Summary: God will save us when we believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. We must trust not in ourselves, nor despair in our weakness, but we must trust in the promise God has given us in through His Son. Through faith we are reconciled to God. Through faith we are forgiven and cleansed. Through faith we are adopted as God’s children. And through faith we receive the gift of eternal life.
Challenge for the Student: Some people don’t trust in Christ because they feel they can earn God’s forgiveness. Others know that they cannot earn His forgiveness but say it is not fair to receive eternal life without working for it. Some don’t trust in Christ because they believe they are too sinful. Don’t make these mistakes. You cannot earn anything from God but His wrath. And if you could earn it, then you would get the glory instead of God. And you must remember that faith does not look at how bad we are, but how good Christ is. Trust in Him for your salvation. God has promised that he will forgive, reconcile, adopt and grant eternal life to anyone who trusts in Christ.
Read and discuss Luke 5:31-32