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Lesson 10: The Heart of the Cross *

Introduction: Have you ever wondered about the logic, or the calculus, of salvation? Sin entered our world because of the sin of Eve and Adam. If sin brings death, why not just kill them and start new with us? And, by the way, why is it that sin brings death? After Adam and Eve, we all sinned - at least I know I have. Why is it that killing God makes up for all of our sins? Why do the penalties for sin seem to vary? In the range of sin, what Adam and Eve did brought a lot more misery to humans than what Cain did to his brother. Why was Cain punished more severely? We are not going to unravel all of these mysteries this week, but our study explores the logic of the cross. Let's dive in and see what we can learn from God's word!

  1. The Sodom Story

    1. Abraham's tents are pitched among the great trees of Mamre. Three visitors come to see him. It turns out that one of those visitors is Jesus. (See Genesis 18:1-15.) Read Genesis 18:16-19. What is Jesus' answer to whether He should keep His plans to Himself? (God seems to say that Abraham is a true follower who is blessed by God. Bottom line: God says Abraham is worthy to be taken into the counsels of God.)

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says "all nations will be blessed through [Abraham]?" (Read Galatians 3:8,14. Jesus is telling Abraham that in the future He (Jesus) will be born from his line of descendants!)

        1. Contemplate that for a moment. Jesus tells Abraham that He will be born to his descendants. The plan of salvation was not a last minute thing!

    2. Read Genesis 18:20-21. Who is making the "outcry" to Jesus? (Read Genesis 4:10. This is a common phrase in the Bible. God tells us that sin "cries" out to Him. Compare James 5:4.)

      1. Let's continue reading in Genesis 4. Read Genesis 4:10-12. Why does sin "cry" to God? (This teaches us the important concept that God is the solution to sin. When sin occurs, God considers it part of His job to make things right. Sin is "crying" to be "fixed.")

      2. Why was Cain's penalty more harsh than the penalty imposed on Adam and Eve? (If you look at this from the point of view that God seeks to "fix" sin, rather than just punish sinners, we can see God's logic in separating Cain from the followers of God. Cain was not a good influence.)

    3. Read Genesis 18:22-23. Jesus said nothing about "sweeping" away the wicked. Why does Abraham say this? (Jesus had just gotten through saying that He was going to confide in Abraham because he was a righteous man. Abraham understood that Jesus executed judgment on unrighteousness. There is a modern heresy which says that God never executes judgment on the wicked. Righteous Abraham knew better than that.)

      1. Notice that the two "men" had already set off toward Sodom. How do you think Abraham understood their leaving? (Read Genesis 19:1 and Psalms 106:21-23. Abraham believed they were destroying angels.)

    4. Read Genesis 18:24-25. What do you think about Abraham's argument? What effect can the righteous have on the wicked?

      1. Is this true in your home?

    5. Read Genesis 18:26-32. Remember that Abraham is talking to Jesus. Is this necessary? Does God have to be "bargained" down on the issue of justice and mercy?

      1. What role is Abraham playing? (Intercessor.)

      2. Remember the context to this story. Abraham has been promised that the Intercessor (Jesus) will come through his line of descendants. Then, Abraham intercedes with Jesus not to destroy the wicked. How do you understand all of this? (My understanding of God does not allow for a man to "bargain" God into being merciful. At the end of this story Sodom is destroyed. I think Jesus is teaching Abraham a lesson about why He destroyed Sodom - its wickedness was essentially universal.)

        1. What lessons do you find in this conversation between Abraham and Jesus? (1. The righteous can save the wicked - at least for the interim. God accepts intercessors. 2. The wicked will be destroyed by God. 3. The destruction of sin is a logical "fix" for it. God weighs how best to respond to sin when it can adversely affect the righteous.)

          1. How do these lessons "fit" or foretell the mission of Jesus? (All of these forecast the role of Jesus. It shows that Abraham is a worthy "ancestor" - which is no doubt the reason why his ancestry is flagged in the story. It shows that God is will "fix" sin by judgment. It shows us that sometimes the righteous (in the future, Jesus) can suffer as a result of the sins of others - but God carefully weighs this problem. It also shows that the righteousness of one person can spare the wicked for at least some period of time.)

          2. How are Abraham and Jesus different in their intercessory roles? (Read Genesis 18:33. It is like the difference between steak and eggs. For cows, steak is more personal than eggs are for chickens. Abraham went home to rest. He did not have to lay his life on the line to save Sodom.)

    6. Let's read Exodus 32:30. What does this suggest about sin? (Again, it suggests the idea that something can be worked out to "fix" sin.)

  2. The Fix for Sin

    1. We noted that Abraham's intercession did not involve giving up his life. Why couldn't Jesus intervene for us in the same way? Why did Jesus have to give up His life for our sins?

      1. Read Ezekiel 18:20. What is the penalty for sin?

        1. Who is required to die for sin? (The person who sinned - not someone else.)

      2. Read Leviticus 17:11. Do you see the logic here? If so, explain the logic of blood atonement. (If sin brings death, God says I will use the symbol of life - blood - to "make up" for your death-bringing sin.)

      3. The sacrificed animal was of less value than the human. Jesus, who is fully God, is of more value than humans. How does the sacrificial system logically teach us that Jesus must die? (The logic of blood atonement was not complete in the Old Testament sacrificial system. The lesson had just begun. God was teaching the people that sin could be "fixed" by a relevant substitute. That substitute was blood - because it gave life.)

        1. How does this modify the lesson of Ezekiel 18:20? (The punishment for sin is personal, but God will accept a substitute.)

    2. Read Matthew 26:28. Why was Jesus' blood required for the forgiveness of our sins? (We started out learning the logical link between blood and the sacrifice for deadly sin. Since Jesus created us ( John 1:1-4, 14), He is the ultimate source of our life. Thus, the shedding of blood of the One who gave us life is the ultimate, logical "blood" that can fix sin.)

    3. Read Psalms 51:15-17. Were blood sacrifices for sin God's goal? (God wishes that we would not sin. He wants obedience, not sacrifice.)

    4. Read Isaiah 53:5. Even though God wants obedience, what does sin require? (Sin requires a "fix." Sin brings death. God was willing to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins. The amazing news is that God died in our place! He took our punishment!)

    5. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11. What is the result of Jesus dying in our place for our sins? (That we can have eternal life with Him.)

    6. Friend, will you accept the salvation bought at such a terrible price for you?

  3. Next week: The Cross and Justification.
* Copr. 2005, 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. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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