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Lesson 13: Christ in the Crucible *

Introduction: Would you volunteer to suffer? This last lesson in our studies on surviving difficult times looks at one who volunteered to suffer. I assume we all would like to avoid difficult times. As we have learned, difficult times generally come to us in two different ways. We either do something stupid and get into difficulty, or something we cannot control happens and creates suffering for us. What about this idea of choosing to suffer? Would you, if given enough time to think about it, choose to suffer? Standing behind this group of studies is the astonishing fact that our God chose to suffer terribly. Why did He do that? Let's jump into our study and see what we can learn about this amazing decision and how it should shape our attitude about suffering and our God!

  1. God's Justice

    1. Put yourself in God's place when it comes to solving the sin problem. As we studied last week, humans have rejected and disbelieved God because they want to be like God. ( Genesis 3:1-6) Apparently, humans think some sort of competition with God is appropriate. If you were God, how would you bring humans back to you?

      1. Would you even try?

      2. What considerations would you balance?

    2. Read Genesis 3:2-3. Apart from God executing sinners, is this statement true? (We all know it is true. We observe in our world that sin results in death. All sorts of decisions which lead to death result from sin.)

    3. How does your statement (remember, you are in God's place for purposes of the discussion right now) about sin causing death, hedge in your potential solution to sin? (This is a critical. Satan says sin does not lead to death, you told Adam and Eve it did. Satan specifically challenges you on this point.)

      1. If this hedges you(God)in, why did you say it? (Because it is true. The question is, how does sin cause death? Is it a natural result? Or, is it the execution of God's judgment? Or, both?)

    4. Now back to your accustomed role as a human. Remember the sacrificial service in the temple ( Leviticus 1:4-5)? What was the point of all of that? (That sin leads to death - in this case an animal dies for your sins. This was not a "natural result," this is an execution. This would lead a human to conclude that sin leads to an execution.)

    5. God's words and deeds would naturally lead us to believe that sin results in death by execution. That means sin is punished by the sentence of death. Read Romans 3:21-26. This text gives us one reason why Jesus (and His Father) made the deliberate decision that Jesus should suffer terribly. What is it? (Justice.)

      1. What kind of justice is this? ( Romans 3:25 tells us that sin demands punishment. That is the same conclusion we drew from God's words and deeds up to that time. Punishment for sin is just.)

        1. If God can delay punishment for sin, why can't He just forget about it? Why can't He change His rules so that sin no longer need be punished every time?

        2. Have you ever seen any justice like we see describe in Romans 3 before? (This is astonishing. God died for sin to demonstrate His brand of "justice." It is not a justice that I normally see in the world.)

      2. How can Romans 3:25 say that God had not previously punished sins? What about all those animals which died? (God was not kidding Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sin brings death. Not the death of animals, but your death. The offering of the animals did not "forgive" the sins of the people. It did not satisfy the law. It simply pointed towards the future penalty that would we paid by the death of Jesus.)

      3. How does Jesus satisfy the penalty for sin? It is not His sin? Why is He a better solution than killing a bunch of animals? (I have always had trouble with the logic of this, but here is my best explanation. Adam and Eve were perfect until they sinned. By their sin, we all became sinful ( Romans 5:12-14) whether or not we actually sinned. God could have executed judgment (justice) on Adam and Eve at the moment of their sin. (Thus sparing the rest of us from their sin.) Or, God could let the natural working of sin take its course. When Jesus came to earth, He came as Adam and Eve came, which is to say; perfect. He lived a sinless life, and He died as a substitute for Adam and Eve ( Romans 5:15-17). The result is life for the rest of us.)

        1. Would another human being have been sufficient? (Another human being, post Adam, would have been infected with Adam's sin. Jesus is our Creator ( John 1:1-3), the Creator can logically die in the place of His creation.)

          1. Look at this from a little different angle. Does the idea of paying a ransom to a kidnapper make sense? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that the Greek word for "redemption" comes from the Greek root word for "a ransom payment.")

    6. When I look at the "justice" side of Jesus' suffering, I come away impressed with just how seriously a righteous God takes sin. Sin brings death and sinners deserve execution. The Christian who fails to take the sin in his life seriously is just missing the obvious!

    7. Let's summarize what we have learned. God told humans from the very beginning that the punishment for sin is death. They sinned anyway and plunged the rest of us into sin. God illustrated the link between sin and death by the sanctuary service - but He did not punish sin at the time. Ultimately, God suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Just as Eve plunged us into death, so Jesus plunged us back into life! We see the "legal" reason why God died, what we don't see is why He should volunteer to suffer so greatly. Let's look at that next.

  2. God's Love

    1. Read Romans 5:6-8. What other reason motivated God to suffer terribly on our behalf? (His love!)

      1. Why does Paul stress the fact that God died for us "while we were still sinners?" (We were not friends of God. We were enemies because of our sins. We were in rebellion against Him! This is wildly extraordinary love!)

    2. What tension do you see between God's justice and His love? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Romans 3:25-26 says "God's divine dilemma was how to satisfy His own righteousness and its demands against sinful people, and at the same time how to demonstrate His grace, love and mercy to restore rebellious, alienated creatures to Himself.")

      1. If a police officer pulls you over for speeding, how do you react?

      2. If you are hauled before a judge to respond to something you did, how do you react?

      3. If someone accomplishes a difficult task on your behalf (for free), how do you react?

      4. If someone sacrifices a great deal for you, how do you react?

        1. Put the answers to the prior four questions all in one basket and you get a peek into the nature of God's thinking about us (rebels) and how to solve our sin problem.

  3. The Crucible Life

    1. As we have seen, Jesus suffered for us because of His justice and His love. To what degree does this explain the universe of our suffering?

      1. Let's break it down. How much of our suffering is justice? How much is due to mistakes we have made?

        1. How much of our suffering is due to the mistakes of others?

      2. How much of our suffering is due to our love for others?

    2. Is Jesus our example in every one of these situations? (He walked through the fire before us in every kind of suffering.)

    3. Friend, there are many lessons in what Jesus has done for us. One of them is the seriousness of sin. Another is this: if you want to limit your suffering, then avoid sin. Another lesson is that when you suffer because of following Jesus, rejoice! The last lesson is the unbelievable, extraordinary, wildly extravagant love Jesus has for us! Won't you decide today to follow Him?

  4. Next week: We start a new series of studies on Discipleship.
* Copr. 2007, 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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