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Sabbath School Lessons on The Wonder of Jesus
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: The Meaning of His Death *
Introduction: If you read these lessons regularly, you know that I
always consider the logic of the Bible text. If I were in the sandals
of those listening to Jesus, how would I react? What is logically the
message from God? One message which I have historically had a very
difficult time with is the logic of salvation. Why does the death of
my God give me eternal life? Why does it satisfy the death penalty
imposed on me for my sin? The logic of American justice is completely
contrary. When I was in law school, I was taught the old saying "It
is better to let 1,000 guilty people go free than to execute one
innocent person." Why would God have a plan in which the Innocent One
is tortured and killed? How does this logically "add up" as payment
for my guilt? Let's dive in and see what we can find in the Bible!
- The Ransom
- Read Matthew 16:21-22. Why did Peter so strongly dispute
Jesus? (Read Acts 1:6. Jesus is about to return to heaven
and His disciples still think that Jesus' immediate goal
is to set up a kingdom on earth! Peter obviously had
"kingdom" thoughts when he corrected Jesus. How can Jesus
die if He is going to rule?)
- Read Matthew 16:23. What "things of men" did Peter have in
mind? (Ruling with Jesus. Peter wanted to be an earthly
ruler too. How can Peter rule if his Master is not
- Read Matthew 16:24-26. What, exactly, is Jesus telling us
is God's plan for our life? (To follow Jesus by denying
- Denying what? Remember that the context is the
dispute over Jesus' coming death versus ruling.
(Denying our goal to gain the world. This was
precisely the plan of Peter - to rule with Jesus.
This is a clash of world views. Peter wanted to rule,
in which case others would serve him. Jesus wanted
Peter to serve others.)
- What does it mean to take up Jesus' cross. Don't give
any "automatic" answers. What would you do this
Monday to take up Jesus' cross?
- What do you say about the fact that when Jesus
picked up His cross He was on the path to death?
- Just after another conversation with the disciples about
them becoming rulers, Jesus spoke again about His death.
Read Mark 10:42-45. What does this suggest that we should
do to deny ourselves and take up our cross? (To serve
- Jesus uses a very odd term. He says that His life is
a "ransom for many." To whom is the ransom being
paid? For whom is it being paid?
- Does this make logical sense to you? (In the
introduction I wrote how the state never seeks
to execute an innocent person. However, I
understand the logic of thieves and kidnappers
who demand ransom money to release someone.)
- Jesus compared being a servant with paying a
ransom. Can you see any logic in this? (When I
serve another person, I give up something to
make that person's life better. That is one way
to look at a ransom. You give up something to
help someone else. For some time now I have been
mowing the yard of my elderly neighbors. It uses
my time (which is at a premium) and my money
(gas). I clearly give up something to benefit
this couple. A mowed lawn improves their life -
and mine, since they are my immediate neighbor.)
- Since ransoms are demanded by evil people, is it
wrong for God to require us to be servants to
- Will we no longer be servants to others in
a perfect world? (In our evil world, only
evil people demand ransoms. Imagine a
world in which we all voluntarily served
each other. I think that is God's goal for
His people. God illustrated this by dying
- I understand the logic of the ransom to some degree. I
understand the "world view" of serving others. The problem
with paying a ransom is that it encourages evil people to
do more evil to more people. And, I still have logical
problems with the "math" of how Jesus' death pays for my
sin. Let's explore that next.
- The Death of Self
- Read Romans 6:8 and 2 Timothy 2:11. Do you think we died
when Jesus died? No one reading this lesson was even born
when Jesus died. How can the Bible say that we "died"
- Read Hebrews 7:1-9. How can it be said that Levi paid a
tithe to Melchizedek? Levi was not yet born.
- Read Romans 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. How could I
die when Adam died? I had not yet been born?(One of my
father's old friends, Patrick Stevenson, recently
contacted me and explained the theory that arises from
these texts. When Jesus died for our sins, we died with
Him. Stevenson calls this the "corporate identity" theory.
This makes perfect logical sense to me. Why? Because this
has me - the guilty one - dying for my sins "corporately"
through Jesus. (If there are any errors in my recitation
of Stevenson's explanation, they are no doubt my fault and
- One of my concerns about this corporate identity
explanation is that it means that everyone is saved - an
idea which is at odds with many other Bible texts. If not
everyone is saved, how do we get included in the
"corporate" death for sin? How do we get our "sin bill"
marked "paid?" (Read Romans 6:3-4. The Bible tells us that
when we are baptized we are "baptized into His death."
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and are baptized, we
accept His death as our death.)
- What does this death mean for the rest of your life on
earth? What should be different after you found that you
died with Jesus - other than giving out a great sigh of
relief? (Read Romans 6:1-2. In baptism we die with Jesus
and we are raised to new life with Jesus. We died to the
old life. Our goal should be holiness. Let's explore that
a little more.)
- The Holy Life
- Read Romans 3:10-12. Well, my idea of living a holy life
was certainly short-lived. Are we destined to be
"worthless" even though we died to sin?
- Read Romans 3:20. What good is it for me to live with the
fact that I am worthless? How does it improve me to be
conscious of my guilt? (The law of God shows the vast gulf
between my life and His perfect law.)
- But, is that good for me - to realize how worthless I
am? When I was growing up, I read the writings of
Ellen White. She believes in holiness. When I
looked at the standard she held up for me, it just
made me want to give up. There was no way I could
meet the standard. No way.
- Read Romans 3:21-23 and Romans 3:27-28. Can you meet God's
standard? (Praise, God, yes! Just like we died corporately
with Jesus, so we are corporately made perfect with Jesus.
Faith is what saves us and makes us perfect.)
- So, how should I live? Is Ellen White right with her
emphasis on holy living? (Yes. Re-read Romans 6:1-2
and read Hebrews 10:26. We need to constantly work
(yes, I mean work) on making the right decisions. We
"uphold the law" ( Romans 3:31) by our determination
to live a holy life. When I was so discouraged by
Ellen White, I thought the perfect life was essential
to salvation. Now I realize that my salvation is by
faith in Christ. Slipping on the path to holiness
does not take me out of God's grace. What does take
me out of His grace is the time when I stop caring
about the journey to holiness. When I keep
deliberately sinning, I start to wriggle out of God's
- Friend, how about you? You deserve to die for what you
have done. But, you can die for your sins by confessing
them to God, and accepting Jesus and His death for your
sins through your baptism. You can be justified and
raised to eternal life by accepting Jesus' resurrection
into new life on your behalf. With the assurance of
salvation, you can begin the journey to holy living. What
do you say? Will you accept Jesus now?
- Next week: The Power of His Resurrection.
* Copr. 2008, 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.