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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 41 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 4: The God of Grace and Judgment *
Introduction: This week we study two aspects of our God: grace and
judgment. If you read a few texts about judgment - and most refer to
a judgment based on works - you might begin to wonder how grace and
judgment can fit comfortably within the same gospel. In fact, I've
long been concerned that Jesus often refers to a judgment based on
works while Paul has a steady theme of salvation by grace. Can we
fit those two ideas together? If so, how? Let's dive into our Bible
study and see what we can learn!
- Read Matthew 12:36-37 and Matthew 16:27. What does our
Lord say is the standard for the judgment? (Our words and
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:10. Oh no! This is Paul. What does
Paul say is the basis for the judgment? (Things done "in
- What is going on here? We just got through studying
Galatians and learned from it that we are saved by grace.
Let's get personal about a judgment based on works. Do
you want some people to be stopped and ticketed for
speeding? (Yes! Especially when they are speeding in our
- How about you - do you want the police to give you a
speeding ticket? (This proves the larger picture, we
want a judgment based on deeds for others, but not
- Do we think that some people deserve judgment for
their works, but we (or at least I) should be able
to avoid judgment? (We can see that this study is
tricky because we have a natural bias against our
own judgment. We don't want to get what we deserve,
but we would like that for others.)
- Snake in the Wilderness
- Let's see if we can work out this issue despite our bias.
Read John 3:14-18. Is Jesus contradicting Himself? How
can Jesus say here that belief in Him is the basis for
eternal life, but have said earlier that deeds were the
basis for the judgment? (Notice that Jesus refers to a
person being "condemned" rather than judged.)
- Last week we discussed the sanctuary service. When
the sinner came to the temple with a sacrifice, was
the sinner guilty? (Yes. We are judged by our works
- either guilty or innocent. And, without getting
into the details, we are always guilty because of
our sinful nature. When the sinner came with the
lamb, he was not "innocent," rather he was not
condemned because the sacrifice paid the penalty in
- Don't we still have a problem with Paul's words (2
Corinthians 5:10) that we will be judged based on the
"good" things? What about Jesus saying ( Matthew 12:37)
that our words can "acquit" us? This seems to indicate
that good works have something to do with a favorable
judgment. Can this be reconciled with grace?
- Let's continue reading in John 3 to see if we can find a
clue. Read John 3:19-21. Now we have a new element,
"light!" What does light have to do with our salvation?
(If we love light we are saved, if we love darkness we
- We have too many loose ends here. We have deeds, we
have belief and we have light. Can anyone connect
these loose ends to make a reasonable theory? Or,
are all of these ideas simply a contradiction?
- Let's go back to the original story. Read Numbers 21:6-9.
What was causing the people to die? (The snakes. However,
if you look at the context, the snakes were sent as a
judgment for sin.)
- Why would God tell Moses to have them look at a
representation of what was making them die? (I've
long thought that this strange story teaches us that
we must look at (take seriously, confess, etc.) our
sins. The first step to salvation is to face and
confess our sins, our bad works.)
- Let's re-read John 3:14-15 and John 3:19-20. How does the
snake story and loving/hating the light now make sense?
(That if we love our sin so much that we will not come
into the light, then we are like those who refused to
look at the snake. Jesus brought the light of the gospel.
Accepting the light of the gospel is simply inconsistent
with hiding in (remaining in) sin. We will either choose
to face our sins and be saved by grace, or we will prefer
to remain in sin and reject Jesus.)
- Does all of this talk about "deeds" and judgment now
make sense? (In one sense, salvation has a great
deal to do with our works. If we decide to remain in
sin, we will not seek grace. But, if we face our
sins and recognized their sinfulness, then we have
just one option - grace!)
- Focus on John 3:21. What does this mean: "what he
has done has been done through God?" (Grace is God's
work. As we learned in our study of Galatians, we
cannot earn our salvation, Jesus has already done it
for us. But, we choose whether we will "face the
snake," whether we will "come into the light,"
whether we will confess our sins and escape
condemnation by the blood of the Lamb.)
- Noah's Example
- Let's look at an example of this. Read Genesis 6:5-7.
What does God think is the solution to all of this evil?
- Read Genesis 6:13, Genesis 7:6-10, and 2 Peter 2:5. How
difficult would it have been for the wicked to get into
the ark? (They were warned. 2 Peter 2:5 suggests that
Noah preached to them. While Noah went to the effort of
building the ark, anyone else could have just gotten on.
The wicked preferred their current life (the darkness),
and did not want to join Noah (come into the light).)
- Last Day Judgment
- Read Revelation 14:6-7. What is the message for those who
live at the end of days? (That God's judgment is upon
- What is our proper reaction to impending judgment?
(Notice, it does not say, "stop sinning," it says to
be in a right relationship with God. We need to
respect (fear) God, we need to give glory to Him,
and we need to acknowledge His power as Creator of
- Read Revelation 14:8. What important fact about judgment
do we need to know? (That God has defeated evil. Those
unfaithful to God are going down to defeat.)
- Read Revelation 14:9-11. Does the text say that those who
are involved in evil deeds will bear the force of God's
wrath? (No. It says that those who refuse to worship God,
and worship the enemy of God will suffer judgment. The
standard for judgment is allegiance. Those who come into
the light versus those who remain in darkness.)
- Read Revelation 14:12. In light of this impending
judgment, what are we called to do? (The "saints" are
described as those who "remain faithful to Jesus." Faith
in Jesus is righteousness by faith!)
- What about the "obey God's commandments" part? (This
illustrates our earlier discussion. If we love our
evil works, we will stay in darkness and not come
into the light of Jesus' grace. But, if we love the
light, then we will want to do Jesus' will. We will
want to obey Him.)
- Contemplate the verses in Revelation 14 that we just
read. What is the main difference between the righteous
and the unrighteous? (The righteous worship and glorify
their Creator God. The wicked worship and obey the evil
ones. This is what is meant by a mark on the forehead
(mind) and hand (deed). The mention of worship, creation
and the commandments suggests the great importance of the
weekly Sabbath, for it is a time of worship, a time to
give glory to God, and a time to celebrate the Creation
("Remember the Sabbath ... for in six days [God
- Friend, a judgment is coming. The judgment will be based
on our deeds. With that standard, none of us can escape
judgment. However, Jesus offers us an escape from
condemnation for our evil deeds. He is the Lamb of God
who has died for our sins. If we will face our sins by
confessing and repenting, then He will cover our sins
with His blood. Is this an offer that you can refuse? If
not, why not accept it today? Face the snake of your
sinful life, and move out of the darkness and into the
- Next week: The Holiness of God.
* Copr. 2012, 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.