5, The Heart of the Cross

The Heart of the Cross

Genesis 18

Introduction: Have you ever wondered about the logic of salvation? Sin entered our world because of Adam’s sin. 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. 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, but our study explores the logic of the cross.

The Sodom Story

 

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.

1. What is Jesus' answer to whether He should keep His plans to Himself?

2. What does Jesus mean when He says "all nations will be blessed through [Abraham]?"

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!

Read Genesis 18:20-21.

3. Who is making the "outcry" to Jesus?

Read Genesis 4:10-12

4. Why does sin "cry" to God?

5. Why was Cain's penalty more harsh than the penalty imposed on Adam and Eve?

Read Genesis 18:22-23.

6. Jesus said nothing about "sweeping" away the wicked. Why does Abraham say this?

7. Notice that the two "men" had already set off toward Sodom. How do you think Abraham understood their leaving?

Read Genesis 18:24-25.

What do you think about Abraham's argument? What effect can the righteous have on the wicked?

Is this true in your home?

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?

8. What role is Abraham playing?

9. What lessons do you find in this conversation between Abraham and Jesus?

10. How do these lessons "fit" or foretell the mission of Jesus?

11. How are Abraham and Jesus different in their intercessory roles?

Read Exodus 32:30.

12. What does this suggest about sin?

The Fix for Sin

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?

Read Ezekiel 18:20.

13. What is the penalty for sin? Who is required to die for sin?

Read Leviticus 17:11.

14. Do you see the logic here? If so, explain the logic of blood atonement.

15. How does this modify the lesson of Ezekiel 18:20?

Read Matthew 26:28.

16. Why was Jesus' blood required for the forgiveness of our sins?

Read Psalms 51:15-17.

17. Were blood sacrifices for sin God's goal?
 

Read Isaiah 53:5.

18. Even though God wants obedience, what does sin require?

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.

19. What is the result of Jesus dying in our place for our sins?

The Cross and Justification

Read Romans 3:19.

20. Have you ever been in a discussion with someone else, and you said something that convinced them they were wrong and you were right? How could you tell? What are the "closed mouth" people about to say in Romans 3:19?

Read Romans 3:20.

21. How many humans can keep the requirements of the law? Is it possible that we might believe that we are keeping the law?

22. If we cannot keep it, what is the purpose of the law?

Read Romans 3:21.

23. Why would we want a righteousness that is "apart from law?"

Read Romans 3:22.

24. How do we obtain this righteousness "apart from the law?"

25. What is the source of this righteousness?

26. Is living a good life the right answer?

Read the last phrase of Romans 3:22 together with Romans 3:23.

27. When the Bible says, "there is no difference," what difference does it mean?

Re-read Romans 3:23 and add Romans 3:24.

28. How difficult is it for us to be saved through this "alternative way?"

 

Justice

Read Romans 3:25-26.

29. Why does God speak of the "justice" of Jesus' death on the cross? Does this seem like justice to you?

30. In this context, what do you understand it to mean to be justified?

Read Romans 4:1-5.

When you work and your employer pays you, this is a justice, not a gift. Doesn't God "owe" us for the good things which we do? Did Abraham do good works? Did God owe Abraham for his "right and just" works?

 

ANSWERS and COMMENTS

 

1. 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.

2. Read Galatians 3:8,14. Jesus is telling Abraham that in the future He (Jesus) will be born from his line of descendants!

3. 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.This teaches us the important concept that God is the solution to sin.

4. When sin occurs, God considers it part of His job to make things right. Sin is "crying" to be "fixed."

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Read Genesis 19:1 and Psalms 106:21-23. Abraham believed they were destroying angels.

8. Intercessor. 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? 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Read Genesis 18:33. Abraham went home to rest. He did not have to lay his life on the line to save Sodom.

12. Again, it suggests the idea that something can be worked out to "fix" sin.

13. The person who sinned - not someone else.

14. If sin brings death, God says I will use the symbol of life - blood - to "make up" for your death-bringing sin. The sacrificed animal was of less value than the human. Jesus, who is fully God, is of more value than all 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.

15. The punishment for sin is personal, but God will accept a substitute.

16. 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.

17. God wishes that we would not sin. He wants obedience, not sacrifice.

18. 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!

19. That we can have eternal life with Him.

20. I have seen people start to say something, and then close their mouth as they realize what they were about to say was wrong. The context, Romans 3:10-18, describes how unrighteous we are. The people who close their mouths are about to say that they are righteous, that they obey the law.

21. I think we can deceive ourselves. This is why this verse gives us God's perspective on things rather than our perspective. This says "no one" will be found by God to be righteous by obeying the law.

22. It makes us conscious of our sins.

23. The reason why we want the law to make us "conscious of sin" is so that we will want to do something about our sins. Here we are offered a solution to the problem that is "doable" because it is "apart from the law." There is a realistic way out of sin.

24. Through faith in Jesus Christ.

25. This is very important. Romans 3:22 tells us that this righteousness comes from God. Thus, it has a much higher pedigree than a righteousness that comes from humans.

26. Living a good life is the goal of every Christian, but it does not make us righteous. Righteousness comes only from God.

27. There is no difference between you and every other person!

28. We are "freely" justified by God's grace through Jesus. It is not "rocket science" to obtain it.

29. Jesus, the Creator of humans, accepted the punishment for their sins. The life-giving blood of the Creator covered the death-giving sins of humans. Dying for our sins is way beyond justice from our point of view. We do not deserve such loving and gracious treatment! However, from God's point of view sin requires death. We should never forget God's point of view on sin.

30. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. The debt was paid. We stand before God with a clean slate.

31. Re-read Romans 3:23. Everyone, including Abraham, has fallen short of what God expects. When it comes to salvation, all have sinned, none have "made the grade," and all deserve punishment for their sins, not a reward for good works. Abraham, according to Romans 4:3 became righteous based on his belief in Jesus, not because of his works. Your only path to salvation is through faith in what Jesus has done on your behalf.