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We have learned that all people have committed sin, bringing upon themselves the penalty of eternal punishment. But by the grace of God, Jesus died as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He thereby made salvation available to all people (Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:4,6; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16; Acts 10:34,35).
However, not all people will ultimately receive eternal life. God has determined that each person must meet certain conditions in order to receive the blessing of forgiveness. We cannot earn this forgiveness, but neither can we receive it unless we seek it according to God's plan. Since all of us sin, all need to be sure we do exactly what God requires to be forgiven.
I. Hearing the Gospel
The first thing that must happen in order for anyone to be saved is that he/she must learn about Jesus and the salvation He provides. The only means God has given for anyone to learn this is through the gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible.
>>> Please read John 6:44,45. /strong>
*1* Who can come to Jesus? Answer: Everyone who has __________ from the Father comes to Jesus.
Note that no one can come to Jesus without being taught by God how to do so.
>>> Please read John 8:32 (cf. v34). /strong>
*2* How can you be made free (from sin)? Answer: You shall know the __________, and it shall make you free.
Note that the freedom Jesus refers to here is freedom from bondage to sin (v34). This "truth," which can make us free from sin, is revealed in God's word (John 17:17).
>>> Please read John 12:48. /strong>
*3* By what standard will we be judged? Answer: The __________ that Jesus spoke will judge us in the last day.
God has revealed a standard for us to live by. That standard includes the conditions we must meet to be forgiven of sin.
>>> Please read John 20:30,31. /strong>
*4* How can we know what to believe to receive eternal life? Answer: Inspired men (like John) wrote so that we might believe in Jesus and have __________ in His name.
>>> Please read Acts 17:11. /strong>
*5* How did the Bereans know whether or not they were being taught the truth? Answer: They searched the __________ daily with a ready mind.
Many false teachers mislead people from the truth (Matt. 7:15; 1 John 4:1). To avoid such errors, we must diligently study the infallible source of truth, and we must do so with honest hearts.
>>> Please read Romans 1:16. /strong>
*6* What role does the gospel play in our salvation? Answer: The gospel of Christ is the __________ unto salvation.
The gospel is the message that God revealed about Jesus and His teaching. It teaches us the truth about how to be saved through Jesus.
>>> Please read Romans 10:17. /strong>
*7* How can we develop a proper faith in Jesus and His will for our lives? Answer: Faith comes by __________ the word of God.
Faith does not come by hearing human opinions, theories, traditions, or man-made creeds. Nor has God ever spoken directly to sinners to reveal to them how to receive forgiveness through Jesus. Now that the Scriptures are completed, true and proper faith comes only by honestly investigating the teachings of the Scriptures.
>>> Please read 2 Timothy 3:16,17 /strong>
*8* What means has God given for us to know His will? Answer: The Scriptures are __________ by God to instruct us and provide us to all good works.
>>> Please read Hosea 4:6. /strong>
*9* What caused God's people to be destroyed? Answer: God's people were destroyed for __________ .
No one can obey God and receive forgiveness without knowing what God requires. The only way to know is through the message He guided inspired men to record in the Bible. Without this knowledge, we are still destined for eternal punishment for our sins. Only when we search the Scriptures diligently with honest hearts can we know how to receive salvation through Christ.
II. Believing the Gospel of Christ
Many hear the gospel, yet they are not saved simply by hearing. More is required. To receive forgiveness by Christ's death, one must also believe what the gospel teaches. Consider what the gospel says we must believe and why that faith is essential.
>>> Please read Hebrews 11:6. /strong>
*10,11* In order to come to God, what must we believe? Answer: We must believe that God __________ and is a rewarder of those who __________ Him.
*12* Why must we believe this? Answer: Without faith it is impossible to __________ Him.
Faith is absolutely essential. Yet it also matters what we believe. Not just any faith is acceptable.
>>> Please read John 4:42. /strong>
*13* What did the Samaritans believe about Jesus? Answer: They believed Him to be the Christ, the __________ of the world.
We have learned that Jesus died as the sacrifice to save people from their sins. But in order to benefit from Jesus' death, each individual must personally believe that Jesus is the Savior.
>>> Please read John 20:28-31. /strong>
*14,15* Thomas confessed Jesus to be whom? Answer: "My __________ and my __________ ."
*16,17* The Scriptures were written so we might believe what? Answer: Jesus is the __________ , the __________ of God.
The Bible teaches that Jesus possessed Deity even before He came to earth. He was with the Father in heaven, and all things were made through Him. He possesses all the characteristics of Deity (eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, etc). But He came to earth as a man to live a sinless life and die as the sacrifice for our sins. He was God in the flesh. (Cf. John 1:1-3,14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2,8,9; Philippians 2:5-8).
His relationship to the Father is so unique that He is the only-begotten Son of God (John 3:16). Because of His unique position as Creator, Savior, and Deity, Jesus was "the anointed One" ("Christ") to whom we should submit as our Lord (Master).
>>> Please read John 8:24. /strong>
*18* What is the consequence of not believing in Jesus? Answer: We will die in our __________ .
To be saved from sin, we must believe Jesus is the One whom the Bible says He is.
>>> Please read Romans 10:9,10. /strong>
*19* What else must we believe to be saved? Answer: We must believe that God __________ Jesus from the dead.
Had Jesus simply died, Satan would have been victorious. In order to defeat Satan, Jesus had to arise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-19). To be saved, therefore, we must believe, not just in Jesus' death, but also in His resurrection.
>>> Please read Mark 1:15.
*20* What else did Jesus tell us to believe? Answer: We must believe in __________ .
The gospel includes much more than just the message about who Jesus is. It also includes the message about how we must live in order to please God. To be saved, it is not enough just to believe some things about who Jesus was and what He did; we must also believe His teachings about what He requires of us (2 Thess. 2:13,14; 1:7-9; Col. 1:5).
>>> Please read Mark 16:15,16. /strong>
*21* What message should be preached to all the world? Answer: Preach the __________ .
*22* What happens if we do not believe? Answer: He who does not believe will be __________ .
Note that people must believe that which is preached: the gospel. This means, not just believing in Jesus Himself, but also believing in His teaching. Those who do not believe will be condemned.
Without question, faith is essential to salvation. But this faith involves more than many people realize. And we will see that saving faith must lead to proper response in order to result in salvation.
III. Repentance from Sin
A. The Importance of Repentance
Just as there are many who hear but are not saved, so there are many who "believe" - i.e. they accept the truthfulness of the gospel message about Jesus - yet they will not be saved. There is yet more that is required for salvation by the death of Jesus. Consider what the gospel says about the importance of repentance.
>>> Please read Acts 2:36-38. /strong>
*23* What did Peter command these people to do? Answer: He told them to __________ and be baptized.
Note that repentance is clearly stated to be a necessary condition in order to receive forgiveness of sin.
>>> Please read Acts 17:30,31. /strong>
*24* How many people need to repent? Answer: God commands __________ to repent.
All people must repent because all are guilty of sin.
>>> Please read Matthew 21:28-32. /strong>
*25* How did one of the sons illustrate repentance? (a) he said he would go but he did not, (b) he said he would go then he went, (c) he said he would not go, then he changed his mind and went. Answer: ____.
Repentance is changing ones mind. In particular, repenting of sin requires realizing we have been disobeying God. Then we must change our minds and decide to start obeying. This is why repentance is often called "turning."
>>> Please read 2 Corinthians 7:10. /strong>
*26* What leads people to repent? Answer: __________ produces repentance unto salvation.
When a person realizes that he is guilty of sin, he must be truly sorry and wish he had never done it. This sorrow must lead him to decide to change and do right (repent).
>>> Please read 2 Peter 3:9. /strong>
*27,28* Why has God not already ended the world? Answer: He is longsuffering, not wanting any to __________ but all to come to __________ .
Note the clear implication that those who do not repent will perish (Luke 13:3,5) because, as we have seen, repentance is necessary to forgiveness. But everyone becomes guilty of sin. So when we are in sin, we must repent or we will perish as punishment for our sins.
B. The Consequences of Repentance
Repentance requires sorrow for sin and a determination to change and serve God. It follows that genuine repentance should lead to a change of conduct.
>>> Please read Acts 26:20. /strong>
*29* What did Paul preach that people should do? Answer: They should repent, turn to God, and do __________ .
We earlier studied Matthew 21:28-32, which illustrates this point. In order to be accepted, the son who said he would not obey his father, had to repent and do what the father said to do. Repentance is a change of mind in which we decide to do what God requires. To please God, we must follow through and do right.
>>> Please read Matthew 12:41. /strong>
*30* What did the people of Nineveh do? Answer: They repented at the __________ .
This refers to the event described in Jonah 3:4-10. Their repentance led them to turn from their evil ways. Those who do not change their lives have failed to keep the commitment of repentance.
>>> Please read Proverbs 28:13. /strong>
*31* To have mercy before God, what must we do? Answer: We must not try to hide our sins but must confess and __________ them.
Note that, to receive mercy, it is not enough just to acknowledge our sins. We must forsake them - quit doing what is sinful.
>>> Please read Ezekiel 33:14-16. /strong>
*32* When a person has committed a sin such as stealing, not only must he stop stealing, what else must he do? Answer: He must ___________ what he stole.
This is the principle of restoring or "restitution." When our sins have caused harm to others, repentance requires us to correct to the extent possible the harmful effect of what we did. This includes giving back what we took that really belongs to someone else. See also Leviticus 6:1-5; Ezra 10:3,11,17,19,44; Luke 19:8; Philemon 10-14,18,19.
Repentance must be followed by actually changing our conduct. We must turn away from sin and begin obeying God. This includes correcting the harmful effects of our sinful conduct. To fail to do so is to fail to bring forth the fruits of repentance.
[See also Luke 15:17-24; 3:8.]
Obedience is not a specific condition toward forgiveness, but is a general principle that includes several steps. We emphasize it because some deny that obedience is necessary to salvation; they claim we are saved by "faith only" so no outward actions whatever are necessary.
However, we have already learned that the "fruits of repentance" are necessary to salvation, and this requires doing what is right - i.e., obedience. Obviously, no acts of obedience could ever earn salvation, since we have already learned that all have sinned and therefore salvation is by grace (unmerited). Please consider, however, the following passages showing that obedience is a condition necessary to forgiveness of sins.
>>> Please read Matthew 7:21-23. /strong>
*33* Who does Jesus say will enter the kingdom of heaven? Answer: He who enters the kingdom is he who __________ .
Note that these people believed in Jesus and even confessed Him as Lord. But Jesus rejected them because that was not enough. He said we must do God's will. See also Luke 6:46.
>>> Please read Romans 6:16-18. /strong>
*34* What must a person do to be set free from sin? Answer: He must __________ from the heart the doctrine delivered from God.
Please note that this obedience is required in order to cease being a slave of sin and become a slave of righteousness.
>>> Please read Hebrews 5:9. /strong>
*35* To whom is Jesus the author of eternal salvation? Answer: To all who __________ Him.
>>> Please read 1 Peter 1:22,23. /strong>
*36* How do we purify our souls? Answer: We purify our souls in __________ to the truth.
Note that this is taught in the context of being born again.
>>> Please read Acts 10:34,35. /strong>
*37* What must we do to be accepted by God? Answer: We must fear God and __________ .
Note that this is required of all people of every nation.
>>> Please read 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9. /strong>
*38* What happens to those who do not obey the gospel? Answer: They will be punished with __________ from the presence of the Lord.
We have already studied other passages that teach the necessity of obedience. For example, we learned that our eternal destiny at the judgment will be determined by what we do, good or bad (Romans 2:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
The necessity of obedience does not in any sense contradict the need for faith. In fact, the gospel shows that faith will not save if it does not include obedience. The only passage that specifically mentions "faith only" is found in James 2:14-26, and it says we are not saved by "faith only" (v24). Other passages confirm that saving faith must include obedience (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 10:39; 11:8,30 and other examples in Hebrews 11).
The same is true of love. Surely everyone agrees that love is necessary to please God (Matthew 22:36-39). But the gospel clearly teaches that, in order to please God, love must include obeying God's commands (John 14:15,21-24; 1 John 5:3; 2:3-6).
To deny that obedience is a necessary step to salvation is to (perhaps unknowingly) deny that love, faith, and repentance are necessary, since all these require obedience. Likewise, to deny the necessity of obedience is to deny the very basis on which the Bible says we will be judged!
As our studies proceed, we will examine specific acts of obedience that are required to be forgiven and to be acceptable to God.
Personal application questions
Have you diligently studied the Scriptures to know how to be forgiven of sin? __________
Do you believe in God, in Jesus, and in the truths taught in the gospel? __________
Are you truly sorry for the sins you have committed, and have you repented of your sins and changed your life to please God? __________
Have you believed in the past that obedience is necessary to salvation, or have you believed that we are saved by "faith only" without obedience? __________