Introduction: My wife recently attended a conference of clergy and
church school teachers. Through the wizardry of modern technology, in
one session the audience could give electronic feedback that was
instantly computed and displayed on a screen at the front. The
question posed to the audience was whether they were confident of
their salvation. The positive response was discouragingly low. If
you have made a decision for Christ, but are uncertain of your
salvation, you must get this “big picture” theology right. Join me in
this important journey through the Bible to discover the true meaning of grace!

  1. Old Testament Grace

    1. Read Genesis 4:2-5. Why is Abel’s offering more acceptable
      than Cain’s? Is this occupation discrimination?

    2. Read Genesis 4:6-7. What similar things did both sons do?
      (They both labored in the field. They both chose their
      best (first fruits) for God. They both brought an offering
      to God.)

      1. What, then, is God talking about when he says that
        Cain must “do what is right?” Cain and Able have
        done essentially the same thing! (It is not that one
        did work and the other did not. It is that one
        followed God’s instructions for an offering.)

      2. What is the purpose of this offering?

    3. Read Leviticus 1:1-2. What is being discussed here?
      (Animal offerings – the same subject as in the Cain and
      Able story.)

    4. Read Leviticus 1:3-4. What work was required under the Old
      Testament system to have a person made right with God? (No
      work was required for the forgiveness of sin. Atonement
      came solely from having the animal die on behalf of the
      person. Note, however, that God is interested in property
      rights, and in Leviticus 6:1-7 requires stolen property to
      be returned with a 20% penalty. However, this reflects
      God’s concerns for property rights between individuals,
      the thief is not repaying God for his sin.)

      1. What does our short journey into Leviticus teach us
        about why Cain’s offering was unacceptable? (Read
        Genesis 3:2-4. The penalty for sin is death. The
        death of the animal brought atonement for sin. The
        “death” of an apple does not. Blood, not apple juice,
        makes atonement for sin.)

    5. Under the Old Testament system, could hard work ever bring
      a right relationship with God? (Ask Cain. Cain’s
      arrogance and anger over being wrong on this point of
      truth caused him to kill his brother.)

    6. Have you previously considered that the Old Testament
      system for forgiveness of sins modeled grace? Read Titus
      1:1-3. How long has God had His grace plan in effect? (It
      was promised “before the beginning of time!” It makes
      perfect sense that the sanctuary system would serve as a
      model of grace.)

  2. The Cain Problem Today

    1. Whenever I teach about grace, I receive notes from readers
      protesting that we are “saved from our sins, not in our
      sins.” What do you think this means? Does it mean that if
      we are sinful we cannot be saved? If so, who is free from
      sin? And, what, exactly, is meant by “sin?”

    2. Read Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 5:14, Isaiah 64:6 and Romans
      3:9-12. Based on these texts, if we cannot be saved “in
      our sins,” who can be saved? (No one.)

    3. What is the problem facing those who believe, like Cain,
      that some work on their part will make them (their
      offering) acceptable to God? (They are lost. No one is
      righteous. If you think that your behavior saves you in
      any way, you are like Cain. Not only did Cain become angry
      with his brother, but he was rejected by God for failing
      to follow the only path to salvation.)

    4. Let’s get back to the introduction. If a Christian has
      given his heart to God, and he is uncertain of his
      salvation, what does that mean? (It means that Christian
      believes that his actions have in some way caused him to
      lose salvation. This is Cain thinking. That belief,
      rather than sin in the life, poses the greatest danger to
      salvation. Cain’s works offering was unacceptable to God.)

      1. Does this mean that once a person is saved they are
        for all times saved? (No! The issue is whether you
        choose to be an Abel, choose to be on God’s side, and
        to accept His method of salvation. You can always
        turn away from God, you can break that connection
        with Him, and you can choose to live a life outside
        God’s will.)

  3. Assurance of Salvation Through Grace Alone

    1. Read Galatians 3:6-9. Who does Paul point to as our
      example of righteousness by faith? (Abraham, an Old
      Testament hero.)

    2. Read Galatians 3:10-14. What is so dangerous about having
      the Cain attitude that our works determine our standing
      before God? (“All who rely on observing the law are under
      a curse.” Trying to keep the law is a no-win situation.)

    3. Read Romans 3:21-23. When Paul says “there is no
      difference,” what difference is he talking about? (There
      is no difference between us sinners. We have all sinned.
      Some sin greatly, others sin less, but because we are all
      sinners, there is no difference in God’s eyes.)

    4. Read Romans 3:24-26. What is the only path to salvation?
      (Grace! We are justified freely by grace.)

      1. If a person is uncertain of salvation, what would be
        the reason for that? (They would be thinking about
        some imperfection in their life. Something they
        needed to work on.)

        1. What does the “no difference” statement say to
          this person concerned about still being “in
          sin?” (You have no “minor sin” in your life. As
          far as God is concerned, there is “no
          difference” between you and a serial killer!
          “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of
          God.” Romans 3:23. If you fall short, you fall
          short whether it is by an inch or a hundred
          miles. Grace is a gift, it does not turn on
          your works.)

    5. Read Romans 3:27-30. Paul says “no boasting.” Why?
      (Because our works have nothing to do with grace.)

      1. What is the opposite of boasting? (Feelings of
        inferiority or inadequacy.)

        1. If boasting is out, are feelings of inadequacy
          out? (Yes! Praise God they are no more logical
          than boasting. A lack of confidence in our
          Lord’s grace, is no better than our boasting
          about our role in the Lord’s gift of grace.)

    6. Read Romans 4:4-5. What is our obligation when it comes to
      grace? (To trust God.)

      1. If we are uncertain of our salvation, are we trusting
        God? (No. We are considering whether we have enough
        “credit” from our own works!)

  4. The Path to Holiness

    1. Read Romans 3:31. What does a correct understanding of
      unmerited grace do to the law? (It is not against the law.
      It upholds the law.)

    2. Read Galatians 5:13-18. Once we have full and complete
      assurance of salvation by grace alone, how shall we live?
      (We are free! We do not need to obey the law to continue
      in grace. But Paul says “do not use your freedom to
      indulge the sinful nature.”)

      1. Why would it be unnatural for us to indulge the
        sinful nature? (God died for my sins. He gave up His
        life for your sins. Sin has created a flood of pain
        and suffering for God and for humans. If God so
        greatly loved you, how can you fail to live a life of
        love towards others? The essence of the law is love.)

    3. Read again Galatians 5:16-18. What is the key to living a
      life of love, a life pleasing to God? (Live by the power
      of the Holy Spirit!)

    4. Read Galatians 5:19-25. Are we called to live a holy life?
      (Yes. Without doubt.)

      1. Does living a holy life, and refraining from living a
        sinful nature life, save us? (No! We are still saved
        by grace alone. It is a gift.)

      2. Assured of our salvation, what is the goal of our
        life? (To have the Holy Spirit crucify our sinful
        nature, with its “passions and desires.”)

    5. Dear friend, accept God’s free gift of salvation by grace
      alone with joy and confidence! If you choose to confess
      sin, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf, you are
      saved. You need have no doubt of your salvation. On the
      other hand, if you believe your salvation turns on your
      right works, you are following Cain – and you are under a
      curse. Will you, today, take the gift and not the curse?

  5. Next week: Growing in Christ.