Introduction: Guilt has gotten a bad reputation these days. I have a
friend who never attends church, is sure that what he learned about
God when he was young is enough to carry him through the rest of his
life, and who has turned to secular counseling to eliminate any
feelings of guilt from his life. He fears that going back to church
will revive feelings of guilt. On the rare occasions when we speak on
this topic I tell him, “Guilt is good.” He disagrees. What do you
think? Is the answer different for different people? Let’s jump into
our lesson and explore this subject!

  1. Guilt at the Beginning

    1. Adam and Eve are created by God, placed in charge of the
      creation and warned about sin. Satan shows up to tempt
      them to eat the fruit. Let’s pick up the story by reading
      Genesis 3:5-7. When Satan says “Your eyes will be opened,”
      what does he mean?

      1. Is knowing evil the beginning of guilt? (Knowing you
        have done evil is the beginning of guilt.)

      2. In verse 7 we have a repetition of the phrase “the
        eyes of both of them were opened.” Was that guilt?

        1. How did covering themselves with fig leaves make
          things better?

          1. Is this an early illustration of
            righteousness by works? Do our works
            cover guilt?

        2. If realizing they had sinned (their eyes being
          opened) is really a feeling of guilt, what is
          the modern equivalent of covering ourselves with
          fig leaves?

    2. Read Genesis 3:8-10. Why did Adam and Eve hid from God?
      (They felt guilty.)

      1. Why would guilt cause us to hide from God?

        1. Have you hidden from God when you felt guilty?

      2. Adam admits that he is afraid. What relationship is
        there between fear and guilt?

      3. God calls out “Where are you?” Did God know where
        they were? Why did God ask this?

        1. What lesson do you find about God and guilt in
          this question? (God comes looking for us. He
          wants to enter into a dialog with us about our
          sin and guilt.)

    3. Read Genesis 3:11. Let’s answer God’s first question. Who
      told them they were naked? (Their conscience. Guilt comes
      from conscience.)

      1. What is the source of our conscience? (Paul, in
        Romans 9:1, writes of a conscience shaped by the Holy
        Spirit. The Holy Spirit can and does work through
        our conscience.)

    4. Read Genesis 3:12. How does Adam answer God’s second
      question (v.11) about whether he sinned?

      1. How does Adam handle his guilt? (He first blames Eve,
        and then blames God for giving him Eve.)

        1. What do you think about Adam’s approach to

        2. Have you ever used it?

    5. Read Genesis 3:13. How does Eve answer God’s question?
      (She blames Satan. Modern translation, “The devil made me
      do it.”)

    6. Consider the questions that God asks in verses 11 and 13.
      Does He know the answers? (Yes.)

      1. Why does God ask these questions if He knows the
        answers? (God wants us to face our sin and guilt.)

        1. Does God ask you these kinds of questions?

      2. Were Adam and Eve giving God the answers that He
        wanted? (No.)

    7. As you consider this series of events, has guilt done any
      good so far? What has it produced? (It does not seem to
      have done much good so far. It has caused Adam and Eve to
      try to “fix” their sins first by their own works (making
      fig leaf garments) and then by blaming someone else for
      their sins.)

      1. What would you say if Adam and Eve came to you for
        advice about their feelings of guilt? Would you
        counsel them that feelings of guilt were just
        unnecessary baggage in life and they should get
        beyond those feelings?

    8. If Adam and Eve had immediately confessed their sins,
      would things have been different? Would they have avoided
      the curses found in Genesis 3:16-19?

      1. What impact do you think the curses ultimately had
        upon Adam and Eve’s view of their sins?

    9. Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain, kills his
      brother Abel because of jealousy. Read Genesis 4:9. How
      does Cain react to God’s question?
    10. Read Genesis 4:10-14. How would you characterize Cain’s
      remorse? (He never confesses his sin. He is simply sorry
      for himself.)

      1. How would you counsel Cain if he came to you for help
        about his feelings of guilt? Would you tell him to
        just ignore them?

  2. Our Guilt

    1. Read Romans 3:10-18. Paul is quoting and paraphrasing
      from several of the Psalms. Does this describe Adam, Eve
      and Cain?

      1. Does this describe those around you?

      2. Does this describe you?

    2. Let’s read on. Read Romans 3:19-20. Paul has just painted
      (vv. 10-18) a pretty hopeless situation. Some might say
      that he is too negative. Is Paul trying to discourage us?
      After painting this dark picture of our lives, is there
      any hope in verses 19-20? (Paul is building an argument.
      He says in verses 10-18 we are all rotten. But then, in
      verses 19-20, he adds, “If you think you are going to be
      found righteous by observing the law, buddy, you better
      think again.”)

      1. What does the law have to do with guilt according to
        verse 20? Is guilt put in a good light? (We cannot
        become righteous by observing the law because we are
        a pretty rotten group, according to Paul. However,
        what the law does for us is to show that we are
        sinners. At this point in Paul’s argument, at least,
        it seems that guilt is good. Guilt is a consciousness
        of our sins.)

    3. Read Romans 3:21-24. Paul now tells us rotten, guilty
      people that there is a way out of our sins, a way to
      become righteous. What is it? (Faith in Jesus.)

      1. What is Paul telling us when he says “there is no
        difference?” (He is saying that we all come to Jesus
        as sinners. None are better, none are worse.)

      2. How has Jesus made us all righteous – regardless of
        the nature of past sin? (Read Romans 3:25-26. Paul
        reminds us of the sanctuary system, where the
        sacrifice of an animal was required to remove sin.
        Paul tells us that Jesus was the Divine sacrifice on
        our behalf that, if accepted, will take away our sins
        and make us righteous.)

    4. If Jesus’ righteousness covers your sins, what should it
      do for your guilt? (It should take it away. The point of
      guilt is to drive us to God, to drive us to repent (change
      our attitude) of our sins.)

    5. Read Romans 3:27-28. What problem is Paul addressing? Is
      he writing to those who are suffering under a load of
      guilt? (Paul is concerned about boasting about how great
      we are. He is not arguing that we should stop feeling
      guilty. Rather, we should stop saying we are so good.)

      1. As you look at those around you, what do you think is
        the biggest problem? Is guilt so widespread that it
        is the major problem? Or, is an attitude of self-righteousness so widespread that we need (like in
        verses 10-18) to spread around a little more guilt?
        Should we at least (verse 28)spread around a better
        understanding that works will not make us righteous?

      2. What is the purpose of guilt? What is Paul’s purpose
        in outlining how rotten we are in vv. 10-18? (He
        wants us to stop thinking we are OK on our own, and
        drive us to Jesus and the righteousness that He
        offers through His sacrifice on our behalf.)

      3. Let’s look back at Adam, Eve and Cain for a moment.
        Did they need more or less guilt? (None of them
        admitted sin. Adam and Eve blamed someone else. Cain
        was worried about his future, rather than being sorry
        for his sins. While I feel confident that ultimately
        Adam and Eve felt very guilty, at the point recorded
        in Genesis it seems they could use a little more, not
        less, guilt.)

        1. How about you? If you had to look realistically
          at your life, are you suffering from too great a
          feeling of guilt, or too great a feeling of

  3. The Cure for Guilt

    1. No doubt there are those who suffer unduly from feelings
      of guilt. Let’s look at two texts that will help us. Read
      Hebrews 10:19-22. If we suffer from feelings of guilt,
      what will cleanse us from that? (Having our hearts

      1. Anyone want to explain what “having our hearts
        sprinkled means?” (This is an illusion to the Old
        Testament sanctuary service and the sacrificial
        system. The blood of the animal sacrifice was
        sprinkled (see, for example, Leviticus 9:12) on the
        altar in the sanctuary. Thus, the sins of the person
        offering the sacrifice were transferred to the altar.
        The cure for guilt is repenting of our sins and
        believing that Jesus’ sacrifice takes away our sins.

    2. Read Romans 5:1-2. Once we are justified by our repentance
      and faith in Jesus, what change comes into our lives?

    3. Friend, guilt is the first step in the path to peace.
      Guilt drives you to repent of your sins. Jesus then
      promises to cleanse us from those sins and give us peace.
      Why not confess your sins today and begin the journey
      towards peace?

  4. Next Week: Forgiveness and the Church