1. PEOPLE CANNOT MAKE THEMSELVES WORTHY
a. How did Christ illustrate the condition of a sinful person? What is not realized by the sinner? Luke 15:3, 4.
“The sinner is represented as a lost sheep, and a lost sheep never returns to the fold unless he is sought after and brought back to the fold by the shepherd. No man of himself can repent, and make himself worthy of the blessing of justification. The Lord Jesus is constantly seeking to impress the sinner’s mind and attract him to behold Himself, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world. We cannot take a step toward spiritual life save as Jesus draws and strengthens the soul, and leads us to experience that repentance which needeth not to be repented of.”—Selected Messages, bk. I, pp. 390, 391.
b. What parable illustrates the fact that sinners cannot help themselves in the least to pay off their debt? Luke 7:41, 42.
“Let no one take the limited, narrow position that any of the works of man can help in the least possible way to liquidate the debt of his transgression. This is a fatal deception.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E.G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1071.
2. THE MERIT OF CHRIST IS OUR ONLY HOPE
a. How alone can the sinner find hope? What is necessary for him or her to do? Ephesians 1:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 1:30.
“Grace is unmerited favor, and the believer is justified without any merit of his own, without any claim to offer to God. He is justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who stands in the courts of heaven as the sinner’s substitute and surety.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 398.
“The sinner cannot depend upon his own good works as a means of justification. He must come to the point where he will renounce all his sin, and embrace one degree of light after another as it shines upon his pathway. He simply grasps by faith the free and ample provision made in the blood of Christ. He believes the promises of God, which through Christ are made unto him sanctification and righteousness and redemption.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E.G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1071.
b. What is manifested by some who think that they rely upon God entirely? How does true faith manifest itself? Matthew 11:28–30; John 15:5 (last part).
“Some who come to God by repentance and confession, and even believe that their sins are forgiven, still fail of claiming, as they should, the promises of God. They do not see that Jesus is an ever-present Saviour; and they are not ready to commit the keeping of their souls to Him, relying upon Him to perfect the work of grace begun in their hearts. While they think they are committing themselves to God, there is a great deal of self-dependence. There are conscientious souls that trust partly to God, and partly to themselves. They do not look to God, to be kept by His power, but depend upon watchfulness against temptation, and the performance of certain duties for acceptance with Him. There are no victories in this kind of faith. Such persons toil to no purpose; their souls are in continual bondage, and they find no rest until their burdens are laid at the feet of Jesus.
“There is need of constant watchfulness, and of earnest, loving devotion; but these will come naturally when the soul is kept by the power of God through faith. We can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to commend ourselves to divine favor. . . . God will accept everyone that comes to Him trusting wholly in the merits of a crucified Saviour.” —Selected Messages, bk. 1, pp. 353, 354.
3. A LESSON FROM CAIN
a. What was the difference between the offering of Cain and that of Abel? Why did the Lord accept Abel’s sacrifice and reject the offering brought by Cain? Genesis 4:3–5.
“Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin. He felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood with his offering, but would present his fruits, the products of his labor. He presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval. Cain obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but he rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 72.
b. Whose efforts are compared with the sacrifice of Cain? When does a soul advance from victory to victory? Luke 18:11–13.
“He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. Man cannot be saved without obedience, but his works should not be of himself; Christ should work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. If a man could save himself by his own works, he might have something in himself in which to rejoice. The effort that man makes in his own strength to obtain salvation is represented by the offering of Cain. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God. When we seek to gain heaven through the merits of Christ, the soul makes progress. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we may go on from strength to strength, from victory to victory; for through Christ the grace of God has worked out our complete salvation.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 364.
4. RESTORATION AND RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST
a. What provision has been made in our behalf? Colossians 1:21, 22.
“We have transgressed the law of God, and by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. The best efforts that man in his own strength can make are valueless to meet the holy and just law that he has transgressed; but through faith in Christ he may claim the righteousness of the Son of God as all-sufficient. Christ satisfied the demands of the law in His human nature. He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement for him, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 363.
b. What encouraging declaration was made for complete forgiveness of sin? 1 John 1:9.
“While we cannot claim perfection of the flesh, we may have Christian perfection of the soul. Through the sacrifice made in our behalf, sins may be perfectly forgiven. Our dependence is not in what man can do; it is in what God can do for man through Christ. When we surrender ourselves wholly to God, and fully believe, the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. The conscience can be freed from condemnation. Through faith in His blood, all may be made perfect in Christ Jesus. Thank God that we are not dealing with impossibilities. We may claim sanctification. We may enjoy the favor of God. We are not to be anxious about what Christ and God think of us, but about what God thinks of Christ, our Substitute.”—Ibid., bk. 2, pp. 32, 33.
“Christ died to save a selfish world from the sure consequences of selfishness. He has opened His heart in love and pity and sympathy for the whole world. He invites fallen beings to come to Him and receive full and free forgiveness. His character stands before the heavenly universe free from every taint of selfishness. He has made a complete sacrifice to bring to men and women that benevolence which dwells in His own heart. He has sent His Holy Spirit to impress the mind and heart, to lead men to love their fellow men as Christ has loved them.”—The Review and Herald, January 7, 1902.
5. RECONCILIATION WITH GOD
a. How alone can we be reconciled with God? 2 Corinthians 5:18–21.
“The believer is not called upon to make his peace with God; he never has nor ever can do this. He is to accept Christ as his peace, for with Christ is God and peace. Christ made an end of sin, bearing its heavy curse in His own body on the tree, and He hath taken away the curse from all those who believe in Him as a personal Saviour. He makes an end of the controlling power of sin in the heart, and the life and character of the believer testify to the genuine character of the grace of Christ.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 395.
b. Why is Christ able to reconcile us with the Father? What is to flow from the heart of God to the heart of the sinner through Christ? Romans 5:6–9; Hebrews 2:17, 18.
“Reconciliation means that every barrier between the soul and God is removed, and that the sinner realizes what the pardoning love of God means. By reason of the sacrifice made by Christ for fallen men, God can justly pardon the transgressor who accepts the merits of Christ. Christ was the channel through which the mercy, love, and righteousness might flow from the heart of God to the heart of the sinner. ‘He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).”—Ibid., p. 396.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What is the condition of a sinner without Christ?
2. What is done by true faith?
3. What does the Bible teach concerning those who wish to worship the Lord in the way they think is best?
4. How alone may men and women be truly made righteous?
5. What blessings follow a full reconciliation with God?