Are you like me? I get tired of sitting down in the middle of something like a story, show, etc. and wondering what’s going on. I think most people feel like this when they hear about Jesus for the first time. In my past, I would hear things like:
“Good news! Good news! Here’s how to get saved: Believe in Jesus!!”
I was thinking, “Saved from what? Jesus who?” Obviously, there was something missing in the approach that these well meaning Christians used with me, and it is important, then, to learn to be better witnesses.
Perfect Creation . . . Then the Bad News
First of all, it’s tough to understand the good news of being saved if you don’t understand the bad news. So let’s go back to the beginning. In the beginning, God created everything:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.1
When God created everything He said it was “very good.” This meant that everything was perfect. The whole creation was perfect. In fact, God says that all His works are perfect, and we would expect that from a perfect God. Man lived in the perfectly created earth (i.e., a paradise) with a perfect relationship with God.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Being that the original creation was perfect, there was no death before this (Genesis 1:29–30).2 God gave man and woman the freedom of contrary choice.3 The first two people God created were Adam and Eve, who were allowed to freely eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were to live forever with God. Again, there was no death. However, Eve was tempted by a serpent (being influenced by Satan, who had rebelled against God in the heavenly realm), and then both Adam and Eve also rebelled against God by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; thus, they sinned (sin is rebellion against God4).
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
The result of Adam’s sin (rebellion against a Holy Creator) was God’s judgment through many curses. God cursed the ground, which mankind had dominion over (Genesis 1:28), to bring forth thorns and thistles. He sentenced man and woman to die, fulfilling what was spoken in Genesis 2:17. He also cursed the animals and, especially, the serpent.
From this act of rebellion, we (i.e., humans, descendants of Adam) inherit “original sin.” This, in a layman’s sense, means that we are sentenced to die and are prone to sin because we were in Adam when he sinned.5 In essence, these curses are like God removing some of His sustaining power, so the creation is no longer upheld in a perfect state, but in bondage to sin and death (Romans 8:21)—hence, we now suffer things like cancer, sickness, suffering, and finally, death.
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . .
In spite of our sin, God loved us so much that He had already planned a way for us to return to a perfect relationship with Him. To provide forgiveness and salvation, God gave the first prophecy of many regarding the way back to a restored relationship with Him. Genesis 3:15 says that the seed will be that of a woman.6 This refers to the future event—the virgin birth of Jesus—being the “seed of a woman” and not of a man.
Death and Sacrifice Point Toward a Savior
For the wages of sin is death
Since the wages of sin is death, God, in Genesis 3, shows that a life must be taken to cover the sin of Adam and Eve. Therefore, to make a temporary atonement (cover the sins for a time), God killed these animals on behalf of Adam and Eve clothing them with the skins.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
The punishment demanded from an infinitely holy God, who cannot look upon sin, is an infinite punishment. Animals are not infinite, and so, they cannot ultimately take away the sin, but merely cover it. Mankind needed a perfect, infinitely holy sacrifice. Jesus Christ, who is the infinite and holy Son of God, stepped into history to take that punishment on Himself. We ultimately need a perfect sacrifice, and the perfectly obedient life of Christ was God’s plan for the ultimate atonement.
But after Adam and Eve sinned, people began making animal sacrifices to cover their sins—an animal life for sin. A few examples follow.
But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that he will be acceptable to the LORD.’”
The Law of Moses (i.e., Genesis–Deuteronomy) revealed sin as rebellion against God. The moral laws are summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). Even with the Law, people continued rebelling and turning away from God (Romans 3:20). But God sent the ultimate and final sacrifice—far greater than any animal sacrifice—that would be sufficient to cover sin against a perfect God (Hebrews 10:1–14).
Jesus Christ, the Savior, Steps into History
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God sent His Son (i.e., the second person of the Triune God7), Jesus, to humble Himself and enter into a sin-cursed world to live a servant’s life on earth just like one of us (Philippians 2:8). He entered the world just as was prophesied—through the virgin Mary.
Jesus was without sin (1 John 3:5) and did everything perfectly according to the Law. Then, He would allow mankind to sacrifice Him on the cross. Jesus would be the final sacrifice because he obeyed God completely and was without defect—only He could satisfy the infinite punishment we deserve. His method of sacrifice (crucifixion) was even outlined many years before in Psalm 22. He was the perfect sacrifice (far exceeding the most perfect, unblemished animal) because He was the perfect man and also perfect God (Colossians 2:9).
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
When God stepped into His creation, He offered what is called “grace.” Grace means that we were to be rightly punished for our wrongdoings, and then the one who sentenced us to that punishment took the punishment upon Himself because of love for us. We rightly deserved death by God’s judgment. But God took that punishment upon Himself by dying in our place as Jesus Christ. He exercised that grace because of His love for us.
Jesus didn’t come to the world to sentence it to death—the world was already condemned by sin. He came to save us from that sin. This indicates that God really is a God of love.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
A second death is still the punishment that God will give to those who do not turn to Him. The second death is called hell and is separation from God—being completely separated from all that is good.8 Even Satan himself has no power there. Jesus came to be the final sacrifice to allow us to be saved from this penalty due to sin against a holy God.
When Jesus rose and conquered death, people no longer needed to present an animal sacrifice to cover up their sins. For those who trust in Christ will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible warns that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. All other sins can be forgiven up to the moment of death.
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is rejecting the Holy Spirit to the point of death. The only way to reject the Holy Spirit is not receiving Jesus as your Savior during your lifetime. This corresponds to Jesus saying that He was the only way back to God the Father.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The Free Gift of Salvation: Belief in Christ
Jesus, being the perfect sacrifice, offers the free gift of salvation. God loves you so much that He sacrificed His own unblemished Son to suffer the wrath against sin and die on the Cross. He commands you to repent (change your mind and turn from sinful ways) and trust in Him:
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.9
The Bible is clear in several passages how to receive salvation. It doesn’t mean you are perfect after you are saved, but it does mean that you are perfectly forgiven and saved from the penalty of sin by God’s grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
These verses point out the importance of belief in Jesus Christ. It is a simple and free gift. It doesn’t matter how many steps you’ve taken away from God; it is only one step back. If you are not a Christian, then consider more deeply the claims of Jesus, and please take a few minutes to pray to God in the name of Jesus to forgive your sins and to receive Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Then please take some time to sit down with a Bible-believing pastor in a local church to help direct you as you begin your new life with Christ. Read your Bible everyday and seek to understand and obey what you read.