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To receive eternal life according to the gospel of Christ, a person must be forgiven of sins by Jesus' blood (Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 26:28; 1 Peter 2:24). But many people are unsure about whether or not they have been forgiven. Others may think that they have been forgiven, but would be surprised to learn that Jesus does not agree.
Matthew 7:21-23 - Many people, who believe in the Lord, will expect Jesus to accept them at the judgment. Instead He will reject them because they have not done the will of the Father.
Acts 23:1; 26:9 - Saul was a Jew who opposed Jesus in all good conscience, doing what he sincerely believed he should do. Yet he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-15). Clearly he had been misled.
What about you and me? Is it possible we have been misled like these people? Surely this matter deserves our careful investigation.
This study is designed to help you be sure about salvation.
Please begin with a brief self-examination to show where you are now (2 Cor. 13:5). Then we will study what the Bible says about salvation, and you can compare your case to Jesus' teaching. (Since these are personal answers, the computer cannot grade them, so you must ask and answer them to yourself.)
*A* Have you made a personal commitment to serve Jesus? (Yes or no) Answer:
*B1* Have you been baptized? (Yes or no) (If not, skip to question #3.) Answer:
*B2* If so, about how old were you? Answer:
*B3* How were you baptized (sprinkling, pouring, or immersion)? Answer:
*B4* Why were you baptized? (a) to please loved ones, (b) as a sign I had been saved, (c) to receive forgiveness of sins, (d) because others were doing it, (e) to join a denomination, (f) other (write your reason in the blank). (You may give more than one reason.) Answer:
*B5* After you repented of sin and determined to live for God, about how long was it till you were baptized? Answer:
*C* Suppose a person sincerely does the following things. At what point do you believe his sins would be washed away? When he (a) hears the gospel, (b) believes, (c) repents, (d) confesses Jesus, (e) prays for forgiveness, (f) is baptized, (g) I don't know, (h) other (write in the blank the point at which you think sins are washed away). Answer:
Some churches teach that people inherit guilt from Adam through their parents. They conclude that little babies are born guilty of sin. What does Jesus teach? Remember that His teaching is found in the Bible.
A. Sin Is Committed, Not Inherited.
>>> Read 1 JOHN 3:4. <<<
*1* What is sin? Sin is: (a) breaking social customs, (b) displeasing other people, (c) violating human tradition, (d) transgression or breaking of God's law (lawlessness). Answer: ______.
*2* Sin is something a person: (a) commits (practices), (b) inherits. Answer: ______.
>>> Read ROMANS 6:16 and John 8:34. <<<
*3* How do people become slaves of sin? (a) they inherit a corrupt nature from Adam, (b) everyone is born a slave of sin, (c) whoever commits sin (presents himself to obey sin) is a slave of sin. Answer: ______.
We may sin in word, deed, or thought, but our own conduct is what makes us sinners.
>>> Read 1 PETER 2:22. <<<
*4* What sins was Jesus guilty of? (a) He was born a sinner, (b) He was guilty of Adam's sin, (c) He was guilty of no sins because He committed no sins. Answer: ______.
Note that Jesus was a descendant of Adam, born of woman (Luke 3:38; Galatians 4:4). He shared in flesh and blood, being made in all things like us (Hebrews 2:14,17). If people inherit Adam's sin, then Jesus must have been guilty of sin. Yet in Him there was no sin, because He did no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; Hebrews 4:15). Therefore guilt is not inherited. People are guilty of sin when they commit sin.
>>> Read EZEKIEL 18:20. <<<
*5* Who bears the guilt of a person's sins? Answer: The wickedness of the wicked will be upon (charged against) ______.
*6* What sins are we guilty of? (a) just the ones we commit, (b) our father's, (c) Adam's. Answer: ______.
Sin is doing, practicing, committing things that are not in harmony with God's will. When the Bible says people are "in sin," "slaves of sin," or "under sin," it refers to the guilt and consequences a person experiences because of his own sinful conduct.
We may sometimes suffer in this life because of something our ancestors did (such as a child who suffers because his parent is an alcoholic). But guilt itself cannot be inherited through our parents. None of Adam's descendants bear the guilt of his sin. Adam's sin is upon Adam alone. If you are guilty of sin, it is because of what you have done.
[See also Mark 7:20-23; Romans 3:9-18,23; 1 Timothy 6:10; James 1:14,15; 2:10,11.]
B. Each Person Will Be Judged for His Own Life.
Each person's eternal destiny is determined by his/her own conduct, and it is determined individually. Each person is held accountable for what he did, not for what his ancestors did.
>>> Read MATTHEW 7:21,23. <<<
*7* Who will enter the kingdom of heaven (v21)? Answer: He who ______ the will of the Father.
*8* Jesus will reject those who work (practice/do) what (v23)? Answer: ______.
>>> Read ROMANS 2:6-10. <<<
*9* To receive eternal life, what must we do (v7,10)? Answer: We must continue in ______.
*10&11* Who will receive tribulation and anguish (v8,9)? Answer: Those who reject (do not obey) the ______ but obey (follow) ______.
Note that, at judgment, each will be rewarded according to his works or deeds (v6).
>>> Read 2 CORINTHIANS 5:10. <<<
*12* How many people must appear before Jesus' judgment seat? Answer: ______.
*13* On what basis will each one be judged? (a) what his parents did, (b) what he has done in the body, (c) what Adam did. Answer: ______.
Note again that the above passages all show that sin is something a person does, works, or practices. Folks who believe in original sin teach that every person is passive in becoming a sinner and passive in being saved from sin. He is a sinner before he does anything and saved without doing anything. Jesus' teaching says man is active both in sin and in salvation. He becomes a sinner because of what he does, and we will see that he must choose to act in order to receive God's offer of salvation.
[See also Rom. 1:32; 14:12; Matt. 16:27; Rev. 20:12,13; 22:12.]
C. Babies Are Innocent, not Guilty.
If original sin is true, then babies are born guilty of sin, totally depraved, destined for eternal punishment. But note what Jesus' word says.
>>> Read PSALM 106:37,38. <<<
*14* When people sacrificed their babies to idols, what kind of blood did they shed? Answer: They shed ______ blood.
If babies inherited Adam's sin, they would be guilty; but God's word says they are innocent. [Cf. Jer. 19:4,5.]
>>> Read HEBREWS 12:9. <<<
*15* God is the Father of what? Answer: Our ______.
Our fleshly nature comes through our earthly fathers (like Adam). But God is the Father of our spirits. He gives the spirit and forms it within man (cf. Zech. 12:1; Ecc. 12:7). If our spirits come from God, not from earthly parents, how can our spirits inherit sin from our parents?
The doctrine of original sin says man is born with a soul that is "wholly defiled." Does the sinless Father in heaven give us spirits that are wholly defiled?
>>> Read MATTHEW 18:3 and 19:14. <<<
*16* What is taught about little children? (a) they inherit the sin of Adam, (b) we must be converted and become like little children to enter the kingdom of God, (c) they are sinners. Answer: ______.
If little children are guilty of sin and wholly defiled, why should we want to become like them? Does conversion make us like sinners? Does the kingdom consist of those who are wholly defiled?
Jesus considered little children to be acceptable to Him just as they were. He did not require them to be forgiven of sins. Rather, He taught those who are sinners to be converted and become like little children.
No passage of Scripture anywhere teaches that little children are born sinners. Sin is not inherited. God does not hold children accountable for their conduct till they are old enough to understand His will and accept the responsibility to serve Him. Then they become sinners when they themselves participate in sinful conduct. Eventually, we all become guilty and need forgiveness (Romans 3:23).
People need forgiveness when they themselves commit sin. That forgiveness comes only through Jesus' blood. Jesus died to offer forgiveness to everyone, yet not everyone will receive forgiveness. How can you and I be sure we have been forgiven by Jesus' blood?
The book of Acts contains many examples of people who received forgiveness. Since God is no respecter of persons, we can be saved only if we do as these people did (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). Consider a few of these Bible examples. (Note: As you study, please consider the chart at the end of this section.)
A. The Jews on Pentecost
On a Jewish feast day called Pentecost, Jews came to Jerusalem from all over the Roman empire. The Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to preach to the people (Acts 2:14-36).
>>> Read ACTS 2:36-41. <<<
*17* What did Peter tell the people to believe (v36)? (a) Jesus is Lord and Christ, (b) people can save themselves without Jesus, (c) it does not matter what we believe if we are sincere, (d) all the preceding. Answer: ______.
*18&19* What did Peter command them to do (v38)? Answer: ______ and be ______.
*20* For what purpose were they to do this (v38)? Answer: For the ______ of sins.
Three thousand people heard, believed, repented, and were baptized. As a result, they were forgiven of sins. (See the chart.)
Please note that Peter said these same blessings are available to all people everywhere, as many as hear the gospel, including future generations (v39). This includes you, me, and all people today.
B. The Ethiopian Treasurer
The treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia had come to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning home riding in his chariot, reading from Isaiah. Then a preacher named Philip approached (Acts 8:26-34).
>>> Read ACTS 8:35-39. <<<
*21* As Philip taught about Jesus, what did the eunuch want (v36)? (a) baptism, (b) money, (c) a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Answer: ______.
*22* What did the eunuch have to do first (v37)? (a) pray for forgiveness, (b) tell Philip that he believed in Jesus, (c) pay a fee. Answer: ______.
The treasurer heard about Jesus, believed in him, confessed his faith, and was baptized. (See the chart.) Would you and I receive the same blessings he received, if we do the same things he did?
C. Saul of Tarsus
Saul was an unbelieving Jew who was traveling to Damascus to persecute Christians (Acts 8:3; 9:1-3). On the road, Jesus appeared to him.
>>> Read ACTS 9:3-6,18; 22:16. <<<
*23* What did the Lord tell Saul to do (v6)? (a) wait in the city to be told what he must do, (b) pray through at the mourner's bench, (c) send a financial contribution. Answer: ______.
*24&25* What did Ananias tell him he must do (22:16)? Answer: He said to be ______ and wash away his ______.
Saul learned about Jesus, was told what he must do, and was baptized to wash away his sins.
|v35||v37||v37||vv 38,39||Rejoicing (v39)|
|Sins washed away (22:16)|
Have you done what these people did?
By taking all that Jesus said in these examples (Acts 3:22,23), we see that people heard the gospel, believed it, repented of sin, confessed Christ, and were baptized. Notice each of these steps more closely.
>>> Read JOHN 6:44,45. <<<
*26* What must one do to come to Jesus? (a) see a vision, (b) learn the word of God, (c) pray for a direct message from the Spirit. Answer: ______.
*27* Can one be saved without hearing the gospel? (yes or no) Answer: ______.
"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" - John 8:32.
[See also John 6:63,68; 12:48; Acts 11:14; Romans 10:14-17.]
>>> Read ROMANS 1:16. <<<
*28* What is the power of God to salvation? (a) human wisdom, (b) the gospel, (c) man-made creeds. Answer: ______.
*29* Who can be saved by the gospel? (a) all who truly believe, (b) anyone who has a good conscience, (c) anyone who is sincere. Answer: ______.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him" - Hebrews 11:6. Note that believing alone does not make one a child of God, but only gives him the right to become a child of God - John 1:12.
[See also John 8:24; 20:30,31; Romans 5:1,2.]
>>> Read ACTS 17:30,31. <<<
*30* What does God command men to do? Answer: ______.
*31* How many people must do this? (a) some, (b) all, (c) none. Answer: ______.
*32* What is repentance (note Matthew 21:28,29)? (a) never committing sin, (b) not getting caught, (c) changing our minds about our sins. Answer: ______.
"God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" - 2 Peter 3:9. All people are guilty of sin (Romans 3:23) and must repent to be forgiven. We must change our minds about sin and decide to do God's will always.
[See also Acts 2:38; 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10.]
>>> Read ROMANS 10:9,10. <<<
*33* Besides believing, what else must we do to be saved? (a) confess Jesus, (b) believe what our parents did, (c) obey the 10 commands. Answer: ______.
"And Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'" - Matthew 16:16.
[See also Acts 8:37; Matthew 10:32; John 12:42.]
Many Scriptures show that all people become guilty of sin because of their own conduct. Bible examples show that, to be forgiven, people must hear the gospel, believe in Jesus, repent of sins, confess Christ, and be baptized for the remission of sins.
The last step in all these examples of conversion was baptism. Because this is such a controversial yet important step, our next lesson will look at it more closely.
(These questions are for you to ponder. Your answers will help us understand your thinking, however they will not affect your "score.")
*34* What do you believe about the doctrine that we inherit the guilt of Adam's sin? __________
*35* Have you repented of your sins and determined to live your life according to Jesus' teachings? __________
(C) Copyright David E. Pratte, 1999 (click for copyright information)
We Need Forgiveness
Importance of Repentance
Original Sin and Inherited Depravity
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.