Sin Cannot Be Removed by Good Works

  1. Tower of Babel Genesis 11 After the worldwide flood, God used Noah and his family to repopulate the earth. God had commanded everyone to multiply and fill the earth. However, Noah’s descendants decided to stay together and build a tower. Everyone had one language at this time. There are two possible reasons for this disobedience. The people might have been building this tower as a way of showing how powerful they were as a direct affront to God. The heart of this was pride. They wanted to “make a name for themselves.” The other option is that they were attempting to reach up to God by building a tower that stretched to the heavens. If this is the case, then it is the first recorded example of religion. Religion is trying to reach God on our own efforts. In either case, it is rebellion and stems from man’s pride. Thus this attempt of mankind to work their way to God completely failed. God’s response was to give them different languages (about 70) and to scatter them all over the earth. At this point in the story, we have groups of sinful people forming nations all over the earth.
  2. Abraham Genesis 12  God then called one man named Abram out from one of the nations and told him to take his family and travel to a place called Haran. God was going to use this man’s life as an example of what it means to live in a relationship with God by faith. God also wanted to make His own special nation from Abram’s descendants. It would be through this nation that the Promised Savior would come.

    Just when Israel thought it was over for them, God did the unthinkable: He became one of them.

  3. Two Problems Genesis 15  At one point in Abram’s journey, God called him to look up at the stars. He then promised Abram that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky. In Genesis 15 we read that “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” From this, we can learn two things. First, Abram had sin that he needed to be taken away. This is called “forgiveness.” Second, Abraham lacked something that only God could give him: “righteousness.” When Abram “believed” – or trusted – or put his faith in God’s promise, this righteousness was credited to him. So, his sin was taken away and he was given righteousness. These two problems exist for every person. We need our sin to be forgiven, and we also need to gain a righteousness that is equal to God’s righteousness. This is why it is impossible to be made right with God by our own works. We will never be able to be good enough to get rid of our sin and be as righteous as God. So how did Abram get these two things? By faith alone. It was after he believed God that God credited Abram with righteousness. The word “credited” is the same as if someone put money on your account at your bank. God’s very righteousness was put on Abraham’s account. The question then is: How was his sin paid for? When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for the sins of the whole world – past, present, and future (2 Corinthians [5:21]). Abram was given righteousness by God when he believed God’s promise about the coming Savior. His sin was finally paid for on the cross. You can think of it like buying something on credit. You get the benefit of your purchase when you charge your card, but you ultimately pay the price later.
  4. Substitution Genesis 22  God promised that Abram would have a son and that this nation would come through his line. The problem was that Abram, now called Abraham (“father or many”), didn’t have any children and he and his wife, Sarah, were very old. Despite this, God gave them a son whom they named Isaac. This was Abraham and Sarah’s only son. When Isaac reached his teen years, God commanded Abraham to something that would greatly test his faith. He told him to sacrifice his son. Despite the enormous difficulty of this command, Abraham obeyed God by bringing him to Mount Moriah, binding him up on an altar made of rocks, and raising a knife in the air to slay his son. Just before Abraham brought down the knife, God called out for him to stop. In a nearby thicket, God had provided a ram to take Isaac’s place on the altar. Abraham released his son and sacrificed the ram as a substitute for Isaac. From this, we learn many things. First, God tests our faith. Abraham was to be the example of living by faith for many generations to come so he had a huge test. Second, often God doesn’t make sense to us, but His ways are always perfect. Third, even though Abraham was faithful to go about the sacrifice of his son, in the end, it was God’s provision of a substitute that was the acceptable sacrifice. Abraham’s sin was never forgiven by his own works. Fourth, unlike Abraham who didn’t have to give up his son as a sacrifice, God would one day actually give His son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Fifth, just like the ram was Isaac’s substitute, Jesus is our substitute in paying the price of sin.
  5. Ten Plagues Exodus 7-11  When Isaac became a man, he married a woman named Rebekah. They had a son named Jacob through whom the promise of this special nation would be fulfilled. Jacob had several wives and 12 sons. God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel.” Through Israel’s sons would come what would be known as the 12 tribes of Israel: God’s special nation. In the beginning of Israel’s history, they were slaves in Egypt. This lasted for about 400 years until God raised up a leader named Moses. It was Moses’ task to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into a land that God promised for them. The purpose of Israel was to follow God and reveal to all the other nations what God was really like. God was also going to send the Savior He promised to Adam and Eve through this nation.Moses told the leader of Egypt, Pharoah, to let God’s people leave Egypt. Pharoah rejected God in rebellion. God then sent 12 plagues on the Egyptians as consequences to Pharoah’s rebellion. Each plague was aimed at one of the false gods of Egypt. God wanted everyone to that He is the only true God. Pharoah denied God’s command to let His people go after nine plagues. The final plague finally convinced Pharoah that he was up against God and could not win. This plague was the death of the firstborn son of everyone in Egypt. Just as Pharoah had killed many Israelite baby boys, God would bring a judgment on the Egyptians. However, He also provided a way of salvation.
  6. Passover Exodus 12  Since God desires salvation for all people, He provided an escape from this last plague. God commanded for His people to take a lamb that was without defect, sacrifice it, and then spread its blood over the doorposts of their home. They were to roast the lamb so as to not break any of its legs, and eat it before morning. On the night of this final plague, God would send a spirit through the land to administer this judgment. When the spirit came to a home with blood around the door, He would “pass over” the household sparing any firstborn son inside. The condition of this salvation was simply being covered by the blood. Thus, if a morally upright firstborn Israelite son was in a home without the blood over the door, he would die. However, if even an Egyptian firstborn son that was very sinful was inside a house with blood over the door, then he would live. Trusting God’s promise to save those that are covered by the blood of the Passover lamb is what saved someone. This is consistent with what we see in the life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: sins are never removed by good works.
  7. The Law Exodus 20  After the tenth plague, Pharoah’s son died, and he kicked all of Israel out of Egypt. Moses led the Israelites through the desert towards God’s Promised Land. As they came to the Red Sea, Pharoah decided to take his army and kill all of Israel. With Moses and the Israelites pinned up against the Red Sea, they were trapped. God saved them by holding off Pharoah and his army with a pillar of fire, and then splitting the Red Sea, enabling Israel to cross through on dry land. When God’s people made it across the sea, God removed the pillar of fire that held Pharoah back. Pharoah then chose to send his army through the Red Sea after the Israelites. When they got about halfway through, God brought down the waters and demolished the entire army. God saved His people once again.Before Israel could enter the Promised Land, God brought them to a place called mt. Sinai. It was here that He called Moses to the top of the mountain and gave him the ten commandments. These ten were a part of a greater set of commands that provided Israel with ceremonial laws (for sacrifices, festivals, etc), civil laws, and moral laws. There were a couple purposes for these laws. First, they were to be used to relate to God as it was God’s desire to dwell with His people in a tabernacle. A holy God living among sinful people required many laws and provisions. Second, these laws provided Israel with a system of order for their nation. Third, they were the basis of a covenant between Israel and God. If Israel obeyed God’s commands then He promised to bless them in every way. However, if they disobeyed then He would curse them. God’s purpose for Israel was to reveal to the nations what God is truly like. His heart was to bring them back into right relationship with Him and Israel was part of that plan. The last and probably most dominant purpose of the law is to reveal to mankind their sinful condition and need for a Savior. It would lead them to repentance and faith in the Promised Savior. Just like a mirror reveals the dirt on your face, God’s laws show us that we are guilty before Him and can do nothing to earn our salvation. Read through the ten commandments and ask yourself if you have ever broken them. If you have, then you are guilty before God who is completely holy. Eternal separation from Him is what those who have broken His laws deserve. Sinful people cannot be in the presence of a holy God.
  8. Prophets  Instead of responding to God’s laws by admitting that they would never be able to follow them perfectly and seeking God’s salvation, Israel said that everything God commanded, they would do. They eventually entered the Promised Land and got to work obeying God’s laws. It wasn’t long at all until they walked away from God as a nation and began to worship false gods. They were increasingly prideful and wicked in every way. During this time God sent men called “prophets” to call out to Israel to come back to Him. These men also were inspired by God to write His word. This included books of wisdom, psalms, Israel’s history, and prophecies about future events to come. God included within these writings over 300 prophecies about the coming Promised Savior. Despite the powerful messages of these prophets, Israel killed almost all of them. God allowed Isreal to be conquered by several nations and was silent for about 400 years as a consequence of their sin. They had learned that they desperately needed a Savior and could not do anything to earn God’s forgiveness. Just when Israel thought it was over for them, God did the unthinkable: He became one of them.