Before Jesus' time in the first century, God had people sacrifice animals as an object lesson about sin and its consequences, which includes death. When an animal's blood was shed, it was symbolic of one life being traded, or substituted, for another.
The sacrifices throughout the Old Testament were foreshadows of a better, more sufficient sacrifice to come: Jesus shedding His blood to give us life. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus "has no need, like those high priests (from the Old Testament), to offer sacrifices daily, [...] since He did this once for all when He offered up Himself."
Jesus' atonement, or payment, for sin on the cross was made one time on behalf of each person of the entire human race. When we trust that Jesus' sacrifice was made as payment for our sins, only then do we become redeemed, or purchased back into God's possession, and can experience life with God forever.
The Bible uses the term holy to imply that something is unique, especially in regard to moral purity. Only God is called "holy, holy, holy" by the biblical writers, implying that God is the most unique, that no one else is as pure as He is.
In order for each of us to be in God's presence in heaven, we also have to be holy, without any sin. But since we're not pure enough to be in God's presence, we need our sin to be removed. When we trust Jesus for salvation, our sin is removed and we're covered with Jesus' holiness; we're able to be in God's presence despite all our past mistakes.
This term can be understood from a legal perspective. God is our judge, and we're on trial for breaking His law. Jesus comes to the defense of those who place their faith in Him, taking the punishment of our sins upon Himself so that we can go free. We're still unrighteous, but legally we've been declared righteous because of our relationship with Jesus. Paul says in the book of Romans, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
In the book of Romans, it says that “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted (or credited) for righteousness." We're declared righteous in God’s eyes when we trust Jesus with our legal defense, instead of trying to outweigh our sin with good behavior.
Many of the Jews living during the first century had built up a system of rules based on God's commands, but were failing to truly love God with their hearts. Talking to the ultra-religious Jews of His time, Jesus said "you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
We can fall victim to the same mentality today. Sometimes we get so caught up with obeying a set of rules to perfection, we lose sight of why God gave them in the first place. Always remember that obedience to God is good, but needs to flow from a loving relationship with Him.
God has a sense of justice that demands action against sin which the Bible often refers to as wrath or anger.
In the Old Testament, priests acted as mediators between God and the people of Israel, making sacrifices to appease God's wrath against their sin. The book of Hebrews, talking about Jesus, says "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."
To regain God's favor, or appease His wrath, a sacrifice must be made for us. Jesus is both our priest and the sacrifice made on our behalf. God's wrath was poured out on Jesus when He died on the cross, meaning that when we place our faith in Jesus, God's wrath towards us is satisfied and we enter into a right relationship with Him.
When God first created the world, He shared a healthy relationship with mankind. But when mankind sinned, it created a separation between us and God. Jesus is the one who bridges that gap, reconnecting us into a healthy relationship with God again. In the book of Romans, Paul says "while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son (Jesus)."
God desires a relationship with you: to love you, to give you a new purpose, and adopt you into His family which will be together in His presence forever. God has taken the initiative to restore that relationship in several ways, but relationships are two-sided. We have to choose to be reconciled to God by trusting in the provision He made for us: Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
The Bible uses words like purchase, wages, and other terms related to money that describe ideas concerning sin and salvation. Peter, one of the New Testament writers, tells us "you were not redeemed (or purchased) with corruptible things, like silver or gold, [...] but with the precious blood of Christ."
The book of Romans tells us that "the wages of sin is death." We need salvation from sin, but we're unable to buy it ourselves. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our redemption. He takes us back into His possession the moment we trust Jesus for the payment He made on our behalf.
To be regenerated, renewed, and "born again" all refer to the same act. Jesus explains in the book of John, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." To be born again means to enter into God's family: a spiritual family. The Apostle Paul, himself having been born again, attributes this work of renewal to God, "He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
The moment we trust Jesus for salvation, God remakes our heart and adopts us into His family, giving us a new set of desires and purpose for our life. As Paul said, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
The Bible describes our relationship to God using polar opposite terms. You're either a friend of God or you're an enemy of God; there's no middle ground. We're all sinners, living our lives in opposition to God until the very moment He renews our hearts, making us morally right with Him. The book of James says this change happened in Abraham's life, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God."
God wants to become your friend; that's why Jesus died for your sins. The Apostle Paul writes, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners (God's enemies), Christ died for us." Just like Abraham, when we believe what God has done for us, we become God's friend too. Paul establishes this very idea in Romans, "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
Being saved can refer to physical harm or loss in the Bible, but usually speaks about something spiritual: a deliverance from sin, including its consequences of death and suffering in hell.
God offers salvation from our sins through a mediator who makes peace between us and God. In the book of John, Jesus describes Himself saying, "I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved."
Jesus is the savior who intercedes on our behalf, suffering the penalty for our sin. Paul writes, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all."
Jesus died for you and saves you from your sins when you place your faith in Him, instead of trying to make peace with God on your own. The Apostle John tells us we can have life in Jesus when he writes, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
Sanctification is the process of being made holy. Almost every time it's mentioned in the Bible, it also calls attention to the acting force in the process: God.
While writing to believers in another city, Paul says "may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely" and while describing its purpose in a letter to Titus, "Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us [...] to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works."
Knowing that God is the one sanctifying us, or making us holy, gives us the confidence to trust Him with the process. The Apostle Paul also wrote "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Even when we mess up, we can be assured that God is still working in us to accomplish His purposes.
Sin, trespass, transgression, lawlessness, and iniquity all refer to the same thing. Adam and Eve, the first human beings, disobeyed God's command, meaning they crossed over, or trespassed, the boundaries of God's law. Sin, along with its consequences of death and suffering, entered the world because of their disobedience. Paul explains this in the book of Romans, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin." Paul also informs us that it's not just Adam and Eve that stand guilty before God, but all of mankind, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Fortunately, right after Paul explains the bad news about sin, he tells us the good news, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Even though we all break God's law and are deserving of its penalty, God offers us forgiveness. When we place our faith in Jesus to save us from our sins, our criminal record against God is wiped completely clean; our sins are forgiven and we can enjoy a healthy relationship with God despite our past mistakes.
In a letter written by James, the brother of Jesus, he corrects someone for saying "today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit." At first glance, there seems to be nothing wrong with those plans, but James points out, "Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' " In this scenario, someone makes their own plans without considering God's desire, or will, for their life.
It's easy to think we're pleasing God as long as we allow Him to rule over one area of our life, like how we spend our Sunday mornings. But God is the creator of the universe, He already owns it all, and He is sovereign over every part of our lives: our time, our finances, our goals. When we pray for God to work in our lives, we should start by considering His desires and submitting to His rulership.
God created a set of rules which Moses recorded for the people of Israel to follow. The writers of the New Testament often refer to this set of rules simply as "the law."
God uses these rules to teach us a lesson: namely, to highlight just how sinful we really are. The Apostle Paul explains this by writing, "no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin." The law of Moses was never meant to provide salvation for those that follow it, but to show us our inability to meet God's high standards through our own efforts.
Many people believe they're good enough to enter heaven as long as they don't break too many of God's rules. But James proves otherwise when he writes, "whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." Each of us have broken God's law and deserve the penalty of our sin, which is death.
By learning the lesson of the law, we know that our only hope of entering heaven isn't breaking less rules, but to place our faith in Jesus. Paul explains this same idea in the book of Galatians, "Therefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."