Story of the New Testament - Lesson 8

By Curt Niccum

He Paid a Debt

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student can state the consequences of sin and quote Romans 6:23.
  2. The student can describe how Christ forgives sin and reconciles people with God.
  3. The student can relate how God has proven himself faithful by fulfilling His promise to Abraham and meeting the conditions of the Law of Moses through His son Jesus Christ.


  1. Each student will need to have a complete Bible.
  2. Each student might need a small piece of paper or a 3x5 card. You could be creative and provide slips of paper cut out in the form of a cross or some other shape appropriate to the point of the lesson (see Applications below).
  3. The teacher may want to draw a diagram on the chalkboard or have the diagram printed as a handout (available below).


The Gospels and Acts tell the story of Jesus Christ and the reconstitution of God's people made possible through His sacrifice. In Paul's letters we find more reflection on what Christ accomplished for God and humanity in His death, burial, and resurrection. This lesson will focus on the influence of sin and the overwhelming power of God's grace. When sin entered the world, it became a powerful force that continued to corrupt the hearts of mankind throughout history and brought death as a punishment. It also separated humans from the close relationship with God that God Himself so earnestly desired. Jesus is the culmination of God's plan to restore that right relationship. Jesus fulfills the promise made to Abraham thereby offering salvation to Gentiles and meets the conditions in the Law of Moses thereby offering salvation to the Jews.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (8-10 minutes)

  1. Organizational matters (taking roll, etc.)
  2. Evaluation of previous lesson: Have the students show how Luke uses the four items prophesied in Isaiah 56:1-8 to tell the story of the Restoration of Israel in Acts.
  3. Prayer and/or song: The song "He Paid a Debt" or "There Is No Condemnation (Romans 8:1)" would be appropriate to the theme. Prayer topics could include thanksgiving for God's love and gracious sacrifice through Jesus Christ that allows all who believe to have eternal life and petitions on behalf of the lost who need to come into a right relationship with God.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Sin in the Garden - Consequences and Cost.
    1. Consequences - Sin carries with it a terrible price tag. There are the immediate results of sin and the eternal results.
      1. Relying on the story of the fall found in the first chapters of genesis, have the students identify the immediate consequences that Adam and Eve suffered because of their sin. A: Broken relationship with God (they now fear Him, Genesis 3:10), a different relationship with each other (the husband shall rule over the wife, Gen. 3:16), and a more difficult relationship with nature (more pain in childbearing and in providing for the family, 3:16-19). (A review of lesson 2 in Dr. Pemberton's series on the Old Testament might prove beneficial.)
      2. Q: What was the eternal result of sin? A: Eternal life (the tree of life) was removed from humanity's grasp (Gen 3:3 and 22-24). (However, the Tree of Life is to be explained, clearly God had in place a plan for humanity to live forever if people proved faithful.)
    2. Cost - Note that God made the horrible cost of sin clear before the Law of Moses was given (Genesis 2:17), a consequence with which Adam and Eve were clearly familiar (Gen. 3:3). The price for sin is death. Have the class recite together their memory verse assigned the previous week (Romans 6:23). Life is the gift of God, and it was granted so that humans might live in close relationship to Him. When the relationship is broken by sin, so also is the purpose for life. When one chooses to sin, one forfeits one's life. The long-term consequences become clear in Romans 5:12-14.
  2. Sin under the Law - Consequences and Cost
    1. Consequences - The Law of Moses did not change the consequences of sin. In fact, it clarified them, yet at the same time it offered a means of forgiveness through animal sacrifice.
      1. The Law now stipulated that restitution should be made by the offender (sinner) to the victim. This is an important point, because it is sometimes lost on Christians today. The sacrifice helped cover the cost of sin, making things right helped cover the consequences of sin. A part of repentance was/is the attempt to restore what was damaged. Thus the Law highlighted the immediate consequences of sin.
      2. The eternal consequence still remained eternal separation from God. The Law also highlighted this.
        1. The constant offering of animal sacrifices for sin proved that these offered only a temporary solution. Human sin needed to be paid for by the sacrifice of a perfect human.
        2. The Law made it clear that "sin" was actually "trespass" by showing that previous errors committed by humanity truly were contrary to God's will. Therefore, although dishonoring one's parents was always a sin, after Mount Sinai it became a trespass because God had made his will perfectly clear through revelation. (Although "sin" and "trespass" can mean the same thing, in some contexts sin connotes all error while trespass refers to error committed specifically against God's revealed commands.)
          1. Read Romans 5:14-21 and discuss how this distinction of "sin" and "trespass" is important for understanding the text.
          2. Note how all people have sinned (Romans 3:23). The end result is that all gentiles have committed "sin," and all Jews have committed "trespasses." The same consequences and costs, therefore apply to all.
    2. Cost - The cost of sin still remained, eternal separation from God. On the other hand, the Law did offer hope, the promise of forgiveness through the offering of sacrifices. Through the sacrificial system, God made it clear that sin still required death. Although God's grace allowed the life of animals to substitute for the sinner's own life, the repetition of these sacrifices indicated that animal sacrifice could only be a temporary solution. (See Hebrews 10:1-4 and Romans 3:25-26.) The permanent solution could only be a perfect human life sacrificed for an imperfect one. (This, of course, is central to the gospel story, Rom. 5:6-8.) The physical cost of sin was also further spelled out. See Deuteronomy 28:15-68. The Law left no doubt about God's particular stance toward sin.
  3. The Solution - God's Grace to Jew and Gentile. For the class filled with Christians, the answer to these problems is already known. God now offers salvation to both the Jew and the Gentile through faith in Jesus Christ. How God actually does this, however, may not be so familiar. The main part of the class should be an explanation of how Jesus fulfills both God's promise to Abraham and the human and divine requirements of the Law. (The diagram available below may help demonstrate this point, and should be drawn or handed out at this point in the class.)
    1. God's promise to Abraham. Because of Abraham's faithfulness, God promised to bless all nations through his seed. Although God was establishing Abraham as the father of the Jewish people, a race that would receive special favor and blessings from God, in the same breath He also pointed to universal salvation. The Jews, therefore, were not God's only people. (See Romans 4:1-17 and Galatians 3:16-19.)
      1. How could the nations receive a blessing apart from the curse of Adam being removed? If the punishment for sin is death (remember, the punishment for sin preceded the giving of the Law, Gen. 3), then every sinner's death is his or her just reward. To pay the just price for sin, one who had no sin needed to die (2 Corinthians 5:21). When Christ died on the cross, the sinless for the sinful, God put into effect that age old promise given to Abraham. The curse of Adam was finally removed and eternal life given to the faithful.
      2. Note that "all nations" would also include Israel. Gentiles and Jews are saved on the same basis.
    2. God's fulfillment of the Law. God would not be a just God if he fulfilled the promise to Abraham, yet ignored his covenant with Israel. (Note that even when Israel broke the covenant, God remained true. Technically, when Israel broke the covenant, God no longer needed to keep His end of the deal. Thankfully, God is faithful. He remains true even when others do not.) Therefore God not only needed to fulfill the requirement of sin on behalf of all, but also the requirements of the Law on behalf of the Jews. Therefore Jesus appeared as a Jew to save those under the Law.
      1. Whereas the promise to Abraham was unilateral (indicated by the one way arrows on the diagram) and unconditional (God spoke and acted on His own behalf), the Law was a covenant, a binding agreement, between God and the Jews (indicated by the arrows pointing toward the Law on the diagram). (This alone marks the Law as secondary to the promise, Gal. 3:19-20.) God promised to protect and bless Israel on the condition that they keep all the commands (Deut. 28:15-68). This was agreed to by all the people present at Sinai, Exodus 19:1-8.
      2. The Jews should have known early on that they were incapable of keeping their promise, for before Moses could come down the mountain with the commands of God, they had already broken most of the big ten (symbolically illustrated to them when Moses shattered the tablets). They should have known from that point on, if not earlier, that salvation could only be accomplished by an act of God. Indeed, the Law itself pointed to a righteousness by faith rather than works. Most (but not all) Jews, though, attempted to establish their own righteousness.
        1. Read Romans 10:1-13.
        2. The following is background material that may help answer questions that arise during the Bible study, it is not intended to be an actual part of the class because of time restraints: In Romans 10 Paul proposes that the Law offered two possibilities for righteousness, one based on keeping all of the commands and the other based on faith. Unfortunately, the Jews chose the former, relying upon themselves instead of God (verses 1-5). In verses 6-13 Paul offers a commentary on Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (as found in the Greek Old Testament) to discuss the righteousness by faith (in Christ) offered in the Law. According to Paul, the one who asks "Who will ascend?" or "Who will descend?" seeks a human solution to God's demands (self reliance) and ultimately rejects the work of Christ, for Moses' language of ascent and descent applies to Jesus alone. Through Christ, God makes salvation possible to all people so that "all who call upon the Lord will be saved" apart from works. (Some note that Paul does not mention baptism in these verses, primarily to suggest that baptism has no role in salvation [a topic for next lesson]. This errs on two points. First, Paul has already mentioned baptism in terms closely associating it with salvation [Rom. 6:1-10]. Second, Paul is commenting on an Old Testament passage that only mentions the mouth and the heart. These readily suggest confession and faith. To introduce baptism here would not make any sense at all since there is nothing analogous to it found in Deuteronomy 30:11-14. He is commenting on the Old Testament passage, not giving a shortened list of what one must do to be saved.)
        3. Because God is a just God, someone needed to keep the Law perfectly in order to fulfill the requirements necessary for Israel to be blessed (see Deut. 27:26 and 28:1-14). Jesus accomplished this. Furthermore he then offered himself as the sacrifice necessary for forgiving all the sins of Israel. The blood of bulls and goats could only go so far. Jesus went all the way (Hebrews 9:11-14). See also Gal. 3:10-14.

Applications: (about 15 minutes)

  1. There are two options for application given with this lesson. The teacher can decide which one will be most appropriate for the class being taught. This first option builds on Christ's redeeming activity. Since Christ went so far to save the worst of sinners, what should Christians be doing for the worst of sinners around theme?
    1. Ask the students to think about a person they know whom they think will never be saved. Explain that this is not to say that the person each student chooses couldn't be saved, but that the student thinks it very unlikely he or she will be saved.
    2. Ask the students to explain in a brief sentence why Christ had to die on the cross for their sins. The simplest answer is that it was necessary for the perfect Jesus (who need not die) to take the punishment (death) for their imperfection (Romans 5:8).
    3. Ask the students to describe the people Christ died to save. (Make sure that even those who refuse to have faith in Jesus are included in this list.)
    4. Discuss then what Christians might need to do for the sinners around them if we are to be Christ-like. A number of good and insightful answers can be given to this question, none of which should be considered wrong. In order to tie all of these strings together, though, make sure someone associates a need for us to "go the distance" for those who might never appreciate it just as Christ died for those who would reject his offer of salvation.
    5. Hand out the slips of paper to each of the students in class and have them write on that paper the name of the person they chose at the beginning of the Applications part of the class.
    6. Challenge the students in class to go as far as they can to make a difference in the life of that one person they identified.
  2. The second option focuses on repentance as not only a change of heart, but a making of amends.
    1. Q: Do Christians have to worry about the costs of sin? A: No. Christ paid the price for our sin by dying on the cross. (Go on to mention that a Christian can rebel against God and so lose his or her place in the kingdom, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2:20-22. On the other hand, if trying to be faithful, Christ's blood continually cleanses us of our sin, 1 John 1:7-2:2.)
    2. Q: Do Christians have to worry about the consequences of sin? A: Yes and No. Jesus takes care of the eternal consequences, but we still suffer the immediate consequences.
    3. Furthermore, we must take action when we sin to counter the immediate consequences. Repentance does not just mean a change of heart, but also a change of action motivated by that contrite heart.
      1. Christ died to mend the broken relationship between God and humanity. Christians, then, seek to heal broken relationships. If sin breaks a relationship, then when we sin, we too must do all we can to heal that relationship.
      2. In New Testament times, some did not allow tax collectors to enter into the temple, for it was believed that they had sinned so much, that it would be impossible for them to repent (i.e., to make restitution to all that they had defrauded). Read Luke 19:1-10. Q: What does this tax collector do (verse 8)? What is Jesus' response (verse 9)?
      3. Have the students think of recent sins in their life that have caused relationships with family or friends to be damaged. Ask them to make an effort to truly repent by doing what is necessary to heal that broken relationship in the coming week.

Assignment: (about 1 minute)

Have the students make a list of the physical and personality traits they have inherited from each of their parents. Ask the students to carefully evaluate what they say and do this week to look for unconscious ways they imitate their parents.

Evaluation: (next class meeting)

Have the students be prepared to discuss the consequences of their sins during the week. Also let them know that they will be asked what they did for the person on the sheet of paper (if option 1 was used) or what they did to help mend a relationship damaged or broken by sin (if option 2 was used).

Further Resources:


The New Testament discusses the work of Christ in a number of different ways. Apparently no one description does justice to what Jesus accomplished. Everett Ferguson, in his book The Church of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), pages 148-163, has an excellent discussion of the New Testament's teaching on this that may be helpful.

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