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1. You Were Dead in Your Transgressions and Sins (Ephesians 2: 1)


(1) Everyone is a sinner before God



     Prayer:  Dear heavenly Father, we are really grateful that you even sought us out in this vast universe.  Lord, we truly long to know you better and better; and we are eager to be on the path that pleases you, that is, the way of the cross.  Lord, we respectfully offer to you our willingness to renew our minds so that we no longer live but Jesus Christ lives in us; even though our common sense and reasoning tell us to live by ourselves; “our foolishness” makes us live by ourselves; and indeed, there are so many excuses drive us to live by ourselves.  But I thank you Lord, because now that we have sincerely offered our minds to you, I trust that you will gradually do your work to destroy all strongholds in us; to conquer all prideful things in us that can prevent others from knowing God; and to reclaim our minds so that they are submissive to Christ.  Hallelujah, thank you Lord, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

If we hope to come before the One and Only true God, the most basic requirement is that we must know our God; know the salvation plan he had accomplished for the world; and know what he requires of us.  Otherwise, we might be misled by heresies or fall into the trap of “relying on our own efforts to do good deeds.”

1.      Describe how you can know there is God in the universe from his general revelation?

Speaking of knowing God, we must first know that Christianity is a religion of revelation.  Many religions in this world stem from “man seeking God,” except the one we believe in, Jesus Christ -- “It is God who seeks us.”

1)      What is “revelation”?  Revelation is God removing what was keeping us from seeing and making himself visible to us.  God is spirit, so if he doesn’t reveal himself we won’t be able to know him.  Brothers and sisters, this point is too important to just gloss over.  The reason we often ask many rhetorical questions about the Bible is because we don’t know God.  We live our lives relying on our own intellectual reasoning and analysis rather than by accepting God’s revelation.  God has revealed himself to us and only through his revelation we have come to know him.  Only through his revelation we have come to realize that we all have the inborn sinful nature … , otherwise, we have no way of knowing these things.

2)      What is “general revelation”?  General revelation refers to those “facts” that we all can attain using our knowledge alone and don’t need to believe in Jesus first.  These facts can lead us to believe that God exists.

3)      What does the general revelation entail?  In Romans 1: 18-20, we can see the three aspects of God’s general revelation: (1) from “you get what you deserve”, (2) from the creation of Nature, and (3) God has made it plain for us to know about him in our heart.  The Chinese are especially fond of talking about “you get what you deserve,” – don’t be a bad person for you’ll get what you deserve later!  I am sure you have no issue with this point.  Likewise, I don’t think you will have any issue with the creation of Nature since we all can see God’s work of wonder – whether it’s the four seasons, or the birds of the air, or the creatures of the land, or the fish of the sea, etc.  If we observe and think through carefully then we must admit that there is a supernatural power that creates and oversees all of these.

4)      How does one know in his heart that God exists?  What does it mean by “since what may be known about God is plain to them”? (Romans 1: 19)

a.      Conscience:  What is conscience?  Someone put it very well, “Conscience is the invisible legislature in our heart.”  Who establishes and manages this legislature?  Isn’t it God?  Many people say, “I don’t believe there are gods or ghosts and I try to live my life with a clear conscience.  When the day comes I believe I won’t be sent to hell.”  They just said they didn’t believe in the existence of gods or ghosts so why are they still worrying about being sent to hell?  And who has the power to send them there?  The fact that we all have a conscience illustrates that there is God.

b.      We all have religious instinct in us:  When there are no issues in your life you would say that there is no god and you don’t need god.  But when you encounter emergencies or are wronged then you would just cry out naturally, “Oh God, you know the truth and I trust that you will right the wrongs for me.”

c.       We can never be satisfied:  Ecclesiastes 3: 11 talks about when God created men he put eternity in the hearts of men, that is to say when we were created God has set aside a place in us to hold “eternity” or “eternal life.”  Men can have true satisfaction and joy only when they have eternal life (see John 4: 14; Psalms 16: 11).  But our ancestors Adam and Eve did not choose to have eternal life; therefore our hearts can never be satisfied.  When men’s hearts are not satisfied it leads to many sinful deeds.  We even attempt to use external stimulations to seek temporary satisfaction, so we play all day long, abuse drugs, indulge in alcohol, etc.  Only when we have eternal life and our life is united with God’s life that we may have the ultimate satisfaction that comes from God.


2.      How do we know there is only one true God in the universe from God’s special revelation?

The general revelation can only enable us to know somewhere out there god exists, but we have no way of knowing how many gods there are, what kind of gods they are, how they are related to us, etc.  In order for us to know God, the true God, he gave us special revelation.

1)      What are God’s “special revelation”?

God’s special revelation refers to God himself speaking to men, or showing his works to men.

2)      What are the concrete contents of the two aspects of special revelation?

·         God himself speaking to men:  The Bible is the record of God speaking comprehensively and systematically to the world.  Through his own words, God let men know who this God is in the universe, what his relationship is with men, what his nature is, and what kind of God he is.  God inspired and revealed to over forty authors over a period of 1,600 years to complete the Bible.  Through the Bible, God told the world that there is only one true God who is the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The general revelation tells us there is god while the special revelation – the Bible, tells us that he is the One and Only true God.  Therefore, we should never just stay at the point of thinking somewhere there is a god and there are many ways to go before this god as long as we pray.  No, absolutely not.  What we believe in is the One and Only true God.

·         God himself showing his works to men:  The most significant work God showed to men is that he sent his only Son to be born into this world, to be a member of the human race, to accomplish the salvation plan, and to bring men to God.  We will discuss this in detail in future lessons.


3.      From God’s special revelation what can we learn about God’s nature?

1)      Through the Bible – the record of God speaking comprehensively and systematically to the world – we can learn the nature of this One and Only true God:  He is just, he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he is holy, without holiness no one can see the Lord.  But he is also a loving God, he so loves the world that he wants them to come before him; he is the source of life, it pleases him to grant us eternal life.  Once we have eternal life we will have the joy of fullness and everlasting blessings.  This eternal God has the absolute sovereignty.  He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  He is the “I Am Who I Am” and everlasting God.

2)      Through the Bible – the record of God speaking comprehensively and systematically to the world – we learn of the path by which a sinner can come before this holy God.  This God of absolute authority loves men so he prepared a plan for us, i.e. “righteousness through faith”, or the plan of being “justified by faith.”  God also prepared a salvation plan for men, that is, he offered his Son as a sacrifice to bear all our sins and thus paved the way for us to go before God.  This salvation plan was revealed to the world through the Bible.  Hebrews 1: 1-2 says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son …”  “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophet at many times and in many ways” that is how the Bible come to exist.  “He has spoken to us by his Son” points to the fact that he has given his Son to us.  So Jesus came to this world with two missions, one was to introduce the Father God to us, to make him known to us – “No one has ever seen God, but the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”   His other mission was to complete the salvation plan on the cross and became the way between men and God; so that through our believing in Jesus (faith) we may come before God.  We are all blinded by our sins so we cannot find the way to God.  Only if God himself completes this way for us and also gives us the Holy Spirit to work inside us, we are able to get on the path of the new life.


4.      What is the relationship between general revelation and special revelation?

      Through general revelation we know that god exists, however, only through special revelation can we know that there is only one true God.  What we believe is not just that somewhere, somehow there is a god, but rather we believe there is a One and Only true God – our Lord.  He is the only triune true God of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 


5.      Why are there many religions in the world?

1)      Why are there many religions in the world?  From Romans 1: 18-20 we know the general revelation of God causes us to believe that somewhere there is a god.  Whether you are a believer or not, whenever you set foot in a church or temple you will naturally feel in awe and dare not touch anything for fear of offending God or spirit.  It is out of our reverence for supernatural power that we have the desire to seek God.  But because of our sins we are separated from God and our knowledge about God through the general revelation is fuzzy at best and in error at worst.  Consequently, we end up worshiping many gods and forming many different religions.

2)      All religions share a basic common theme:  they all recognize that there is a “god” with transcendent power that we should be in awe and fear of him; we all don’t measure up to this god’s high standard so we must through our efforts to do good, to practice self-denial or other ways of atonement so that we can live in harmony with this supernatural power, enjoy his protection and receive blessings.  In reality, how we can atone our sins, i.e. how we can restore our relationship with God, is up to God.  We have no right or power to determine our method of atonement.  Since we are all sinners and sinners are not capable of true understanding of our God and therefore we cannot find the way of redemption.


6.       What is the fundamental reason that prevents us from going before God?

      The fundamental reason that prevents us from going before God is sin.  Because God is holy so if we are without holiness we can’t see the Lord, thus sin prevents us from knowing God and from going before God.


7.      Romans 1: 20 – 2: 29 touch upon which two aspects of sin?

      In Romans 1: 20 – 2: 29 Paul discussed the two aspects of sin:

1)      In Chapter 1, he emphasized sins related to the outwardly visible immoral behaviors such as committing sins on purpose, indulging in lust, and knowing right from wrong and yet still choosing to do wrong.  These are all sins of immorality.  There are also sins of worshiping false gods.  Brothers and sisters, idol-worshiping is also a sin.  Some have argued that idol-worshiping is a form of believing that there is god, but please note that the god these people believe in is not our One and Only true God.  Therefore, these people are making a mistake in not realizing their own position or identity.  If I don’t acknowledge my own father but instead call other people’s father as my own, then I have committed a sin against my father for not acknowledging his rightful position.  If a person is willing to wholeheartedly seek the true God, that’s a good thing.  There are some brothers and sisters among us who have friends practicing Buddhism or other religions.  If you want to preach the gospel to them then you should avoid rejecting their belief right off the bat by saying, “You are wrong!”  We should first tell them the “right belief” that we believe in.  What we believe in is the One and Only true God who wants us to have eternal life.  What we believe in is not the superficial protection for safety or healing of illnesses, because even with those things you are still going to die someday, you still don’t have eternal life.  That’s why we must truly believe in the God that can give us eternal life.

Romans 1: 27 specifically mentions about men committing indecent acts with other men that Bible scholars generally believe is referring to homosexuality.  In God’s court, homosexuality is considered to be a major sin, it is despised by God.  According to the Bible, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God because of their sins of homosexuality were so grievous that the outcry against them had reached God.  At the same time, God treasured Lot who was greatly saddened by Sodom and Gomorrah’s immorality and was grieving for them daily.  So God spared Lot from the destruction.  Do we grieve, like Lot, for the many evil, sinful deeds we see around us today?  Nowadays some places have legalized homosexuality and same sex marriage; this is indeed a grave sin against God.  I truly pray and ask the Holy Spirit to let us have the heart of Jesus Christ, open our hearts so that we may truly grieve for our sins.

2)      In Charter 2, Paul was speaking to those who are self-professed to be of high morality, willing to abide by the law and to live by their conscience.  (Those who do not have the law will not be judged by the law but are judged by whether their inner nature follows their conscience to do the requirements of the law.)  Those who are persistent in doing good will receive eternal life.  But no one can claim that he has never sinned, there is none.  No one can say that he has always been living by conscience, there is none either.  Regardless whether it is your outwardly visible moral behavior or your inner thoughts, no one is able to say that he has lived by the law, by the conscience and has never sinned.


8.       What is Paul’s final conclusion about the world’s sins against God?

In Romans 3: 10-12, 23 Paul wrote his final conclusion on the sins of the world:  “As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  These two passages of scripture state that we all have sinned and are short of God’s standards; none of us are righteous before God.  This is just like what Isaiah 53: 6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  Brothers and sisters, dear friends, when you stand before God, no matter whether it’s your outer visible actions or your inner thoughts, although you may think you have lived by the law but in reality there are no one righteous, not even one; we have all turned to our own ways, like sheep that have gone astray.

We must understand God’s absolute holiness and righteousness, so that we may realize that we are sinners.  Right now, in our heads we know that we are all sinners; later on as our spiritual lives grow, more and more we will realize in our hearts that we are indeed sinners.  As a matter of fact, only when we have a better understanding of how sinful we are can our new life grow more mature.

Prayer:  Lord, we truly thank you.  You are the One and Only true God in the universe.  You are a God of holiness, love, righteousness, and absolute sovereignty.  Oh Lord, we thank you for your love for the world.  You not only through general revelation let us know that there is a God, but also through special revelation let us know that you are the One and Only true God.  You not only show us that we are sinners, but also tell us how you want to save us and grant us this path so that we may come before you.  Thank you Lord, may glories be unto you.  We pray in Jesus’ name!  Amen.