Before the Cross ...
March 1, 2004 - "Into the Word," a Bible Study by Anne Graham Lotz, is designed to draw you into God's Word. Although the study-question format may be more challenging than one might find in an article that provides all the answers, we believe that this format will help you to discover a treasure of truths and insights from God.
by Anne Graham Lotz
As we prepare to celebrate Easter, stop and think what it would have been like to live before Christ died on the cross. What would it be like to have a heart's cry to know God and to live in His presence, yet be separated from Him by the formality of religion or the rigidity of the law? What would it be like to follow God's prescribed way of reconciliation through a blood sacrifice, only to walk away from it knowing that your sins were not really forgiven—nor were you any closer to the most holy place of God's presence than you were before the sacrifice?
The writer to the Hebrews reveals that the hope of the cross was ever before people in the Old Testament, but only in sacrifices, symbols and shadows.
In the Sacrifices
SACRIFICES THAT WERE NOT PERFECT
- Were the Old Testament sacrifices effective in taking away sin? Give phrases from the following verses to support your answer: Hebrews 7:27; 9:7-9; 10:1.
- If the sacrifices were ineffective in reconciling man to God, why were they made? See Hebrews 9:7-10, 20-22; 10:3, 8.
- What has the cross (new covenant) done for us that the Old Testament system of sacrifices could not? Read Hebrews 7:23-25, 27; 8:8-12; 9:12-15, 26-28; 10:10, 15-17.
- Can you add to Jesus' sacrifice to make it more effective from God's perspective? Write out Hebrews 10:14 in your own words.
- What have you been trying to add to the cross—perhaps sub-consciously—to make it more effective? Religion? Rituals? Traditions? Good works? ______? Fill in the blank.
- Celebrate Easter by thanking God that Christ's death is perfect and complete in itself and also by placing your faith in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God.
SACRIFICES THAT WERE NOT PLEASING
- Generally speaking, was God pleased with the Old Testament sacrifices? See Hebrews 10:5-6.
- If He was not pleased, why wasn't He? See Hebrews 8:8-9; 9:10, 13.
- What are some of the reasons that God is pleased with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? See Hebrews 7:22-28; 9:14; 10:8-14.
- How does Hebrews 10:5-10 answer those who say there are other ways to God than through the cross of Christ?
- What other punishment (besides the cross) do people today believe that God inflicts for the condemnation of sin? What verses could you use to reassure them that God is totally pleased with the cross?
- Celebrate Easter by thanking God that Christ's death on the cross is completely pleasing to Him—don't try to make it more pleasing by adding to it.
SACRIFICES THAT WERE NOT POWERFUL
- Taking into account the thousands of sacrifices made in Old Testament times during the course of a person's life—and the rivers of blood that were shed—what difference did the sacrifices make? See Hebrews 5:1-3.
- If another way to think of being made holy is to be made whole, what astounding revelation does Hebrews 10:10 give us?
- Consider the verb tense used in Hebrews 10:10. What does this mean to you?
- In what way are you seeking to remove memories of sin? a sinful stronghold? sinful habits? sinful attitudes?
- From the following Scriptures, give phrases that apply to this purifying, powerful impact of the cross: Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20, 2:13-15; 1 John 1:7-9; Revelation 1:5.
- Celebrate Easter by confessing all known sin in your life and asking God to cleanse you. Thank Him that the cross has not lost its power to change lives, and ask God to change yours!
In the Symbols
- Relate the symbolic, prophetic promise of Genesis 3:15 to the cross, keeping in mind that the serpent is the devil and the seed of the woman is Jesus.
- In what way do you see the cross in the symbolism of Numbers 21:4-9? Compare it with John 3:14 and John 6:40.
- Celebrate Easter by telling someone else that the cross is not a symbol of something to come, but a testimony to what has already been done.
In the Shadows
- From the following verses, give one word that specifically indicates how long the cross is effective: Hebrews 10:14; John 3:16; Romans 6:22.
- Read Hebrews 10:14. Can you lose your forgiveness, salvation or eternal life?
- From Hebrews 10:19-22, what has been opened up exclusively for us because of the cross? See also Romans 5:9-11.
- From Hebrews 10:22-25, if you have been to the cross for forgiveness of sin, what are five things you are challenged to do? Write out each one and how it applies to your life. Be specific and practical.
- Celebrate Easter by implementing each of these five things with a heart full of gratitude that we live on this side of the cross.
Praise God that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is perfect, pleasing and powerful!