Nails, Contracts and Atonement: a Free Lesson in First John

Two nails still life


Go around the circle and talk about…

  1. What is the biggest sacrifice anyone has ever made for you?  Who and what?
  2. What is the biggest sacrifice you have made in your life?
  3. Tell the story of a time in your life when you did something to hurt someone else and they forgave you?
  4. Has there ever been a time when you felt left out…when?
  5. Has there ever been a time when you let someone down…when and what?


Have someone read 1 John 2:1-2


  • Give everyone a long nail, a short nail, and some leather cord.
  • Have them make a cross out of the 2 nails, wrapping the intersecting parts of the nails with leather
  • Use a glue gun to put a dab of glue on the back of the cross where the leather ends.  This will hold the leather in the place, keep the cross together.


Tell the group to watch for the following things in the video you are about to show:

  • What is “sacrifice” and what was the point?
  • What does “atonement” mean? (Atonement means to cover over, or take care of, someone’s debt)
  • Why are sacrifice and atonement so important to our faith?  What do they have to do with being a Christian?

Watch “Animated Explanation of Sacrifice and Atonement.”


Read 1 John 2:1-2 once again.

  • In verse 1, John says “if” anyone sins.  What is the importance of the word “if”?  (Note: This signifies that sinning is a choice we make. We can’t blame it on someone else.)
  • What does it mean that Jesus speaks to the Father (God) in our defense?  How did Jesus do this?

Most of the early Christians were Jewish.  And the Jewish understood themselves to be the ones that God had chosen, and that God favored them most.  So in verse 2 when John says that Jesus died for the sins of whole world, John is noting that Jesus didn’t die on the cross just for the Jewish people.

  • Ask the group to define sin (you might help them by talking about sin as missing the mark or mentioning that sin is anything that separates us from God.)

Sin Card

  • Hand each student the postcard with the word “Sin” on top and Galatians 5: 19-21 from The Message printed on it…please read it out loud from the NIV or NRSV

Take a couple minutes to focus on the words from Galatians 5, and challenge them to think about the sins in their lives…those choices they make where they are separated from God.

In ancient times, contracts were cancelled by cutting them in half or piercing them with a spike.  Take the “Sin” postcard and stick the cross through the word “sin” piercing the card.

We are reminded in 1 John 2:1-2 that Jesus’ death on the cross was an “atonement” for our sins.  His death and resurrection covered our sins so they are no more.

Close in Prayer

As you close in prayer tonight, encourage the students to think about how how 1 John 2:1-2 reminds us that Sin is choice on our part.  But that when we do sin, Jesus is the one who represents us before God.  Jesus has this authority because He died on the cross as an atonement for our sins.

Share prayer requests around areas where students are struggling with sin.

Supplies Needed for this Lesson

  • A Long Nail (5 inches or so) for each person
  • A  Short Nail (3 inches or so) for each person
  • Leather Cord
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Postcard/Cardstock for with the word “Sin” printed on the top and Galatians 5: 19-21 from The Message printed on it for each person

Image attribution: LarsHallstrom / Thinkstock


Scott has served in student ministry for over 30 years, the past 23 years at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, where he oversees ministries to Kindergarten through 12th grade as the director of student ministries. Having grown up in an incredible and life-changing youth ministry at Pioneer United Methodist Church in Walla Walla, Washington, Scott got his start in student ministry at Simpson United Methodist Church in Pullman, Washington while a student at Washington State University. He will never forget his first official Sunday as a youth director when 2 of the high school students who showed up were older then him! Scott has a passion for missions and leadership develop, and desires to create life-long disciples for Jesus Christ. He and Kristin have been married for 13 years, and welcomed an amazing little girl into the world in May of 2016. You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottMeier