Week 5 - Romans 8:18-30

Romans 8:18-30 (NIV)

 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

A Better Kind of Environmentalism

Two of the toughest questions we humans face are “why is the world so broken?” and “why do we experience so much suffering?” In this passage, Paul lays out how the Gospel answers even those questions in a mysterious and profound good way.

Our planet experiences futility as a result of human sin. But that is not the end. Jesus not only forgives us of our sins, He also restores people to their rightful place as divine image bearers who bring restoration to the world. In our most difficult suffering, there is always an opportunity to be more fully transformed, and for our wills and actions to become more closely aligned with God. Our suffering can be more than worth it, as we are “glorified” into people who dynamically reflect God’s image – and also bring restoration to the whole creation.

Questions

  1. What are you hoping for that you do not yet have?

  2. Is there an area where you are suffering right now? How does this perspective change things for you? In your suffering, how can you “press in” by faith to God’s purpose for you, and for the world around you?

Week 5 - Romans 8:1-17

Romans 8:1-17 (NIV)

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

You’ve Got to Hear This

Talk about good news! After the frustrating realities in Chapter 7, now we can hear and focus on what God has done for us in Christ. And it is more than we can fathom.

Because of Jesus our King, we are not condemned, but sin’s power in us is broken. We have right standing with God… we can set our minds on what the Spirit desires… we can experience life and peace, even in our present physical bodies… we can put to death the misdeeds of our bodies… we are children of God… we have an intimate relationship with our Father… we are heirs… and as we share in His suffering, we can also share in His glory.

Questions

  1. What is the difference between experiencing death and experiencing life and peace (v. 5-7)?

  2. Read through this passage again. What one aspect the Good News stands out to you? Contemplate this truth throughout your day. 

Week 5- Romans 7:14-25

Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)

 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my flesh a slave to the law of sin.

Battling Ourselves

Every honest person – including us – can relate to the seeming impossibility of living free from sin’s power. Even those who believe in God – from the nation of Israel to the apostle Paul to us – sometimes feels as if the evil that still resides in our flesh has the upper hand.

It often looks and feels hopeless – but when we authentically acknowledge our brokenness, we are in the right place for Jesus to bring us more of His ongoing transformation and victory.

Question

  1. Where is your flesh giving you the toughest battle?

  2. Take a minute to ask God to help you experience greater victory in this area today, as you actively place your trust in Christ.

Week 5 - Romans 7:1-13

Romans 7:1-13 (NIV)

 1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

It’s Complicated: Our Relationship with the Law

How is a Christian supposed to relate to the Old Testament law – the commandments given to the nation of Israel? It was complicated for early believers to understand, and it is also complicated for us.

For the first century church in Rome, it was equally confusing. The Gentile believers were likely to appreciate and live out their freedom in Christ apart from following all the details of the Old Testament, while many Jewish believers saw the moral code of the Old Testament as still binding. Of course, that doesn’t mean they always kept it!

Paul explained that the Old Testament law has an important purpose. It is good, and shows us the power sin has over our lives. But the law does not have the power to set us free from sin’s power – no matter how much willpower we muster up. God’s moral law shows us our need for a Savior – who then releases us from the law so that we can “belong to another… and bear fruit to God” (verse 4). As we place our belief and allegiance in Jesus, His transforming power enables us to “serve in the new way of the Spirit.”

Questions

  1. What does it look like when you try to earn a sense of right-standing with God by obeying His law? How does that work?

  2. What will it look for you today to live “released from the Law” and “belonging to another?”


Week 4 - Romans 6:15-23

Romans 6:15-23 (NIV)

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.  19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

How Then Should We Live?

So how then shall we live this life of faith?  How do we relate to our new master, the Lord Jesus Christ?  We offer Him our full allegiance. Once sold out to sin, we are now sold out to Him.  Our lives become a thank you note to The One who died for us while we were still drowning in sin.  As Paul states, we become obedient slaves to God’s rule and reign. Either way, all of humanity is a slave to some master. It’s either sin or righteousness.  There is no middle ground. We all make our choice and then our choice makes us. Choosing Jesus through faith allows us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit with great awareness of our new identity.  We get to partner with God in putting the world back to rights. His grace propels our obedience, even when we don’t feel like it. His gift of repentance allows us to fall right back into our freedom when we choose otherwise.  A kite is free to fly only when it is a “slave” to the string. We too have maximum freedom when we are tethered to Christ, living in His sovereign narrative.

Questions

  1. How does your church community help you live out your allegiance to Christ?  

  2. Think of an area of your life that needs to be in further surrender to God’s rule and reign.  Will you pray about trusting God with this area?

Week 4 - Romans 6:12-14

Romans 6:12-14 (NIV)

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

A New Master

One of the great privileges of putting our faith in Jesus is being adopted into His family and being a part of a new kingdom.  With a new kingdom, comes a new master. When united with Adam through sin, our master aligned with dark forces contrary to God’s rule and reign.  When we choose to unite with Christ through faith, we come up under a new master, a new way of living. This master is Christ Himself and He not only wants to direct our Sunday mornings but the entirety of our lives.  But there is a significant challenge in coming up under the voice of a new master. It’s the challenge of not superimposing the voice of our old, familiar master onto the voice of our new one. The master of sin is an indulgent, pleasing voice when you give it your allegiance.  It will convince you of anything and ask you to bring others with you. This same voice becomes very harsh and abusive when trying to align oneself with a far superior master. This voice that was once a “partner in crime,” now wants to condemn and shame the very behavior he so easily applauded.  The voice of sin and darkness will exaggerate the restrictiveness of God’s commands and make you feel as if your new allegiance is simply a right set of beliefs with no real power to change your mind, will and emotions and thus no real power to change your behavior. But this is the exact point that Paul is trying to counter in these verses.  We no longer have to obey the voice of darkness. It is no longer our master and it no longer reigns in our new identity. Not only do we no longer have to obey this voice, we don’t even have to listen to it in the first place. Our new master, Jesus, offers His righteousness through the free gift of grace. Grace frees us to devote ourselves fully to living God’s way.  We can devote our minds, eyes, tongues, hands and feet. We can devote our time, talents, energy and passions. We can surrender our relationships, careers, lifestyles and convictions. All of our lives can be wholly His because He is a trustworthy master who always has our best interest in mind. This is way more than just deciding not to sin (which simply leads to self-righteousness at best).  This is a lifestyle started by faith, sustained by faith and fully surrendered to the object of our faith.

Questions

  1. How has God helped you with your desire to obey Him and not the voice of sin and darkness?

  2. What would you tell a friend about your experience of putting your faith in Jesus and coming up under a new master?

Week 4 - Romans 6:1-11

Romans 6:1-11 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Dead to Sin

Paul is so thorough in his letter to the Roman church that he anticipates the questions his audience might have and beats them to the inquisition.  He knows the human heart can justify anything! If following the law isn’t the answer to humanity’s problem, then by default, can’t we just ignore the law?  If grace’s response to sin is so powerful, why should we stop sinning? Doesn’t sin have to be at full strength in order for grace to have maximum results? Remember that Paul has shown us that God’s covenant through faith has always been about dealing with sin.  It’s about being set apart to a new master, a new way of living. Because we are no longer unified with sin, we are now unified with Christ. What is true of Him is true of His followers. He died and rose to life and we too die to our sin nature and rise to a new life, a new identity.  Even though we still sin, it is not our identity nor our ultimate reality. We are not under its power with no hope of escape. Do you remember the story of the Israelites escaping from Egypt to freedom? God gave them a new identity, freedom and a new address. However, it would take a lifetime of releasing Egypt’s influence from their thoughts, actions, emotions, etc.  The same is true for us. Through faith in Jesus, we receive a new identity (saint), freedom (removed from sin’s power) and a new address (God’s kingdom). But we too have patterns, thought processes and behaviors that are contrary to God’s law. If we’ll live in surrender to Him, He will piece by piece, season by season make our inward and outward lives reflect more and more of who we were actually made to be.

Questions

  1. What happens when Christians minimize their sin and believe it does not matter?

  2. Practically speaking, what does it look like to be dead to sin and alive to Christ?

Week 4 - Romans 5:12-21

Romans 5:12-21 (NIV)

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.  15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With Whom are You Unified?

In Romans chapter 4, Paul took us back to the story of Abraham to prove that God’s covenant family has always been on the basis of faith.  Now Paul is going to take us further back to the story Adam, the very first human God created. How was the power of sin even unleashed upon the earth?  Why did God have to create a covenant with humanity when He authored them in the first place? Because covenant is about freely choosing, God has always given humanity a say in whether or not they accept His offer of relationship through faith.  This same choice was given to Adam and Eve. When they no longer trusted God to do what He said He would do, they put their faith (their allegiance) in another kingdom. Upon eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam broke covenant with God and would therefore release the reign of sin and death over all of humanity.  Humanity’s natural allegiance would now fall under the power of sin. But Paul paints a very profound picture in these verses. The sin of Adam is no match for the grace of God. When we change our identity from sinner to saint through faith in Jesus, Paul is saying that not only does God restore us to our original intent, He actually rebuilds us to a higher position of reigning than that of Adam before the fall.  Grace does not simply match our sin one for one. Grace multiplies all the more, it’s more abundant than sin. Do you get that? As you see death and destruction all around you, God’s grace isn’t just an equal force to match it. It’s a force to obliterate it! There is more grace in Him than sin in you and around you.

Because we are not autonomous, everyone either remains unified with “Adamic humanity” (under the power of sin) or comes up under the power of grace to be unified with Christ.  We either stay condemned or become justified. These are the two options before every human being: to be in covenant with sin or to be in a covenant family with God through faith in Jesus.  One leads to death, the other to life.

Questions

  1. What do you think the average person believes about humanity – that all people are born good, neutral or born sinners?  What do these verses show us?

  2. How have you seen the power of God’s grace overshadow the power of sin in your life and the life of your community?

Week 4 - Romans 5:1-11

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The Peace of Reconciliation

Have you ever considered that on your very worst day and in your very worst moment, you are still at peace with God through faith in Jesus?  No circumstance can remove you from being at peace with the creator of the universe. This is Paul’s message as we move to Romans chapter 5. Peace with God is at the center of our faith, it is our foundation upon which we build our lives.  We stand in His grace free to be wholly ourselves, free to image God to the fullest. So why would Paul turn from the subject of peace to the subject of suffering? Don’t those ideas seem contradictory in our lives? Paul teaches us in this section that peace and suffering are not opposing words in the life of a believer.  Note that Paul doesn’t say that we have to celebrate our sufferings but glory “in” our sufferings.  In other words, during our suffering, we can have perspective to see its value and rest in the fact that our peace with God is never shaken.  It’s not denying the fact that suffering is hard. Rather, it’s having a quiet confidence that God is in its midst. God uses suffering in our lives to bring about perseverance, character and hope.  He uses it to transform us into the person He’s made us to be; to take us from Christian infancy to a more mature faith. And who is our model for suffering? Our model for resting in God’s peace in the midst of suffering?  Jesus Himself, who died for us while we were still sinners. He suffered emotionally, physically and spiritually as He went to the cross for His enemies, as he went to the cross for us! These eleven verses offer so much hope and perspective.  We have lasting access to God, we are never removed from being at peace with Him and nothing in this life can shake our security.

Questions

  1. How is having peace with God superior to any circumstance you may face?

  2. How do the ups and downs of life cause you to forget your security in Christ?

  3. How has God used your suffering to produce perseverance, character and hope?

Week 3 - Romans 4:18-25

Romans 4:18-25 (ESV)

18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Faith Apart from Circumstances

Paul concludes chapter 4 of Romans by circling back to the faith of Abraham that started God’s covenant family.  This time he highlights the faith of Abraham to believe that God would give him a child, even though he was well on in age.  Abraham did not merely believe God when evidence of the promise was absent. In hope he believed against hope. In other words, Abraham believed God when the evidence sharply pointed against God’s promise.  From a human perspective, the situation was hopeless. Abraham was just an ordinary person putting his faith in an extraordinary God. If you’ll recall in Romans chapter 1, Paul paints a hopeless picture of humanity under the power of sin.  He now uses Abraham to reverse the storyline from a hopeless humanity to a humanity that can be put back together again and rediscover the life God intended His image bearers to live. Faith does not ignore hopeless circumstances. Faith faces them and sees beyond them to God.  Faith is not irrational – nothing is more rational than to believe God’s word, even when it seems foolish from a human perspective. Abraham’s faith initiated God’s covenant with humanity and Jesus fulfilled it. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Abraham believed that God would give life where there was none.  Christians believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.” Both positions take faith that God is bigger than sin and death, bigger than the hopelessness seen in our lives and the lives around us. Faith in His Son is God’s gift to humanity, a gift to be received or rejected. Aligning your life with Jesus makes you right before God’s throne and gives Him control to orchestrate your life so that the promises of God manifest in you and through you.  This is the good news of the gospel!  

Questions

  1. How does your faith hold up when circumstances do not seem to be going your way?

  2. For some extra fun, read Genesis 16 to learn how Abraham tried to fulfill God’s promise of a child on his own.  In Romans 4:19-20, Paul says that Abraham did not weaken in faith or waver in unbelief. What does this tell you about God?

Week 3 - Romans 4:13-17

Romans 4:13-17 (ESV)

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.  16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Faith Apart from The Law

In Genesis chapter 17, God promised Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan.  He also promised to make him a father of many nations. In Romans 4:13, Paul indicates that Abraham’s promise from God also included being heir of the whole world.  God initially intertwined Himself with a specific people (Israel) and a specific location (Canaan or the Promised Land), but His heart has always been for all of humanity in all geographic locations.  We see this in God’s original mandate to Adam and Eve before the fall. He told them to fill the earth and govern it. God’s heart is that all people in all nations be governed under the rightful rule and reign of King Jesus.  With Jesus as king, any privilege that the Jews might have had (geography, birth right, etc.) is available to all through faith. One specific privilege the Jewish people had was God’s word, the law. Just like Paul denounced the act of circumcision as a means to righteousness, in this section He denounces the law in the same way.  God gave the sign of circumcision to Abraham 14 years after He counted Abraham righteous. In the same vain, the law was given to Israel 430 years after God called Abraham righteous. God relates to people on the basis of their faith. The law gave God’s people moral standards as a way to be set apart from pagan nations, but it was not a means to salvation.  In fact, the law makes it very clear that humanity is in great need of a savior. Good behavior will never be enough to break sin’s power. Paul is clear that when people try to justify themselves by following the law, faith has no value, God’s promises are worthless and the law brings the wrath of God on you. It’s so relieving that it really is that simple.  It always comes down to faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.

Questions

  1. Are you righteous before God’s throne?  Why or why not?

  2. How has your faith activated the promises of God in your life?

Week 3 - Romans 4:9-12

Romans 4:9-12 (ESV)

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Faith Apart from Circumcision

We’ve seen that both Abraham and David were saved by faith apart from any work, position or fulfillment of the law.  Paul turns his attention back to Abraham and the covenant God made with him through faith. Under the old covenant, circumcision was a physical sign of belonging to God’s kingdom.  Paul’s Jewish Christian audience in the Roman church was very tied to the law and circumcision as the way to follow God. They were trying to convince the Gentile Christians that they too must be circumcised in order to belong.  Because Paul is trying to unify God’s covenant story with humanity, a story that’s always been about faith, Paul highlights the fact that circumcision was given after God counted Abraham as righteous (several years later in fact).  Circumcision was not the basis for God’s covenant but rather a sign of it. It was an outward sign of a sealed spiritual reality that Abraham possessed through faith. Membership in God’s family (and thus Abraham’s family) is on the basis of faith, faith that finds Jesus at the center and His resurrection as the ultimate covenant between God and humanity.  The door is wide open for every race, culture, background and people groups. Glory be to God, there is only one door to walk through. There’s no guessing at which door might lead to God. No boasting that one door is better than the other. All who put their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord are welcome.

Questions

  1. What happens when people depend on their own obedience or signs (i.e. circumcision, baptism, Lord’s Supper) as a measure of their righteousness?

  2. What value do obedience and signs have in following Jesus?

  3. How are you helping the local church make sure that the gospel message is open to all, regardless of race, background, family, education, etc.?

Week 3 - Romans 4:6-8

Romans 4:6-8 (ESV)

6…just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

The Case of David

Paul continues to prove God’s way of salvation by faith with another Old Testament example, King David.  David was the greatest of Israel’s kings and a man after God’s own heart. David authored Psalm 32, the Psalm quoted in Romans 4:7, a thousand years before Jesus’ death and resurrection.  David was speaking of God’s forgiveness of his own sin, his adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband. God’s covenant relationship has always been about dealing with sin, about realigning one’s life with His kingdom.  From the example of Abraham, we see that God counts us righteous through faith in His Son.  David’s example shows us that God no longer counts us by our sin.  These examples seem to say the same thing just in opposite form, but both truths must continually be at the forefront of our renewed mind.  Our faith puts us in right relationship with God AND our sins are forgiven, covered over and no longer counted against us. God chooses to remember our sins no more.  In order to walk out our true identity in Christ and to image God to the fullest, we must identify as being right before God, completely forgiven and having authority over sin.    

Questions

  1. Name sins God has counted against Christ instead of you.  How do you express this joy of forgiveness?

  2. If God no longer counts your sin against you, how does that help you deal with guilt from past sins?

Week 3 - Romans 4:1-5

Romans 4:1-5 (ESV)

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…

The Case of Abraham

Paul used the first three chapters of Romans to explain to this first Roman church the problem of humanity (the power of sin) and the only solution for humanity (salvation by the gift of grace through faith in Jesus).  Recall that Paul’s audience is both Jewish and Gentile believers; those very familiar with God’s law and those who are not.  Knowing this, Paul is going to prove God’s way of salvation by faith using Old Testament examples. This will build upon the authority of scripture already known by his Jewish listeners and elicit new revelation of God’s ever unfolding narrative for the Gentiles.  Paul uses chapter 4 to lead them to the truth of God’s word, of God’s cohesive story in both the Old and New Testament. His first example references a man named Abraham, a man the Jewish believers would have called the “father of their faith.” You can read about Abraham starting in Genesis chapter 12.  God called Abraham unto Himself and said he would make him into a great nation, that He would bless him and thus all families on earth will be blessed through him. This is both a physical blessing and spiritual blessing. He fathered the nation of Israel through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob (whose name God changed to Israel) and all nations are blessed through Abraham as his lineage gave us the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Abraham was the beginning of the covenant family, a covenant that now extends to all through faith in Jesus. This covenant was based on Abraham’s faith. His life pre-dated the law that was given to the nation of Israel; therefore, it was not Abraham’s keeping of the law that made Him right with God. It was his faith. He believed that God would do what He said He would do. He believed that God would give him offspring even though he and his wife were well past child bearing years.  Abraham’s faith didn’t ignore the difficult facts, but faced them. The way God has intertwined Himself with human beings has always been through faith. Abraham started where we all start, entangled with sin in need of a different master. It was his faith that moved him from paganism to aligning with God’s kingdom.              

Questions

  1. How would you categorize your relationship with God?  One based on faith or more of an employer-employee relationship?

  2. Think of a difficult circumstance in your life right now.  What role is faith playing in your situation?  

Week 2 - Romans 3:21-31

Romans 3:21-31 (NIV)

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 

28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.  31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

The Reprieve

Thank goodness for Paul’s words, “But now!”  He’s signaling a point of relief from the bleak and dark picture of humanity’s sin.  He’s turning to a new script; replacing a horror film with a feel-good family movie. There is a solution!  There is hope! There is good news to be shared! Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection reactivates our original job description to spread His rule and reign to the ends of the earth.  No longer defined by sin, we can be defined by Him; new, holy, righteous, saints, His. God justifies us (changes our verdict from guilty to innocent) when we put our faith in Jesus. Can anyone brag about this?  Of course not! Do you recall Paul’s words that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance? It is not because we are smarter than the next person. Or how about when Paul says that no one is able to seek God or do good?!?  Everyone is equally disadvantaged before a holy God. This is both humbling and praiseworthy. We don’t have to have an impressive resume to be in the kingdom of God, we simply need faith (even if it’s as small as a mustard seed).  Faith is not a good work; faith is God’s gift to humanity. Faith is not a work that saves us. Jesus Christ saves us through faith. Saving faith is believing and trusting in God and then acting on that with courage to give our full allegiance to Him.  The good news releases us from the grip of performance so we can be gripped by grace.          

Questions

  1.  Are you reflecting Christ or representing yourself before God?

  2. What is something your faith has recently prompted you to do?

Week 2 - Romans 3:9-20

Romans 3:9-20 (NIV)

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good,
 not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore 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.

 Understanding the Bad to Appreciate the Good

Just in case his audience was not clear, Paul spares no hard truths in giving a description of humanity; there is no one righteous, not even one.  Paul quotes Old Testament passages from the Psalms and Isaiah (verses 10-18) to describe what being under sin’s power looks like. No one can do even one thing to satisfy God’s standard of righteousness.  Without an accurate knowledge of our sin, we will never come to know the greatness of God’s grace. We will not accurately see the gospel as good news if we don’t see that it is impossible to seek God and understand Him on our own.  We often mistakenly see the good that we do as being in the same category as God’s righteousness. It’s like trying to spend monopoly money at the grocery store. Our good works are “fake money” before God’s throne. God requires true righteousness, available only through faith in King Jesus.  Paul has used the first three chapters of this letter to build his case against all of humanity. All are accountable to God (no one is autonomous), all are guilty of countless wrongs and all are without any works that merit God’s declaration of righteousness.

Questions

  1. According to verse 18, what sin appears to underlie the other sins mentioned in this passage?  What warning do you receive from this?

  2. How has our study of Romans thus far helped you to identify, confess and repent of your sin?

Week 2 - Romans 3:1-8

Romans 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” 5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say— “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

God’s Determined Faithfulness

Paul continues to speak to the Jewish Christians in chapter 3. He has clearly established with them that all of humanity is need of a savior, Jew and Gentile alike. Even though the Jews did not use their spiritual advantages to take dominion and be God’s messenger across the earth, God’s faithfulness is not abolished by Israel’s faithlessness. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Jesus, as Israel’s representative, has offered the faithful obedience which Israel should have offered but did not. The Messiah is the messenger who finally delivers the message.” And what is the message Jesus offered?!? A message of salvation, healing and deliverance. Jesus came to save us from sin; He did not come to leave us in sin, much less to encourage sin. Paul is quick to correct faulty thinking that our unrighteousness enhances God’s righteousness, as if any human effort (bad or good) could add or take away from God’s perfection. Sin never glorifies God nor makes Him look good. Sin will always take us further than we plan to go, cause us to stay longer than we plan to stay and cost us more than we plan to pay. Sin cannot be managed nor controlled; it must be crucified. This is why the gospel is truly good news. It is the only answer to the sin that so easily entangles us. Those who belong to Christ exchange their identity of “sinner” for “saint” and can cling to the power of God’s spirit to continually surrender their mind, will and emotions to His perfect reign.

Questions

  1. As a follower of Jesus, what should be our attitude toward sin?  Do you have this attitude over your sin and those around you?

  2. How has God delivered you from sin’s bondage and destruction?

Week 2 - Romans 2:17-29

Romans 2:17-29 (NIV)

17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

A Matter of the Heart

Paul turns his attention from the moral elite to the religious elite, specifically the Jewish Christians who thought themselves superior because of their possession of the law.  Spiritual advantages are genuinely good things, but they cannot save you. God is not interested in outward things alone – church membership, stewardship, serving – but rather in what is inside a person.  1Samuel 16:7 says that people look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. Paul challenges these Jewish believers that their heritage, knowledge of the law and even their ability to follow the law is not what aligns them with the gospel.  God sees their heart and the object of their faith. If their faith is in anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus, they are no better than the outwardly rebellious or inwardly self-righteous. God judges according to truth and not according to appearances.  This levels the playing field. All of humanity is a candidate for God’s grace, a candidate to be His image bearer and spread the rule and reign of King Jesus.         

Questions

  1. According to verse 24, why is it important that every area of our life be submitted to Jesus’ rule and reign?

  2. What spiritual advantages has God given you?  Will you pray that God would use these as a catalyst for your faith and not a catalyst for pride?

Week 2 - Romans 2:1-16

Romans 2:1-16 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Righteous Judgement 

If you’ll recall last week’s study of Romans chapter 1, Paul outlined the disease of sin (exchanging truth for lies) and its only cure (the good news of the gospel).  When we harden our hearts, God gives us over to our sinful desires and we become slaves to every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. We hit rock bottom. A clear picture of this is the parable Jesus told of the prodigal son found in Luke chapter 15; a son who hit rock bottom after being allowed to go his own way and fulfill the evil desires of his flesh.  Do you remember the other son in this parable? The one who stayed home and did everything “right?” If Romans chapter 1 describes the prodigal son, Romans chapter 2 is a good caricature of the other son. Paul opens chapter 2 by calling out the self-appointed judges, those who feel they are above immoral behavior and able to abide by all of the rules (basically they judge themselves on their good intentions).  It’s as if he’s saying, “If you felt tempted to believe that Romans 1 did not apply to you, you are not to be left out. You are guilty of the same terrible sins!” Paul makes it clear that all of humanity is under God’s perfect judgement; both the outwardly rebellious and the inwardly self-righteous. No one will escape God’s judgement; you will either be found in right standing aligned with King Jesus or self-seeking aligned with death and destruction.  Is your confidence building in being able to declare, “I am NOT ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes?!?”

Questions

  1. Have you ever tried to use good morals/behavior to cover your sin?  Where did that get you?

  2. What does it mean to pass judgment, and how does this differ from knowing and teaching God’s standards?

Week 1 - Romans 1:18-32

Romans 1:18-32 (NLT)

18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

Exchanging Truth for Lies

Paul takes a sharp turn in his letter starting in verse 18.  Rather than words of greeting and encouragement, he starts to outline the harsh reality of a disease affecting all of mankind; the disease of sin.  Ever since Adam and Eve’s initial rebellion against God’s command, humanity is gripped by sin.  God has given people so much evidence of Himself that to avoid the truth about Him, people have to actively suppress it.  Because human beings are not autonomous, this suppression puts us under the rule and reign of sin and death.  This truly is a disease.  Suppression of truth leads to distorted thinking, a darkened heart and ultimately, evil behavior (idolatry, sexual impurity, shameful lusts, greed, etc.).  Perhaps this section of scripture can help explain a typical news cycle across our media platforms.  Do we see suppression of truth?  Distorted thinking?  Darkened hearts?  Evil behavior?  Have you also at some point seen this same reality when looking in a mirror?  The disease of sin is to be dealt with on a personal level, but its consequences are never personal.  Its consequences are far reaching.  Three times in this section of scripture it says that God abandoned them to their own desires.  God allows the very thing humanity fights for, the myth of independence.  Instead of authenticity, we lose our true identity.  Instead of freedom, we find sin’s bondage.  The disease spreads to the individual, to the family, the culture, the world.  Do you see the picture that Paul is painting?  It’s a bleak picture, but one with a very real solution.  Do you see why Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel?  It is the power of God to save and deliver us from ourselves!  In light of such depravity, God’s wrath is reasonable.  It’s His grace that is completely unreasonable.  This is really good news.    

Questions

  1. How do you see the effects of sin in your life, both your sin and the sin of others?

  2. Have you stopped suppressing God’s truth and come under the rule and reign of Jesus?How has your life changed since switching your allegiance?