The Embodied Gospel (Romans 12:1-8)

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The Embodied Gospel (Romans 12:1-8)

We are entering into the final stage of our study in the book of Romans. The last section, chapters 12-16, will focus on how the gospel effects people who are working together to form a community. These chapters are filled with practical examples of how the good news is expected to shape our interaction as the church.

This Sunday we’ll be reading ch 12:1-8.

What do you believe Paul means by his exhortation to give our bodies to God? Why do you believe he saw this as important? In what way does this connect with his metaphor of a “living sacrifice”?

Paul moves from the metaphorical to the practical in v2, explaining exactly what he believes his previous exhortation will look like. How do you interpret “don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world” in light of what he wants to see transformed in us? What are some ways in which God can transform our thinking? How can this embody the gospel in our world?

If we keep in mind the rift between the Jewish and gentile believers which Paul has been seeking to address, it helps us to understand his apostolic command in v3. Why is a humble and honest evaluation of ourselves important in the context of not copying the patterns of this world?

The “body” theme continues as Paul expands beyond individuals to a community challenge. The gospel is embodied through cooperative ministry. What gift do you think the Holy Spirit has allocated to you, and do you find opportunities to exercise it? If you aren’t sure, what gift would you like to be able to have? Sometimes God is working through our interests. Take some time to pray about how God wants to use you to embody the gospel.

This will be a challenging as well as encouraging section to read this Sunday. Hope to see you there!

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God Is Still Working (Romans 11:1-36)

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God Is Still Working (Romans 11:1-36)

One of Eastgate’s logo designs is emblazoned with the words, “A work in progress”, because that’s what we are. We haven’t arrived at what we’re aiming for, and God is still in the process of shaping and molding us into a community with purpose. That’s true of all of us who are following Christ – we’re all a work in progress. Sometimes, however, we may feel like there’s been a labor strike because nothing much seems to be happening. Progress seems to halt, we stumble back into old habits, we face setbacks. Sometimes that happens with those we love and pray for as well. It’s in those times we can be tempted to wonder if God has given up on us or those we care about.

That is what’s happening in the text we’ll be reading this Sunday as we continue our study of Romans. We’ll be reading all of chapter 11. Yes, I agree, that’s a lot of verses to cover. It’s largely a review and summary though, so we’ll be able to handle it in big chunks. Paul is wrapping up his thoughts concerning Israel’s rejection of the Messiah – and in doing so, he poses questions about God rejecting Israel.

What does he conclude about that question – did God reject Israel? In v1, what does he base his answer on – what proof does he highlight concerning Israel? Paul took comfort in something small compared to the majority. How can that comfort us when we are wondering if God has given up on our situation?

Something else that Paul does is remind himself of the story of Elijah when he was on the run from Ahab. What does v4 remind us of concerning God’s providence?

Paul then recaps his thinking through the rest of the chapter – but when using the metaphor of branches cut off of a tree and new branches grafted in, he makes a hopeful statement in v24 about the potential impermanence of Israel’s rejection of Christ. How can his hopeful statement encourage us when we feel like we have stumbled and stagnated in our own journey with God?

We will deal with all the various interpretations of vs 25-26 on Sunday.

The whole section of ch 9-11 has some very discouraging things to say…but all of it ends on such a hopeful note. It’s just a reminder of the truth Paul stated in chapter 8:28 – God is always at work, through all things, to bring about what’s best for us.

Hopefully this will encourage you as well.

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Good News People (Romans 10:14-21)

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Good News People (Romans 10:14-21)

“Today, the term evangelical is a loaded word in American culture, packed with a variety of contradictory meanings. The emotions it evokes in one person can be the polar opposite of how it affects someone else. What evangelical is supposed to mean—bringer of good news—is completely different from what it has come to mean for many in our society: judgmental, misogynist, bigoted, homophobic. How did this happen? How did the “good news” people come to be widely regarded as bad news?”

~Lance Ford,  Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be. Tyndale Momentum

With this teaching we’ll be reading a very famous passage from Romans as we continue our study of that book. We’ll be reading ch 10:14-21.

Paul, still sorting through the dilemma of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, puts forth a stair-step argument for how people actually receive Jesus as Messiah. His argument is in the form of questions again, and he starts with the desired goal of salvation (based on v13) and works backwards through the process. Before they can embrace God’s salvation, they have to believe. But in order to believe, they have to hear the offer. In order to hear, someone has to tell them the news, and so on.

There is no way around the usage here – the gospel has a message to be shared. The Good News is news. You might find the origins of the word we translate as “gospel” of interest – there is a famous inscription that reveals it’s usage outside of the church. If you read the translation, take note of how Augustus is described, and compare it to the first Christian description of Jesus.

Paul makes an assumption about who was sent to share that news. What does this tell us about our purpose as the church? He quotes Isaiah 52 which forecasts the day when Israel’s exile is over – and how beautiful even the feet of those will be who bring that good news. This clearly indicates to us, as the church, that we have some very good news to share with the people we are placed among. What is the good news, in your understanding? What does v17 indicate that the Good News is about? How can we see to it that we keep the main thing the main thing?

Hopefully this study will get us thinking and pointed in the right direction for how we, as a community of the Gospel, can bring light to the world in which we’ve been placed. I’m really excited about this study.

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Faith > Works (Romans 10:1-13)

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Faith > Works (Romans 10:1-13)

Do you remember the buzz a while back about how people could look at the same dress and some people saw a blue dress with black stripes, while others saw a gold dress with white stripes? I’m still amazed that anyone saw anything but a blue dress – but that’s the thing, isn’t it? It was all the same dress. How our brains processed the light and color made all the difference.

That’s similar to what Paul will be talking about in our text this Sunday, as we read Romans 10:1-13.

Paul will be talking about how Israel looked at the promise of God and saw something that had to be worked out by honoring the Old Testament law. Yet, as Paul will explain, that was seeing the promise in the wrong light. God always intended for salvation to come as His gift to human-kind, not as something we earned.

In this section, Paul provides us with the profound declaration of how salvation is bestowed on us. The message of faith that Paul preached is found in v9. How do you understand this combination of speech and belief in the inner person? How would you explain to someone unfamiliar with Christianity what it is that Paul is driving at here? What distinction, if any, do you see between faith in the heart and understanding in the intellect? How do you think someone who struggles with the tension between the two can resolve on faith without committing intellectual suicide?

Sunday is a special day – we will only have one service at 10 am – then we’ll go to St Andrews State Park to have a cook out and baptize those who wish to be. This is the very declaration of faith Paul is getting at in our text. If you haven’t been baptized and want to know more about it, you can go to this page on our website, and sign up there if you’d like to make that declaration this Sunday!

See you then!

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God's Family of Grace (Romans 9:24-33)

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God's Family of Grace (Romans 9:24-33)

A question that has occupied a lot of people’s attention throughout the history of the church, and I’m sure other religious formations, is the question of who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to God’s acceptance. I think one of the reasons we seem to like to decipher an answer to that question is because, for the most part, it reinforces our own sense of “in”-ness. It would be the rare person who works hard to identify himself as an outsider. No, we like to differentiate between insiders and outsiders because it usually makes us feel better about ourselves.

God, however, doesn’t seem to validate that quest. At least not so far as the New Testament is concerned.

In the section we’ll be reading in Romans, chapter 9:24-33, Paul will be looking at what God has intended for humanity all along, and what will characterize his intended result.

Paul begins this section with rapid-fire quotes from the Old Testament – from the minor prophet Hosea and Isaiah. The actual quotes are in reference to Israel, how, because of her unfaithfulness, she had been disqualified from being God’s people. Still, the prophet forecast a time when she would return from exile and be His people once more. Paul restructures this to be a picture of God’s plan to include the gentiles.

People who were not God’s people who become God’s people. Based on that quote, what does that tell us about the make-up of the church? What has God’s plan been all along, and who should we expect to be included? How easy or difficult is it for you to accept people who aren’t exactly like you in their beliefs, place in life, ethnicity or culture? How can we pursue God’s intended diversity as the church?

A contrast is made between the gentiles who are made right with God even though they never set out to achieve that, and Israel who worked so hard to get right through the works of the law, who never experienced it that way. What lesson do you think Paul driving home about the nature of salvation as well as the nature of the church?

Who is the rock which makes people stumble in this text? Why would the Jewish people have stumbled over Jesus? How do people stumble over Jesus, even in the church, today, based on v 30-33?

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Is God Fair?  (Romans 9:14-23)

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Is God Fair? (Romans 9:14-23)

Do you have kids? Do you remember being a kid? When my kids were little, they had an innate sense of fairness that they would share with me at the moment they sensed some form of inequity. Usually expressed in the revolutionary cry of “it’s not FAIR”!

“I need you to do the dishes tonight Jessica.”

“It’s not FAIR! I did the dishes LAST time!”

This would then lead to a long and tedious (to the parent anyway) negotiation about balanced and impartial chore assignments, all of which would lead to me snapping back with “LIFE’S not fair!” That’s the response my parents taught me…and to my delight, I heard my youngest daughter speak those same words to her daughter not long ago. My work here is done.

The thing is, as we get older we become far more cynical about fairness. We encounter way too many situations where the game is rigged and we are helpless – but even then, in our most sardonic state, we still hold out hope that God is fair. Someone may put us at a disadvantage but we hold on to a hope that God knows and will one day vindicate us.

But what if God isn’t fair? Or more frightening, what if his idea of fairness is completely different from ours? What an existential kick in the head that would be!

That’s a concept we’ll delve into this Sunday as we continue our study in Romans, reading ch 9:14-23.

Paul begins right off posing that question. How do you understand his answer? It is very important to read Exodus 32-34 to really get the atmosphere Paul is trying to set this dilemma in. Did you read it? If so…what is the context of God’s statement that He will have mercy and compassion on whom he chooses? At the moment of Israel’s greatest disobedience, God expresses His own personal freedom to have mercy on anyone he chooses to, including the guilty. How does this help Paul work through his initial question?

Paul then uses Pharaoh as an example of God’s sovereign freedom to work through even those who resist his will to accomplish his will. Do you think this was meant to destroy Pharaoh? Is there anything in the text that indicates there was something permanent about Pharaoh’s hardened state of heart? To what end was all this happening? What is the goal of the whole Biblical narrative?

This is a very complex bit of writing by Paul – it will take some careful navigation, which we’ll attempt with this teaching! Hope you enjoy it!

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God's Unexpected Faithfulness (Romans 9:1-13)

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God's Unexpected Faithfulness (Romans 9:1-13)

We are heading into a complex and challenging section of the book of Romans as we continue our study this Sunday. Romans is divided into four distinct sections – and this week we’ll be starting the third section, ch 9-11, which deal with the question of Israel’s history and place in the overall narrative of God’s plan to restore all things.

Chapter 9 of Romans is a powder-keg of doctrinal volatility. People have broken friendships over differing interpretations of that chapter, pastors have been removed from churches, churches have split and veritable oceans of ink have been used to vent opinions about this difficult part of the book.

We’ll be reading ch 9:1-13 as we begin this section.

We certainly seem to go from a high point about God’s faithful love in chapter 8 to a serious lament in ch 9, don’t we? IN v 1-4, Paul is quite passionate and dramatic in expressing his heartbreak – what lengths does he say he’d go to if it would mean Israel’s acceptance of Messiah? Paul is setting the tone for ch 9-11 – it is structured as a lament

From there he lays out the dilemma – why do the people who received the promise reject the Promise?

To address this, Paul poses rhetorical questions and then sorts his way through the facts that he knows from the Old Testament stories about how God was fulfilling his purpose through Abraham and his family.

He highlights a pattern where God isn’t interested in making sure the DNA match is there – that repeatedly, God chose specific individuals through whom he will advance his plan to redeem all things, while setting others aside.

How does this passage make you feel? What do you think it’s communicating to us about God’s faithfulness to his promise? What would you describe as the theme of this passage – personal salvation or God’s big picture plan? Those are things to mull over as we dig into this passage, hope you enjoy it!

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Redeeming Love (Romans 8:18-39)

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Redeeming Love (Romans 8:18-39)

Stories are an integral part of the human experience. They help us define and navigate this often confusing world we exist in. A good story is one where characters evolve as they maneuver through difficulties, struggles and pain. The action rises around the complications until it reaches the climax, then falls to the resolution. The most beloved stories of our present culture follow this arc – and they bring us a lot of joy.

God is a great story teller and our lives are intricately woven into a grand narrative he’s been unfolding through the ages. At least, that’s the way the Biblical narrative seems to set it out. God’s great story also has a resolution, a good ending which puts all of the struggles of the larger narrative in a different perspective.

That’s what Paul will be presenting to us in our passage in Romans this Sunday as we read Romans 8:18-39.

Most scholars put the whole of chapter 8 into a special category of inspirational text, but especially so with the last half of the chapter. Paul hits a high water mark with these words that really don’t get repeated anywhere else in the New Testament.

He begins by expounding on his previous statement about suffering (v17) – reminding us that present struggles won’t even register when weighed against the glory that will be revealed to us. What do you think he means by that statement, what do you understand that glory to be?

There are three participants in the “groaning” Paul describes. Who are they? Why are they groaning, what is anticipated? The third “groaner” (not a word, but I’m sticking with it) is remarkable to me (v26). What does His groaning tell us about God’s priorities and intent?

V28 is quite famous. What confidence are Christians meant to have about the events in our lives according to this verse? Do you read this as God being an architect of trouble, or an artist who can use anything to make something beautiful?

The last section of chapter 8 is so encouraging and beautiful, it hardly needs any commentary. Read it, then read it again. Read it in multiple translations. Linger on the words, play some cinematic orchestral music and read it out loud. What are those words saying to you? How do they effect your understanding of yourself in this difficult and struggle-filled life?

This Sunday, we’ll hear the Lion roar out His love to inspire unshakable HOPE.  Hope you enjoy this teaching!

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Why The Good News Is REALLY Good (Romans 8:1-17)

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Why The Good News Is REALLY Good (Romans 8:1-17)

One of my favorite cartoons on TV is Futurama. It’s the brainchild of Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons. The premise of the show is that a guy wakes up in the distant future and has to integrate with a world that is mostly a parody of almost all the sci-fi tropes we’ve come to know over the years. One of my favorite characters is Professor Farnsworth, the sort of leader of the band of misfit characters. There is an ongoing gag where he bursts into the room to announce a mission by saying “Good news everyone!”, and when he goes on to explain it, it is actually very BAD news. For example: “Good news, everyone! Today you’ll be delivering a crate of subpoenas to Sicily 8, the Mob Planet.”

Sometimes I feel like our modern Evangelical church is like Professor Farnsworth. We tell the world “Good news everyone!” when declaring the gospel, but follow it up with “God is very angry with you and if you won’t believe in him he’s going to burn you forever!”

I think this is largely because we’ve relegated the Gospel to something that only effects our future (going to heaven when you die). We end up fixating on the eschatological implications of the Gospel and almost ignoring the present ramifications of the Good News about Jesus. Yet the New Testament adamantly declares that the Gospel is effects our past and present, as well as our future!

In our study of Romans, Paul has been reminding the Roman churches about the nature of the Gospel and how it should have a unifying effect on them. In ch 5-8 he’s been reminding them of what our lives look like now that we have a new covenant with God through Jesus. He’s compared that new life to our old life enslaved to sin and in fear of condemnation by the Law of Moses.

In the section we’ll be reading this Sunday, chapter 8:1-17, Paul will get to the very heart of what the gospel is, and what it means to US! He reveals to us why the good news is really good!

In v1-4 he launches off with the stunning declaration of our deliverance from condemnation for sin. How easy or hard is it for you to believe that you have been declared “not guilty” by God because of Jesus’ work on the cross? How easy or hard is it for you to believe that God no longer associates you with any sin of your past, present or future? How would you describe this as good news?

In what ways to you see your life energized by the resurrection power of God (v11)? Obviously, this has future implications of our bodily resurrection at the end of the age, but in what ways can you see that effecting your life today? How would you see this as good news for a life in this world?

What do you see as the importance of having our identity built on being a child of God (v15)? How does being God’s beloved child affect your status, relationship and purpose in this life? In what way is being brought into God’s family good news?

I love chapter 8 of Romans – this is such an encouraging section to read! Hope you enjoy this study!

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The Struggle Is Real (Romans 7:7-25)

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The Struggle Is Real (Romans 7:7-25)

Have you ever seen one of those experiments where they secretly record what happens when someone encounters a sign which says “wet paint, do not touch”? It’s pretty amazing to see how often people, and especially children, seem compelled to touch what has been forbidden. Come to think of it…have you ever encountered a sign that warns you not to touch or do something? What is the first thought that usually goes through our minds? “I could just do it quickly, what would it hurt?”  I realize there are some personality types that wouldn’t experience this particular temptation, but enough of us do that it becomes a familiar and relate-able trope.

Something in us seems to always feel an urge to go the wrong way, even when we know better.

This has been something that philosophers have puzzled over since philosophers became a thing. It’s also something that the Scriptures give a lot of attention to. Paul will have that as his major theme in the section we’ll be reading this Sunday as we continue our study in Romans. We’ll be reading ch 7:7-25.

Paul once again points out the impotence of the Mosaic Law to change the nature of our lives. Yet, he exonerates the law from any culpability for our condition. Once again he makes the point as to what the Law was able to do. What is it?

He then  launches into a beautifully honest expose of the human struggle to do what’s right, even when we know the right thing to do. What does Paul attribute this to in v 17 and 20? How do you understand his differentiation between “sin” and “I”?

All the way through, we have to keep the context in mind – Paul is asserting that the Law of Moses, or any other religious system of rules, is incapable of rescuing us from our plight.

What will rescue us, according to v25? How do you understand that to be true?

This is a fairly complex bit of Scripture we’ll be tackling this time – but SO worth our time to digest! I hope you can make it!

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Free To Be Free (Romans 7:1-16)

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Free To Be Free (Romans 7:1-16)

Ever see a movie that shows a long time prisoner being released back into society?   There were a few.  The Shawshank Redemption comes to mind.  Ole Morgan Freeman really shows the inner struggle one might face when suddenly living in a new freedom.  If you haven’t seen the film, put it on your movie bucket list.  In this study, Paul will be writing and speaking directly to the Jewish Christian in Rome and addressing this very issue.

We’ll be reading Romans 7:1-6. Paul is continuing a section where he has described this new life in Christ.  We have been given a new freedom.  But now that we have been freed, how do we proceed?  How will we live in this new life?  And what about the past?  How do we fit the past into the now?  These are huge questions for the emerging church in Rome and they are huge to us as well.

Paul masterfully uses the analogy of marriage to cover many of the aspects of this transition. In v 1-2 particular importance is placed in the fact that death ends a marriage.  How does that make us feel?  Knowing the death he is alluding to is Christ’s death, atoning for our sins, how does that make us feel?  How we feel is part of Paul’s point.  The direction of thought is being realigned from legal to relational.

In v2-3 Paul continues the marriage analogy with yet another uncomfortable relational situation.  Remarriage after the death of a spouse, while perfectly legal, is for all parties involved, complicated.  In v-3, adultery is mentioned.  How do we see adultery fitting into the following verse that states our new union with Christ is to prove fruitful to God?

Paul is attempting to unite a divided Roman Church.  The divisions present two thousand years ago are still manifest in our walk today.   Given our new found freedom, how will we live free?  How should the past shape our future?  On what side of Christ’s death will we live?  These are all questions the Roman Christians were facing and I believe we all struggle with today.  It should be an interesting study!

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Freedom (Romans 6:15-23)

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Freedom (Romans 6:15-23)

Bob Dylan
The Warfield Theater
San Francisco
November 1st, 1979

Rolling Stone Magazine

The new Bob Dylan tour began on a chilly Thursday evening at the Warfield Theater, a cozy 2200-seater in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Outside, grizzled panhandlers solicited; holdout hippies, whose cassette players blared “Gotta Serve Somebody,” tried to scavenge tickets; and dozens of porno theaters and sleazy topless joints advertised their wares in flickering neon. Inside, Dylan sang about salvation.

Regina Havis, one of his four backup singers, began the show with a sermonette on a mother’s faith. There were snide comments from the audience – “I went to church this morning,” “How about some sin?”

…Dylan looked much the same, in his dark jeans, leather jacket and white T-shirt, but he’s changed his way of thinking – that much, at least, is clear. The end of the concert was greeted with both applause and boos, but there were surprisingly few emotional outbursts. As the audience filed out quietly, they were confronted with the words “You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody,” writ large across the back of the illuminated marquee.

Well, ol’ Bobby didn’t get a great response to his album which declared his (then) new-found faith. But the title of his song “Gotta’ Serve Somebody” has found its way into countless sermons on the text we’re going to read this week in Romans…because it is stating exactly what Paul will be stating, just with more electric guitars.

We’ll be reading Romans 6:15-23 in our study. Paul is in a section where he is describing what this new life in Christ is like, and in this passage he uses the uncomfortable illustration of slavery. The slavery of the ancient Roman world was quite different and far less inhumane than the slavery that our country engaged in in oppressing Black people. I think its possible that Paul would have used a different illustration if he could have seen through a modern lense…but that makes it incumbent upon us to use an ancient one.

Either way, it’s still an uncomfortable metaphor because no matter how we understand it, slavery, declaring ownership and control over another human being is just wrong and certainly not part of God’s plan for life. So why this metaphor?

Paul seems to see slavery from the standpoint of submission – submitting to a governing influence over life. That’s how we need to understand it. Paul’s whole point drives home the dualism in Biblical thought – we will serve good or evil, there is no third alternative.

Do you have difficulty with the idea that the Bible does not see you as autonomous? In what way can we understand being free, yet also describe ourselves as slaves to God?

in v19 Paul seems to indicate that who we serve will determine what kind of life we’re living. How has serving God reshaped your life for the better? In what ways have you seen your life spiral when serving some indulgence of this broken world?

The whole thing gets summed up in v 22-23 – one trajectory is leading to death, the other to eternal life. What do you understand eternal life to be, and when do you think it begins? How can eternal life be lived in this present world? What effect would it have on your relationships and expectations in life if eternity were factored into everything?

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Being True To Your True Self (Romans 6:1-14)

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Being True To Your True Self (Romans 6:1-14)

We’re going to be reading Romans 6:1-14 tomorrow – just so you have a heads up. Paul is answering a question he anticipates someone asking: Does God’s grace mean we should continue on living in dehumanizing ways in order to show off God’s grace?

How would you summarize Paul’s answer? What do you think it means to live “in sin”? How does baptism symbolize our new life in Jesus? Why would something like that be important to us as Christ’s followers?

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The Son of Dust and The Son of God (Romans 5:12-21)

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The Son of Dust and The Son of God (Romans 5:12-21)

I’m a grandparent, and pretty dang proud of that fact. We have a dedicated play-room in our house again, just for our grandchildren. One thing I’ve noticed is that when they charge into that room to begin playing, it takes mere seconds to completely destroy the order of that room (not that we mind – there’s nothing more sad than a well-ordered and unused playroom – but that’s not the point I’m making here). Like the classic cartoon Tasmanian Devil, those kids can create total upheaval in a matter of moments.

Putting it all back in place is another matter. It takes much longer…weeks, sometimes, as we randomly discover runaway Legos underfoot.

As with most things, deconstruction is the easy part – putting things back to right is the greater challenge.

That’s the idea that Paul is trying to convey in the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday as we continue our study in the book of Romans. We’ll be reading Romans 5:12-21

Paul makes a grand contrast between Adam, the progenitor of our ruin, and Jesus, the ground-source of our redemption.

Paul begins by describing how sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience, and death followed on its heels. How would you describe the effect of sin and death on this world? How has this affected you personally, or your family?

How difficult is it for you to believe that Jesus’ one act of obedience has the power to transform us into people who are redeemed…described as saints? Why do you think we struggle with this and so often try to find redemption through our works or good behavior?

Paul emphasizes the word “gift”, something offered for free, four times in this passage. Why do you think he makes that emphasis, and how should that impact the way we present the gospel?

In verse 20, how does God’s “more abundant” grace change your perception of yourself in relationship with God? How can it change the way we think about those outside the church? What is the great lesson we can learn from the overarching nature of God’s grace?

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The Family of Faith (Romans 4:1-25)

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The Family of Faith (Romans 4:1-25)

This Sunday (bring an umbrella) we’ll be reading Romans 4:1-25, and Paul will be revisiting the story of Abraham.

As Paul begins his story of Abraham, he emphasizes how it was that Abraham was made right with God. What was his answer to that question – how was Abraham made right with God? How difficult is it for you to keep from measuring your spiritual value by your religious activity? What do you do to keep your faith in God and not your own good behavior?

Paul does talk about religious rituals such as circumcision, indicating that they are simply a symbol of something that has already been accomplished by faith in God’s grace. What other rituals or works do we sometimes require of others or ourselves before we afford them the status of accepted by God? How can we avoid this practice in our journey with Christ?

When Paul wraps it up, he recounts the sequences of Abraham believing God’s promise even though no evidence supported his hope. What was the promise to Abraham; what was he believing God would give to him? How does Paul’s final statements about the New Testament, largely gentile church provide the conclusion to Paul’s argument? In other words, how is it you and I, believing God the way Abraham did, reveal God’s faithfulness to keep his promise to Abraham? It’s almost a riddle…but we’ll spell it all out on Sunday!

Hope you can make it!

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Religion On Trial (Romans 3:1-20)

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Religion On Trial (Romans 3:1-20)

Back in the mid 90s I was completely obsessed with watching the OJ trials. I had never really seen the inner workings of a courtroom, apart from what one sees on TV shows like Perry Mason, where somebody finally cracks and gives a confession at the end of the episode. In the world of ancient Rome, civil trials were major source of entertainment. Most people in Rome would have been very familiar with trials argued by two skilled orators, also known as lawyers, that would play out before crowds cheering people. That’s very much like what Paul is setting up in the section that will be reading this Sunday in the book of Romans, as we read chapter 3 verses 1-20. In this scenario, Paul is putting religion on trial. The entire section goes down like a courtroom proceeding in ancient Rome. Paul will play the role of prosecutor, defense and judge as he provides his point, counterpoint and verdict.

In verses 1-8, Paul talks about the advantage that the Jewish people enjoyed as stewards of the revelation of God. What does that mean to you? When you think about trust funds in our modern world – who is the money in the trust for?  What would you think of someone who mishandled that trust? In what ways would that have related to Israel in the time that Jesus had arrived?

Verses 9-18 provides Paul’s conclusion to his story of the broken world, told in two parts. His conclusion is that no one has escaped the brokenness and bondage to sin and death. Why would he be driving that point home so emphatically?

In conclusion to the section that began in chapter 1, v19-20 announces the verdict. Paul reveals the actual nature of the law. What does Paul say the only function of the law or external religious codes is? If you sneak a peek ahead to the next several verses, what is the only means Paul sees leading to real heart transformation and righteousness?

Hope you enjoy this study!

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