Easter is almost on us and so you may be planning to have a break from meeting together in your group. This is both OK to do and healthy for you as a leader and your group. We are not taking holiday’s from God, we are simply in recess together. A break provides breathing space for everyone to stay strong right through the year.
Here is the breakup of the sermon series over the next few weeks – you may want to cover a few weeks in one hit or be ready to just skip some text while you are on break.
- Sunday 13th of April (this week): Rom 5:1-5
- Friday 18th of April (Good Friday): Romans 5:6-8
- Sunday 20th of April (Easter Sun): Romans 5:9-11
- Sunday 27th of April (end of the break): Romans 5:12-21
In my groups, we’ll be looking at Romans 5:1-5 this week and then enjoying the break. We will not study Romans 5:6-21 as a group but will come back together when we look at Romans 6:1-14. You may want to cover Romans 5:1-11 in one week or do some other combination. I can see plenty of discussion coming out of just 5 verses for one week!
A possible opening question: Why are you a Christian? Answer this as if you were talking to a member of your extended family.
Looking at the text
Verse 1. “Therefore” – as always, the word therefore tells us that the writer (Paul) has finished an argument. We can refer to his discussion from chapters 2-4 or simply refer to chapter 4:25 “[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”. The point is that we have been justified by faith – not by self-improvement, or earnest effort, or through sincerity toward God – but by “being fully persuaded that God [has] power to do what he [has] promised.” (4:21) He has promised us a clean record if we trust him.
If that is true, as Paul is convinced it is, then Paul tells us what to expect in the rest of verse 1: “we have peace with God”. Colin Buchanan sings “the greatest treasure in the whole wide world is peace with God!” Paul agrees. When Jesus appeared in the locked upper room after his resurrection (Luke 24) the words that he said to greet the disciples was: “Peace be with you.” Neither Jesus, nor Luke the writer, would have used those words randomly. The first thing Jesus teaches his disciples after the resurrection is that they are now right with God! Paul reminds us that it is through our Lord Jesus Christ – we mustn’t forget this. Jesus has made peace between man and God! Apart from Him there is hostility and wrath.
Verse 2. “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Paraphrased: Jesus is the reason for our peace with God. What have we gained access to? It is grace. What is grace? It is an undeserved and priceless gift from God. What is the gift? It is the status of justified and therefore peace with God. Paul makes it very clear as he says over and over again that we have been saved through Christ and not of ourselves at all. How some religions who call themselves Christian can miss what Paul is saying is beyond me – although I know it is because of sin that blinds us.
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Paraphrased: Our eyes and our hearts are set straight on the reputation of God. Or, what we know and can bank on is that God will be proven right and powerful. The phrase ‘glory of God’ can be a slippery term since it is used in various ways in the bible – the glory of God seems to be his seen, displayed and published qualities – his wealth, worth and reputation. So, we can say when we look at a beautiful landscape which God has created “isn’t God glorious”. And when Moses was in the direct presence of God he could say that he saw the glory of God. John Piper describes the glory of God simply as God being advertised – his character, his attributes and everything about him being published to the world. We see hints of God’s glory as we look at creation or the work of the Spirit in the lives of Christians. One day we will see God face to face – in all his glory. There may be a loose but relevant connection between the words ‘glory’ and ‘boast’ in this passage. We can boast in the knowledge that God is worth boasting about. We can also boast when sufferings come because we see behind the curtain and know that God is at work.
Verse 3-4. “We also glory in our sufferings.” To glory in something or glorify something is to give it weight and worth. So our sufferings are not a mistake of Gods as if he has fixed the problem of the penalty of sin but not fixed the consequences of it. No, Paul says that our suffering produces perseverance. This strengthens our faith. Our faith is put to the test and we grow through it. Paul then says that this produces character. As the Christian grows we see the maturity which comes through the Spirit as we also trust God more and more and can be seen as standing firm in our faith. Our character or our life in Christ is chiselled to reveal the image of God clearer and clearer. Character produces hope. We see God working in us and others see this too and this only adds to the hope which we started out with. Notice the relationship between hope and suffering. Our hope is in God. He has done it and we are proud of that. Suffering is a gift (strangely so) from God which results in more hope or surer hope.
Verse 5. Paul’s method is to build upon things that he has said previously. He introduces here the element of the Holy Spirit which he will amplify later in chapter 8. The word hope, in Paul’s usage, does not equal wishful thinking. The fact that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers is the guarantee that God’s promises are true. This is where Christians can get a little confused and anxious: “How do I know if I have the Holy Spirit or not?” Well, remember how Jesus described the Spirit in John 3? You can’t see the spirit just like you can’t see wind. But you can see the leaves blowing on the tree and know that it wasn’t the tree that came alive and did that – it was the wind. Just so, when a person displays the work of the Spirit, then you know that they have the spirit in them. So, what should we be looking for? Look for faith! See Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:13; John 16:13.
How is God’s love poured out? The Spirit of God is active in the hearts of every believer to believe and to respond to the promises of God. Our faith which is in God through Jesus is available to us by the Spirit. God loves us through his Son and by his Spirit.
Questions to ask
Is all suffering for this same purpose? In answering this, think about where suffering comes from and what our hope is in – are they always connected?
What do we know about the Holy Spirit? Actually, doing a word search throughout the bible on the word “spirit” is a really useful way of working this out (obviously) but many of us form our opinions and ideas from guesswork. The scriptures aren’t as mysterious as you’d think about the spirit. The Start Living course run by the church has a two lessons which overlap on the subject of the Holy Spirit – the God’s Big Picture Plus course has one lesson on the work of the Spirit also.
What does it mean to persevere? Is this a type of work? Think through practical ways that we can do this.
Applications from these verses
- See how important it is to have peace with God. Paul has spent a couple of chapters convincing us that this is not true for those who continue to suppress the truth. Isn’t this the primary point or problem of the bible: to bring peace back between humanity and God?
- Paul has pointed out that there is no peace with God apart from the LORD Jesus Christ. Christianity is not just a matter of taste, it is an essential truth for the survival of our souls. Reflect again on where this truth sits in your own priorities in life.
- These 5 verses can help us to view suffering correctly. Whether they are huge things or even small, suffering because of sin (yours and the world you live it) is an agent of growth for the Christian. James tells us to rejoice when we face various trials!
- What do you know of the Holy Spirit? Work out a plan to read through the scriptures to find out more. Read Romans 8 as a starting place – or work out when to do the Start Living course.