Romans 5:1-5? or 5:1-21!

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!

Romans 5:1-5

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.

Romans 4 – Faith like Abraham

We are studying a whole chapter this week which may seem or feel like a big chunk compared to our previous weeks. We had slowed down to consider the weight of sin and the evidence of our unrighteousness. Now we look at Paul’s scriptural evidence why it is and always has been a matter of faith that we are saved. God hasn’t changed the rules at all! In Christ, he is being completely consistent with all that he has said and promised in the Old Testament. Although it is a whole chapter, Paul’s message is simple: it has always been a matter of trust.

Before I continue I’d like to put a cheap plug in for the God’s Big Picture Plus course. If you have anyone in your growth group who is doing that course on a Sunday arvo, it would be great to ask them to share with the group how they have found it. I will run the course again, God willing, later this year or early next year. I highly recommend it. I’m confident that it is helpful to everyone who seeks to know God better and to understand righteousness given by faith in Christ.

THE THEME

The gospel is not a New Testament phenomenon but is the same message that God has always been committed to. Are you fully persuaded of God’s power to redeem you.

TOPICS COVERED IN THE TEXT

  • The full story of scripture – how the whole bible fits together.
  • What faith delivers vs what the law or works delivers.
  • What faith is.

 

OBSERVATIONS OF THE TEXT

V1 Paul turns now to Abraham, the father of all the Jews, to testify that righteousness is given by faith. God called Abraham, one man out of all the human race, to make promises to. Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:3-8. These are the promises which began the Jewish race (sons of Judah) and the promises which precede the law received by Moses.

V2 Paul picks up the language of boasting again which he brought up in 3:27. It is also in line with Paul’s aim which is to elevate the gospel of faith over the law of works as he put it in Romans 1:16 ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God’. Abraham was not labelled as righteous because of his works but because of his faith in trusting God who promised he would be the father of many.
NB: to be justified by works is not to outweigh the bad with the good but it is to always do good. One wrong makes us guilty.

V3 – ‘what does scripture say?’ Paul’s theology of salvation is not brand new. It is not a new message from the spirit but an understood message from the Old Testament scriptures. Our faith must be the same – based on a correct and intelligent reading from the word of God. Reading the bible for all it’s worth and being trained to read it better is of eternal value – not only to yourself but for those who you disciple. To teach others based on our own shallow knowledge will lead us and others astray from the truth.

‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness’ – here is Paul’s bible text which he will use to teach his message – that faith stands apart from the law and this is the basis of salvation. NB: James uses the same text of scripture to talk about faith in James 2. Many would believe that James teaches that we must have faith and follow through with works. I strongly suggest that James is simply giving a strong definition of faith since having faith will affect the way we live and make decisions. Abraham’s faith meant that he would do whatever God asked of him – even if it meant the death of his one and only son. His actions didn’t make him righteous – his absolute trust in God made him righteous.

Vv6-8 – Paul now turns briefly to David and quotes psalm 32. How does psalm 32 make sense without Christ? Isn’t it because God has always demanded faith as the basis of forgiveness and righteousness? The difference that Jesus makes is that we now know how this gift of righteousness is made possible and that God remain just. Jesus said to Thomas: blessed are you because you have seen and believe. How much more for those who have not seen and yet believe’ in 20 paraphrase. This is true of us today who have not seen the risen Lord and even truer for the saints who believed prior to Jesus’ incarnation.

Vv9-12 – whether circumcised or not, righteousness is received on the basis of faith alone. Not faith plus works or religious ceremony but faith from first to last (rom 1:17).

V13 – faith brings righteousness

V15 – law brings wrath … And an awareness of sin.

V17 – notice the details of this verse : that we believe in the God who gives life to the dead. God made Abraham the father of many nations – this is his promise and gift – calling into being something that was not!

Vv18-21 – hope beyond hope. The parallel between what Abraham was asked to believe and what we Christians have been asked to believe is clear: Abraham was promised life coming out of a dead womb. We are promised life out of a dead heart.

V21 – here is the definition of faith: being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he has promised! This is where assurance of salvation becomes clear: do you believe and are you fully persuaded that God can credi you as righteous through Jesus Christ?

V24 – the gospel is not simply believing in Jesus. It is believing in the power of God to justify sinners – the same God who raised Jesus from the dead.

V25 – read this verse. Do you believe it? Every word of it? Do you believe he did that for you?! Now read Romans 10:9.

The 7-arrows approach to leading bible thought and discussion

There are many ways to skin a cat (or so they tell me). There are many different ways to lead a successful Growth Group meeting through the bible. Here is a link to one more helpful approach to reading the bible and thinking through its meaning and impact. It’s just another method to add to your toolbox of ways to discuss the bible. The article helpfully reminds us that the ingredients in discipleship making are the reading of scripture, relationships and time.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/10/22/7-arrows-for-bible-reading/

Tell me what you think.