For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).
In Romans chapter 5, we learn that Jesus died for people described as powerless, ungodly, sinners, and God’s enemies. Paul explained why Jesus died for such people, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Most Christians will admit that they have done things that were sinful and ungodly and though forgiven they still need God’s help to overcome temptations; therefore, Paul assured believers that Jesus Christ lives and will save them through His life. Earlier in his letter, Paul wrote that those who have placed their faith in Jesus and His death for them will be declared justified or right with God. On the Day of Judgment, God will declare they are justified and free to live forever in His Kingdom, similar to a human judge in a court of law judging a defendant not guilty and free to live in human society. A human judge probably does not desire a close personal relationship with every person who comes to trial in their courtroom, but God loves us and wants a loving personal relationship with everyone who repents and believes in Jesus. To be reconciled by God through faith in Jesus Christ means we stop being God’s enemy with Jesus bringing us into a close, loving, personal relationship with God the Father, Himself, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because Jesus lives, He will graciously save from sin, judgment, and eternal death those justified by God and reconciled to God and freely give them eternal life.
1. What kind of peace do believers in Jesus Christ have through faith in Him?
2. When is boasting wrong and when is it right?
3. Give one reason the followers of Christ can glory in their sufferings?
4. What reason did Paul give for our hope as believers not putting us to shame?
5. What were we like when Christ died for us?
It was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
Jesus Christ perfectly demonstrated the righteousness of God—that everything God does is right. By His words and works, Jesus showed that everything God has done, does, and ever will do is truthful, loving, and ethical. Therefore, those who have faith in Jesus know that even though they may not always understand everything in the Bible or God’s reasons for everything, that what God has done and will do is always righteous and best for everyone concerned. Jesus Christ died as an acceptable sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, and by doing so God the Father and God the Son were just. God is love; therefore, God treated Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all who had faith in God as righteous because He planned to send Jesus to die for their sins. Because Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead, God is just and the justifier when God considers and makes right everyone who comes to faith in Jesus. As the justifier, God does what is legal, just, right, and reasonable when God forgives the sins of those who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus for their salvation. Through His life and death, Jesus did all that was necessary to show God was right in everything He did to make a way for sinners to be made clean and whole again through faith in Jesus. In Romans 3:30, Paul wrote that God’s extends the offer of forgiveness to everyone: “Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.”
1. What are some of the ways God reveals His righteousness?
2. What is another way to refer to or define the Law of God or the moral law?
3. In addition to revealing His Law in the Bible, why did God need to send Jesus Christ into the world?
4. Why do you think God either needed to punish sinners or send Jesus, His Son, to die in order to forgive sinners?
5. How important is faith in Jesus?
For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he showed that everyone needs faith in Jesus Christ to be freed from the consequences and power of sin. First, he showed that those without the Bible were accountable to God because God had given them reason, evidence from creation, and a conscience that revealed to them that God exists and what God requires for people to be right with Him, others, and themselves. Next, he showed that those with the Bible (the Old Testament) were also accountable to God for their actions. Having the Hebrew Scriptures while disobeying God did not give the Jews an advantage over others but revealed their responsibility and guilt. Whether the law of God is revealed through reason, nature, conscience, or the Bible, people know they do not act perfectly toward others or themselves—sometimes they realize they have not behaved perfectly toward God, all of which is sin. As the Holy Spirit works through the law of God, people become conscious of the fact that they need God to free them from the controlling power of sin in their lives and save them from the other consequences of their disobedience. When they see how wrong they have been in their treatment of God, others, and themselves, they know that if they lived perfectly from that moment forward (which is humanly impossible), they could never make themselves right with God. They know they need God to remove from them the crushing baggage of their sins; so, Paul shows people how God will make believers right through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. What are some advantages of having the Bible to read?
2. What does it mean to be under the power of sin?
3. How do most people live when they refuse to repent and turn to God, preferring instead to live the way they want?
4. What did Paul say happens to someone when they turn away from God?
5. Do you think sincere followers of Jesus Christ should still study the law of God? Give a reason for your answer.
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 (Romans 2:29).
The rite of circumcision showed that God had set apart the Jews to obey Him and teach His law to others. Whereas the Jews had the law of God written for them by Moses, if the Gentiles were not taught God’s law, they had to learn it from using their reason, from observing natural laws, and from their conscience. However, Paul showed that neither the Jews, who had the written law, nor the Gentiles, who had reason, nature, and conscience, perfectly did everything they knew they should do. To truly obey God, people need a circumcised heart, a commitment to obey God and the divine power to do so. A rabbi can perform an outward circumcision, but only the Holy Spirit can perform an inward circumcision of the heart that will empower and teach people how to serve God and others. No law can give anyone the power to do what God’s law says. Laws will not fill people with love for the lawgiver. God’s law shows people how much they deserve to be punished by the King of the universe. However, when someone knows they are condemned by the law of God and then learns that the King of the universe sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice so He could mercifully forgive them, adopt them into His family, make Jesus their elder brother, and fill them with the Holy Spirit, their King wins their love. Their new lives may not please everyone, but they will receive praise from God.
1. If you do not rely on the law, what do you rely on for your salvation. Describe your answer.
2. The Jews thought that in the law they had the embodiment of knowledge and truth (Romans 2:20). Do you agree or disagree? Give a reason for your answer.
3. Read Romans 2:23 again. How might you rephrase that verse to teach it to a persistently disobedient Christian?
4. Would you agree or disagree with the rephrasing or application of Romans 2:25 below?
“Baptism has value if you love and follow Jesus Christ, but if you walk away from Christ you are acting like one who was never baptized.”
5. Do you think Romans 2:29 could refer to both Gentile and Jewish Christians? Why?
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? (Romans 2:4).
When Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans, he proved that everyone has sinned against God. When John wrote one of his letters, he defined sin: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). I think everyone who has read the Bible must admit that they have disobeyed at least one of God’s revealed laws during their lifetime. Even worse, sometimes we have practiced lawlessness by doing what we have wanted to do irrespective of what God’s laws demand. Imagine what our world would be like if no local, state, or national governments enforced their laws; or, if they enforced some laws, but not others; or if privileged people never received just punishment for their lawlessness, but those who broke minor laws received extreme punishments immediately? God does not govern our world with partiality or show favoritism toward some, for God enforces all His laws equally and justly. In God’s kingdom, there is equal justice for all, whether Jew or Gentile. So, why does it seem to us that God does not equally enforce all His laws? In this life, God does not immediately punish us every time we break one of His laws because God intends His patience and kindness to lead us to repentance. The Bible says we deserve death for breaking God’s laws, and the fact that we still live indicates God is giving us yet another opportunity to turn around and follow Him. Happily, God sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice; therefore, we can place our faith in Jesus and receive eternal life.
1. What are some consequences for us when we pass judgment on someone else?
2. On what does God base His just judgments?
3. What are some of the riches God bestows on all people in this life? What is the purpose of God when giving people these riches?
4. How can people store up God’s wrath for themselves in the future?
5. What did Paul say people should seek? How should they seek it? What will they receive?
For though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened (Romans 1:21).
Paul described some of the consequences for people who refuse to glorify God as God and thank God. These consequences consist of enslavement to godless and wicked practices, which includes inventing evils, hating God, and unnatural behaviors. As unbelievers rebel against God, they become futile in their thinking; therefore, they make foolish choices. They “suppress the truth” in order to keep the truth from influencing their behaviors (Romans 1:18). When they darken their hearts, they lose the light of understanding and their actions become more destructive. Because they have destroyed their understanding, their reasoning is worthless. Unbelievers claim to be wise, but they become fools (Romans 1:22). Paul wrote that those who turn from God eventually become “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless,” which explains the behavior of many today as we read about them in newspapers or see them on television (Romans 1:31). Many countries suffer increasingly from wicked and godless leaders and people, from those who have no understanding and whose thinking is useless. Therefore, some search for suggestions they hope will change their situations, but they ignore the only solution that will work. The majority have turned from the solution that is the theme of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul was not ashamed to preach. The good news of Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead has redeemed people, cultures, societies, and nations, because the good news of Jesus Christ is: “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
1. Give Paul’s reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you adopt that same reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
2. How did Paul prove people need the gospel?
3. Toward whom does God express His wrath?
4. What might some of the consequences be in a culture or country where almost all of the leaders are godless and wicked?
5. What might you say to someone who said, “To sin is natural”?
You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you (James 5:6—NRSV).
We must never take a few verses of the Bible out of context from the whole Bible. If we had nothing more than a few verses of warnings from the Bible, truths that God designed to be save the ungodly, we might mistakenly condemn anyone who is rich and tell them God will someday bring miseries upon them and destroy all their rich possessions. Thankfully, we have the whole Bible and know that it is not being rich that is the problem; instead, it is what or who we love and how we use our gifts from God that make the difference. Some rich people have chosen to love and seek luxury, privilege, power, pleasure, and wealth. But those who love money will serve money, and as Jesus said they will hate God. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Those who loved money and power arranged the murder of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. Some rich people still murder the righteous ones who cannot or do not resist them. As followers of Jesus, we need to pray that He will restrain us from loving, seeking, and serving money and draw us into a closer and more loving relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We need to teach truths from the Bible that will help others and us love God, stand firm in our faith in God, and enable us to warn those who love wealth and the things of this world so they too might turn to God, repent of their sins, cease to cheat or exploit others, place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and begin to faithfully follow God. The warnings in the Bible express God’s love for sinners and God’s efforts to save us from slavery to sin, keep us free from slavery, and give us eternal life.
1. Is it wrong to be rich? Give a reason for your answer.
2. What can bring contentment to rich and poor (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8)?
3. How can a Christian rightly prepare for retirement or “the last days”?
4. What did James promise those who have been cheated?
5. In the New Testament, how was “the righteous one” condemned and murdered by the rich and powerful? Today, to increase their riches, do some still condemn and murder those who do not resist them?
But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
James tells us why everyone needs more grace. Even as believers in Christ, we sometimes still have cravings and passions within us that rob us of our peace by making war within us. The war within us then spills out and harms others, even those we love. Some crave something so badly that if they cannot have it, they engage in disputes and conflicts. Sadly, James recognized that some, even in the church, could let their ruling passions lead them to commit murder (or at least lie about someone to assassinate their character). When some pray, James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). Hence, we need more grace and power to overcome our temptations to pray wrongly and do wrongly. We need more grace to give us peace within, peace with God, and peace with others. When we feel cravings and conflicts within us striving for mastery over us, our praying the Serenity Prayer can open the door to our receiving more grace from God: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” In addition to praying the Serenity Prayer, we need to humble ourselves to receive the grace we need. James wrote that recognizing our wrongs should move us to mourn, weep, and seek grace to help us make the changes we need to make. When we draw near to God, God will draw near to us, and He will lift us up and help us purify our hearts.
Read James 4:1-10 or Go to the James 4:1-10 Commentary and Lesson
1. What is one cause of troubles in the church?
2. Why can coveting lead to fighting and quarrelling?
3. Why doesn’t God give us everything we ask?
4. What does a friend of the world make himself?
5. What does James tell sinners inside and outside the church to do?
“‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”’ (Mark 14:27).
Jesus came into the world as the Messiah and He took on the role of the Good Shepherd. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). On His way to lay down His life on the cross, Jesus told His disciples that according to the Scriptures the shepherd would be struck down and the sheep would be scattered. He would die and they would fall away and disown Him. They all denied that they would disown Him, and especially Peter who declared that all the others might disown Jesus, but he never would. No matter how much Peter protested, the Scriptures would be fulfilled, and Jesus foretold Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice, and it was so, exactly as Jesus told Peter. Jesus also told His disciples that after He rose from the dead that He would go before them into Galilee. However, they were so unbelieving they remained huddled in fear in Jerusalem until Jesus appeared to them and proved that He had risen from the dead. Later, exactly as Jesus foretold, He met them in Galilee by the Sea of Tiberius (also called the Sea of Galilee: see John 21); thus proving in another way that He who was crucified and buried had risen from the dead. Here, Jesus said three times to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” The sheep who fled when the Shepherd was struck became shepherds themselves, and flocks of Jesus’ sheep have spread around the world under the guidance of faithful shepherds.
“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
The Bible does not reveal many of Mary’s thoughts after the angel told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Because God had shown her favor as the mother of the one and only Son of God, she might have expected that her life would become easier; however, many events made her life more difficult, especially as the time of Jesus’ birth drew near. Instead of relaxing at home and preparing for Jesus’ miraculous birth, an emperor decreed that she had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Instead of God leading her to a comfortable palace where He could give His Son the best of everything, Joseph found no place for them in an inn. Instead of a bed of luxury fit for the mother of a newborn king, Mary had to rest on a bed of hay. The nearest thing available for Jesus’ bed was a manger in a stable. Instead of rejoicing with their family at Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary probably celebrated alone in the company of curious animals. Reality may have contradicted all of Mary’s expectations, and she may have wondered with Joseph, “What has gone wrong!” Unexpectedly, God reassured them with the arrival of some shepherds. They told Jesus’ parents what the angel of the Lord had told them about their child, “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Those who commit themselves to serving God sometimes find their life more difficult, but God always finds ways to reassure them with His peace, power, and presence.
- Why do you think God used the decree of Emperor Augustus so Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem instead of just sending the angel Gabriel to tell them what to do?
- What might Mary have expected when she went to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus? Do you think she left Nazareth expecting the King of kings to be born in a stable? Give a reason for your answers.
- If Mary had concerns or questions about the humble location of Jesus’ birth and what that might mean, how do you think God helped her answer her questions?
- What three titles did the angel give Jesus? What do these three titles mean to you?
- What kind of peace does Jesus give to those who trust in Him?