Key verse: Romans 15:6
Discussion idea: How does seeing a self-centered attitude as robbing God of praise give it new significance?
Key verse: Romans 15:6
Key verse: Romans 14
Key verse: Romans 12:16
Key verse: Romans 11:15
Big idea: All nations are brought into God’s family by the gospel.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an angel on the day Adam fell? God had carefully formed the world and created a being in His own image to rule over it on His behalf. You sang in sweet harmony with His declaration that it was very good. God carefully planted a garden for the image bearer and gave him a perfect wife. Yet it was not enough. Adam and Eve wanted to be as gods themselves and so they rejected God's law for their own. If angels weep, they must have shed many tears over this beautiful scene wrecked by sin. Their songs still praised the holiness and the majesty of God, but what would happen to this creature and the creation he inhabited?
To an angel's mind, the consequences must have been obvious. Humanity's relationship with God would be shattered, and their relationship with each other would be broken as well. A generation later, one of their children is dead and the other is a murderer. Tragic, but not shocking. There are no limits to how far those without God will go, as Satan and his angels had already proven to you. What is God going to do with this mess?
Someone once told me that when you have a field of cotton to pick, you start with the spot next to you and go from there. In the same way, God took Seth (Adam and Eve's third son) and chose his line to redeem the world. It carried down from Seth to Noah, from Noah to Shem, from Shem to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and his 12 sons became a nation. They were called to be priests to God to lead the world to Him. That family was like a plant, carrying life out to its branches. But many of them had the right parents but did not really know God. The looked like part of the vine, but they did not get its life.
But there were always some who had real life (like Paul) and so a faithful remnant carried the line forward. Finally, the one son of Abraham who was truly faithful came: Jesus, the root and the offspring of David. "I am the vine," He said, "you are the branches. Without me you can do nothing." Some of the natural branches were hardened, even to the point of crucifying their Messiah, but doing so provided the path to life. Through Jesus, those without a family link to Abraham (Gentiles) are grafted in and become part of Abraham’s family. Paul says that the conversion of the Gentiles provokes some of the Jews to jealousy and brings them to faith. Everyone has been under wrath, so everyone can receive mercy (Romans 11:32).
When all of the Gentiles who will be saved have been saved (grafted in), He will prune the olive tree of Israel until only true branches remain. If their rejection of Jesus gave the Gentiles acceptance, what could their acceptance mean but resurrection? So the faithful dead of all the ages will be raised, from Abel onward, and will stand together as one family
Discussion idea: How does God’s faithfulness to Israel reassure you of His faithfulness toward you?
Prayer focus: Pray that God will help you notice an opportunity to share the gospel which you might overlook because of a human barrier.
Key verse: Romans 10:11
Key verse: Romans 9:6
Key verse: Romans 8:18
Note: Make sure to notice that today’s reading goes through 8:11. I have respected chapter boundaries so far, but I am making an exception.
Key verse: Romans 8:3
My daughter is terrified of having a splinter removed. I am not sure where she got the idea that it involves amputating her arm, but there is no removing it without lots of tears (sometimes she cries, too). The easiest thing for me to do would be to give her some Tylenol and keep it from hurting. No more pain, no more problem! Except the splinter would stay inside, an infection would fester, and a minor problem could become a significant one.
Like an intervention with an addict, sometimes the best approach to a problem is to make it clear. Muddling it and numbing the pain seems kind in the short term, but it is ultimately cruel. God never chooses the easy path over the loving one, and so we should not be surprised that He does not deaden the infection, but intensifies it until we are willing to have it removed.
God did not give people the Law to get them to Heaven; no amount of good work could ever cancel out our guilt. He knew that we could never keep the Law because of the weakness of our bodies (Romans 8:3). All the Law could ever do is expose our guilt by accentuating it. When Paul was a child, he did not know not to covet, but when God commanded him not to do so, the sin in his heart rose to rebel against God’s Word, and his rebellion bore the fruit of death. Is this a failure of the Law? Not at all. The sinfulness of Paul’s heart appeared more clearly when it corrupted even a righteous commandment. It brought Paul to the point of crisis where his behavior and his values contradicted one another (Romans 7:22-23). The Law showed his frailty as it shows ours. When we realize how weak we are, we recognize that our only hope is the gospel.
There is no way that we could ever work our way to God’s level. The only way out is a radical one: like the boundaries of marriage are nullified by death, the domain of the Law ends when we die. It would be an unsatisfying escape hatch (out of the frying pan and into the fire) if we have to pass into death alone, but Jesus offers a better way. We are joined to His death by faith in Him. All the wrath of God against sin is spent on Him already; we do not just go into death but through it. We have died in the old world of Adam with Christ, and are born into a new life in the realm of the Spirit. There is no condemnation in this Kingdom we have entered by faith, only life with the Spirit that gives life (Romans 8:1). The Law has not failed; it has fulfilled its purpose by teaching us to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:4).
Discussion idea: How does a life of obedience in the Spirit look different than someone who is just concerned with following a list of rules? Does trying to obey God in our own strength put the sin of pride into everything we do?
Prayer focus: Pray for help being sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit in what to do and open to the strength of the Spirit to accomplish it.
Key verse: Romans 5:21
Big idea: One man sinned and brought death to all, but the gospel shows us how one man died and brought life to all.
When I make a bad decision, it does not only affect me. My wife and children, because they are my family, suffer for my actions. But as a pastor, the consequences of my mistakes can go even farther. I can harm the members of AMBC and everyone over whom we have influence. Imagine if I were the President of the United States. An error in judgment or character might cost servicemen and servicewomen their lives and launch a war which I would then be powerless to stop. The people who suffered would not be morally responsible for my sin, but they would nevertheless be affected. The first man, Adam, sinned, and because God had given him dominion over the whole world, the entire world suffered the consequences. Everything and everyone fell into the shadow of death with a nature bent toward sin.
Younger kids: The theology we are looking at today is complicated. The big take-away for young kids is that we are all sinners in our hearts and that sin leads to death, but that Jesus died for us so that He could give us new hearts that lead to life. Adam’s life brought death, but Jesus’ death brings life.
The state that Paul described in Romans 1-3 is endemic to our world: we are all sinners by our very nature. Who taught you to lie? Who taught you not to share? Who taught you to lose your temper and fight to get your way? This rot is deep into our hearts. Adam declared a rebellion, and his whole domain is embroiled in it. Worse still, when we are old enough to choose, we all enlisted with the rebellion. No one sins as a toddler and becomes perfect when they learn better. No, death came by one man, but it passed to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). We were God’s enemies, outcasts by birth and traitors by choice.
How did God respond to us? While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Adam’s life brought death to his whole kingdom, but Christ makes us a better offer: when we accept His reign by faith, He transfers us to a new realm, where His death brings life. God’s solution is to make a new creation, inhabited by new people, whose hearts have been made new. We are not made new by works (which are part of this creation and unable to rise above it) but by God’s work in creating a new one. The death of Jesus took the old rulers in the old creation to their ultimate conclusion and overcame them, to replace them with new and better masters. Sin was powerful, but grace’s reign goes farther and deeper (Romans 5:20). As indeed the domain of Adam was led into death, the realm of Christ the King leads to eternal life and righteousness. That is the path Abraham took in chapter 4, and it is the only path that leads to life.
Discussion idea: Who had a bigger impact, Christ or Adam? Why?
Prayer focus: Thank God that while we were still sinners, He loved us anyway and gave His life for us. Pray that He would give us the wisdom to see our lives as He does, where we have one foot in this world and one in eternity, so we might live like it.
Key verse: Romans 3:23
Big idea: The gospel is the universal solution to the universal problem of sin.
Suppose I ate a bacon cheese Whataburger, with a large order of fries and a chocolate malt (any similarity to actual events is purely coincidental). I took in a lot of bad things: saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt. Maybe later that day, I started to feel guilty about it. How many salads with low-fat dressing would I need to eat to cancel that out? Or maybe I had a bottle of water, with a little poison in it. How much tea do I need to add to the poisoned water before the good tea cancels out the bad poison? Silly questions. Good things do not cancel out bad things, and what is true in the physical world is even more critical in the moral. No amount of time in a soup kitchen can ever excuse a murder. Good deeds can never remove the burden of sin.
Romans 1 and 2 have laid out the case against humanity. Whether we have violated our conscience and the testimony of nature like the Gentiles or violated God's revealed Law through hypocrisy like the Jews, we all have the same problem: sin. The Bible denies the claim that people are basically good. Instead, God tells us that we are all God's good creations, but have been warped and disfigured by the Fall. Our actions and our desires alike have been bent to the wrong ends. We all stand accountable to God, and we all fall short. There is no room for pride because every human being is in the same position. Our behavior can never solve the problem, and the more we try, the worse it gets.
This bad news can only be counteracted by the very good news that God has done the work for us. God's Law pointed toward real righteousness, but it could never get us there because of our own weakness. Instead, God has given us righteousness apart from the Law by giving us righteousness as a gift. Our sin earns us death, but He died in our place. No matter who we are, no matter what we have done, there is one problem and one cure—Grace through faith.
Discussion idea: How can God, who is a perfect, holy Judge, forgive us without sacrificing justice?
Prayer focus: Thank God that when we could never get to Him, He came down to us.
Key verse: Romans 2:23
Key Verse: Romans 1:16Big idea: The gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes.
Today's post is a special guest one from Brother Chris Meek.