Lesson 1

The Lord Our Righteousness

(Romans 5&6, James 2)
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Introduction: This quarter we turn our attention to the topic "Pillars of our Faith." These studies should make for interesting discussions. What one person considers a "pillar" may be viewed by another as a non-essential fence. As usual, we will take a careful look at what the Bible says on each subject. This week we turn our attention to Jesus, which, as the lesson notes, is "the foundation of the pillars." Let's dive in!

  1. Peace With God


    1. Read Romans 5:1-2. How many of you would like peace in your life? What kind of peace do you want?


      1. Paul says that faith gives us peace. What kind of peace is he talking about? (Verse 1 says "peace with God.")


      2. Did you declare war on God? I never did. I'm not that stupid! What is Paul talking about when he says "peace with God?" (Read Colossians 1:21-22. We did declare war on God by our evil behavior.)


      3. If faith gives us peace with God, how do we get faith? ( Romans 5:1-2 says that Jesus is the key "through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace." Faith in Jesus is the key that unlocks God's grace.)


    2. Let's look further into how this happened. Read Romans 5:6-8. What was our condition when Jesus died for us? Were we good? Do only good people have access to this key of grace? (Verse 8 tells us that Jesus died for "sinners," and v.6 tells us He died for the "ungodly.")


      1. How much power can we have through our determination to do what is right? (Verse 6 tells us we are "powerless" without Jesus.)


      2. Think about two people you know who used to be friends, but now dislike each other. When you speak to them about a Christian's obligation to forgive, do they respond, "I'll forgive the other person when they apologize?"


        1. Did Jesus wait for us to take the first step? (This chapter clearly has God taking the initiative. Verse 8 says "while we were yet sinners" Jesus made the first step towards reconciliation.)


      3. God is our judge. How is He different from a human judge? (A human judge might not even know us. He is just doing a job. Verse 8 tells us that God loves us. Instead of just sitting there to judge, He waded into the problem by dying for us to give us the opportunity to be acquitted of our sins.)


      4. How do we personally apply this example to others in our day to day dealings? Do we just judge those that are sinners? Or, do we dive into the sin problem to help them realize that reconciliation with God is possible?


    3. Read Romans 5:9-10. We spoke about peace before. Is Paul talking about a peaceful feeling? Is this a subjective feeling of calm? (Cranfield's commentary on Romans says this is an "objective state of being at peace [with God] instead of being at enmity." Although he notes feelings of peace may result, the real issue is that we are no longer at war with God. We are His friends because He loves us and His Son (Jesus) has reconciled us to Him. Praise Jesus!)


  2. Our Response to the Offer of Peace


    1. Read Romans 6:1-4. What should be our response to God's gift of grace and reconciliation?


      1. Verse 2 refers to living in sin. What do you think that means? (The pattern, the habitual direction of your life is sinful.)


      2. Do we get the gift of grace before or after we decide not to live in sin? (These verses clearly indicate that we were given the gift before we stopped living in sin.)

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      1. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. Can we earn God's grace? (No. This text tells us that grace does not come from us and it cannot be earned by us. It is a gift from God.)


        1. Is everyone saved then? Is there nothing that we need to do? (No. Look at Romans 6:3&4 again. Both verses refer to baptism. By that I conclude that we must make a decision to accept God's grace. When we (v.2) die to sin (as a result of a decision on our part), we no longer are to live in it.)


    1. Do our works play any role in our salvation? Read Romans 1:17. (This text says that righteousness is by faith "from first to last.")


    2. Read James 2:14. What is your answer to James' question? What would Paul's answer be?


      1. Let's find out more by reading on: read James 2:15-17. James says (v.17) "faith ... not accompanied by action, is dead." Does he mean that kind of faith (without works) is ineffective? Or, does he mean it does not exist?


        1. If your answer is "faith does not exist," does James contradict Paul in the texts we just studied? ( Romans 1:17 and Ephesians 2:8-9)


      1. Read James 2:18-19. Will demons be saved? (No.) Do the demons referred to here have "deeds" that support their faith in God? (They shudder! Their faith is so strong they have a physical reaction!)


        1. Why isn't the faith of the demons good enough? (What James is doing is defining faith. Faith is NOT simply believing that God exists. This gets back to my old theme of "righteousness by attitude." Try defining faith with the word "attitude." Attitude means you not only are aware of something, but it changes your approach to life. The demons' faith that God exists does not cause them to adopt the proper approach to God's will. They do not have a "what can I do to serve God" attitude. They have a negative attitude towards God.)


    1. Let's read on: James 2:20-22. Consider the breath of what James is saying. Was Abraham required to sacrifice his son in order to demonstrate his faith? Do you have that kind of faith? (I'm not going to speculate on what would have happened if Abraham had not been willing to sacrifice Isaac. James' point seems to be that this is the pinnacle of faith. If you have such faith (attitude) that you are willing to put God before the life of your own son (who was Abraham's future), then you no doubt have faith.)


    2. Read James 2:24 and Romans 3:28. Isn't James getting carried away? Are not these two texts flatly contradictory when it comes to faith and justification? Can you explain how these two texts can both be true? (Elwell's Evangelical Commentary on the B|ible give us the "way out" of this contradiction. He says that when Paul uses the word "justify," he is speaking of God's initial acceptance of us sinners. We are made right with God because of our faith. James, on the other hand, uses "justify" as the "ultimate verdict of acquittal rendered over our lives." Thus, Paul teaches us that we are initially declared righteous through faith, but James warns us that our ultimate acquittal depends on the evidence of true faith. So when James speaks of "faith alone" in verse 24, he is not speaking of the faith that Paul describes. He is speaking of merely believing God exists without the attitude that true faith brings.)


      1. Can you change your attitude? (This is why Paul is right when he says in Romans 1:17 that righteousness is by faith from first to last. Only God can change our hearts - our attitudes!)


    3. Friend, if you simply believe that God exists and you still walk in sin, will you ask God to give you true faith - that life-transforming attitude of wanting to do God's will in all things. Claiming Jesus' Righteousness and His transforming power as the foundation of our life is truly a "pillar" of the Christian life.


  1. Next week: The Sabbath

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