Lesson 1

In the Loom of Heaven

(Isaiah 64, Romans 3, Matthew 22)
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Introduction: If all of your life you have acted wisely by generally obeying your parents and God, you are at a distinct disadvantage in one important area: righteousness by faith. There is nothing like tumbling into a terrible sin to teach the important lesson that we have nothing of ourselves that will save us. We may be better than most of those we know, but we are absolutely lost unless we depend completely on Jesus' life, death and resurrection on our behalf. With this lesson we begin a new series that focuses on the symbolism in the Bible that teaches us of our need for a Savior. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and consider what Jesus' robe of righteousness means!

  1. Unworthy of Our God


    1. Read Isaiah 64:1-2. The Bible says that God is like fire and we are like twigs and water. What does fire do to twigs and water? (It changes their form. It moves their molecules! It destroys them.)


      1. Are we God's enemies? Or, is Isaiah writing about someone else?


    2. Read Isaiah 64:4-5. How is our God unlike other gods? (He helps us. Other gods want humans to help them. In this, our God is most unique.)


      1. What caused the rift between us and our helpful God? (God wanted to have a partnership with us in which we would "gladly do right." But, we failed in that task. We sinned against God's ways and we continue to sin. )


    3. Read Isaiah 64:6. How bad are we? (Our best acts, our "righteous acts" are (I am not making this up, this is what the Hebrew means) like a used Tampax pad - a cloth that has been used to absorb a woman's menstruation.)


      1. When I went to my twenty-year high school reunion, my thinking was a lot clearer about relationships. Now I knew that everyone in high school had feelings of inferiority - while thinking that everyone else (or, at most others) felt confident. We all had the wrong attitude in high school - an attitude that made life more difficult! What kind of attitude should we have about our righteousness being "like filthy rags?" (I struggle with sin and am disgusted with my weakness. It is a great relief to know that this is the norm, even among those who desire to do righteous acts.)


    4. Read Isaiah 64:9. What was the Old Testament hope? (We are God's people. We hope that He will not be too angry, we look to Him for rescue from our sins.)


    5. Read Psalms 14:2-3. How many people does God see who are righteous when He looks down from heaven? (None - at least among the men!)


    6. Read Psalms 14:7. What does this text say is the hope of corrupt humans? (This text gives us more detail about the rescue: our hope is that God will restore our salvation.)


  2. The Restoration


    1. Read Romans 3:9-12. Have we read this somewhere before? (Yes! Paul is quoting language from Psalms 14 - the one we just read.)


    2. Read Romans 3:19-20. What are our odds of becoming righteous by obeying God's law? (Zero!)


      1. What then is the purpose of the law? (Simply to make us conscious of our sins.)


    3. Read Romans 3:21. What is the only source of our righteousness? (God.)


      1. Has the law anything to do with our righteousness?


        1. If so, what is its role? (Our righteousness is "apart from law." However, the law "testifies" to the fact that our only source of righteousness is God.)


          1. How is that true? (Be honest. How is your obedience to the law going? The fact that you are struggling to obey is the law's testimony that righteousness comes only from God.)


      2. How do the prophets testify that righteousness comes only from God? (Consider your Old Testament heroes. How many of them committed sins that you thought you were smart enough to avoid?)


    4. Read Romans 3:22-26. How to we acquire this righteousness from God? How do we participate in God's rescue for corrupt humans? (By faith in Jesus.)


      1. How did Jesus make this righteousness available to us? ("God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement." This brings to mind the Old Testament sanctuary service in which the blood (death) of an animal was presented for the sins of the human. The theory was that the human did not have to die because the animal died in the human's place.)


        1. Under the Old Testament system, did the human earn forgiveness of sin? (This is an important point: at no time in the Bible was sin ever taken away by righteous works. Never. The basic concept of the system has not changed. We now have a heavenly sanctuary and Jesus as our sacrifice. See Hebrews 9:11-14.)


      2. Notice that Romans 3:22 says "there is no difference." What kind of differences is it talking about? (Differences in our righteousness. The level of our supposed obedience makes no difference. We are all lost without the grace of God. We are all lost if we do not accept the righteous substitute of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.)


  3. The Robe


    1. Read Matthew 22:1-7. What should happen to us based on our sins? (If we reject God, the penalty is serious.)


      1. This is a parable. What do you think is symbolized by "a wedding banquet for his son?" (Adam Clarke's Commentary answers, "the economy of the Gospel, during which men are invited to partake of the blessings purchased by ... the incarnation and death of our blessed Lord.")


    2. Read Matthew 22:8-10. Notice that the prior servants did not "deserve to come." Did this new group "deserve to come?"


      1. If this is the "economy of the Gospel," what does this teach us about who deserves to come to salvation? (Those who do not care and who are hostile do not deserve to come. Those who accept the invitation, even if they are "bad," deserve to come!)


    3. Read Matthew 22:11-12. These people came straight off the streets. How could they have wedding clothes? (Adam Clarke's Commentary explains that the person who invited the guests prepared a garment for them. "To afford accidental guests clothing suitable to a marriage feast, was a custom among the ancient Greeks.)


      1. Why was the man without a wedding robe speechless? (That is how we are when we have no reasonable excuse. This is further proof that the king provided the robes. Otherwise, the man's first answer would be "I was shopping at Walmart and was told I must come right away!")


    4. Read Matthew 22:13-14. How can the king say "few are chosen?" Who did the choosing? (The king chose to toss the man out of the wedding.)


      1. What was and was not the basis for the king's choice? (He did not choose based on who was his friend - those who were first invited. He did not choose based on whether the guest was good or bad. He based his choice only on who was wearing the wedding garment.)


        1. Does this mean that bad people are saved?


        2. What does the symbolism of the wedding robe say about the character of those who are saved? (Whatever these guests wore to the wedding (which was certainly not wedding cloths because they were all shopping at Walmart), their own clothes were covered up by the wedding garment. Our defective character is covered by the perfect robe of Jesus' righteousness!)


    5. We started with Isaiah. Let's go back and read Isaiah 61:10. Is righteousness by faith (by robe) a New Testament concept only? (No.)


      1. What, exactly, is the nature of the robe given to us by God? (The covering of salvation and righteousness!)


    6. Friend, will you put on the robe of righteousness that our King Jesus offers to us? Or, will you be speechless because you think that your own clothes are good enough?


  4. Next week: From Exalted to Cast Down.

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