1. To relate every word of Paul’s letter to the Romans to the Gospel.
2. To foster a deeper understanding of the supremacy and holiness of Christ.
3. To foster a deep(er) love for Christ through the realization that our worth is found in Him alone.
4. To instill a (more) solid Biblical world view that can be applied to every aspect of life.
5. To know nothing but Christ through His Word.
When reading at home, consider the following questions:
1. What does this say about God?
2. What does this say about Man?
3. What encouragement do we find in this passage?
4. What, if any, warning or admonishment do we find in this passage?
5. What should our response be?
Week 1: Who Was Paul Anyway?
Romans is an amazing book. It challenges the heart and the mind, as it is filled with incredibly deep theology and doctrine. Yet its premise is basic: salvation through grace alone! It is written with authority and an extraordinary understanding of Christ and His redemptive work through grace. John Piper, highly respected current day pastor and teacher, said that if he were allowed only one book to share with people that summed up God’s Gospel message of redemption and grace, it would be Romans. So before we begin our study of this remarkable book, let’s take the time to examine the qualifications of its author, Paul. Paul was arguably the greatest apostle in the Kingdom of God. What was it that gave him this credible reputation? How could he speak with such authority and boldness? Why was his ministry so effective? How could one man, self-described as the “worst of sinners,” be principally responsible for the early spread of the Gospel throughout the known world? We begin in the book of Acts.
1. Stephen was an apostle who was bold and is famous for his articulate, God inspired speech before the governing body of the Jews, the Sanhedrin. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, killed for His righteously steadfast belief in Christ. This was a threat to the authorities, so they stoned him viciously. Read Acts 7:54-8:1 (I would encourage you to read all of Acts 7 on your own-Stephen’s speech is powerful, and it gives an account of God’s loving kindness toward Stephen as he was being killed). Pay close attention to verses 7:58 and 8:1. Who does Scripture say was a witness to this horrific execution and what was his role?
2. Read Philippians 3:4-6. Paul lists reasons why he could justify having “confidence in the flesh.” In other words, he was pointing out why he was uniquely qualified (before his conversion) to persecute Christ’s church on behalf of the Jews. Write in your own words the significance of these credentials, and why you think Paul found it necessary to share them with his listeners.
3. Read Acts 9:1-31. Read this carefully and from Paul’s (Saul’s) point of view. Imagine the confusion and fear. Discuss your thoughts about how you think Paul felt about his being chosen by Christ Himself, the very leader of the movement he was trying to snuff out!
Week 2: Game Changer
In order to understand the significance of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, it is important to understand the significance of being a Jew. We need to go all the way back to Genesis to establish the foundation. God had created the earth, and created human beings. He was pleased with His creation until His favorite creatures disobeyed Him. Sin came into the world, and God, being Holy and insisting on righteousness, demonstrated His wrath on his beloved creatures by banishing them from His presence and provision. Adam and Eve fell and took everything down with them. From then on, mankind has walked in depravity and filth, and in enmity with God. Horrible.
God, in His long suffering, demonstrated his love again and again by reaching out to bring people to Himself. But man is a stubborn, short sighted creature. So God wiped out His creation, save a few righteous remnants (Noah and company). Noah’s clan started over, and although some followed God, most went astray again.
God then chose a select group of people and made a covenant with them. This covenant was given to Abraham in Genesis 17, and remained until the coming of Christ. This select group was the Israelites, also known as the Jews or the Hebrews. The sign of the covenant, for whatever reason, was circumcision. God truly does work in mysterious ways. Circumcision was an outward sign of an inward commitment, and preceded the giving of the law to Moses.
From Genesis 17 until Christ's resurrection, the Jews were under a covenant of works. In other words, they had to find favor from God by demonstrating they were worthy first through circumcision, then by a complex system of impossible rules and regulations. Since the rules revealed man's sin, sacrifices (according to rules) had to be made regularly to atone for the many, many sins (intentional and unintentional) of the people. Leviticus is a fascinating account of the complex law given to Moses and kept by the Jews for thousands of years. In fact, it is nearly impossible to understand the depth and significance of Christ’s atoning work on the cross without an understanding of Leviticus. One thing is for certain, though this system is mysterious to us, the bottom line is that God is Holy and we are not. We cannot enter the presence of such Holiness. We would perish instantly on our own in the presence of such a Holy God. This is why Christ came. He made a way for us, His most treasured creation, to be in His presence with Him forever, thus upholding His standard without compromising any of His holiness. And we only have to accept it. “Grace, grace, God’s grace; grace that is greater than all our sin!”
All this to say, that the Jews had the Law and the Prophets. They were God’s chosen, and as such, held themselves in higher regard than the rest of the world (the Gentiles). Even associating with Gentiles was forbidden in many instances, so the fact that Paul, “Hebrew of Hebrews” would target the Gentiles for ministry was scandalous-and dangerous, as he and His brothers in the faith would find. Reading Romans from this perspective helps with some of the language and concepts (i.e. “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”). This new way changed the world, and rocked the worlds of many!
1. In Romans 1:1, Paul says that he was “set apart for the gospel…promised beforehand through (God’s) prophets.” It is important to realize that the entire Bible, from beginning to end, is about Christ. It is written by (inspired by) Christ and points to Him. Read Romans 1:1-4. Let’s explore some of those prophecies, allowing the Truth to sink in as we realize that everything that happened in regard to Christ was foretold thousands of years before His birth. Read the following scriptures and write what the prophet said about Christ (these are just a few of many):
a. Psalm 132:11
b. Isaiah 9:7
c. 2 Samuel 7:12-14
d. Isaiah 53:11
e. Psalm 16:10
f. John 5:46 (even Jesus acknowledges the validity of the prophets!):
2. Read Romans 1:5-6, 16-17, and John 6:44 and 65. What precedes obedience to Christ, and who initiates our desire to belong to Him?
3. Read Romans 1:20 and John 1:3. Why are humans who don’t believe in God “without excuse?”
4. Read Romans 2:1-4. Then read 1 Corinthians 2:9-16. What do these verses say about judging others? Is there a contradiction in these verses?
Week 3: A Beautiful Mystery
So, why would a God, who says He is Love, create creatures for Himself who He knew full well would turn from-and on-Him? And why, if He knew that, would he unleash His terrible wrath on those creatures, as if they were to blame? God says He is just, but this doesn’t seem just at all! Paul, in Romans 3:5, calls this a “human argument.” He confirms in verse seven, that some argued, “…why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Left to our own dim witted understanding, this plan of God’s seems cruel. It is only by the Holy Spirit, left to us by grace as Counsel, that we can have light shed on this beautiful mystery of His. When man turned from God, man became lawless. He had no mechanism to see, let alone comprehend, his filth before the Holy God who created him. So there was no guilt, and no sense of “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) So God chose a specific people group (Israel), and gave them the Law. The law was never intended to bring salvation. It was given specifically to make us conscious of sin, so that we would see our unrighteousness in light of God’s holiness. This in preparation for the coming of Christ, because without the knowledge and awareness of our sin, we would never see a need for a Savior, thus making Christ’s sacrifice void of meaning. When this beautiful mystery unfolded, Christ became a “righteousness… apart from the law” (3:21), because the law was fulfilled through and in Him. Then we, through grace alone and by faith, became righteous and blameless, as if man had never fallen. Beautiful. Mystery.
1. Romans 3:25 says, “God presented (Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (italics mine). Before we get into that, it’s important to understand the meaning of atonement. To atone is to agree, or be in accordance. This is the first part. Secondly, it is to “stand as an equivalent; to make reparation, amends or satisfaction for an offense or a crime, by which reconciliation is procured between the offended and the offending parties.” And, to “expiate or appease.” Expiate is to perform some “act by which (the offended party’s) wrath is appeased, and his forgiveness is secured.” Good old Noah Webster! We are guilty by virtue of being human. God, in His holiness, must unleash His righteous wrath on sinners because He cannot abide sin. The Law, given by God to elucidate sin, says that an atoning sacrifice must be made to appease God’s wrath and bring us into accord with Him once more. So what does that look like? In a word, bloody. God requires blood for the atonement of sins. In Leviticus 14, God instructs Aaron on exactly how to offer sacrifices for his sin and for the sin of Israel. It involves bulls and goats and lots of blood. Read Leviticus 16:6-10 and 14-34. Pay attention to the incredible (and peculiar) detail in which God instructs Aaron. Now read Isaiah 53:6, Revelation 5:12, and 1 Corinthians 5:7. Leviticus explains God’s requirements for the Israelites to have fellowship with Him. Christ fulfills those requirements once for all through His bloody death on the cross. So is Christ the lamb in Leviticus that was slain for a sin offering to the Lord, or is He the scapegoat released into the desert? Explain your answer.
2. Read John 6:53-56. Then swing back to Leviticus 17:10-12. Why would Jesus tell His followers to drink His blood if He knew that eating blood was forbidden in His own Law? Imagine what that sounded like to His Jewish hearers? What is the true meaning of “eat my flesh and drink my blood?” (Use John 6:35 as your hint.)
3. Here is the sticking point for many people when it comes to following Christ. If this is the only thing you take away from this study this summer, I will feel satisfied: This atonement we are reading about is given freely and is not earned in any way. Let that sink and settle in your heart and your brain. In Romans 4:2-5, God says, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. What does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (italics mine). Our only role in compelling God to look on us as blameless is to accept the gift! That’s it. When Christ asks us to drink His blood and eat His flesh, He is asking us to accept His gift. He has already paid for it. We only have to believe and accept it. Beautiful! Now, on the surface, working for the Lord in order to receive obligatory payment sounds noble. But how much would we have to work to satisfy a holy, perfect God!? Some of us (present company excluded) are good, but not that good! God knew this all along. So He built into His plan a way for us to be with Him and not die. Read each of the following scriptures, paraphrase them, and discuss how this confirms that salvation is a free gift through faith in Christ, and nothing we can earn on our own.