Sabbath School Lesson for November 11-17, 2017
After fiercely speaking against works being needed for our justification, Paul begins to address works from another angle, as he begins chapter 6 in his epistle to the Romans. What about how we live after we are justified? Do works matter then? He introduces this shift with an almost humorous thought: If grace is so wonderful, maybe we should keep on sinning, so grace will keep filling us.
But, no, Paul answers for us soberly. He then begins a description of life after justification. It also involves grace, but goes beyond forgiveness of our sin, and actually helps us overcome it. This experience we’ve come to call sanctification, or making us holy, and follows the experience of justification, which counts us as holy.
The same God who promises to forgive our sin has promised to give us victory over that sin, as we continue to grow in our relationship with Him. Not only is grace involved (God’s part in the transaction), but our faith is still a major factor in allowing this process of sanctification to progress. We must choose through faith to let grace work in our lives, knowing that although sin will always be a problem as long as this old earth lasts, it need not be the dominating force it once was.
Memory Verse: “Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14 KJV
Does this mean that sin will never plague us (since it doesn’t have dominion any more)? Does this mean the law is done away with (since we “are not under the law”)? These are probably the two main ways people have misunderstood Paul’s words here.
What it actually does is describe what true sanctification means for the Christian. Not being under the condemnation of the law (or even under its strict, legalistic tutelage, if that’s your background), we discover that grace has the ability to dethrone Satan, replacing him with God as the ruling force in our lives.
Sunday: Where Sin Abounded
Paul takes us from a place where sin abounded (our pre-baptismal state) and looks at what baptism accomplishes for us. Baptism symbolizes the process of salvation in ways those who live after Christ’s death and resurrection can fully appreciate.
Just as Christ’s death is represented by being “buried” under the baptismal waters, we must not forget that Jesus’ story doesn’t end there and neither does ours. Just as Christ woke up to a new life, we can also experience a “newness of life” after we’ve been forgiven and justified.
The next part of our salvation, the sanctification part, requires as much grace and faith as did our justification. Both steps of the process are hard to separate, because sin is still so much a part of our nature. We must daily ask for our sins to be covered, or justified, and for God to sit on the throne of our heart, so sin will not rule us the next time we are tempted.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 5:20, 21. In what ways does grace outweigh our sin? How is sin seen as a life-and-death matter? Why is the word “reign” used in this context?
Read Romans 6:1, 2, 15. Why did Paul bring up this question twice? How important is it to ask, and what does it tell us about the nature of sin?
Read Romans 6:3-11, Colossians 2:12, 13, and 1 Corinthians 6:14. How are we raised up and made alive after our baptism? What’s the difference in struggling with sin and allowing it to reign in our heart? Who has the power to dethrone sin in our life?
Monday: When Sin Reigns
The Greek word translated “lusts” in Romans 6:12 also means “desires”. We usually think of lusts in a negative sense, things that are bad for us, like harmful drugs or illicit activities. But desires may also include good things, such as a new house or car, for instance. These things, in and of themselves, may not be bad for us; but we can develop such a burning desire to have and keep them, that these desires for us would amount to sin.
The idea of sin reigning in our heart is important to recognize and understand.This is where our faith in God must inform us. We must constantly ask for our will to be replaced by God’s will, in order to fully reflect the life of Jesus.
Ellen White stated it beautifully when she said: “You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure.” Steps to Christ, p. 47
Yes, God’s grace is needed every bit as much during our sanctification, or refining process, as He was when we first came to Him and were forgiven.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 6:11, 12. What does being alive to God have to do with letting Him reign in our life?
Read Psalm 19:12-14. How does this prayer illustrate how to put God on the throne of your heart?
Why is it important for us to have free will to choose God or not? What does it say about God’s love and justice?
Tuesday: Not Under the Law but Under Grace
Taking a look at our memory verse again, are we to understand that not being “under the law” means that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid as a code of conduct? If this moral law were done away with, we would have no way to define sin in our world. Most would agree that being without law would result in lawless behavior, which is far from the righteous behavior God desires of those who’ve come to know Him.
Not being “under the law” must mean something other than not needing to keep the law then. There is too much scriptural evidence telling us that keeping God’s commandments is expected of His followers. Perhaps Paul is referring to when we don’t have the law in our hearts, when it looms over us, ready to pounce on us when we mess up. That mental strain of having the law over us, or being under it, is relieved when the law gets written on our hearts, is embedded in our innermost being, where God intended it to be.
We are encouraged by Paul to be under grace. For only by God’s grace can we be free to live our life without the law being a burden. It’s still the law, but we obey it cheerfully out of love for our Maker. We are not under its crushing condemnation. Our Savior has paid the penalty; we have only to claim it as our own.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 6:12-14. How are verses 12 and 13 important in understanding verse 14? How are sin, the law, and grace seen in this context?
Read Galatians 5:16-18. How do these verses say we are not “under the law”? In what way is “under grace” the same as being “led by the Spirit”?
How was “the law” interpreted by Paul’s Jewish friends in Rome? How had the man-made rules and regulations, that had been added to the law, contributed to it being a burden? Why was a true understanding of grace needed by both Jewish and Gentile converts?
Wednesday: Sin or Obedience?
“Do you not know that to whom you presented yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness? Romans 6:16-18 NKJV
Paul proposes that obedience leads to righteousness (v. 16). Perhaps then, an obedient act has more impact than just providing us with one positive experience. It actually leads us closer to a state of being righteous, or sanctified and holy. Obedience takes on a whole new importance in the life of a believer when viewed this way.
Sin, on the other hand, leads to death. Most of us don’t view our sin as having a lethal result. In and of itself, one sinful mistake may not kill us, but Paul wants us to remember where this awful direction takes us. Each decision to sin certainly increases our chances for a final, total destruction, if God isn’t asked to intervene.
Two more insightful thoughts are to be noted here.
- obedience is from the heart
- obedience stems from doctrine (or teachings) that we have been given in God’s word
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 6:16, John 8:34, and 2 Peter 2:19. How do Peter and Jesus support Paul’s claim that sin makes us a slave? In what ways are we enslaved by it? And why is it hard for others not to be affected by our sin?
Read Romans 6:17, 2 Timothy 1:13, and Titus 1:9. What particular doctrines might Paul have had in mind from this verse in Romans?
Read Romans 6:18 and John 8:32. How can we be a slave of righteousness and be free at the same time?
Thursday: Free From Sin
Paul beautifully expresses what freedom from sin looks and feels like in the last verses of Romans, chapter 6 (v. 19-23). Not only is sin knocked down from its place of dominance in our heart, but the shame, guilt, and penalty are also eliminated.
Works of obedience, stemming from a heart of love toward God and empowered by His Spirit, frees us from, not just sin, but from all the “baggage” that comes with it.
Verse 23 of chapter 6 is often used to point out the end result or wages of sin, being death. But let’s not fail to see the upside of that coin. The gift of God that provides us with, not just life, but ETERNAL life.
Mentioning this gift again is important. Many people have no problem with justification or forgiveness being a gift, something they can’t earn. But there’s perhaps an even greater danger for the believer to feel he must start earning that gift, when his sanctification process begins. This is a time in his life when works do matter, if we are on the path that leads to heaven. But, we can choose to do those works with our own power, or we can rely on God’s Spirit to give us that power.
Some struggle with sin more than others, but God has promised to walk by our side, to pick us up after our failures, and to cover our bumbling mistakes when we ask Him to. Psalms 103:14 says: “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” NKJV Furthermore, 1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, AND to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And there’s no time limit on this promise.
Whether our sin consists of actions, or just a faulty mental attitude, God is always present to help us conquer it, even in our weakest moments. Make no mistake, we can’t grow closer to God without seeing improvements in our lifestyle and with our character. And it only happens when God gets all the credit. Anything else, is self-righteousness.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 6:19 and Psalm 103:13, 14. Describe that “weakness of your flesh” that Paul and David mention here. How do works of either kind lead to more works of the same kind? Why does it make a difference in who we present ourselves to?
Read Romans 6:20-22. What is the difference between justification (being freed from sin) and sanctification (having the fruits of holiness), as described by Paul here?
Read Romans 6:23 and 1 Peter 1:4. Why does Paul refer to “wages” when talking about sin, but the “gift” when referring to choices that lead to eternal life? Why do men and women have a hard time understanding this concept of earning one, but not the other?
This week we addressed grace from a different standpoint. Grace is not only evident when we first come to God for forgiveness. It’s evident all through the salvation process. All too often, at a time when works do matter (during our sanctification), we forget that God continues to provide us with grace to obey His commandments. It’s easy to feel that we’ve had some part in our works of righteousness. After all, we did them. So, where does grace fit in, when it comes to building our character and making us fit for heaven?
- Christ was resurrected to a “newness of life”, and we can experience a “newness of life” after our justification (or dying to sin).–Sunday
- Our lusts/desires can be replaced with God’s will, but only through the promised grace that originally justified us.–Monday
- We must understand the phrases “under the law” and “under grace” correctly, in order to make the fullest use of God’s power to free us from sin.–Tuesday
- Choosing to sin or to obey is freely given to us, but unless obedience comes from the heart, it won’t be effective or lasting.–Wednesday
- Sin and the temptation to sin will always be with us on this earth, but these sinful tendencies won’t dominate or rule us, if God sits on the throne of our heart.–Thursday
God has promised to forgive our sins through grace, but also to help us overcome that sin. Sometimes we feel that, unless sin and its temptation has been eliminated, this promise has not been fulfilled. When this happens, we tend to either blame God for not being able to help us enough, or we blame ourselves and allow our guilt to render us incapable of further spiritual growth.
But there’s another spiritual fallout for Christians. We are in danger of judging each other for failed attempts to keep from sinning. Forgetting that God is working differently with individuals to get them to the place on their spiritual journey where they need to be. Instead of judging fellow believers, our task is to encourage and bolster the faith of struggling church members, wherever they are in their Christian walk. See Luke 18:9-14, the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
What I’m saying is that sometimes compassion and humility come easier for one who has lived a hardened life of sin than it does for someone who has been a law-abiding church member. We have much to learn from each other. Let’s not distance ourselves by overblown feelings of guilt that deal us incapable of seeing beyond our own failures, or by the judgmental attitudes that make us incapable of extending tender mercy to those entangled with sin.
ALL kinds of sinners are needed in God’s church. We’re ALL in this together.
“for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 NKJV
Next Week: Who Is the Man of Romans 7?
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/