Sabbath School Lesson for October 14-20, 2017
So many gospel treasures are found in Romans, chapters 3-8, that Romans 2 is often rather neglected. But we find that this second chapter is vital to receiving the messages that follow. We might see Paul here as a post-Cross kind of John the Baptist, as he prepares us for the heavier theological matters pertaining to our salvation that are presented later in his epistle.
Paul is careful to include all of his readers, both Jews and Gentiles, with the good news of salvation. Jews, with their feelings of intrinsic worth just because they are circumcised and Jewish, are found on the same playing field with pagan Gentiles, when it comes to what constitutes sin.
We can be full of sinful desires and lusts, and still be seen on the outside as compliant with the laws of God. Therefore, we are all in the same “boat” when it comes to sin. Sin is not a problem of a few; it permeates our entire planet, since we have all fallen under its curse from the day we were born. David understood this when he proclaimed, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5 NKJV
Memory Verse: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
No matter what your spiritual state is now, no one can claim they are without sin, or at least tempted by it. It is something we fall into without much effort. The question is whether we can ever approach the holiness required to stand in God’s holy presence. Paul shows us how to do it in his letter to the Romans.
Sunday: The Power of God
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ “ Romans 1:16, 17 NKJV
Two famed verses from Romans 1 were verses 16 and 17. Mentioned here is “the power of God to salvation”, which is apparently the same as “the gospel of Christ”. The word gospel in Greek means “good news” or “good message”. And the Greek word Christ is translated Messiah in Hebrew. Knowing who the Messiah was would definitely be good news to Jews who were looking for Him at the time of Paul. There was no doubt the Messiah was linked to their salvation.
The words “righteousness” and “faith” are mentioned in v. 17, as both are apparently part of this gospel message.
- Note that this isn’t self-righteousness, but the “righteousness of God”. It comes from our heavenly Father, and it makes us “right” with Him.
- Being “revealed from faith to faith” describes the progressive nature of faith, as it unfolds to us the meaning of our salvation. Our faith is what makes us grow into faithful disciples of Christ.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 1:16 and John 4:25, 26, 29, 39, and 42. In what ways do we show that we are ashamed of the gospel? What did the woman at the well do to show she was not ashamed?
Read Romans 1:17 and Habakkuk 2:4. What does our faith reveal to us (from the verse in Romans)? What does pride have to do with our faith (from the verse in Habakkuk)?
Are we faithful because we are just (having received justification and forgiveness), or are we just because we are faithful? Why is this distinction important?
Monday: All Have Sinned
“…For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:22, 23 NKJV
The familiar verse 23 is better understood when we include the end of verse 22. Paul is once again pointing out that there is no difference in Jews or Gentiles. Sin has touched all of us, in one way or another.
What is this “glory of God” it speaks of though? Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, may give us a clue. “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.” I Corinthians 11:7 NKJV Despite the instructions about head coverings and gender differences, which must have held much significance in the culture in Paul’s day, we can see here the glory of God meaning the image of God.
This understanding makes sense when applied to Romans 3:23. The “glory of God” is simply His image. We readily admit our failure in reflecting God’s image. We will never measure up to it entirely, especially with sin so prevalent in our world today.
The message is for us to not compare ourselves with each other though, but with God. We will always find someone more sinful than we are, but God is the standard of righteousness, and of course, we will never measure up to Him either. But God has provided a Way around this dilemma, and that is through Christ. Remember, we gravitate
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 3:22, 23, and I Corinthians 11:7. What seems to be the “glory of God”?
Read Romans 3:10-18 and Psalm 53:1-3, and Luke 18:13. With so much sin around us, what appears to be our only hope?
Read Philippians 4:8. Does this verse mean that we are to totally shield ourselves from seeing any evil in the world? Is that even possible, given the times we live in? How do we find a safe balance in recognizing our sinfulness and keeping our eyes on Christ and His righteousness?
Many people have and still are under the impression that, with the right education and technology, our world can become the perfect place for mankind to live–a utopia, or heaven on earth. Especially at the beginning of the last century, this was a widely-held belief.
However, with all our progress in those areas of human endeavor, we have seen two world wars, increased immorality and poverty, and threats of worldwide terrorism, all perpetrated by men who were supposed to be getting better and better.
We have had progress, but its been in the downward direction. Who could have predicted such calamitous events as we’ve seen in the last hundred years? Fortunately, some Bible prophets have. And Paul joined their voices in offering our only hope of achieving that utopian state our hearts crave. Our faith must be in God’s kingdom, established by His hands, not ours.
Paul paints an ugly picture of our world in Romans 1:22-32. This is unrighteousness reaching its peak. But, hang on, Paul has a solution…
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 1:22-25 and Deuteronomy 4:16-18. What effect has the theory of evolution had on our “worship” of the creatures who inhabit this earth? When we stop worshiping God, where do our affections often turn?
Read Romans 1:26, 27. Why do you think God frowns on homosexuality? What are some of the factors that play into its prevalence today?
Read Romans 1:28-32. What other categories of sin does Paul expose? Can any of us not find ourselves as guilty of at least one of these thoughts or behaviors? Notice that all of them are deserving of death.
Wednesday: What Jews and Gentiles Share in Common
After denouncing some of the sins of the Gentiles in chapter 1, Paul went on to describe ways the Jews were just as guilty of offenses against God. Being judgmental, hypocritical, self-seeking, and having an unsympathetic heart full of pride were reasons they shared the same fate of death as Gentiles.
God does not “cherry-pick” when it comes to sinning. To God, sin is sin, no matter what variety or how it is packaged. If we are honest with ourselves, many church members in high standing may be seen as right in step with many of the scribes and Pharisees, whose sins Jesus aggressively denounced. Paul knew, because he was formerly one of them! And we could be one of them, without even being aware.
Like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3, we find we are not only sleepy and lukewarm, but are noticeably blind to our sinful condition. That’s why Jesus spoke so forcibly when dealing with this segment of the population. They were oblivious to their endangered status before God. Jesus tried to wake them up.
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 2:1-3, Matthew 7:1-5 and Revelation 3:18. How does being judgmental make one a hypocrite, and what does it have to do with our blindness? What made the Jews, and us, particularly vulnerable to this particular condition?
Read Romans 2:17-24, Matthew 15:14, and John 1:9, 10. How helpful is a blind guide to the blind? What is the only Light worth bearing and sharing with the world?
Read Romans 2:22 and Malachi 3:8. In what way were they robbing temples (Romans 2: 22)? Which of the ten commandments do we break when we rob God this way?
Thursday: The Gospel and Repentance
“Despisest thou the riches of [H]is goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Romans 2:4 KJV
Notice what it is that leads to our repentance. What makes us sorry we have sinned? It’s God’s goodness. His mercy and love draws us to seek forgiveness and accept Him as our Friend. Instead of despising and rejecting Him, He becomes our closest ally against the forces of evil.
This bond we experience with God brings us the power to become like Him. He doesn’t force us to repentance; He leads us, like a tender Shepherd leads His sheep. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3). Yes, Paul is clear to point out that our good works, or righteousness, are a part of our salvation. Our repentance certainly doesn’t mean that nothing is expected of us. As it says in Romans 2:7…
“eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;” NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read Romans 2:4 and Isaiah 30:18. What are some of the good features of God that draw us to Him?
Read Romans 2:5-10. What are the rewards of the unrighteous (v. 8 and 9)? What are the rewards of the righteous (v. 10)?
Read Romans 2:10, 11, I Peter 4:17, and Revelation 20:4-8. Why are the Jews always spoken of first, and then the Gentiles? When thinking of end time events, might this also be speaking of the righteous (Jews) and the unrighteous (Gentiles)? Could there be this dual application in understanding the terms for Jews and Gentiles, without infringing on the idea of God’s impartiality of diverse cultures, which it also clearly illustrates?
Understanding our sinful condition, in both a corporate and individual sense, helps us appreciate the salvation offered to us by Christ. Paul expertly guides us in how to see the dangerous human condition we find ourselves, and to recognize the power of God to change us into beings able to stand before God in the Judgment.
This week we pondered…
- God’s almighty power to save us (Sunday)
- the fact that we all have sinned (Monday)
- the downward progression of our world (Tuesday)
- how all of us, Jews and Gentiles, share the need for salvation and the opportunities to be saved (Wednesday)
- the righteousness God expects of us after we’ve repented (Thursday)
This week’s study would be wasted if one didn’t individualize Paul’s message in his epistle to the Romans. We see the world’s sinful state and even the sins our church is guilty of. But, if we don’t go further and see where we, as individuals, may be doing wrong, the study is wasted.
All of us must see that we are filled with “sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness”. Or we are “whisperers, backbiters, unmerciful” Romans 1:29-31 NKJV If we don’t find ourselves as weak in at least one of these areas, we haven’t taken a truthful look at ourselves.
Only when we fully assess our own human condition will we be able to repent and correct our behavior and thoughts. And only by daily acknowledging our weaknesses will we be able to maintain our walk with the holy God we worship.
Next Week: Justification by Faith
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/