Gospel, Kingdom and Mission – Church Weekend Reflections

We have just returned from our church weekend in Abererch, Wales. It was a great weekend of fellowship, teaching, and fun. It was especially encouraging seeing the whole church family enjoying each other’s company, and growing in their love for God, and for one another. Even the rain didn’t dampen our spirits!

Treasure

We had three main teaching sessions, in which we looked at the themes of gospel, kingdom and mission. One thing in particular that struck me was how we are so prone to storing up treasure here on earth. We can easily become obsessed with building security for ourselves, such as in our careers, our mortgages, or saving for the future. Yet, in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the opposite:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The truth is that one day, the treasure that we store up on earth will be gone. Companies could go bust. Our houses won’t last forever. Retirement savings soon disappear. Why invest in something that’s temporary when we can invest in the kingdom of God that will last forever? That’s the challenge I came away with and will be dwelling on for a while.

Remembering

We also had a campfire, where we sang some songs of praise and were encouraged to remember what God has done in our lives. For example, what sequence of events led you to church, or led to you becoming a Christian? Sometimes we can get so caught up in the present that we forget to look back and reflect on what God has done in the past. Even in hardships, we have to remember that God is good, all of the time. It’s so important to remind ourselves of that and to encourage each other with the good news of the gospel.

Below are some notes from the three teaching sessions. I also attended a seminar on engaging with people living with learning disabilities.

Gospel (Romans 3:19-26)

The word ‘gospel’ is mentioned many times throughout the New Testament. It grips Paul. It’s the good message, the good news. Evangelism is the sharing of that good news. In Romans 1:1-17 it’s mentioned six times. The gospel was promised beforehand and it concerns the Son. It’s the power to salvation and God’s rescue comes through it. In Ephesians it’s referred to as the truth that saves us. God has entrusted us with this message.

Adam and Eve rebelled. We reject his law and can’t live in his presence. It’s our sin that separates us from God. As it was in Adam and Eve, it is in us. At the beginning God is preparing his people for the sacrifice he was going to make. Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant. God promises a king and a sacrifice. Jesus is perfect humanity and perfect God. Jesus surrenders himself on the cross. The way is provided for forgiveness of sins. Before the throne of God how could we justify ourselves? But if our sin is atoned for, it’s not the same. The way to accept this good news is by faith. We should appreciate the gospel.

There is nothing more deep or more glorious than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where do you go to see the love of God? Go to the finished work of Jesus. Is it as central to us as it is to God? People argue over so many small things but this good news is supposed to captivate us. Never lose sight of what God has done for us. The good news of Jesus is the power of God to rescue people, no matter who they are, or where they’re from, or what their background is.

Kingdom (Daniel 7:9-14)

What’s your kingdom? What’s the thing that sets your heart in motion? What are the things that excite you? Fun, career, enjoyment.

God reveals the future before Jesus is born (Daniel 2:44). Kingdoms are coming one after another but there will be an ultimate kingdom that will never be destroyed. The kingdom is the place where the King rules (Lord’s prayer). Jesus spoke of the kingdom. He said it’s near (Mark 1), it’s in your midst and it’s here. It’s like a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). It will grow.

Jesus brings in the rule of the King. He establishes a kingdom that will never be shaken. It will endure for eternity (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus will reign forever (Revelation 11:15). What are you living for? Our actions probably give us away. Our thoughts definitely would. God is calling us to find an identity in an eternal kingdom. Don’t store up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19-21), store up treasure in heaven. What we build in that kingdom will last forever. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:31-33). His kingdom is more important than anything. It’s about knowing the blessings of God now and for eternity.

Are you part of that kingdom? What are you building for? Are you investing in the kingdom of God? Why build a kingdom for something that will last for 10 years when you can build something that will last forever?

Eternity is our retirement.

Mission (Matthew 28:16-20)

Jesus asked people to follow him in this issue of kingdom building and working under his rule. It’s about reaching out to others with the gospel. If we’re following Jesus surely we’ll do the things that he does. Seek those who are lost. Paul says the love of Christ compels him to share the gospel. We know there is this good news that transforms us and there’s a kingdom that lasts forever.

How do we make disciples? Not everybody receives the gospel with joy. Sometimes we get fearful. It might not have the response we want it to. Our labour in the Lord is never in vain.

Ministry Modelled – Romans 15:14-33 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Recap Romans 14:1-15:13. Don’t judge each other, don’t cause others to stumble. Be filled with love for others.

1. What are Paul’s reasons for writing (v14-16)?

To remind and encourage them to do what they knew was right. He didn’t just preach the gospel, but instructed believers how to live.

2. How does Paul define his ministry (v16)?

Ministering the gospel of God. Paul uses a word that occurs nowhere else in the NT which can be read as ‘acting as a priest’. The ministry of the gospel is conceived of after the pattern of priestly offering.

3. How is Paul able to glory in Christ (v17-21)?

He can glory in God that he received such a call, speaking only of the things God did through him to bring salvation to the Gentiles.

4. What help did Paul receive in preaching the gospel?

God used mighty signs and wonders and the broader power of the Spirit. Illyricum is modern Yugoslavia and Albania. Paul’s ministry spread from the West to Jerusalem in the East.

5. How do we see Paul’s understanding of the Trinity in v16-19?

He effortlessly weaves references to each member of the Trinity. He can’t talk about God without recognising his three persons.

6. Why did Paul not want to build on someone else’s foundation?

He wanted to do pioneer work for the Lord – not because it was wrong or bad to continue the work begun through another man, but because there was so much to do on the frontiers.

7. What’s Paul’s desire (v22-24)?

He plans to visit the Romans on a future trip to Spain, where he’ll preach the gospel on the frontiers.

8. What happened? Did these plans work out?

Paul did go to Rome, but not as a missionary on his way to Spain. He went to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial before Caesar, where he would preach the gospel on a different kind of frontier. God gave him unexpected access to preach to the emperor of Rome himself. We have reason to believe that after his release from imprisonment he did make it to Spain and preached the gospel there.

9. What are Paul’s present plans (v25-29)?

He thought he’d stop in Corinth on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a collection from Christians in Macedonia and Achaia.

10. Why is Paul’s observation in v27 appropriate?

The Gentiles had received so much spiritually from the community of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, it was only right that they help the Jerusalem Christians in need.

11. Why does Paul plea for prayer (v30-33)?

He needed the prayers of God’s people to see him through the difficulty promised him.

12. Paul says ‘join me in my struggle by praying to God for me’ or ‘strive together with me’. How can we apply this to praying for our pastors?

Pastors are sustained by the power of the Spirit through the support of their congregations.

Wake Up – Romans 13 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Recap Romans 12. Paul talked about how we’re not to take revenge but wait for God’s justice.

Read Romans 13.

1. What’s the connection between Romans 12 and 13 (v1-2)?

If we’re not to seek revenge, that doesn’t take away the government’s authority to punish wrongdoers.

2. Why do we subject ourselves to governing authorities?

They are appointed by God and serve a purpose in his plan.

3. How can we take comfort in knowing that there is no authority except from God?

God appoints a nation’s leaders but not always to bless the people. Sometimes it’s to judge the people or to ripen the nation for judgement. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had, and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman emperor. Neither denied the authority.

4. What happens if we disobey the authorities?

We are bound to obey them unless they order us to do something that contradicts God’s law. God uses governments as a check upon man’s sinful desires.

5. What kind of citizens should Christians be (v3-4)?

The best of all. Honest, give no trouble to the state, pay taxes, pray for the state and the rulers.

6. What is the role of the authorities? How does the fit with God’s plan?

To punish and deter evildoers. It’s through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check.

7. What is our responsibility towards our government (v5-7)?

We must be subject to government because we know it’s right before God to do so. Pay taxes. Give honour and proper reverence which are due, while reserving the right to give to God that which is due to him alone.

8. Is rebellion against government ever justified?

It is right to choose the one that is most legitimate in God’s eyes, when given a choice.

9. Why is the only debt we are to carry the debt to love one another (v8-10)?

We carry both before God and each other.

10. Why does Paul quote Jesus’ words ‘love your neighbour as yourself’?

It’s one of the two commands upon which hang all the law and the prophets.

11. Why do we need to wake up (v11-14?

We can do lots of Christian things but essentially be asleep towards God.

12. What does Paul mean by ‘the night is nearly over, the day is almost here’?

We know the danger of the times and we anticipate the return of Jesus and so we should be all the more energetic and committed to a right walk with God.

13. What is the armour of light?

Jesus himself. When we put on Christ, we put on all the armour of God and are equipped to both defend and attack.

14. How can we not gratify the desires of the flesh?

The flesh will be as active as we allow it to be. We have a work to do in walking properly, as in the day. Jesus does it through us as we willingly and actively partner with him.

Now Live It Out – Romans 12:1-8 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Recap Romans 11 (the passage starts with ‘therefore’).

Read 12:1-8.

J.B. Phillips has an outstanding and memorable translation of Romans 12:1-2:

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give Him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and acceptable by Him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the Plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

1. Paul says ‘in view of God’s mercy’ or ‘by the mercies of God’ in v1. What are some of the mercies of God Paul has explained so far in Romans?

Justification, adoption, placed under grace (not law), assurance, confidence of coming glory/no separation/God’s continued faithfulness.

2. In light of all this mercy, what are we to do?

Offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.

3. What’s significant about this phrase?

It calls to mind priestly service. Spiritually speaking our bodies are brought to God’s altar. ‘Offer your bodies’ means God wants you, not just your work.

4. Why should our bodies be holy and pleasing?

God intends it to be a holy and pleasing sacrifice. The standard for sacrifices made to God under the new covenant are not any less than the standard under the old one.

5. Paul issues a challenge in v2. He’s saying Christians must think differently. How can we renew our minds? What can stop us from doing so?

Many Christians live life based on feelings or are concerned about doing. They ignore the renewing of the mind. God isn’t against these but they’re insufficient foundations for the Christian life. Instead of ‘how do I feel?’ or ‘what do I do’, we should ask ‘what is true here? What does God’s word say?’

6. What’s the result?

The proof is evident on the outside, as others can see what the good, pleasing and perfect will of God is through your life.

7. What warning does Paul give in v3?

He’s about to speak about spiritual gifts but a warning about humility is needed given the inordinate pride that can arise from those who regard themselves as spiritually gifted. Paul tells us to see the truth about ourselves.

8. What do v4-5 tell us about the church?

The church is a unified whole (one body) but we are distinct within that one body (members). There is unity and diversity.

9. What should our church look like if each member belongs to all the others?

Unity should never be promoted at the expense of individuality and individuality should never diminish the church’s essential unity in Christ.

10. How are spiritual gifts given (v6-8)?

The difference and distribution of gifts is all due to the grace that is given to us. Spiritual gifts are not given on the basis of merit, but because God chooses to give them.

11. What is prophecy?

Prophecy isn’t necessarily foretelling in a strictly predictive sense. It is more accurately forth telling the heart and mind of God, which may or may not include a predictive aspect.

12. Why does Paul give specific instructions for the some of the gifts he mentions, but not all of them?

Serving, teaching and encouraging don’t have specific instructions. Ministry is broad and highlights serving in practical ways. Teaching has instruction in mind whereas encouragement helps people to live out what they’ve been taught.

13. Do you think people use their spiritual gifts effectively at our church?

Open for discussion.

14. How does the foundation for Christian living Paul gives in v1-2 help us to live out the spiritual gifts we have been given?

Embrace the transformation that comes through Christ.

Believe it? Preach it! – Romans 10:1-21 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

1. Starter question (pairs/groups): What do you need to do in order to be saved?

Read 10:1-13.

2. What’s Paul’s problem with the Israelites (v1-3)? How does this make him feel?

They have refused to submit to the righteousness of God. He relates to his heart. He doesn’t just care, he prays.

3. What’s the outcome when zeal isn’t based on knowledge?

They were ignorant of God’s righteousness and had a moral problem in that they hadn’t submitted to it.

4. How is Jesus the end or the culmination of the law (v4)?

The law ends for the believer in the sense that our obedience to the law is no longer the basis for our relationship with God. The law has not come to an end in the sense of no longer reflecting God’s standard or no longer showing us our need for a Saviour.

5. How do we earn righteousness (v5-8)?

Only through Jesus. We don’t have to work – we believe and receive. Instead of having to go to great lengths to achieve righteousness by the law, we can immediately receive righteousness by faith, by trusting in the word of the gospel.

6. We don’t gain God’s righteousness by works. How does v9 say we get it?

By believing and confessing (or declaring).

7. What does it mean to confess or declare that Jesus is Lord?

The idea of agreeing. We agree with what God said about Jesus, and with what Jesus said about Himself. It means we recognise that Jesus is God, that He is the Messiah, and that His work on the cross is the only way of salvation for mankind.

8. Why does Paul emphasise the resurrection and not the crucifixion?

It is not that we believe the resurrection as opposed to the cross, but encompassing the work of Jesus on the cross.

9. How do you know if you believe something in your heart?

Agreement with the facts isn’t enough; there is accompanying action.

10. What results in salvation?

Believing and confessing go together.

11. Can we forget how simple this is?

We can attempt to justify ourselves by our actions or think we’re doing the right things.

Read 10:14-21.

12. What are we to do in response to our salvation (v14-15)?

We have a human responsibility. Preachers must be sent – both by God and the church. People need to hear the gospel. God could have chosen any method.

13. If salvation is so simple, why does Israel seem to be cast off from God (v16-17)?

Many among them had not believed his report because they did not trust in God’s word through Isaiah and other messengers of the gospel. Therefore they are not saved.

14. How do the quotes that Paul references show that Israel are accountable for their rejection of the gospel?

Psalm 19: The word of the gospel went forth and people heard it.

Deuteronomy: God told Israel that He would bring others close to Him and make them jealous.

Isaiah made a bold prophecy that Israel ignored. They are a disobedient and contrary people, and all the more so because of their great responsibility before God.

15. What do we need to do in order to be saved? What should we do as a result?

Believe and confess. Preach the gospel.

Securely Loved – Romans 8:18-39 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Romans 8 has been described as the peak of the Bible. Recap last week: life in the Spirit contrasted with life in the flesh and our obligation is to live in the Spirit.

Read v18-30.

1. What does Paul conclude about our present suffering and our future glory?

They can’t be compared to each other. He wasn’t blind to the sufferings of human existence but considered that the future glory far outweighs present suffering.

2. How is the future glory revealed in us?

God has put this glory into Christians right now. In heaven the glory will simply be revealed. “The glory will be revealed, not created. The implication is that it is already existent, but not apparent.”

3. Why is creation eagerly awaiting the children of God to be revealed?

Creation was subjected to futility on account of man’s sin, and will benefit from the ultimate redemption of men.

4. What are the firstfruits of the Spirit?

We have a taste of the glory to come.

5. Paul says we’re waiting for adoption (v23). How does this compare to what he said in 8:15?

Romans 8:15 suggests a sense in which we are already adopted. There is also a sense in which we wait for the consummation of our adoption which will happen at the redemption of our body. God doesn’t ignore our physical bodies in his plan of redemption.

6. How should we wait for it?

The fulfilment of our redemption is something still distant, yet we hope for it in faith and perseverance, trusting that God is faithful to his word and the promised glory will be a reality.

7. How does the Spirit help us (v26-27)?

When we’re weak and don’t know exactly how we should pray, God himself, through the Holy Spirit, helps by making intercession for us. This may include praying with the spiritual gift of tongues, but it isn’t limited to praying in an unknown tongue. The idea is simply of communication beyond our ability to express.

8. What does Paul show us about the way God works in v28-30?

God’s sovereignty and ability to manage every aspect of our lives is demonstrated in the fact that all things work together for good to those who love God, though we must face the sufferings of this present time (8:18). The eternal chain of God’s working is seen in the connection between foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified. God is the author of our salvation.

Read v31-39.

9. Why does Paul start this section in the way that he does?

Paul has shown the lengths that God went to save man from his wrath and equip him for victory over sin and death. Who can doubt that God is for us?

10. What evidence is there that God is for us?

If God already gave his ultimate gift, how can we think that he won’t give us the smaller gifts?

11. How are we secure in God’s love?

We are secure from every charge against us. If we are declared not guilty by the highest judge, who can bring an additional charge? We are secure from all condemnation. If Jesus is our advocate, promoting our benefit, who can condemn us? 

None of the sufferings of this present time can separate us from the love of God. This makes us conquerors and more. Nothing which appears to be good or nothing which appears to be evil can separate us from the love of God. 

The Bottom Line – Romans 7:1-25 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Read v1-6.

1. What point is Paul making in v1-3?

The law has authority only over the living. Death ends all obligations and contracts.

2. Paul has explained previously in 6:3-8 our death to sin. How is it that we have died to the law (v4)?

Paul makes it clear that believers are dead to the law as far as it represents a principle of living or a place of right standing before God.

3. What’s the problem with the law (v5)?

We didn’t bear fruit to God. Instead we bore fruit to death.

4. How are we delivered from the law (v6)?

Because we died with Jesus at Calvary, we are dead to the law and delivered from its dominion over us as a principle of justification or sanctification.

Read v7-12.

5. Why is the law good (v7)?

It reveals sin to us. The law is like an x-ray machine; it reveals what is there but hidden.

6. What do we learn about our hearts from v8?

The weakness of the law isn’t in the law, it’s in us. Our hearts are so wicked that they can find opportunity for evil from something good like the law. When we’re told not to do something, we want to do it.

7. How does Paul go from being alive to dying (v9)?

Children can be innocent before they know what the law means, but when we do, it excites our rebellion, bringing more sin and death.

8. What does sin do (v10-12)?

It corrupts the law and defeats its purpose of giving life. Once law is corrupted by sin, it brings death.

Read v13-20.

9. What’s the purpose and character of the law (v13-14)?

The law exposes and magnifies sin. Sin becomes exceedingly sinful in contrast to the law and because the law provokes its evil nature. A spiritual law cannot help a carnal man.

10. What’s Paul’s problem (v15-20)?

It’s not a lack of desire – he wants to do what is right. His problem is a lack of power, because the law gives no power.

Read v21-25.

11. How does Paul describe this battle between two selves (v20-23)?

“No man knows how bad he is until he had tried to be good.” CS Lewis. Paul knows they his real inner self has a delight in the law of God. He understands that the impulse towards sin comes from another law at work. He is caught in the powerlessness of trying to battle sin in the power of self.

12. Why does Paul describe himself as ‘wretched’ (v24)?

He’s worn out and wretched because of his unsuccessful effort to please God under the law. He’s desperate for deliverance.

13. Where does Paul look (v25)?

Finally, he looks outside of himself and unto Jesus. He sees him standing between himself and God. He acknowledges the state of struggle but thanks God for the victory in Jesus. The struggle isn’t gone – Jesus works through us, not instead of us in the battle against sin.

Summarise.

Living Gracefully – Romans 6:1-14 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

Recap Romans 1-5.

1. How does Paul continue his train of thought from 5:20?

He wonders if someone might take the truth of ‘where sin abounded, grace abounded much more’ and imply it doesn’t matter if a Christian lives a life of sin, because God will always overcome greater sin with greater grace.

2. How is our relationship with sin changed (v2)?

When we trust in Jesus, it’s changed because we have died to sin. Therefore we should no longer live in it. Before, we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) but now we are dead to sin.

3. How do Christians show that they are dead to sin (v3-4)?

The Greek word for baptised is ‘to immerse or overwhelm something’.

4. What is Paul expressing in v5? What does it mean for us today?

The phrase ‘united with him’ expresses a close union. It’s both in his death and resurrection.

5. What is our old self (v6)? When did the death of our old self happen?

The self that is patterned after Adam. The death of the old self is fact. It happened spiritually when we were identified with Jesus’ death at our salvation.

6. Paul says the body ruled by sin might be ‘done away with’. If the old self is dead, why are we still drawn to sin?

It comes from the flesh, which is distinct from the old self. The screen on which the inner self is displayed. Our inner being has desires and impulses; these are played out in our mind, our will and our emotions. The flesh is what acts out the inner self.

7. How does Paul describe the new life we are granted?

The new self not only has life, but eternal life. It isn’t given so we can live unto ourselves.

8. In light of our death and resurrection with Jesus, how should we live in the freedom he has given us?

We must not present the parts of our body to the service of sin. They must be enlisted in the service of righteousness.

9. How does grace change everything?

It’s the path by which we can live in this freedom. God makes us safe for grace by changing us as we receive his grace. He sets us free and equips us to live righteously before him.

Benefits of Believing – Romans 5:1-11 – Bible Study Notes

This study features notes from Enduring Word.

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.” – Martin Luther

Recap what we’ve seen in Romans so far. Up to now, Paul has convinced us that the only way of salvation is to be justified by grace through faith. Now he moves on to tell us what the practical benefits of this are.

1. Notice in v1 Paul says we have peace with God, not the peace of God. Why is Paul making this distinction?

Because the price is paid in full by the work of Jesus on the cross, God’s justice towards us is eternally satisfied. The battle between God and our self is finished – and he won, winning us.

2. Why can this peace only come through Jesus?

He and His work is our entire ground for peace. Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

3. Paul says that we have a standing in grace, which is given through Jesus and gained by faith. What does it mean to have a standing in grace?

Grace isn’t only the way salvation comes to us, it’s also a description of our present standing before God. Not just the beginning principle of the Christian life, but the continuing principle. It also reassures us.

4. What is the ‘hope of the glory of God’ Paul mentions in v2?

This is the logical conclusion to such peace and such a standing of grace. When we relate to God on the principle of works, any rejoicing is presumptuous and any imagined glory goes to us, not God.

5. How can we rejoice in our sufferings (v3-4)?

They are the occasion to produce perseverance. God uses them and knows how much we can take.

6. Why is Paul joyful in this hope (v5)?

The hope that suffering builds in us isn’t a hope that will disappoint. We are assured of this because God has proved his intention to complete his work in us.

7. What is Paul emphasising in v6?

Paul describes the greatness of God’s love. It’s given to those without strength, to the ungodly. The reasons for God’s love are found in him, not us.

8. What’s Paul saying in v7? Is there a difference between a righteous man and a good man in his thinking?

God’s love is a love beyond even the best love among humans. A good man might die for the right kind of person but Jesus died for those who were neither righteous nor good. The difference seems to be that the righteous man is just that – righteous in his personal life but lacking feeling for others. The good man goes beyond the other man by also being kind.

9. How does the death of Jesus demonstrate God’s love (v8)?

It was harder for the Father to send his only son and because God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. It’s seen in who Jesus died for – undeserving sinners.

10. Paul talks about reconciliation in v9-11. What does it mean to be reconciled to God?

What matters is what we have through Jesus. The reconciliation isn’t only helpful when we die, it also touches our life now. We can have triumphant confidence – joyful hope in God.

11. How can we have the same joy and hope that Paul does?

If God showed such dramatic love to us when we were enemies, think of the blessings we will enjoy when we are reconciled to God.

12. Summarise the passage. What’s the main point?

We have peace and stand in grace, through Jesus, which gives us great joy and hope.

Pray.

Righteous Through Faith – Romans 4:1-12 – Bible Study Notes

1. What thought is Paul building on in v1? How does it link to the end of chapter 3?

He’s building on the thought that begun in 3:31 and is asking the question ‘Does the idea of justification through faith, apart from the works of the law, make what God did in the Old Testament irrelevant?’ He looks at Abraham, the most esteemed man among the Jewish people of his day.

2. Why is this boasting nothing before God?

It’s nothing before God because even if works could justify a man, he would in some way still fall short of the glory of God (3:23).

This boasting is nothing because before God, every pretence is stripped away and it’s evident that no one can really be justified by works.

3. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. What’s the background of Abraham?

God made promises through him.

4. Where did Abraham’s righteousness come from?

Belief in God. A righteousness obtained through faith.

5. What is righteousness?

It’s more than the absence of evil and guilt. It is a positive good, meaning that God does not only declare us innocent, but righteous.

6. One translation of v4 is ‘Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.’ What’s the contrast between grace and works?

Grace stands opposite to the principle of works. Grace is receiving the freely given gift of God, works is earning our merit before God. A system of works seeks to put God in debt to us, making God owe us his favour because of our good behaviour.

7. Paul says that God justifies the ungodly (v5). How can this be?

We might expect God would only justify a godly man but because of what Jesus did on the cross, God can justify the ungodly. We aren’t justified because of our ungodliness, but despite our ungodliness.

8. What’s the outcome?

Just as Abraham, our faith is credited as righteousness. This wasn’t some special arrangement for Abraham alone. We can enter into this relationship with God also.

9. Why does Paul choose to mention David (v6-8)?

He knew what it was like to be a guilty sinner. He knew the seriousness of sin and how good it is to be truly forgiven.

10. How does the quote from Psalm 32 help Paul’s argument?

David speaks of the blessedness, not of the one who is justified through works, but of the one who is cleansed through imputation. This is centred on what God places upon us, not on what we do for God.

11. Verses 9-12 say that Abraham was counted righteous before he was circumcised; therefore he was not counted righteous because he was circumcised. What problem is Paul addressing?

For the Jewish people of Paul’s day, the significance of circumcision was more than social. They thought it meant they were the true descendants of Abraham.

12. How does Paul resolve this way of thinking?

He insists that to have Abraham as your father, you must walk in the steps of the faith that Abraham walked in. It’s far more important to have Abraham’s faith than Abraham’s circumcision. Paul also says that through faith, all can say ‘our father Abraham’, a phrase that the Jews jealously guarded.

Summarise the passage. Pray.