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Lesson 4: Justification By Faith *

Introduction: Have you had someone disrespect you? Have you disrespected others? Many years ago, I was trying to mediate a very difficult problem that arose between church members. At one point a church member called me a profane name. I knew he did not mean it because he was upset. A few weeks later, the member came to me and apologized. I didn't know what he was talking about at first because I had put it out of my mind. On the other hand, I can still recall a few incidents when someone intended to insult me. Why am I asking you about respect in a study on righteousness by faith? It is to help open your mind to the idea that righteousness by faith not only gives us the key to eternal life, it should radically change our attitude toward others. Let's learn more about this by diving into our study of Romans!

  1. Problems to Avoid

    1. Read Romans 3:1-2. Two weeks ago we learned that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. Even if it is not required, is there value in it? (Yes. Paul speaks specifically to the advantage of being a Jew. He says that they are entrusted with God's words.)

      1. How far does this idea go? All of what Moses wrote came from God. Is it "an advantage" to follow other aspects of the Levitical law?

    2. Read Romans 3:3-4. What if those entrusted with the words of God are not faithful? Have you heard someone blame God for troubles in life? (Paul says that God is faithful. If we think that there is a breakdown in the promises of God, the failure lies somewhere other than with God.)

      1. Do those who were once blessed still enjoy an advantage? Are they still a source of authority? (The fact that those who have been blessed by God falter in their faith does not nullify God's faithfulness. We must take our direction from God, not humans.)

    3. Read Romans 3:5-8. Can we bring glory to God by being evil?

      1. What argument is this group making that Paul rejects? (This group says if the goal is to bring glory to God, then my bad behavior highlights God's goodness.)

      2. What does this suggest about those who teach that righteousness by faith means we should disregard the law? (God is still concerned about our actions.)

    4. Did you notice the two arguments that Paul has just rejected? I think they are important to understand before we jump into Paul's statements about righteousness by faith. How would you put the correct conclusions into your own words? (1. God is always faithful. Whether we are trying to explain why something bad has happened, or whether we are trying to figure out who is a good spiritual leader, we need to place our trust first in Jesus. Second, the way to bring glory to God is by obeying Him, not by showing what it means to live an unrighteous life.)

    5. Read Romans 3:9. What if you avoid these two false positions, what if you understand and follow the truth, are you any better than those who misunderstand? (No! You may have this right, but you are still a sinner for other reasons!)

  2. The Law

    1. Let's skip down and read Romans 3:19. What is the purpose of the law? (To make us shut our mouths! Recall last week's study was a strong warning about being judgmental?)

      1. Notice the strange language here. Paul says that the law speaks to "those who are under the law." Does that suggest that some are not "under the law?"

      2. If you just answered, "yes," how do you explain that Paul next writes "so that every mouth" is silenced and "the whole world held accountable?" If the law only applies to some, why would all mouths be silenced and everyone held accountable? (Paul must mean that the default position for everyone is that we are under the law.)

    2. Read Romans 3:20. Is the law the answer to our sins? (No. "No one" will be declared righteous by "observing the law." Rather, the law lets us know what God wants us to avoid.)

    3. If I stopped right here and asked, "Consider what we have discussed so far. Would you say that the law is still relevant?" What would you answer? (The answer would have to be "Yes." The law shows us how to give glory to God. The law shows us the best way to live.)

  3. Righteousness by Faith

    1. Read Romans 3:21. Is there a way for us to be righteous apart from keeping the law? (Yes.)

      1. How do we know this is true? Do we just have to take Paul's word for it? (Paul writes that "the Law and the Prophets testify" to this method of attaining righteousness part from keeping the law.)

        1. What do you think that means? (The prophets spoke of the coming of a Messiah. The sanctuary service symbolized Jesus' coming sacrifice. Our inability to keep the law shows us that we need a better way.)

    2. Read Romans 3:22-24. What is this new way to be righteous that is "apart" from keeping the law? ("Faith in Jesus Christ.")

      1. Who can take advantage of this offer? ("All who believe.")

      2. Does God try to limit those who can take advantage of this offer? (No. We are "justified freely.")

      3. Must everyone take advantage of this offer if they desire eternal life? ("All have sinned." The comment about there being "no difference" tells us that no matter how good we may think we are, the presence of sin in our life means that we will still die unless we accept Jesus' offer.)

      4. What does this suggest about disrespecting others? What does this suggest about an attitude of superiority based on our obedience?

    3. Read Romans 3:25-26. The phrase "faith in His blood" seems odd. What does this mean? (This brings to mind the sanctuary service where an animal was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the person bringing the animal. It was the blood that removed the sin. See Hebrews 9:22 and Ezekiel 43:20. This tells us that the sacrifice in the sanctuary service was an example to let God's people know that Jesus was coming to take away their sins.)

      1. These verses say that this "demonstrates" God's justice. How do you explain that this is justice? (Read Genesis 2:16-17. I believe that the entry of sin automatically brings death. It is a natural law and God warned Adam about it. When Jesus died for our sins, so that we would have the opportunity to enter a sin-free world once again, it showed us that God's justice is unlike anything we have ever seen before.)

    4. Read Romans 3:27. Do you think that you are a pretty good person? Do most of the people you know have lower standards than yours? What does Paul say about an attitude like this? ("It is excluded." We have nothing to boast about since righteousness by faith is a free gift.)

    5. Read Romans 3:28. What role does the law play in our salvation? (None. The only people who are justified, are those who do so on the basis of faith in Jesus' sacrifice on their behalf. The law has nothing to do with it.)

    6. Friend, does your attitude towards others fully reflect the truth of righteousness by faith? We are all sinners. All of us have only one way to be saved eternally, and it has nothing to do with our own works. Praise God for what He has done for us!

  4. Next week: The Faith of Abraham.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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