Monday, March 11, 2013

The Cross Is…

Adapted from In My Place, an article by Steve Brown.  Romans 5:6-11, verse by verse.

Even radical bible scholars count Romans as an epistle definitely written by Paul.  His purposes in writing the letter include:  prayers for his coming journey to Jerusalem, his plan to go to Rome and then on to Spain, to outline his teaching before his arrival in Rome, and to address the big conflict in the community.  The conflict between the Gentile and Jewish Christians developed because Emperor Claudius exiled Jews from Rome in AD 49, which resulted in Gentile Christians taking leadership positions.  The tension came when Jewish Christians returned in AD 54 after Claudius' death and found the Gentiles not keeping Jewish food laws nor observing Jewish holy days.

Martin Luther described Romans as "the chief book of the New Testament… it deserves to be known by heart, word for word, by every Christian."  His lectures on Romans in 1515-16 were probably when he developed his criticism of the Roman church, which led to the 95 Theses of 1517.  In 1738, John Wesley’s reading of Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans began his conversion experience, which may be considered the beginning of Methodism. In 1919, Karl Barth's commentary on Romans was the beginning of neo-orthodoxy, which was a big influence on Bonhoffer and the German Christians who resisted the Third Reich.  Modern day evangelists use the “Romans Road” to present the case for salvation:  Romans 3:23, 6:23a, 6:23b, 5:8,10:9-10,10:13.
That’s a good epistle!

Romans 4:23-25 is a good summary of the 4th chapter on faith.
1)    What is Paul saying? How definitive is it? (Is he clear or ambiguous?)

Today we’re concentrating on only 6 little verses, Romans 5:6-11.  But first we should look at verses 1-5.
2)    How would you sum up those first five verses to a fellow Christian? (To a non-Christian?)

The CROSS is a…necessity v6:  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
3)    If we are forgiven, why do we always pray to be forgiven?

The CROSS is a…surprise v7:  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
4)    How would you feel if someone offered their life up for yours?  (Or, if you’ve experienced this in the military or elsewhere,  how did you feel when they did offer their life for yours?)  What if it was someone who was a better person than you?  Someone with more to lose?  Brown notes: we deserve wrath, we expect anger, and yet we find God offering love.

The CROSS is a…demonstration v8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
5)    Can we witness if we are miserable and bound?  God demonstrated his love to us that he might demonstrate his love through us.

The CROSS is a…promise v9: Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
This reminds me of the best teacher I ever knew.  She enforced complete discipline to make sure that her classroom was a safe place for her elementary students, but always, always any act of discipline was followed by an act of love.
6)    What does this verse mean to you?

The CROSS is a…reality
v10: For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
7)    Do you live in guilt? That’s living in a lie.  The reality is you are forgiven.  What difference does that make in how we live day to day?

8)    Are you afraid of death?  That fear is a lie.  The reality is you are going to live forever.  What difference can that make in our decision making?

The CROSS is a…celebration v11: Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
9)    Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  What keeps the older brother from celebrating?

10)    What helps you be able to join the celebration?

The CROSS is the … last word. The cross is crucial to Paul. One of the biggest disputes in the early church was over circumcision. The sign of the Abrahamic covenant, it was utterly necessary to be one of God’s chosen. But let’s read Galations 6:11-17.
11)    Why does the cross settle this dispute for Paul?

12)    What disputes in the church today could be settled by this same argument?

The cross is for us? In Matthew 16, after Peter is shut down for telling Jesus that He shouldn’t have to suffer and die, it says: (Mt 16:24-25) ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.’
13)    Amazing that this was before the crucifixion. What do you feel like Jesus is telling you?