ROMANS (Romans 5:1 – 6:23) – Session 4
Access to Grace
Rejoice in Sufferings
Dead to Sin… Alive in Christ
Slaves to Righteousness
[i] Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, p. 297
[ii] Keller, Timothy: Romans 1 – 7 For You. Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2014, p. 110
Scripture Read: Matthew 8
Title: The Cost of Discipleship
(H) Highlight verse: "And he said to them, 'Why are afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." Matthew 8:26
(E) Explain: When Jesus came down from the mountain he encounters a centurion with great faith, who asks Jesus to heal his servant. He heals Peter's mother-in-law, he calms the wind and the sea, and he heals two demon possessed men. In all of this we read in verses 18 -22 about the cost of following Jesus. A scribe tells Jesus he will go wherever Jesus goes, and a disciple says he will follow Jesus after he buries his father. In both cases Jesus responds to their statements with a truth, there is a cost to following him. He informs the scribe that if he wants to follow Jesus, he will have to be ok with the fact that there is no comfort in following him. He has no place to call home. He is essentailly a nomad in the nation of Israel. To the disciple he tells him that he must give everything up, including seeing his father's burial (we do not know that his father was actually dead. the implication is that his father was old and ready to die eventually). He had an excuse, but Jesus informs him that if he wants to follow him that now is the time. Basically, Jesus was telling both men, "It's not a glamorous life and it involves sacrifice, so decide today if following me is worth it or not." Other costs Jesus speaks of is the need for living a life of faith, as his disciples were rebuked by him because they were afraid in the boat on the rough seas. He then showed that discipleship will often cause you to make enemies. Jesus heals the two demon possessed men and instead of something positive happening afterwards, the people told him that he and his disciples were not welcome in the city. All in all chapter 8 gives a clear message that there is indeed a cost to discipleship.
(A) Application: Many times when people talk about discipleship they immdiately equate it to a program or a process. Often people think that they can take discipleship courses, learn the ins and outs of discipleship, and then go out and teach the program to others. This is not necessarily what discipleship is. Sure, learning is an integral part of discipleship, but in reality is more about being and doing, rather than learning and practicing.
In todays passage we see that there is a cost involved with discipleship. This cost involves more than merely making a committment to a program. Here are some of the costs of discipeship.
(R) Respond: Lord, I give everything to you so that I may follow you. Help me to keep in perspective at all times the costs involved in being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Scripture Read: Matthew 7
Title: Sermon on the Mount (Pt. 3)
(H) Highlight verse: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Matthew 7:15 - 16
(E) Explain: We now come to the conclusion of Jesus' sermon. Even though this sermon spans three chapters it is important to note that these are not a series of sermons he gave, it is one sermon broken up into multiple parts. There are many topics in this sermon but they all flow together to show what discipleship looks like and how Christians should conduct their lives.
In chapter seven Jesus talks about judging one another, prayer and discernment. He begins by talking about judging one another. Once again Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. When Christians make judging others a way of life by always seeking out other peoples faults and never tending to their own is wrong. This becomes an attitude of self-righteousness. So the problem lies when we see the sins of others and fail to see our own sinful ways. Jesus has already brought to light that what matters most in these situations is the attitude of the heart.
Following along these same lines Jesus tells his disciples to be discerning and vigilant against false prophets. What is a false prophet? According to theologian Sinclair B. Ferguson, "The basic task of the prophet was to forth-tell, not jsut fore-tell, God's word. He was to explain and apply God's truth to the lives of the people in his own day, as well as speak about the future... Simply put, a 'prophet' was one who spoke from God. A 'false prophet' is one who falsifies God's word - either by openinly contradicting it, or, more likely, by twisting it's meaning."  False prophets are not easily exposed, they portray themselves as sheep, but are actually ravenous wolves. This means that they appear harmless from the outside but are in fact very dangerous.
Since these false prophets are present in Jesus' time (and in our time today) he gives us a way to help identify these dangerous and harmful individuals. Jesus tells us that we will recognize them by their fruit. The fruit being their words, works, and actions. He is saying that a false prophet will ultimately self-identify himself. The words he speaks and the actions he does will eventually reveal who he is.
(A) Application: When we go out looking for ways to judge people shows our motivations are wrong. However, Jesus does not suggest at all that when sin is present in a very visible way that we are to gloss over it and never acknowledge it. Matthew 18:15 - 17 says, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that bythe mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." This is clearly a mandate to hold one another accountable.
This accountabilty carries over to those who are preachers, pastors, prophets, and church leaders. There are people in leadership positions in churches across the world who a like the false prophets Jesus speaks about. There are men and women who seem from the outside to be wonderful god-fearing people, but are dangerous people. They twist scripture, they cause division and factions in the church, and they do it subtly. I know I personally get frustrated when I see men and women, who are trusted by their congregations or followers, leading people astray and using the name of God to promote themselves and their agenda. But how do we expose these people? Well, in most cases we can't, they eventually expose themselves because of the rotten fruit they produce. We can warn people about false prophets, we can even expose them publicly, but usually our warnings go unheard and we get frustrated. But Jesus tells us clearly that the words and deeds of a false prophet will ultimately expose them. However, there are ways we can protect ourselves and have discernment in identifying false prophets.
Once again Dr. Sinclair B Ferguson writes, "How can we recognise these wolves and escape their harmful influences? Jesus sets before us several important principles."
(R) Respond: Lord, check my heart. May I never judge anyone with a prideful heart and self-righteous attitude. May I also have the discernment to identify false prophets in my sphere of influence. Most of all guard my heart so that I may have a Christlike attitude as live my life in obedience to you.
Scripture Read: Matthew 6
Title: Sermon on the Mount (Pt. 2)
(H) Highlight verse: "Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its owntrouble. " Matthew 6:34
(E) Explain: Jesus continues his sermon is chapter seven as he covers a number of relevant issues of the day. He first talks about giving with the right heart. When we are to give we are to do it in humility and in secret. We are not supposed to look for accolades or praise. Jesus tells us that when we give, whether it's money, time or talent do it with a heart of praise to God and an act of service to those receiving your gift.
Jesus then talks about our attitude of prayer as well. He informs the disciples and his listeners that in our prayer we are to have the same modesty and humility in prayer as we do in giving. Jesus tells those listening that when they pray, they should pray in secret and not be wordy. He tells them not to show off when praying, but enter prayer with a heart of humility. He then goes on and gives a model of prayer by introducing the Lord's prayer.
The chapter closes out with Jesus' practical advice on worry and anxiety. He tells the disciples not to be anxious about what food they will eat and what clothes to wear because God is in control of all things and he will take care of his children. Jesus smacks us square in the face when he speaks about how useless it is to spend time worrying. He says, "and which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" The obvious answer is none. He gives us perspective, God cares about us and He will take care of us, so don't waste your time worrying about things you have no control over.
(A) Application: This chapter has always spoken to me and it convicts me everytime I read it. The message is so clear... Be humble, have a right heart with God when you give and pray, and most of all, don't be anxious o worry. Should be simple right? Unfortunately, not for me. I wish I knew how much time I spend worrying or being anxious over things I have no control over.
The stage of life that I am in right now, I find myself more anxious than ever. I worry about getting a full-time ministry position. I worry about work. I worry about finances. I worry about the well-being of my family, are they taken care of and well provided for? I worry about the future. I just plain worry a lot and I shouldn't. I need to constantly remind myself of the words of Jesus. He's going to take care of me. He knows my every need before I even knew I had a need and he has taken care of it. I just need to be reminded to trust him and know that he is able to meet every need and he is faithful to take care of my needs.
(R) Respond: Will you join me in trusting God today? Whatever you may be facing that is causing you to worry or be anxious, let's give it over to God. He knows our needs snf he is trustworthy.
ROMANS (Romans 2:12 – 4:25) – Session 3
Scripture Read: Matthew 5
Title: Sermon on the Mount (Pt. 1)
(H) Highlight verse: "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew5:16
(E) Explain: The Sermon on the Mount (Ch. 5 - 7) is first of several discourses of Jesus found in Matthew's Gospel and is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. The content of The Sermon on the Mount deals primarily with discipleship and how Christians should conduct their lives. According to the New Bible Commentary, "The controlling theme around which this material is collected is that of discipleship, or ‘life in the kingdom of heaven’. Having called his first disciples, Jesus set out for them an overview of the privileges and the demands of their new situation."
Chapter five begins with the "Beattitudes" which detail what the life of discipleship looks like. These eight beattutides describe what the a blessed and happy life entails. Jesus speaks hope to his disciples by explaining to them that a life that is joyful is a life that looks radically different from the rest of the world. The poor will inherit, those who mourn will be comforted, those who hunger and thirst for God will be satisfied etc. He is offering hope to the seemingly hopeless, but their hope in not necessarily rooted in physical blessings here on earth, but on eternal and spiritual blessings.
The second part of the sermon gives a job description of sorts for the disciples. The one who is reviled and persecuted for Jesus' sake is not only to rejoice, but is also called to be salt and light to the world, even amidst persecution. The purpose of salt is multifaceted. Salt adds flavor, it is a preservative, it's a cleansing agent, and the rabbi's also used salt as a symbol of wisdom. The meaning of the light is more obvious as we know that light exposes darkness and makes it so one can see in the darkness. We can spend a lot of time determining what Jesus is actually referring to in regards to salt and light, but I think we can take this image of salt and light and know that the disciples were called to be a positive influence in their culture and society. Their words, deeds, actions and faith should reveal Jesus to others.
In the third section Jesus takes the disciples life to a new level. Jesus makes six revolutionary statements in verses 21 - 48. He says six times "You have heard that it was said... But I say to you." These are revolutionary because he is telling the disciples, and the onlookers, that their held beliefs about murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation and enemies is more than restraining from physically doing something wrong. Jesus points out that keeping the commands is a matter of the heart. If you harbor anger in your heart, then your guilty of murder. If you look lustfully at someone, then you have committed adultery, if you divorce your spouse, on any grounds other than sexual immorality, then you have committed adultery etc. Jesus is essentially "changing the rules" if you will, in the eyes of the public. He is saying a relationship with God is not just about outward appearances and observances, but is more about the condition of the spiritual heart.
(A) Application: Matthew chapter 5 one of the most highly practical and applicable passages in the Gospels. Now, this does not suggest in anyway that it is the easiest to practice and apply. These sayings of Jesus "upped the ante" to the life fully committed to God. Up until this point, people mistakenly believed that the religious life was more about doing and not being, but Jesus shows in this passage that our outer "doings" mean nothing if our hearts and motivations are not pure and right. Now what makes this all so difficult is that we as humans have no power over our sinful human hearts. We are told in scripture that our hearts are deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9) We are born sinful and there is nothing WE can do about it... but Jesus can. A life committed to Jesus Christ begins with a transformed heart. We do not transform the heart, Jesus does. However, we are responsible, only through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, for our actions and matters of the heart once they are transformed. So we are to guard our hearts and fully rely on the Holy Spirit in us to deal with the matters of our hearts. With the Spirit's presence in our lives we have the ability to forgive others who have wronged us, treat the opposite sex with respect and dignity and treat others with kindness. Through Jesus Christ we can now live our lives being for God in conjunction with doing for God and this only happens through a heart change.
(R) Respond: Lord, I pray that my heart will be guarded and that I will devote my days to being the man that you have called me to be. I pray that I will not be consumed with just keeping outer appearances, but that my heart would be truly transformed to live for your glory and honor .
This Sunday I am continuing my online Romans Chapters 1 - 7 virtual study Sunday School Class. There are questions at the end of each study and many of them were adapted from Timothy Keller's Romans 1- 7 For You (The Good Book Company) and some were written by me. I hope you enjoy this study.
ROMANS (Romans 1:16 – 2:12) – Session 2
b) I Cor. 1:21 – Through the foolish preaching of the cross is able to save those who believe.
c)I Cor. 4:10 – We are fools for Christ’s sake, but are wise in Christ’s eyes.
 Moo, Douglas: The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996, p. 67
Scripture Read: Matthew 3 - 4
Title: The Temptation of Jesus
(H) Highlight verse: "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Matthew 4:1
(E) Explain: Matthew Chapter 4 describes the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. However, his ministry begins in a very unique way. The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasts for forty days and forty nights and at the conclusion of his fast the devil tempts Jesus three times and all three times Jesus refutes the temptation with Scripture. After the third temptation Jesus commands the devil to depart from him and then the angels attended to him.
Jesus announces and reiterates John's message of repentance because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, he is referring to a current and future Kingdom where God's rule and reign is established on earth. According to John Nolland's Commentary of Matthew in regards to the Kingdom of Heaven, "At the very least in terms of preparatory activity, if not in some larger sense, things were now on the move in relation to God's rule. Clearly it is the conviction of (Jesus) that the way in which the coming rule of God would impact individuals depended heavily on how they were prepared to relate themselves already now to what was coming, but also that new possibilities were now present precisely because the kingdom of heaven had drawn near." 
In verses 18 - 22 we read about Jesus' call for his first disciples to come and follow him. He first approaches Peter (AKA Simon) and his brother Andrew, both fishermen. Jesus calls them to follow him and they immediately left their nets and followed him. He then approaches John and his brother James, both fishermen also, as they were mending their nets with their father and tells them to follow him. We read that they dropped their nets and left their father to follow Jesus.
(A) Application: Matthew chapter 4 is quite possibly one of my favorite chapters in all of the collective Gospels because I see how Jesus responds to temptation and how the disciples respond as Jesus calls them to discipleship. In this chapter we see that Jesus faced temptation, in the same way that you and I do on a daily basis. We can learn from his responses to the temptations of the devil that He used scripture to refute the devil and ultimately cast him from his presence. We are told in Hebrews 4:11, 12 "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning thoughts and intention of the hearts." God's word is powerful. It is important for the Christian to read and know God's word because it can benefit us greatly. God's word helps us in times of temptations, trials, discouragement, etc. This is why I have committed to this Foundations 260 reading plan. In reading the Bible as a whole I not only get to know God on a more intimate and personal level, but I also receive instruction, encouragement, and strength at all times.
In the conclusion of the chapter I see the call of Jesus' disciples and their commitment to discipleship. The first step of discipleship is being called. Jesus chose Peter, Andrew, James, and John for no specific reason other than they were they ones He chose. There was nothing special about these men, in fact they were average (maybe even below average) men who had no formal education or specific calling. They were fishermen and Jesus calls them to follow him. This leads to the second step of discipleship and that is responding to his call. The response of these two sets of brothers is amazing... They dropped their nets and followed Him. I think sometimes we overlook the significance of their response. They dropped EVERYTHING to follow Jesus. These men were fishermen this was their livelihood. When they dropped their nets and followed, they essentially had nothing, but they gained Jesus, which meant they had now had everything. This reminds me that their is a cost for discipleship; we must give up something (or in most cases... everything) in order to follow him but the cost is completely worth it.
(R) Respond: Lord, thank you for showing me how to face temptation and that there is a cost to discipleship that is totally worth it. May I faithfully follow you all of the days of my life.
 Noland, John (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, p.176. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Scripture Read: John 1
Title: Jesus, The Beginning and the Word
(H) Highlight verse: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory. glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
(E) Explain: John (the son of Zebedee) the Apostle is the author. This is the same John who wrote 1,2,3 John and the same one who is believed to have written Revelation. Since John never actually uses his name in the book it is generally agreed that he is the author. There is some external evidence that even the early Church Father’s support John’s authorship. It was written about 40 to 60 years after the death of Jesus which would put it at about 70 to 100 A.D. This Gospel letter was written to Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus and was written to show Jesus is/was the chosen Messiah. The purpose for his writing was evangelical in intent and informative so the readers could have a deeper understanding of Jesus and eternal life.
The first 18 verses have aptly been titled “The prologue to the Gospel” by many. John takes the time at the beginning of his account to be what Gary M. Burge writes, “An overture to the story of the rest of the Gospel.” He establishes some truths about Jesus
(A) Application: Since time began the Word was present. There has not been a time when the Word has not existed. The Word as we will soon see refers to Jesus and has always been, He was not created and He has no beginning. This makes Jesus eternal. The Word was with God… this does not just mean he was in close proximity but implies intimate personal relationship.
Not only was the Word with God but was also the very essence of God Himself. I like the way The New English Translation reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.
In Him is life… Jesus doesn’t just possess life; he is the source of life… He is the source of physical and spiritual life. As we noted above that he is the Creator of all (physical life) but also through his death and resurrection became the source of Spiritual life as well.
John also denotes that Jesus is the light that dispels darkness. In the Bible darkness is synonymous with death and evil and light dispels the darkness. The darkness will try to overcome Jesus (as we will see in the Gospel) but to no avail. Christ is victorious! F.F. Bruce writes in his commentary, “Light and darkness are opposites, but they are not opposites of equal power. Light is stronger than darkness; and darkness cannot prevail against it.
The Word became flesh: The incarnation. The eternal God, Creator of all, and the light of the world took on the form of a man and dwelt among humanity. John was an eyewitness as he walked, talked and touched the living God in human flesh. John himself bore witness to Jesus’ glory. The word glory means “the most exalted state or kingly majesty”. This could refer to Christ’s transfiguration and his death and resurrection in which John witnessed
(R) Respond: Lord, search my heart and make yourself known to me. Today I will reflect on Jesus, his Word, his acts of creation, his glory, and his light and life that is offered to me.
 Burge, Gary M. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: John, p.25. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Books.
 Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
 Bruce, F.F. (1994). The Gospel of John, p..34. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
Scripture Read: Mark 1
Title: Jesus Establishes His Ministry
(H) Highlight verse: "And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee." Mark 1:28
(E) Explain: The Gospel of Mark is a fast pace Gospel with a sense of urgency (in the ESV Bible the word "immediately" is used eight times in chapter 1). Unlike the other Gospels Mark begins with Jesus' ministry as an adult and speaks nothing of his birth or childhood. We must keep in mind that Mark not one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. It is believed that Mark wrote his gospel based upon the reports given to him by the Apostle Peter. He in a way presents "just the facts" and gives account of all of the works of Jesus Christ to show that he truly is the Messiah. He talks about Jesus' authority to teach and his power over evil and sickness.
There is a lot of ground covered in chapter one beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist and continues through Jesus' healing ministry. He speaks about John being the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 and describes his ministry purpose. John came to call people to repentance, baptizing them and preparing the people for the coming Messiah. We also read a detailed account of Jesus' baptism of John and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. Mark briefly tells about Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and then launches into His ministry beginning with calling the disciples and giving account of Jesus' ministry of healing. He speaks of Jesus' authority over demons, and sickness and because of his ministry He became well know among the people. His fame spread throughout the surrounding region.
(A) Application: In Marks no nonsense account of Jesus' life he establishes who Jesus is and what his purpose was. According to the ESV Study Bible, "Mark addresses an audience which is largely unfamiliar with Jewish customs. He intends to familiarize then with those customs, because only then will they understand the coming of Jesus as the culmination of God's work with Israel and the entire world."  The Gospel of Mark addresses the same for us today.
However, most importantly the passage for today establishes Jesus' ministry and shows us the importance of discipleship. Mark stresses the message and work of Jesus Christ. His message was one of repentance and his work was in calling his disciples to follow him and showing them the power of God through his healing ministry. This shows me that as a disciple of Jesus we are called to follow him, share his message and hold fast to his teachings. Jesus has authority over all things, thus establishing Him as Lord of all. It is our job and calling as disciples to share the message of repentance, deliverance and hope to the world. It is our job to make sure his fame is spread to show the world that He is indeed Lord and Savior of all.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I be a faithful disciple who proudly proclaims your Lordship and authority to the world. As a disciple may I faithfully proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Bayer, Hans, study note on the Gospel According to Mark in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 1890.
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