by Paul Larson
Romans 3 Discussion Q’s:
Romans 3:1-8 Would You Rather?
While Romans 1 (& later in our chapter) make clear that no one is with excuse (IOW: every person has had enough revealed to them about God to be open to God’s search for them), yet in 3:2 Paul speaks of the special privilege and responsibility of ‘being entrusted with the very words of God’.
Q1: Is that how we think of the Bible? And what would that look like if we took to heart – “being entrusted with the very words of God”? And can you describe the sense of sad irony to be someone entrusted with a living God’s living Words, to be responsible for that great Reveal of Him to us — but then to largely ignore (not read) God’s entrusted words to us?
A: Many people think of the Bible as a history book or a guidebook for the journey of life. Many doubt that the Bible really is a living God’s living words entrusted to us.
We shouldn’t read the Bible because we have to; we read it because God is speaking to us, and there is Life in His words. We must read the Bible in a similar way that we must breathe air – we need it to live. And, yes, it is a sad irony indeed to be accountable for a gift entrusted to us that we do not open.
3:5-8 talk about people who might say, “so if my sinning increases the glory of God by contrast, maybe I should purposely sin”. Paul says that some had even misconstrued his teaching on grace as a license to sin.
Q2 If you had a friend who says, “I don’t worry about sinning because God forgives all sin anyways”, how might you pray for and talk with them?
A: While we know God’s greatness can shine through weakness, we are never to celebrate sin or willingly give ourselves to it. While some may falsely interpret Christian “righteousness by faith” as license to sin, this is not a response of faith but of unbelief.
Romans 3:9-20 No Not One
3:9 The apostle Paul asks the question, “Are we any better?”
Q3: What does it reveal about us if we believe ourselves morally or spiritually better than a pagan or a religious hypocrite?
A: It means that we have not understood the deadly root and effect of all and every sin. It means that we have not understood that our deeper problem is a Sin nature we share with all of humanity above any and every symptomatic sin that appears in our lives as a result. It means we believe another person’s sin of [horrible-xyz-sin…] is greater and worse than the sin I am guilty of: putting the innocent Son of God to die on a cross in my place.
Q4: 3:10-18 How is it possible to reconcile that “no one is righteous, …there is no one who does good”, with the obvious good we see in people?
A: What we call “total depravity” in theology means that sinfulness has completely infected all of humanity. While the image of God is marred in people, it does not mean that it is altogether lost to us. It does not mean that the marks and motives of God’s creation of us are not still evident at many times and in many people, even though tainted by sin. These good things we see in humanity do not mean that people are righteous however. The good we see is actually even part of the ‘natural revelation’ of creation and conscience — God calling out to us that He exists, and that He is holy and He is knowable!
Q5: 3:20 Can you give an example of a time when hearing or reading or remembering God’s Word, you became convicted of sin in your life? (some brave souls give some examples (of appropriate detail 🙂 )
A: (Hint: help students see that when God’s law convicts them of sin: it is less that we are ‘above the microscope’ examining a dull inert book, but rather the living words of a living God are ‘above the microscope’ and we are the dead specimen being examined and brought back to life.)
When I become conscious of sin in my life, it is less about how enlightened of a person I am, and more about God’s work in my life through His Word. (Yeah, let’s pull out that cool little red confirmation book, “Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism”!!) The answer to LSC Q21 reminds us that the law voice of God: a) orders human society (it curbs), convicts me of my sin and drives me to know my need of Jesus (it’s a mirror), and then after faith it guides me in living a life of love for God and others (it guides). I believe it’s important for students to grasp that while the Law is a deadly thing (it slays the sinner) and shows us to be an enemy of God, yet the Law itself is not bad but good. It is not a legal hurdle to be overcome or the enemy to be obliterated; but it shows something that can only be satisfied by the righteousness of Jesus. The Law is from God and of God; it represents not only His will, but is evidence of His good, perfect and loving character.
Romans 3:21-31 Only This One
Read together the spectacular spiritual manifesto of Romans 3:21-24! It is like our Emancipation Proclamation; our ‘Exception for our Non-Exemption’!! Drink it in. List as a group all the truths and promises that are Revealed to us here…
We are reminded of the great evil of slavery in our world, in our nation’s past, and even we hear of the modern day slavery present today in various forms of human trafficking.
Q6: If you had been enslaved your whole life, what would be your response if you were finally set free; if someone entered your situation and paid whatever price it took to gain your freedom?
A: your students (and you) will each have your own expressions for this. Maybe people should give their responses in groups of two or three with each other. Would their response be extreme overwhelming gratitude? Would they be so accustomed to slavery they might reject rescue? Would they turn their focus toward vengeance on their masters, or perhaps in time recognize their slavery also and reach out to them? Would their lives from here on out be set as those who help others be rescued from slavery? Help your students focus in on the word “redemption” in 3:24. It is a word (verb form) that means to liberate, to release, to set free. The implied word picture is that of freeing a slave. Help your students revel that they, each one who has fallen short (v23) even today, and who is ‘no different’ from any other person in that (v22) – “are justified freely by his grace through the REDEMPTION that came by Christ Jesus”. (v24)
I don’t know your youth group setting or you as a leader, but I encourage you at this time to simply ask your students, “Do you believe this?” “Believe this!” And, share a time of prayer, confessing sin and confessing faith in Jesus.