Bible Study 10-30-11

Light on the Lessons

 Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

Reformation Sunday/Day, Cycle ABC, October 30/31, 2011

Participant Guide

I Getting Started

The Reformation strove to recover the gospel of grace. Its slogan went: We are justified by grace through faith. The accent shifted from what we do to what God did for us in Christ. Reformation insights have informed the whole spectrum of Christian families, including the Roman Catholic. However, Reformation is an ongoing process. We need to continually reform our own faith, so we might focus more clearly on the grace of God which delivers us.

1. “If we are saved by God’s grace, then why do we need spiritual disciplines such as regular prayer, meditation, study, and the rest?” How would you answer this person?

2. “I’ll tell you why some people leave traditional Christianity for various cults and movements. It takes too simple a view of salvation. People inherently want to play a part in their own salvation. They like to think they have earned it.” What are your thoughts on that statement?

3. If we truly believe that God forgives us freely for Jesus’ sake, then why do so many Christians carry burdens of guilt?

4. What does the concept of being “set free in Christ” mean to you?

II Check the Texts

1. Jeremiah 31:31-34

The idea of a covenant is very basic to biblical religion. In a covenant, a superior (e.g., the LORD) establishes a relationship with an inferior (e.g., Israel) based on a good act the superior has done for the inferior (e.g., deliverance from bondage in Egypt). In this relationship, the inferior owes total loyalty to the superior and seals the relationship by following certain rules (e.g., Ten Commandments).

A. Does Jeremiah envision a totally new covenant, or is his vision more like a renewal and reinvigoration of the existing covenant with Israel?

B. Read Ezekiel 36:24-28. How does this vision of a restored and renewed Israel compare with Jeremiah’s?

C. How does Jeremiah’s vision of the covenant differ from the former covenant?

2. Romans 3:19-28

Paul contrasts faith and law as ways of salvation. By “law” he means the Jewish law. He has two aims: (1) to demonstrate that Gentiles too are open to God’s salvation, and (2) to challenge Jewish overconfidence in their special relationship with God. Thus, salvation comes not by law (measures belonging to only one people) but by trust in what Christ did (conceived of as being for all peoples everywhere).

A. In verse 20, Paul says that through the law comes knowledge of sin, rather than salvation. How does God’s law make us aware of our sin and alienation from God?

B. How do you understand verse 22a?

C. In verses 23-24, what is the “bad news” and what is the “good news”?

D. In verses 24-25, Paul speaks of “sacrifice of atonement by [Jesus’] blood” and notes that God formerly “passed over the sins [of the people].” What interpretation do you give to these contrasting views of salvation?

3. John 8:31-36

A. In verse 31, the RSV and NRSV have “believed in him,” while the NIV and REB use “believed him.” What difference do these two translations make?

B. What was the political situation of the Jews at this time, and what had it been for the previous three centuries? How then could they make the assertion in verse 33?

C. What in the lesson from Romans 3, above, compares with the statement in verse 34?

III What Does It All Mean?

1. How have you experienced God’s grace in your life this week?

2. What theme(s) ties these lessons together?

3. As a Christian, what does being free mean to you?

4. What’s the difference between going through the forms of our faith and truly having a heartfelt trust in God’s grace? How “heartfelt” must our faith be in order to save us?

5. If you are among all those who have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” how are you capable of doing good works?

6. If Paul places such great store on justification by faith, why does he devote so much space in his letters to exhorting believers to live upright, loving lives?

7. Luther wrote:

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.

“A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all”

What do you think Luther meant? (See 1 Corinthians 9:19 and Romans 13:8, passages Luther cited.)

IV Into the Week

1. You go home and someone asks, “What did you learn today?” What would you reply?

2. How will you celebrate your freedom this week? How will you express your servanthood?

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