July 24 lesson: Not without hope
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Not without hope
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 2: A World Gone Wrong
Sunday school lesson for the week of July 24, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Romans 5:1-11
Background Scripture: Romans 5:1-11
Introduction: On Dec. 2, 1942, at 2:20 p.m., Enrico Fermi began the first controlled nuclear reaction in his lab at the University of Chicago. The experiment lasted for 28 minutes. Afterward, Arthur Compton, a colleague of Enrico Fermi, placed a call to John Bryant Conant at Harvard. The conversation was guarded by the code of wartime. “The Italian navigator has reached the new world.” “How did he find the natives?” asked Conant. “Very friendly,” came the reply.
One of the world’s greatest scientific discoveries began the atomic age. Centuries before Enrico Fermi, the theologian Paul announced to Christians living in Rome that he had made life’s greatest theological discovery. Humans in sin, coming to a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, can be justified by their faith. Since that declaration, humans and a world gone wrong have never been without hope.
Read aloud Romans 5:1-11
Paul, in his early themes in the Letter to the Romans, paints a terrible portrait of the human situation. Now the message turns to the results of the divine gift of Jesus Christ. Humans have access to being justified and reconciled to God.
Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, was asked what would be his policy when seceded states were defeated and rebellious southerners had surrendered. The astute president responded by saying, “I am going to treat them as if they had never been away.”
To the humans, who have been in sinful rebellion and now have faith in Jesus Christ, God declares them “not guilty.” God grants them reconciliation and hope.
Having been made right with God through faith in Christ, what comes next in the process of justification? There is now a new lifestyle that being declared “not guilty” of sin brings to a believer.
There is peace with God. No longer is there concern about missing the intention of God’s will. Gone is the anxiety over being a prodigal. Taken away is the constant concern about breaking God’s moral law and worry over being rebellious and self-centered. Now there is an inner peace the human spirit receives from God.
There is constant access to amazing grace. In Christ, humans have a new recognition, status, and the privilege of calling upon God. No longer is the believer out of range and out of touch with God but, instead, feels forgiven and reconciled. There is a direct personal relationship with God. Forgiven sinners can brag about the hope that comes from access to God. There is the abiding privilege of approaching God.
A clergywoman learned from a lay teacher how to glory in tribulation. More children arrived for Vacation Bible School than had pre-enrolled. There was a dire shortage of materials, rooms, cookies, and lemonade
“Preacher, don’t fret,” said the lay worker. “This is sweet trouble.” With extra ice in the cups, cutting the cookies in half, and placing chairs in the sanctuary, they glowed in the “sweet trouble.”
Paul tells the Roman Christians that peace, purpose, meaning, and good can come from a troubled situation.
Suffering can produce endurance. This is an ability not to passively endure. It is the power to actively overcome and even conquer life’s unexpected trials and hurts. From the endurance of tribulation comes the formation of character. This places in the human personality the reliability that stress and anxiety does not bend or break. The believer in Christ is made purer, bolder, and closer to God.
When character is created in tribulation, there is a deposit of hope. This hope is given over and over by the Holy Spirit. God is with humans for comfort, guidance, and strength. Hope never abandons the believer. Hope can never bring disappointment. It grows from being used.
Humans entangled in sin are unable to free themselves from helpless circumstances. While sinners were non-believers in God, he died for them upon the cross. Such amazing love from God is not deserved. This mighty act of God came at the right time. In what Jesus Christ has done, God offers to sinners an exit from sin. In this action upon the cross, Christ did what humans would not do for other humans.
God’s love that went to the cross for humans will keep them safe from God’s anger when they are justified. God will see them acquitted in the last judgment. Divine wrath is a quality of God’s nature. God is hostile to all forms of wickedness. It is astounding grace that saves sinners from God dealing with humans as enemies.
In all of his writings, Paul is never shy about boasting. He has listed things the sinner – found not guilty by repentance, confession, and receiving forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ – can boast. Brag about sharing the glory of God (5:2), take pride in one’s suffering (5:3), and boast in God (5:10) for the reconciled, restored relationship Jesus Christ has provided. Assertive expression is a privilege for all who are no longer without hope.
Reflections for discussion on Romans 5:1-11
- God’s acquittal welcomes prodigals home. Is there a responsibility for the justified individual to seek service and fellowship in church with others who have had the same experience?
- Rejoicing in reconciliation to God requires involvement in reassuring and continuing experiences of spiritual renewal. Some of these spiritual exercises are worship, study groups, Walk to Emmaus, retreats, and Sunday school. What other spiritual exercises are available to humans?