Sabbath School Lesson for October 28-November 3, 2017

Paul gave us an excellent description of righteousness by faith at the end of Romans, chapter 3. Certainly, Gentile converts, many of whom had no doubt been heaped in worldly sins, would have easily been able to see the transforming work of God’s grace in their lives. For his Jewish readers, however, Paul seemed to sense that all his persuasive skills would be needed to make them understand what true justification through faith meant.

He therefore takes his argument to familiar territory for the Jews. The stories of Abraham and David were used to illustrate how these beloved prophets experienced God’s grace, even when they were most undeserving of it.

Despite the law being totally entrenched in the life of the Jews, they misunderstood how the law related to their salvation. Christians, all through the ages, however, have found themselves in the same predicament when they discover that their legalism has blindly replaced a life of faith. Or, when they mistakenly assume that keeping the law is not needed.

Cleverly, Paul reminds his readers of Abraham and David, one who was considered the father of the Jews, and the other their most prominent king. This must have at least gotten their attention, and enticed them to hear what Paul would say about their beloved prophets.

Memory Verse: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31 KJV

From the beginning of his discourse, Paul wanted to make sure that the Jews know he supported the law. He, in no way, wanted his listeners to think he was teaching them not to keep the law. But, his statement here seems to suggest that the only way to keep the law, to establish it, is to do it through faith. He continues to point out to them what faith looks like in the salvation process, and especially how it relates to grace and the law.

Sunday: The Law

When it comes to grace and faith, the law was where the problem seemed to lie for the Jews. Therefore, Paul, having been an avidly law-abiding, yet blind, Pharisee himself, goes to great lengths to feature the role of the law in his revelations about faith.

By claiming that the law was established through faith, Paul clearly presents an important place for the law. The Jews were certainly intent on establishing the law in their daily lives. The hard part would now be to direct their attention to the faith needed to keep that law.

Reminding them first of Abraham, Paul leads them to the fact that Abraham was considered righteous before he had fathered Isaac. And most importantly, before he was even circumcised. Before Abraham performed any notable works, God found him a just, righteous man. Quoting Genesis 15:6, Paul points out that the promise of salvation is, therefore, not dependent on our deeds. Otherwise, how would Abraham have been counted righteous before God (or justified) at that time?

Paul’s next example was David. Remember, every Jew was proud if he could count his lineage back to this famous king. That’s why Bethlehem, where David was born, was so crowded during the tax count at the time of Jesus’ birth. Being a son of David was indeed a popular claim.

But Paul just had to bring up David’s sordid affair with Bathsheba and David’s own claim that God had covered his sins. If our salvation were dependent on our good works, David was certainly not a good example.

By now, the Jews may have been curious about this faith and whether they too could be justified by it, as these two “greats” were. There must be something more to keeping the law that they were missing.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 3:31. In what way does faith establish, or uphold, the law? How would both Jews and Gentiles be satisfied with this statement?

Read Romans 4:1-4 and James 2:22-24. Are Paul and James in agreement about the role of faith and works? Why are both needed for justification to be complete?

Read Romans 4:5-8 and Psalm 51:1-2. Why is faith needed before we attempt to please God through our works? What does the word “impute” mean?

Monday: Debt or Grace?

Romans 4:6-8 reveals the blessed grace David felt when God covered his sins. King David’s relationship with Bathsheba had caused him to break many principles of God’s holy law, and his guilt over this drove him to the arms of God. David knew that his faith, inspired by God’s free grace, is the only thing that makes true obedience to the law possible.

Paul was hoping to open the eyes of his Jewish friends so they would view salvation the same way as Abraham and David. It makes a world of difference whether we consider our salvation to be a debt or simply grace on the part of the Giver.

  • Debt: something we must pay back–causes us to focus on self–I must try to earn this favor given to me
  • Grace: something we can never pay back–releases us to focus on the Giver–I can do nothing to repay this marvelous gift

Understanding grace as unmerited favor makes all the difference in whether we become self-absorbed or God-absorbed.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 4:6-8. Abraham’s faith counted for righteousness, and David’s sins were covered. What do they tell us about faith and about grace? How are these transactions related to justification?

Read Romans 4:9-12. What did circumcision symbolize (v. 11)?

Read Hebrews 2:9 and Revelation 21:8. What’s the difference in the first and second death, and what death did Jesus die for us all?

Tuesday: The Promise

God’s promise of grace is the first stage in our being justified before God. After reminding them that Abraham was justified before circumcision was instituted, Paul pointed them to God’s promise to Abraham. He was promised to be the “father of many nations”, even before he became the father of Isaac or Ishmael. God’s promises are therefore to all who have faith and believe that God’s mercy and forgiveness is for them.

God makes the first move in this transaction. He evidently had faith in Abraham. Abraham then responds to His promise of grace with faithfulness, as his subsequent obedience reveals. Faith was necessary for the process of salvation, from beginning to end.

Discussion Questions:  Read Galatians 3:7-9. How do we become Abraham’s sons?

Read Romans 4:13-17 from more than one translation, if possible. How are faith and obedience worthless without the promise of God’s grace? Why do you think God repeated the promise to Abraham on so many occasions?

Read Romans 4:18. Can God’s promise of grace be received without our faith or hope in His ability to deliver? Are we justified even before we start to obey God, with our faith alone? How critical is our faith then to our salvation, even though grace, faith, and the law are all needed?

Wednesday: Law and Faith

  1. The first step in our justification is receiving God’s promise of grace.
  2. The second step is using our faith to receive it.

Without God’s grace and our subsequent faith, it is impossible to keep God’s law. When we attempt to keep the law in an effort to be saved and not lost, or to repay God’s gift, we are doomed to fail. The law becomes a burden, not the joy and protection it was meant to be, when we keep it without faith.

The latter half of Romans, chapter 4, describes beautifully how the faith of Abraham and Sarah allowed them to fulfill God’s requirements and have their promised son, Isaac. Love worked through this faithful couple and produced the beginning of a long line of descendants that would end with the birth of the Messiah.

God’s promise and our faith, both acts of love, will also lead us to the strength, desire, and power to obey the law. And this obedience will lead to joy, the same joy Abraham and Sarah had when they knew they would have the promised son they’d been promised.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 4:19-22, Hebrews 11:11, 12, and Romans 9:9. Was Sarah included in God’s promise to Abraham? Why was Sarah’s faith as important as Abraham’s?

Read Galatians 3:21-25. What is the relationship between the law and faith here? What does it mean to be kept “under guard by the law”? How is the law like a tutor?

What other doctrine in the Bible is more valuable than righteousness by faith? How is righteousness by faith related to the law and how we keep it?

Thursday: The Law and Sin

How does the law relate to sin? For those who claim that the law was done away with after Calvary, we must remind them that if the moral Ten Commandment law is also no longer binding, then sin, that the law describes, is not binding either. 1 John 3:4 says that sin is lawlessness, or sin is transgression of the law (as it says in the KJV). One way to describe sin, therefore, is to be without the law.

The reason the American West had such a wild time, during the cowboy era (the 1800s), was because laws hadn’t been established yet in the territories and towns that were growing so fast there. It showed us that lawless behavior can be expected when there is no law. Yes, lawlessness can get pretty ugly.

Besides this, if God could have changed or done away with His law, then Jesus would not have to come and die for our sins. His sacrifice would have been pointless, because if there is no law or sin, there is no punishment for it either.

Discussion Questions: Read Romans 3:20 and James 4:17. How is the law related to sin? Is sin just doing wrong things? How do the Ten Commandments tell us what to do, as well as not to do?

Read Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:10. and 2:1-6. How is God a liar when we say we have no sin? How are we a liar when we claim to love God and continue to sin?

Read James 1:14, 15 and 1 John 1:7-10. What leads us to sin, and what is the end result? What is the remedy for  sin? Is it to throw away the law, or to have our sins forgiven?


Understanding any complex subject is easier when personal illustrations are used. This week we examined Paul’s use of the personal illustrations of Abraham and David to see more clearly what was involved in the faith of these two great men.

  • Abraham and David needed something more than their deeds, which weren’t always good, to account for their righteousness before God (Sunday)
  • how we relate to God’s grace determines whether we will become self-absorbed or God-absorbed (Monday)
  • using the law to be justified, rather than relying solely on God’s promise, did not work for Abraham (Tuesday)
  • our response to God’s promise must be faith, which in turn empowers us to keep God’s law (Wednesday)
  • the law defines sin and is therefore a necessary part of our obedience and response to God’s grace (Thursday)

Final Thoughts

Think about your own spiritual journey and experience. Are you more like the Jewish converts or the Gentiles in Paul’s churches? Most of us are probably a combination of both. But no matter who we identify with, God expects us to have equal amounts of faith in Him, which in turn allows God to use us in His service.

Abraham was the perfect example of righteousness by faith. His faith propelled him to follow God, even at great expense to himself and his loved ones. He faltered at times, but God never gave up on him. Their relationship was built on mutual trust and love.

David, as well, was a great recipient of God’s love and grace. He, too, drifted away from God, especially during his affair with Bathsheba. But God was more than willing to work with David and restore their faith relationship.

What other Bible characters might reflect God’s love and mercy in your own life? Make it a point to know as much as possible about that person in the Bible as you can, absorbing his or her understanding of faith and using this to improve your own practice of faith.

Because faith is worthless, unless it’s practiced. So, keep the faith!

Next Week: Adam and Jesus

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