Year of the Bible – Romans 12

Epiphany - Romans 12
 
 
 
 
In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. - Romans 12:1

Romans 12:1-15:4 (13:8-14)

The apostle Paul takes advantage of a beautiful metaphor to describe what the Christian life is like: It is like sacrificing ourselves to God. To sacrifice something means that you give the whole thing up – that it no longer belongs to you and that you no longer have any claim upon it. When people in the Old Testament era offered sacrifice to God, they were saying that they were dedicating themselves to God LIKE the animal sacrifice that they offered—with a total dedication of mind, body and soul. Of course, no one would ever be able to make that kind of commitment to God unless they were deeply moved by God’s sacrifice that a new kind of love emerged within them and they did the impossible! That, of course, is what happens to us. By seeing and grasping the greatness of the love of God, that God would give His only Son, that He would sacrifice Jesus for us, we discover a power of love arises within us, the love of God that enables us to dedicate our whole lives, our whole hearts, our whole being, TO HIM. Paul then takes us to the next logical thought – we ought not be proud about this kind of sacrifice, or judge others by the level or amount of sacrifice that we make. God will judge men at the end of time. We should not think to try and do it for Him. We should instead follow the path of humility and regard our differences of personality and talents and spiritual ability as different gifts from God. Out of love, Christians can and should treat their enemies in much the same way as Christ. Love is a powerful force and it always triumphs over evil. Love also submits to authority (13:1-7) and grants honor to those appointed to offices of authority. Love is the summation of the whole law. (13:9) It bends for the weak in faith and holds back judgment, but always for the sake of the “faith” which love serves. In this respect, Christ is an example to us, as are all the saints of the Bible, for all things written in the Scriptures were written to strengthen our faith and sustain us as we patiently wait for God to bring time to an end.

Questions - Romans 12

  1. What do Christians do with their lives as they seek to worship God?
  2. What does this mean?
  3. What moves our hearts to love God in this way?
  4. If we are humble about our gifts and talents, how will we treat others who do not have the same gifts and talents?
  5. What kinds of things does Paul tell us love will automatically do in us and through us?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Saturday | Romans 12 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Mark 14

Epiphany - Mark 14
 
 
 
 
Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. - Mark 14:36

Mark 14:32-52 (32-38)

Jesus knew and understood the meaning of death, but He knew and understood what would happen to us if He did not come into the flesh to save us. His humanity was fully human, for He felt and understood what death was, and for that reason He suffered so horribly in the Garden of Gethsamane. Jesus struggled with the will of God: Should He suffer? Was this God’s will? Would His Father deliver Him from this hour? Those questions do not often go answered, especially ahead of time. We don’t often know why God puts us in places and why we suffer when we do. But Jesus prayed the perfect prayer of the obedient son: Yet

not what I will, but what you will.

Soon thereafter Jesus was arrested. He had been betrayed with a kiss. Jesus did not take matters into His own hands; He did not rebel or kill to preserve His freedom. He committed His life to the will of God in the Scriptures. This was hard for His disciples to bear.
Questions - Mark 14
  1. Why did Jesus suffer?
  2. When we suffer, how should we pray?
  3. Does God always give us answers to our prayers?
  4. Explain what it means to “trust in God’s will.”
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Friday | Mark 14 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Luke 5

Epiphany - Luke 5

 

 

 

Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men. - Luke 4:10

Luke 5:1-16 (5:1-11)

Doing God’s will – this we refuse to do, but nature does His will when He speaks, and even the demons submitted to His will, even though they did not do so joyfully. Jesus demonstrated that He was God in the miracles of His ministry. Amazingly, though demons and creation obeyed His every word, men resisted Him with their hearts, so He came into our flesh and bore our sins and sorrows to make our disobedient wills obedient. He called us to faith by taking our place under the law and becoming a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins (cf. Abraham and Isaac). Jesus is the love of God made manifest to the world. But the world cannot and will not know about the love of God unless someone tells them about Christ. That is why Christ called His disciples. They were not just to learn about God and His love, they were to use the Word of God like a net – to catch the hearts of men for God so that men might love God and trust in His Word of promise. In the story that follows the call of the disciples, the power they would be given is hinted at – a man who is covered with leprosy pleads for Jesus to heal him. Jesus wills it and speaks the Word. Immediately the man is cleansed. Leprosy, a symbol of sin, is cleansed by the Word of God’s promise, and faith that trusts in the Word. This is the purpose for calling men to become pastors, and for all Christians to be priests to their neighbors in the world.

Questions - Luke 5

  1. What did the miracles of Jesus prove?
  2. If creation obeys the Word of God, why don’t men?
  3. What has Christ called his Church to do, seen in the call of the fishermen?
  4. What disease is a metaphor for sin?
  5. How is sin cleansed?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Thursday | Luke 5 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Isaiah 22

Epiphany - Isaiah 22

 

 

In that day the Lord will punish . . . the kings of the earth below . . . for the Lord Almighty will reign. - Isaiah 24:23

Isaiah 22:1-24:23 (22:20-24)

Isaiah is a prophet. He saw the future as in a crystal ball. He saw the world, proud and arrogant, receiving God’s judgment for her rebellion and oppression. He saw the people of Jerusalem dying, not in battle, as noble men fighting for good, but dying from famine, surrounded by armies, people weeping, her rulers having fled to protect themselves, her defenses broken down, a ruthless army about to consume her, her sons and daughters left naked or dead. And despite what he saw, his warnings, Jerusalem remained disobedient, unwilling to listen to God. So deep was her sin, Jerusalem would not escape its delusions, they would greet death with indifferent sinful carnality (22:13), never grasping the serious condition of eternal death that would follow her physical death. God intended to judge her arrogant rulers, who thought only of their self-glorification and not of the people and their welfare. In chapter 23 Isaiah turns in prophetic judgment to the mother of Israel’s sins, probably the people they had admired and imitated—the Phoenician city of Tyre. Tyre was an island-city, located off the coast. It was impregnable. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the coastal part of the city, but he could not conquer the island itself, though he besieged it for thirteen years. (Alexander the Great, however, did conquer Tyre after a 7-month siege). This proud, rich, arrogant city had been the center of commerce for the entire eastern Mediterranean region. But it was also the source of every form of vice and corruption. Though they had never been God’s people, yet because God is the God of all men, the author of all life, their rebellion against God would be brought into judgment. But God also predicted a day when God would give Tyre another opportunity to turn and be healed. Such is the case with the gracious and merciful God. Chapter 24 reflects the fact that judgment would someday come upon the whole earth since God was the God of all. Prophesying the appearance of Christianity, Isaiah calls upon God’s people throughout the earth to glorify the Lord with their lives and to sing praises to the Righteous God of Israel. Although Israel as a nation would be destroyed, never to rise to independence and glory again, God would come in judgment and vindicate his people, reigning into eternity in the Kingdom of His Son.

Questions - Isaiah 22

  1. What was going to happen to Jerusalem?
  2. What was Jerusalem’s problem?
  3. What city on the coast was God going to destroy—an indestructible city?
  4. What had this city done?
  5. What is going to happen to the whole world on the day that Christ returns?
  6. What should Christians be doing as we wait for the end of time?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Wednesday | Isaiah 22 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Genesis 22

Epiphany - Genesis 22

 

 

I swear by myself . . . that because you have done this and have not withheld your son . . . I will surely bless you. - Genesis 22:17

A Test for Abraham: A command and a promise.

Genesis 22:1-25:18 (22:1-18)
Abraham obeyed God, but why and how? In the greatest test that faith has ever known, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, the son that he had waited all his married life to have. His love for Isaac knew no bounds. Born when Abraham was a hundred years old, it seems to this forlorn father that God’s request was impossible. But Abraham also had a promise from God. God had promised to him that he would be the father of great nations through this son, that his son would pass on the messianic promise of a savior. But how did Abraham know that God would fulfill His promise to Abraham? Abraham knew that he had to be righteous in the sight of God, but he could not be righteous because he was sinful. He was disobedient to God in thought, word and deed. But Abraham was righteous before God. In fact, he had been declared righteous by God, and Abraham has believed God’s promise. Through faith in this promise, Abraham received a faith that trusted God even though God’s command challenged every fiber of Abraham’s being. More-than-likely, Abraham did not realize how much love and faith he had for God, so God put Abraham’s faith to the test. Abraham was told to bring his son to a place that God would show him and demonstrate his love for God by offering his son as a sacrifice to God. God had already given to Abraham the promise that he would have descendants like the stars of the sky 
through his son. God had already worked the miracle of giving Abraham, an old man by then, and his wife Sarah, an old woman, the power to conceive and give birth to a son. Abraham knew that there would be nothing too hard or great for God. If God wanted him to give up his son into death, then God would have to raise him from the dead to fulfill his promise to Abraham. This is how faith and love work together. Faith trusts in God’s promises, and love desires to obey God’s commands because faith sees and grasps God’s love towards us. God declared to Abraham that he was righteous – so Abraham came to love God beyond all worldly things – even his own son. Abraham, trusting in God, went up to Mount Moriah to worship. He took his son, his only son, and placed him upon the altar and the wood. As he lifted up his knife, God’s angel stopped him. Abraham had passed the test of faith! His faith had generated such love in him, so great a love that Abraham was willing to give up his own son to God. In response to Abraham’s faith and love, God gave Abraham a SUBSTITUTIONARY sacrifice. Nearby, a ram had been caught in the bushes. God permitted Abraham to substitute the ram for his son. The place where Abraham offered his son, over 1,000 years later, came to be the site of the temple of Jerusalem. And upon the same rock that Abraham offered his son and the ram, God’s people offered their substitutionary sacrifices up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In this story of Abraham and Isaac we see the mystery of God’s Law and Gospel, the commands of God that tell us what to do, the promises of God that tell us what God so graciously has done and will do for us. When faith trusts in God’s righteousness, obtained for us by His Son, Jesus Christ, then good works of love flow from this faith. The deeper the gratitude for forgiveness, the deeper the love for God and the greater our ability to do the works that God commands us to do. But our story continues (24:1-66)
 
Sarah died at the age of 127 years. Abraham was also getting quite old, so the time came for Isaac to be married. A servant was sent back to the land of Abraham’s birth – not to the local peoples who were unbelievers. Abraham was certain that God’s angel would go with his servant to choose the right wife for his son. When the servant arrived in Mesopotamia he also prayed for success. He created a test – something that would demonstrate the good character of a prospective wife. Whoever helped him to water his camels would be God’s choice for a wife. A young woman did just that. She was extremely beautiful. It turned out that she was Isaac’s cousin! After some negotiations with her father, Rebekah volunteered to go with Isaac and become his wife. She was a woman of faith, a person who manifested her faith in her kind works of love. God richly blessed her and she brought great love and comfort to her new husband.
Questions - Genesis 2
  1. What request did God make of Abraham, something no father could seriously consider?
  2. What promise had God made to Abraham?
  3. What assurance did Abraham have that he was righteous before God?
  4. What is the relationship between faith and love?
  5. What kind of love does God want us to have for Him?
  6. How did God solve Abraham’s dilemma?
  7. How does that solution relate to our dilemma, that we must be righteous before God and pay for sin, but we cannot be righteous or pay for our sins?
  8. What two great doctrines of the Bible are clearly taught in this story
  9. What did Abraham do for Isaac when his wife died?
  10. What did Rebekah do to show that she was a woman of great faith?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Tuesday | Genesis 2 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 36

Epiphany - Psalm 36
There is no fear of God before his eyes. - Psalm 36:1b
Psalm 36
David observes that the unrighteous do not do the will of God because they do not fear God – that is, they do not reverence Him and His Word. Their disobedience is sinful and serious, but they deceive THEMSELVES with boasting and personal flattery. But look closer, even on their deathbed, they are plotting rebellion against God. Then David turns to the wondrous character of God. He is the opposite of sinful men. God’s love has no limits. He remains the same, so whatever He promises He will do, He does. He gives the same promises to all men. He gives and gives without ceasing. By knowing Him, we are able to know truth. David ends his psalm with a request of God. He asks for preservation from these self-deceived disobedient men, preservation from a God who is faithful, always true to His Word and Promise.
Questions - Psalm 36
  1. What do sinful men do to help fool themselves, to blind themselves to their own weaknesses and failings?
  2. In what way is God’s character the exact opposite of self-blind, self-deceived men?
  3. What request should we make of God in the light of the sinful world around us?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Three | Monday | Psalm 36 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Romans 8-11

Epiphany - Romans 8

 

 

. . . through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. - Romans 8:2

Romans 8:1-11:36 (8:1-14)

Justification’s Comfort

King David would have loved to hear those words: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (8:1) How did this happen? Not by man living a life without sin (it is impossible), but by God placing our sins upon Christ and Christ at the cross obtaining forgiveness for us. How does forgiveness come to us? By the Holy Spirit, in the Word, in Baptism, God thereby giving us the heart of David, loving God for His forgiveness, wanting to do God’s good will out of love for God, not because of fear. Paul tells us that we Christians must not think that being a Christian will deliver us from suffering in this life. Even though we must undergo suffering while in the world, we can be confident of victory over the world. God will raise our bodies from the grave, so we need never give up hope. Nothing in all the world can separate us from God and His love – not even death itself! The Apostle Paul, having made this bold statement, then raises a difficult question: What about those who ARE separated from God’s love? How did this happen, especially to the Jews who rejected Jesus? This falling away, Paul explains, took place because of their hard hearts, because they wanted to be their own saviors rather than trust and rely upon Jesus to be their Savior. It was not God’s fault. It was man’s doing, man rejecting God’s grace. The Jews, though they had rejected God, however, could always be brought back to faith, for salvation depends not upon human merit or holy works and deeds, but upon God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Questions - Romans 8

  1. How is our condemnation for sin removed by God?
  2. Why do Christians suffer in this world?
  3. Why are Christians so confident about overcoming suffering in the world?
  4. What group of people tragically rejected Jesus?
  5. Could they be forgiven for their unbelief?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Saturday | Romans 8 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Mark 14

Epiphany - Mark 14

 

 

 

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” - Mark 14:27b

Mark 14:27-31

We want to confess Christ. After all, what a wonderful Lord He is. What a great man! He did nothing but good. He healed and comforted, fed and pardoned, preached and encouraged. He fought for truth and justice and mercy. But men hated Him. Immediately after the Lord’s Supper, after singing a hymn with His disciples, Jesus brought His disciples to the Mount of Olives. This was a beautiful garden area, full of trees, filled with cool, sweet smelling air – but what Jesus had to tell His disciples was not very sweet. They were going to betray Jesus – run away from Him. Peter, who always thought that he could do greater things than the others, protested. What he heard was frightening! He would deny Jesus three times! Later, when Peter remembered these words, he broke down and wept. This is what we call the “Theology of the Cross.” When we think we are strong, we are weak. But what we see as weakness, especially Jesus’ weakness and suffering, is far stronger than it appears.

Questions - Mark 14

  1. What good things did Jesus do for people that would make us want to praise Him before men?
  2. What startling news did Jesus have for His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane?
  3. What was Peter’s lesson about strength and weakness?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Friday | Mark 14 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Luke 4

Epiphany - Luke 4

 

 

“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” - Luke 4:24

Luke 4:14-37

Jesus began his ministry in the region of Galilee, where He had grown up. As long as He was preaching and teaching in areas that were outside of His hometown, He was well received. But when He returned to Nazareth, this one who had grown up before the eyes of men as a humble carpenter’s son—that this one was the Son of God—this reason and experience could not be accepted. By what standards could anyone know the Christ? Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners...recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” These are the signs of God’s covenantal people, those who know God and are His children. These mark the God of Israel when He comes into the flesh for the purpose of redeeming His creation. The people of Nazareth could not accept that one from among their own people, one who did not fit their self-exalted notions of personal grandeur, could be their savior, a savior of grace. In unbelief they put Him to the test, demanding miracles and signs—which of course, would have been of no value to them because of their lack of faith. Jesus reminded them of the ministry of Elijah. When Israel rejected God, God chose the Gentiles. Unable to constrain themselves at this insult, the Nazarenes rushed at Jesus to kill Him. So Jesus went to Capernaum, a small town on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. There the Son of God delivered the poor and oppressed with mere words, and His teaching and preaching was received in faith.

Questions - Luke 4

  1. Where did Jesus first begin to preach?
  2. What was the problem of the people of Nazareth—why could they not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?
  3. What was the work of the Messiah, as Jesus expressed it from Isaiah?
  4. Why were they angry at the suggestion that God would give His grace and love to the Gentiles?
  5. What city did receive Jesus and serve as the base for much of His ministry?
  6. What must we possess before the Word of God is of benefit to us?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Thursday | Luke 4 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Isaiah 18-21

Epiphany - Isaiah 18

 

 

O my people, crushed on the threshing floor, I tell you what I have heard from the Lord Almighty, from the God of Israel. - Isaiah 21:10

Isaiah 18:1-21:17 (21:1-10)

God does hear the prayers of the needy, the poor who look to Him for deliverance. In these four chapters God lays out the coming destruction that would fall upon the nations that turned against Israel and her Messianic hope. But God also left the peoples of these countries—Gentile countries—with a hope of a new day when all nations would find unity with Israel in the faith of a Messiah manifested to the world, in Christianity. God directs His first accusation again Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s kings were able to descend at will upon Egypt as the Nile River rose. They lived in the protection of mountains and prospered with trade. It seemed as though God was not watching or caring when they oppressed the poor. But God was watching and in justice He crushed them with famine and drought. It would not be until the time of the Messiah that they would be permitted to return to the favor of the Lord. Christianity flourished in Ethiopia and Abyssinia. In our text, God then turned in prophesy against Egypt. Egypt, the mighty power that oppressed Judah, God’s people, would be turned into a host of feudal states, warring constantly against each other (7th Century BC), never to rise again to her former glory and unity, never to find the wisdom that would bring unity and peace to her nation. But God also held out the Messianic promise to the Egyptians. God would send His word to Egypt, both in the establishment of Jewish colonies and in the great epiphany of Christianity after the resurrection of Christ. They too, would be permitted to know the Lord, the God of Israel, and take up a place among the chosen people of God. In chapter 20 God turns to the impending doom that is coming upon Egypt and Ethiopia that will take place at the hand of the king of Assyria. They would be disgraced because of the disgrace they had imposed upon God’s people. The same fate would come true for Babylon, Edom and the peoples of Arabia. No one may hurt or harm God’s people without God bringing justice and vindicating them!

 

Questions - Isaiah 18

  1. What promise does God make to His people experiencing oppression.
  2. Even though God executed justice upon the Ethiopians, what promise did he make to them, a promise of hope?
  3. When did Egypt fall into feudalism and division?
  4. What hope did God give to the Egyptians?
  5. What kingdom would destroy Egypt?
  6. What kingdom did God use to destroy the southern Kingdom of Judah, taking her people away into captivity, but was later punished by God for having done so?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Wednesday | Isaiah 18 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Genesis 17-21

Epiphany - Genesis 17

 

 

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? - Genesis 17:17

Genesis 17:1-21:34 (17:1-7)

In this text, a series of dramatic events unfold in the life of Abram, significant events that form the life and faith of Israel for thousands of years that follow. First, God made a covenant with Abraham (changing his name from Abram to Abraham). A covenant is a contract, a promise sealed with outward signs or symbols binding two parties to their mutual words and pledges. The covenant of Israel with God would be circumcision, administered to all males descended from Abraham on the eighth day of their life. God then gave Abraham the promise of a son, a Messianic heir, who would be born miraculously to Sarah, his wife. Abraham was ninety-nine years old at the time and Sarah was ninety years old. Secondly, Abraham met the Lord face to face, along with two angels, eating with them and then pleading with them to spare the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. What follows in the Sodomite immoral assault against the angels demonstrated the depth of Sodom’s corruption and the justice of God’s wrath.   Thirdly, Abraham revealed his own human weakness and imperfection when he feared the Philistine king, Abimelech. But God demonstrated the nature of His covenantal love by protecting Abraham and by prospering him—despite the unfaithfulness of Abraham. Last of all, Abraham was blessed with the gift of a son named Isaac. But despite the miracle of Isaac’s birth and the Messianic promise connected to him, the slave-woman Hagar and her son Ishmael (by Abraham) despised both Sarah and Isaac and had to be sent into exile from the household of Abraham. Ishmael and his descendants became arch-enemies of Israel and her Messianic hope. 2,000 years later they would spawn the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian religion of Islam.

 

Questions - Genesis 17

  1. What is a covenant?
  2. What was the covenant of ancient Israel, to be replaced by baptism in the New Testament era?
  3. In what way was the old covenant also based upon Messianic promises?
  4. How old were Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born?
  5. In what way was Abraham like the Messiah he carried within him as he spoke to the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah?
  6. What is so comforting about a covenant when we see the weakness of Abraham’s faith?
  7. What has to be done in the Christian Church to anyone who would despise the honor and glory of Christ, as we see happening to Hagar and Ishmael?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Tuesday | Genesis 17 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 35

Epiphany - Psalm 35

 

 

 

They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. - Psalm 35:12

Psalm 35 (35:1-9)

David, the King of Israel, often found himself the victim of intrigue. Corrupt men were constantly plotting his ruin. Their hatred could not be traced to a justifiable cause. They distorted facts, twisting them into accusations. In exchange for the trust and good will that the king had shown them, they blind-sided him and attacked him. They were gleeful when he made mistakes and talked maliciously about him behind his back. They did everything within their power to destroy the peace of the sheep that lived under the rule of the king, resenting, jealously, the shepherd of Israel as he led his sheep to safe pasture. These enemies gloated when things got tough, and used his misfortune to exalt themselves—they, of course, knew better and would have done a better job had they been king! What was David to do? The king turned to the God of Israel with petition and prayer. He asked God to fight for him as he himself fought, protecting him like a shield before a warrior. Should God act for him, David knew that the plots and intrigues of evil men would blow away before him like chaff in the wind. He petitions God to execute poetic justice—using the nets made by men to catch David as the means by which they themselves would be caught. David lays his case before God like a defendant before a judge: (1) He points to the end-benefit of his vindication—his soul would rejoice in God and magnify God’s grace; (2) He describes the crime of his enemies, and his own innocence and good will as evidence of the purity of his own motives; (3) He humbly suggests that God has been slow in responding and needs to act with haste to vindicate him—to the end that God would be praised and exalted by the righteous.

Questions - Psalm 35

  1. List five signs or behaviors that emerge in men when they are corrupt, as these men demonstrated in their behavior towards David?
  2. If we are to win against evil, who must fight for us?    
  3. What did David do to accomplish this?
  4. What is meant by poetic justice?
  5. Prayer in time of need, when we are hard-pressed by the diabolical plots of men, must be shaped like a defendant before a judge. How does David make his case?
  6. Explain why his enemies could not make their case in the same way.
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week Two | Monday | Psalm 35 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Romans 5:1-7:26

Epiphany
While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8b
Romans 5:1-7:26 (5:1-11)                                    If justification makes for peace, that must mean that God is not at peace where there is no justification – that is, no righteousness. For righteousness is credited to us only through faith. Abraham became righteous through God’s crediting righteousness to him. Abraham did not do anything to become righteous, but he did become righteous – that is, he was reckoned to be forgiven of all sin and given the gift of eternal life (as reflected in 4:25). Therefore (the conclusion), Paul says, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. But note that this peace does not mean that we do not suffer- suffering is very much a real thing, sometimes a necessary thing for the Christian. God’s constant (covenantal) love is manifest in the free act of love demonstrated in the offering of Christ for sinners – people unworthy of God’s love. So strong is that covenant that if God would do this for us while we were sinful, how much more so will He save us – now that we have become righteous through faith in Christ. Paul goes on to explain that the universal verdict of condemnation was very much like the universal verdict of justification. In both the case of Adam and of Christ, God reckoned something to man. But in the first case, sin was reckoned to all men with the effect of death. In the second case, forgiveness or pardon was reckoned to all men with the effect of life – eternal life. So justification affects the way that Christians live their lives, for though we experience the effects of sin in our lives, we do not give to sin the power to rule our lives. (6:11) The Christian “reckons” no power or mastery to sin. The result is that Christians reckon themselves to be slaves, not to their sinful nature, but to righteousness (6:22). The tension between sin and righteousness puts Christians in a strange position. The Law actually stirs up sin in us. But this is so that we might never seek to be justified by our works under the Law. The only thing that can rescue us from the Law – the only one – is Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, the Law leads us to see and know sin and teaches us our need for a savior. The Gospel leads us to Christ and teaches us to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin – that we might live to Christ and the righteousness He reckons to us through faith.  
Questions - Romans 5
  1. How do we become righteous before God?
  2. What did God’s reckoning do to Abraham?
  3. When we by faith become righteous in God’s sight, what kind of an experience do we have?
  4. What do we mean by a “universal verdict of condemnation?”
  5. What tension arises in the Christian when he becomes righteous before God?
  6. What does the Law do to us?
  7. Why does God want us to see the sin in our flesh?
  8. What does the Gospel teach us and cause us to do?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week One | Saturday | Romans 5 - © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Mark 13:1-14:26

Epiphany - Mark 13
She broke the jar and poured
the perfume on his head.
Mark 14:3b
Mark 13:1-14:26 (14:1-9)
Mark sets before our eyes the marks, signs and promises of the New Covenant. As ancient Israel had been set apart by circumcision and gathered around the meal, the Passover feast, so now the New Israel, the Israel of faith, the true sons of Abraham throughout the Gentile world, are marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism and gathered together into a perfect communion with God in the sacramental meal of the Lord’s Supper. The disciples followed the directives of Christ and made preparations for the meal. Jesus gathered His twelve disciples (twelve tribes of Israel in contrast to the twelve disciples) and prepared them for His betrayal. Judas would betray his Lord. Always, always, within the church there are hypocrites and unbelievers, but these can only take the supper of Christ to their own judgment, for God brings into judgment all who would bring harm to His Son and the Gospel of His Grace. Marking Judas, therefore, Jesus consecrates the bread and wine and gives to His disciples the real body and blood of the Savior of the world. To those who come to Him and covenant in faith, God protects, defends and saves them from sin, death and the devil—thankfully and often in spite of their own human failings and weaknesses.  
Questions - Mark 13
  1. What were the symbols of the old covenant and what are the sacraments of the New Covenant?
  2. Who are the true sons of Abraham?
  3. What are we to expect as an unwanted but necessary fact within the Christian Church, as evidenced by Judas?
  4. Why is the covenant/sacrament so comforting to us as Christians?
  5. In what way is the Lord’s Supper an “epiphany” of Christ?
Year of the Bible - Epiphany Week One | Friday | Mark 13 - © John W. Fiene