"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)
1. The Jews saw themselves as special, holy people because they had the law. Gentiles, they thought, were sinners because they did not live under the law. What does Paul mean when he says, "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean Christ promotes sin?" What would a Jew discover about the law as he accepted justification in Christ? How would that discovery affect a Jew's understanding of sin?
2. What does Paul mean when he says, "If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker." What would the consequences be of going back to the law after discovering grace? Peter and "the other Jews" began to retreat to the law in the face of pressure from the Judaizers. What kinds of pressure or fears tempt you to look back to the law?
3. Paul said, "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God." How does one die to the law through the law?
4. The Jews traditionally embraced the law because it came from God and because they believed that to keep the law meant to be right with God. When Jesus came, he turned life upside down for those who believed he was the Messiah. Explain what Paul meant when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." How did life change for those who accepted Christ?
5. Although the leaders of the church at Jerusalem agreed that Gentile Christ followers did not have to keep the Jewish law, they still had a tacit understanding that, although the law was not required for their own salvation, they could still observe it for the sake of tradition. In this passage Paul is challenging the Jews' continued observance of the law. What are the dangers in continuing to practice traditional law-based customs after discovering grace? What customs do you cling to or feel drawn to from your past? What do you miss most about your life in legalism?
6. Paul declares, "For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" When we hold on to emotionally charged traditions from our legalistic past, we don't fully abandon ourselves into Christ's arms of grace. What habits or longings do have from your past that call you back from fully surrendering to grace? What attachments do you need to give to Jesus?
7. Surrender your past attachments to God and ask Jesus to break the seductive power that tempts you back to legalism. Ask the Holy Spirit to heal and fill the places in your heart that have held Satan's deceptions and have bound you to legalism.
This is now our heritage: "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
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