Genesis 1 and 2 and the self-made man

From this week onwards, the Trinity blog will be published once a week on a Monday, giving the opportunity to think further about the passage taught the previous day.

The self-made man

Who wouldn’t want to be self-made? The self-made man or woman, in our culture, is high-achieving, has overcome the odds, and forged success out of a disadvantaged beginning. Above all, he or she commands respect, and deserves reward. That’s the basis, anyway, of the advert above. “After the umpteenth year” it says “the self-made man rested”. Then, it adds down in bottom right hand corner, “Find the home you deserve.” You’ve worked hard, the advert implies, and you have come out on top. Now enjoy the financial gains which are rightfully yours, and make yourself very comfortable in an expensive house.

The advertising copywriter is misquoting Genesis 2, in a way which is (intentionally or unintentionally) ironic. The self-made man in the advert is now the God-figure – he will take the credit for himself, and his domain of rest (rather than an extravagant creation shared with others) is a man-made house where he can find privacy. Rather than the generous God of the Bible, we have a selfish disciple of materialism. We know that his rest will be inadequate and short-lived, and yet we still envy him for his affluence, influence, and ease.

The truth is that we often behave ourselves as if we were self-made people, rather than created people. If we genuinely knew that we were created, we would acknowledge God’s ownership (he can do with us whatever he wants), and take our purpose from him (God can deploy us to rule and relate as kingdom-builders in whatever way he wishes). In other words, we would lay down our lives for him, knowing that we are only acknowledging what is already true. The real irony is that in giving up what we felt was ours and turning to someone else, God’s son, we will find a far greater rest that the empty promises of materialism can ever provide.

Read Genesis 1:1-2:25 and think about the following questions.

How, in general, does someone’s origin influence their identity? Can you think of examples?

God is the subject of almost every verb in chapter 1. What do we learn there about his character?

Mankind is more in focus in the action of chapter 2. What do we learn there about what makes us human, and how we relate to God?

The first two chapters of the Bible, written originally to God’s people on the brink of the promised land, teach that God is loving creator, and that we are image-bearing creatures. Why did they need to hear that? Why might we?

Pray: that you would be content to be owned and commissioned by God, taking on his purposes as your own. Give thanks that you are God-made rather than self-made. And pray that you would one day experience the rest that Genesis 2 foreshadows, and Jesus himself promises (Matt 11:28).

Friday 26th September – Romans 3:31

Read: Romans 3:31

If justification is by faith alone, why might someone accuse Paul of nullifying the Old Testament Law?

How does chapter 8 verse 4 help us to understand what Paul means by upholding the Law?

How might you use this passage to reassure a Christian who has an on-going struggle with a particular sin?

Pray: Praise God that as we put our faith in Jesus that the righteous requirements of the law are met in us. Pray that we would stop boasting in the things we do and know that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and his righteous life all we need to be right in God’s sight.

Thursday 25th September – Romans 3:29-30

Paul has been showing that the only way we can be made right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ.

Read: Romans 3:29-30

If justification (being made right before God) was only possible by keeping the Law, what would this mean for those who didn’t have the Law, ie the Gentiles?

The Jewish Law and Circumcision in particular served to mark out God’s people in the Old Testament and keep them distinct from the other nations. How does justification only by faith in Jesus change that?

Why is it significant then that Paul states that there is only one God?

How does this help us to have confidence that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes?

Pray: Thank God for Jesus – that the way to being made right with God is available through faith to both Jewish people and non-Jewish people.

Wednesday 24th September – Romans 3:27-28 and Romans 4:4-8

The declaration that a right standing before God only comes through faith wasn’t a new idea that Paul conjured up – we saw yesterday that this was how Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation was justified before God.

Read: Romans 3:27-38 and Romans 4:4-8

Why does Paul relate work and wages with faith in 4:4-8?

How does this relate back to verses 27-28?

Why is it significant that Paul refers to King David here (see 2 Samuel 11 for some background)?

David knew full well just how good it is to be forgiven by the Lord. How does this continue to challenge us to stop boasting in the things we do?

Pray: praise God for the amazing gift of grace God has shown in Jesus. Ask that we would be humbled by it and that we would have the same sense of wonder and privilege that King David had when we realise that wicked people like ourselves can be justified only by faith in Jesus.

Tuesday 23rd September – Romans 3:27-28 & 4:1-3

We can only be declared right before God by faith in Jesus Christ – in many ways Romans 3:27-31 is a headline which Paul then fleshes out in chapter 4, with the example of Abraham.

Read: Romans 3:27-28 and Romans 4:1-3

How does the example of Abraham in these verses help us to understand the main point in 3:27-28? What is God’s assessment of Abraham?

In what ways is the nature of our faith similar to Abraham’s? In what ways is it different?

Why can we have even more confidence than Abraham that God credits those who have faith in Him with righteousness?

How might this challenge our tendency to monitor our day to day performance as a Christian?

Pray: ask for forgiveness for our pride and the times that we boast in the works that we do. Praise God that as we put our faith in Jesus that we are justified in His sight.

Monday 22nd September – Romans 3:27-28

We’ve seen in Romans that through Jesus Christ, God has made a way that guilty people can be made right in his sight. It is a solution that meets the needs of all people – and it’s a solution that Paul says we can only share in by faith.

Read: Romans 3:27-28

Why is justification by faith incompatible with trying to make ourselves right with God by the things we do (see Romans 3:20)?

What things are you tempted to trust, other than Jesus, in order to make you right with God?

How does Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross undermine our pride in the things we do to try to earn our way to God (Romans 3:21-26)? Why is it so dangerous to boast in the things we do?

Pray: that as we examine ourselves before Jesus, we would stop boasting in the things that we do. Ask for God’s help that we would trust only in the finished work of Jesus at the cross to save us.

Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st September – Romans 3:27-31

Paul has announced the gospel (1:16-17) and explained the gospel (3:21-26). Now, in the passage that we’ll be looking at on Sunday afternoon, he begins to explain some of the effects of the gospel. Here, he introduces the first effect: a deep and radical humility.

Read Romans 3:27-31

How might we subtly boast in our own righteousness, even though we don’t want other people to notice?

Paul says that the gospel excludes boasting. From the passage, can you explain exactly why?

Why does Paul bring Jewishness and the law into his argument? How does being ‘justified by faith’ affect our view of the law, according to the passage?

Plenty of people still think that Christianity is about ‘trying to be good’. How do these verses undermine that way of thinking?

Pray: for Jon Haines as he preaches, the friends of Amy Ballantine (whose baptism it will be on Sunday), and all of us – to be challenged to stop boasting, and find greater faith in the cross of Christ.