Paradise Lost…And Found (Romans 5)

In today’s society we often find ourselves wondering, “What’s wrong with the world?” This question has been asked generation after generation as humanity attempts to return the world to “the way things should be”. In this week’s sermon, Pastor Rich suggests that we can structure our approach to the Bible by viewing it as the story of God’s decision and plan to return the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve back home to His presence, restoring even more than was lost.

God created a perfect world. But, as Paul tells us in Romans 5:12, sin entered the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. Consequently, “every one of God’s blessings was reversed.” Paradise was lost. Sin turned the blessings of life into curses. Humanity’s relationship with God was severed. Our relationships are now marked by competition and rivalry. Our work is the source of anxiety and fear.

However, the story of the Bible is about God restoring what was lost in the garden, and giving us even more. Through Christ, God brings us back into his presence, restores what was lost, and gives us even greater blessings than were lost by Adam and Eve. In Revelation 21 and 22, we are presented with a picture of Heaven as a new earth – a place of healing in the presence of God himself. This is the future for those who live their lives, centered upon Christ.

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

1. Have you ever done anything that you regret? What were the consequences?

2. Are there things you have done in the past to assure that you will go to heaven?

3. Share one to three of the greatest gifts you have ever received. What made them great gifts?

1. In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.

2. Read Ephesians 2: 1 – 10 (TNIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

• Read verse 1 and answer the following questions: Who was dead? What’s the nature of that death? Why were they dead? Who raised them?
• What sort of behavior and lifestyle did Paul propose characterizes their condition before they became Christians? (v.2) Was this indictment limited to the Ephesians? (v. 3).
• What does it mean to “live” in sin? Why not just say we sinned in the past? What added meaning, if any, comes from the statement that we lived in sin? How conscious are you of a before and after “age” in your life?
• What do you think it means to avoid following “the ways of this world?” Are there any “best practices” you use to avoid following the ways of this world? Share.
• Who is the “ruler of the air”? Why do you think he is given this title? How does this title differ from other names given (see Matthew 4:3; John 8:44; John 12:31; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 12:8) In what ways does Paul say he manifests himself? Consider discussing examples of ways this manifestation still occurs today.
• Verse 3 says we were “deserving of his wrath. Who’s wrath are we talking about? What triggers God’s wrath in our lives? How much of these desires and thoughts can you trace back to allowing Satan into your life?
• What is God’s attitude towards those living in sin? (v. 4) What was God willing to do, toward those dead in sin? (v. 5) What does it mean “made us alive with Christ and saved? What is the difference between grace and mercy? (vv. 4-5). Can you have one without the other? Describe a time when you have been the beneficiary of grace, mercy, or both.
• When penitent believers obey the gospel, what does God do? (v. 6) And what is God’s purpose in doing so? (v. 7).
• What does Paul talk about up to this point in Ephesians (v.2:8)? Take some time to summarize.
• How would you define saved? (v. 8) Does everyone mean the same thing when it is used? Give examples of this from your own experience. Paul says that we have been “saved through faith” Faith is the means through which we are saved. Does this mean faith is our contribution to being saved? What does the rest of this verse say about that? Be specific.
• God said this salvation is a ‘gift of God’. (v. 8) What do you think Paul is trying to stir up in our minds?
• For what reason does the Paul say that salvation comes through grace and not by good works? (v.9). Why might God want no one to be able to boast about what He has contributed to salvation?
• According to verse 10, who are we? What does this mean? When did God plan on the design of our new creations in Christ? (v. 10) When was that? God says that He created us in Christ Jesus for good works. What might good works include?
• There might be greater things in the future that God asks us that we feel uncomfortable with doing? How shall we get ready for such times? What truths from Ephesians 2:10 can we use to remind ourselves that we can and should accomplish these things?

3. Consider these reflection questions as you close out your small group:

• Have you been able to be free, “really free”, from your former life? Are there any areas you’re wrestling with? Possibly think about inviting someone to be an accountability partner for you. Also receive some prayer.
• Do you still struggle seeing salvation purely as a gift? Does the riche of God’s grace sound alien? Invite the Holy Spirit to re-ignite that truth and reality in you.
• God made you and redeemed you for a reason- you’re his handiwork. Have you been living like that’s true? Or have you yet to grasp the ways God wants to use you in this life- do you need your marching orders? Consider asking the Holy Spirit for clarity regarding next steps.