Lesson 12

Community

(1 Peter 2, 1 Timothy 5)
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Introduction: My uncle was a godly man. Born shortly after the turn of the century, he spent his entire life as a pastor and administrator in the Salvation Army Church. One day I asked him what change he saw in the Christian community over the years. He told me that television had replaced the church as the center of community. Before the advent of television, churches (and, I assume, bars) were the focus of social interaction. Now, he said, people stay at home and enjoy community through television. If he were alive today, I suppose he would name the Internet and cell phones as the community of the next generation. What plan does God have for community? What is His goal for those who follow Him? Is technology a help or a hindrance? Will the church make a comeback? Let's plunge into our study and find out what the Bible has to say about community!

  1. Holy Nation


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:4-5. Who is the "Living Stone?" (Peter is talking about Jesus.)


      1. Is Peter describing a community of some sort? (Yes.)


        1. What are the building blocks of the community? (We are! We are "living stones.")


        2. What is the goal of our community? (We are priests. The priests represented God to the people.)


          1. The text says we are offering "spiritual sacrifices." What does it mean that we are some sort of priest offering some sort of sacrifice? (I think it means we are accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf for our sins, and we are telling others about it.)


    2. Read 1 Peter 2:6. What is the relationship between the Living Stone and "living stones?" (Jesus, the Living Stone, is the cornerstone of the building made up of us living stones. Jesus aligns us. He orders our lives. If we trust His way, we will never be put to shame.)


      1. Read John 14:6. What other role does Jesus play in community? (Jesus is not only the "Cornerstone" of our community, He is the "Door" to community. Our community is centered on Jesus.)


    3. Does technology create any obvious problems to this community? (It does not have to. Technology aids communication. Thus if us "living stones" are being built together to rely on Jesus, better communication should help with a better build.)


      1. Could technology be a problem? (Yes. If it caused us to build on something other than the Living Stone. It gives us a level of privacy in community that limits accountability.)


      2. Most Internet browsers have a "history" section. Ask yourself if you would like your community to be sent instant updates on your browser history?


    4. Read 1 Peter 2:7-8. Can the Living Stone be a problem? (It is not helpful to those who want to disobey Jesus. It causes them to stumble and fall.)


      1. Why? ( Romans 9:30-33 discusses this. Those who pursue righteousness through works cannot accept the righteousness by faith Jesus offers. We are a community built on faith.)


    5. Read 1 Peter 2:9. What is the purpose of our community built on Jesus?


      1. Why are we called "chosen people?" Isn't this a description of the Jewish people? (They were to represent God to the world. But, they failed to reach God's goal for them. Today, the church represents God to the world.)


      2. Who are we praising? (Jesus - the one who called us out of darkness into light. The purpose of our community is to shed light on God's offer of mercy to the world.)


    6. Read 1 Peter 2:11. What kind of attitude should be present in members of Jesus' community? (We are to abstain from sinful desires. We are to consider ourselves "aliens and strangers in the world.")


      1. Why? (Sinful desires war against our souls.)


      2. Think back about your browser history. Think back about your last gossip. How can you control your desires?


    7. How important a factor is community to right living? We all know of Christians who "fell off the wagon" when it comes to right living. It did not protect them. (Christian community is certainly no guarantee, but it helps with right living.)


      1. I think about the influence of community when I was a child. Johnson's Newsstand was where my dad, a prominent member of the community, stopped to pick up his newspaper every night. It was also the only local place I knew of which sold magazines with pictures of naked women. The odds of my father buying one of those magazines in front of his "community" was about the same as my father taking off his own clothes in that shop!


    8. Read 1 Peter 2:12. Community is supposed to not just help the members, but also be a witness to the pagans. Will the pagans admit having a favorable impression of the Christian community? (No. They accuse us of doing wrong.)


  2. Community Support


    1. Read James 1:27. James is a writer who emphasizes the works of a Christian. (Sometimes I think that James and Paul should have collaborated on a book of the Bible.) What does James see as being the first obligation of a Christian Community? (Widows and orphans.)


    2. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-4. What community do we have within the larger Christian community? (The family - even the extended family.)


      1. Read 1 Timothy 5:7-8. Why would a person be worse than an unbeliever if he did not help his family? (If you do not love and help those who have the greatest claim to your affection, how can you love and help those you do not know? Consider 1 John 4:20-21.)


    3. Read 1 Timothy 5:9-10. The commentators vary on what is meant by "the list of widows." Some think these are church employees. To help you decide, read Acts 6:1 and 1 Timothy 5:16. What do you think?


      1. After the believers discussed in Acts 6 got properly organized, how do you think they knew where to distribute the food? (They had a list! I think "the list of widows" in 1 Timothy 5:9 are those widows being supported by the church. Any doubt in my mind is erased when I read 1 Timothy 5:16.)


    4. Look again at 1 Timothy 5:9-10. What does this teach us about the importance of community in deciding who to assist?


      1. What does the work of the "worthy" widow teach us about community? (It is a mutual assistance group to some degree.)


        1. Is this just widow's work? (This is work for all of us. This is part of being community.)


    5. Read 1 Timothy 5:11-14. Should we help everyone who asks for help - everyone who wants to be put on the support "list?"(Paul teaches that we should not encourage people to be idle and thus get into trouble.)


      1. Is this a rule that we should apply to all who ask for our aid?


        1. Read Luke 6:30-31. How do you understand this text?


      2. How should we decide who to help?


    6. Twice now, in the last three weeks, I have been in a popular suburban shopping area and had able-bodied men ask me to give them money. I could give them money without harming my budget. What do you think I should have done? (Recall last week that we read ( Matthew 25:34-36) that the righteous gave physical help (food, clothes) and not money to those in need? This week we see Paul saying help those who merit it, and do not encourage idleness. The common thread seems to require us to have some knowledge about the needs of the person asking for help. It is easier to just give money, but the ideal solution is to have better information about the individual.)


      1. After having come to this reasonable conclusion, read Jesus' words in Luke 6:35-36. Jesus says to be kind to others - even the ungrateful and the wicked! Does this mean we should help lazy bums? (Apparently, to some degree.)


    7. If key ingredients to community are to help those in need and to know who should be helped, what impact does television and other technology have on this work? (Without meeting with other members of our church community outside of formal worship, we will have no idea about their needs or how best to help. It seems technology is a barrier to that.)


      1. How would you suggest that we "fix" this? (The best solution is to have the church community meet together in small groups for Bible study, and other activity. That helps us to know each other.)


        1. Is there a technological version of this? (Facebook? What about a Bible study using Skype?)


    8. Friend, are you in "community" with other Christians? If not, why not join a group of believers today? It is God's will for your life.


  3. Next week: Mission.

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