Lesson 8

The Church: In Service to Humanity

(1 Corinthians 12, Matthew 25 & 28)
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Introduction: What role should the church play in the life of the believer? Some think that they can comfortably live a Christian life apart from organized religion. Avoiding organized religion, and its institutional conflicts, allows them to have a closer, more personal relationship with God. I think this is delusion and a profound mistake. The church plays many indispensable roles in the life of the Christian. But, what does it matter what I think? What matters is what God thinks. Let's plunge into the Bible and see what it has to teach us about the role of the church in our life!

  1. Spiritual Gifts


    1. Read John 16:12-15. Most of you recognize that these are some of Jesus' parting words to His disciples. How important is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian? (He is the replacement for Jesus being with us personally.)


    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. Who leads pagans and who leads Christians? (Pagans are led astray by idols. Christians are inspired and led by the Holy Spirit.)


    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. How does the Holy Spirit lead us? (One way the Holy Spirit leads us is to give us gifts so that we can be of service to God. He leads us in service.)


      1. Are our gifts and service the same? (No. Different people receive different gifts. They have different gifts because they have a different kind of service and different work.)


  2. The Common Good


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7. How does it make any sense to give Christians different gifts? In law school, we try to give our students the core skills that will allow them to be good lawyers. These core skills are the same.


      1. What is this "common good?" (The body of believers, the church.)


    2. How is the church essential to the method by which the Holy Spirit works? (Is the picture beginning to come into focus? Without the body of believers all contributing the various gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit, the work falls apart. The method by which the Holy Spirit works makes the church essential!)


    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. How essential are these gifts to the life of the believer? (Unless we are together in a group, we are deprived of the benefit some of these gifts.)


    4. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. What analogy does Paul give us to help us understand the importance of the church? (He says it is like a body. Individuals are like part of the body.)


      1. If members of a church are like part of a body, what does this say about the person who says they refuse to be a part of "organized religion?"


      2. Unity and diversity are competing visions. These days I think we have run off the road and into the weeds on the side of diversity. What is both a blessing and an antidote to diversity? (The Holy Spirit brings all of us together, regardless of race or social status. The key is that the Holy Spirit unifies us. The focus is on unity. If the focus were on diversity, we would be like a bunch of unconnected body parts!)


  3. Lone Wolf


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:15-17. What is wrong with the thinking of the "lone wolf" Christian - the one who does not want to be part of a group of believers? (Two things. First, that person denies the reality of the way the Holy Spirit works in giving us individual gifts. Second, that person cannot be effective in ministry because he is missing important gifts. It is like trying to look through your ear!)


    2. Read 1 Corinthians 12:18-20. Who decided that Christians should work together as a body? (God! This is God's plan. Thus, those who work alone work in a way inconsistent with the plan of God.)


      1. To what degree is God involved in the organization of the local church? ("God has arranged the parts in the body ... just as He wanted them to be." God decided who should have each role.)


        1. If someone is trying to fulfill a role for which they have not been selected by God, are they opposing God? (They are at least opposing God's plan.)


  4. Body Language


    1. Each one of us has a body. Our parts (hopefully) work together without serious problems. Is that the goal of life - to have a workable body? (No. We need to do something with our body.)


      1. Is that also true for the body that is the church?


    2. Read Matthew 28:19-20. What is the mission of the church? (To make disciples.)


      1. What are the component parts of this mission? (To baptize and teach.)


      2. Is this order important? (The way Jesus states the mission, that seems to be true. Teaching disciples to obey follows baptism.)


        1. What order does your church follow?


      3. Why does Jesus end with "I'm with you!" (He wants us to know that He is present, through the Holy Spirit, to help us with our central mission.)


      4. Is there anything more to the mission than to convert others and make disciples? (I don't think so. Any other specific tasks we can think of come under these two headings. But, let's look at some more texts to test my theory.)


    3. Read 1 Peter 2:9. Is this part of the mission? If so, what part? (Praising God and representing God are a part of converting and teaching.)


    4. Read Matthew 10:5-10. In the next section, we are going to discuss the issue of the church and helping the poor. Why is giving money to the poor not mentioned here?


      1. What is mentioned in these verses that is a "help" to others?
      2. If someone tells you that you have not sufficiently helped the poor, is it appropriate to respond that they have not sufficiently healed or resurrected?


        1. Why is it that in this model given by Jesus, the disciples collect money, they don't give it away?


    5. Read James 1:27. What is the first thing that James mentions about the mission of religion? (To help orphans and widows.)


      1. What does this teach us about helping the poor? (It is part of the mission of the church - but note that those being helped were powerless.)


  5. Sheep and Goats Test?


    1. Skim over Matthew 25:31-46 and read Matthew 25:34-36. Jesus seems to say that the test of salvation, and therefore logically the primary work of the church, is helping the poor. Do you agree?


    2. Read Romans 10:9 and John 6:29. How can you reconcile these texts with Jesus' story of the sheep and goats?


    3. Read Matthew 25:37-39. Did these people accidentally get into heaven? Unless this is a trick question, how can they be unaware that they were performing the "central" mission of the church? (This is the most important part of the story. The saved are unaware of the "good deeds" part of the mission. Helping the poor is not the central work of the church. Converting and discipling is the central work of the church. It is converted hearts, those who understand the love of God, that automatically help others. It is the natural impulse of the converted heart. You can no more help the poor to be saved than you can do any other work to earn salvation.)


    4. Friend, are you a lone wolf? The Holy Spirit directs His gifts and power so that they work best in the body which is the church. When that body is working right, it is converting and discipling. Will you decide right now to share your gifts with the church to advance the Kingdom of God?


  6. Next week: The Church: Rites and Rituals.

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