To understand God’s intent for the church and how each of us can contribute to its overall impact
TEACHER’S GUIDE (Tap to view)
PURPOSE OF STUDY
The church study is designed to present in a positive manner what the New Testament teaches and exemplifies in regard to God’s design for his community of believers, the church. The study begins with specific principles and moves toward practical instruction.
A NEW SENSE OF COMMUNITY
It is important to note that the biblical concept of community is much different than we typically see in churches today, where most are concerned with what the church can do for them. In contrast, early disciples understood that the community of the church took precedence over their individual plans and ambitions. Their focus was on how the church unctions together as the body of Christ, working together toward a common purpose.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul describes the church using an architectural analogy. In building, the cornerstone is the first stone laid, from which the foundation will take shape, and that cornerstone is Jesus. The foundation to which Paul refers points to the ongoing revelation of God, seen in such things as the writings of the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament writers, others with the first-century gift of prophecy as well as the ongoing work of the Spirit (seen vividly in the book of Acts).
UNITY IN THE CHURCH
Our aim in teaching Ephesians 4:1-6 is not to confront denominationalism, though it may come up. In keeping with the nature of this study, we recommend that the focus remain on the six unifying doctrines found here and the amazing power of unified Christians.
There has been much discussion on the practice of tithing as it relates to the New Testament and the expectations of disciples now. Tithing is a principle held up high in the Old Testament, and many believers today still hold to a tithe as the standard of their giving. Jesus didn’t speak of a tithe, but honored great sacrifice, which for many goes well beyond a tithe. In this study, we focus on teaching the heart behind our financial giving. The New Testament teachings focus on generosity, sacrifice and meeting needs both inside and outside the church. It would be wise to walk through some of the financial practices in our community: weekly giving, monthly HOPE offerings and yearly missions’ contributions.
The focus from Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 10 should be on the importance of Christian relationships and how they are an absolute key to staying faithful, growing and thriving as disciples. Let the verse speak for itself, but be sure to highlight the weekly schedule and how we must adjust our schedules with a new set of priorities.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
- The first disciples were devoted to God and to one another.
- They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
- They spent time in each other’s homes and worshipped together. » They were sincere and looked to meet each other’s needs.
Q: How does this picture compare with your experiences of church life?
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
- Jesus is supreme in the universe and in the church. He is the head and the church is his body.
- In the church we strive to follow his teachings and imitate his life.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
- Here the church is spoken of as a family, as a kingdom, and as a building.
- Q: Which of these most connects with you?
- As the cornerstone, Jesus is the perfect stone by which every other stone is shaped.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
- God loves unity and wants his family to be unified.
- We maintain unity by being humble, gentle, patient, and full of love.
- All believers everywhere are bound together and share one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- God gives gifts and puts people in roles to build up and strengthen his church.
- God’s aim is unity, maturity and protection from false teaching.
- Through honest and loving conversation, and each part doing its work, the church grows and is built up in love.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
- Just as in the human body, each member of the church is essential.
- God calls us to use our gifts to bless the church.
- Q: What do you think your gifts are and how do you think you can use them to glorify God and build up his church?
1 CORINTHIANS 12:12-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
- We enter the body of Christ in baptism.
- We all need each other in the same way the body needs all of its parts!
- Members of the body share in each other’s joy and suffering
MATTHEW 6:19-21, MARK 12:42-44
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
- In the church, we give generously to meet the needs of the church and to help spread the gospel.
- When we give sacrificially, as this widow did, we store up treasures in heaven— treasures that last!
- Giving is a heart matter. Our giving reflects where our hearts are invested.
- Giving is a faith matter. As we give to meet the needs of the church, we trust that God is able to meet our needs.
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- The fellowship helps us to be unswerving in our commitment to Christ.
- Do not give up meeting together; church services should be a priority in our lives.
- Q: What will you need to change in your schedule to make the body (the church) a top priority in your life?
Philippians 2:1-4 We are called to be one in spirit and purpose
Galatians 6:10 The church is a family of believers
Acts 4:32-35 Members of the church help to meet one another’s needs
Matthew 22:34-40 Loving your neighbor can be displayed in the church
2 Corinthians 9:6-9 We give to meet needs and spread the gospel globally