Giving Faithfully - 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

1.      Who is the most generous person you know? Not who gives the most?

2.      What is the difference between the most generous person and the person who gives the most? (Sometimes we label a person as generous who gives out of their surplus, but really their giving is no sacrifice at all!)

3.      Why might a person question someone being generous? (Their attitude. They seem to have so much left over. They talk about it.)

4.      What motivates people to be generous toward others? (Love.)

One doesn’t need to be rich to be generous, but one simply must be giving to be generous!

5.      When have you seen this to be true? (In Mark 12:41-44 many people were giving their offering in the temple. Among them was a widow who gave all she had and Jesus said she had given more than all of the others had given.)

I’m relatively certain that the most generous Christians give the way Jesus told us to give, so that others may not know they are giving at all!

6.      What is the difference in “Tithe” and “Offering”? (Our offering is over and above the tithe God said we are to give to support His kingdom’s work.)

The Lord sometimes can use money to expose the condition of our hearts. For many, riches and wealth are a hindrance to entering the kingdom of God!

The background for our focal passage today deals with the great financial need of the church in Jerusalem. Of course, most of the Christians in Jerusalem were converted Jews. Once they professed Christ as Savior many lost their employment and were ostracized by the Jewish community. The church there seemed to be in deep poverty. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys he spread the news about how the church in Jerusalem was in such great need. Churches were challenged to give to help them.

Paul had come through Corinth a year or so before this letter was written. The church there had pledged to regularly put back an offering for the church in Jerusalem. It was getting close for the time for Paul and his companions to come collect the offering and take it to Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 Paul tells them that the churches in Macedonia insisted on sending an offering, even out of their “deep poverty”. The church at Corinth was a wealthy church in comparison. Paul didn’t want the church in Corinth to be embarrassed by their small gift, so he urged them to be faithful to their pledge to take up this offering.

There is a huge difference in giving out of one’s poverty and giving out of one’s surplus! From time to time a person or couple comes to a minister with the question: “How much should we give?” No one can answer that question for you. Guidelines can be given but how much you should give is between you and God!

 

Confidence Expressed! Read 2 Corinthians 9:1-5

 

1.      How did Paul express belief that they would resume their commitment to the offering he was collecting?

Notice that Paul was not criticizing them but encouraging them to keep a commitment they had made to participate in this offering.

2.      Do you think Paul had a responsibility to talk to them like this?

3.      What did Paul understand about the Corinthian believers’ attitude toward giving? (Paul seemed to believe they were willing to give, so he questioned whether he needed to send a reminder.)

4.      Do we ever need reminders about our responsibility in the area of stewardship?

Paul had just provided some practical guidelines on giving to the Corinthian church earlier in the letter (2 Cor. 8:11-15). He helped them understand what to do and what to expect.

5.      Why is it important for leaders to hold believers accountable for meeting the needs of others? (Sometimes we are unaware of the needs and we forget our responsibility in this area.)

6.      How might we be held accountable today? (Lessons like this. Sermons on giving and stewardship. Sometimes we simply need to open our eyes to the needs around us!)

7.      What would you say is the result when we give out of extortion or compulsion or pressure from someone? (It’s not “giving” then and there is no reward for it.)

 

Benefits Found! Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

 

1.      What are the benefits of giving as God directs?

Paul described giving that is motivated by the gospel. His motivation was not receiving but rather the blessed act of giving itself.

2.      How would you explain the correlation Paul made between giving and sowing seed? (If the farmer had a poor crop and decided to use all of the grain to feed his family, there would be no crop the following year because there was no seed grain left for next year’s crop.)

3.      Is receiving back for what we give proper motivation for giving?

4.      Read Malachi 3:10. Does this verse mean that if we give money we will receive money in return, even more than we gave? (No! The blessings God gives may come in many forms but will always be more than we’ve given! Read 2 Cor. 9:10-11 again.)

5.      Read Palms 112:9. How do the words of the psalm support what Paul wrote concerning generous giving?

The PSG makes this doctrine statement about “Stewardship”: “Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.”

6.      How does that statement fit in with these verses we just read?

7.      For the cheerful giver, which comes first, the gift or the cheer?

8.      How is giving a source of cheer?

9.      How does a cheerful heart move a person to meet the needs of others?

Read Romans 12:6-8. Here again we are commanded to be generous in our giving!

There are more than 27 passages in the Bible that deal in some way with giving other than 2 Corinthians 8-9!

Paul prayed that God would multiply the money the Corinthians gave and increase the results of their ministry. One of the reasons God blesses believers is so that believers can bless others!

 

Adoration Gained! Read 2 Corinthians 9:12-15

 

1.      What is the outcome of giving to others under God’s direction? (You will be enriched; thanksgiving to God; supply the needs of the saints; overflows in many acts of thanksgiving to God; glorify God; confession of the gospel; recipients will have a deep affection for you.)

2.      How does giving reflect God’s grace? (God uses our gift to Him as a gracious act to meet someone else’s need!)

3.      How can giving be an act of worship?

4.      How can giving be a means of honoring God?

5.      How can the person receiving the gift honor God?

All Christian giving is carried out in light of God’s indescribable gift to us: his Son. Recite John 3:16.

6.      In what ways does God’s generosity in the gift of His Son challenge believers to meet the needs of others?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      How is a believer showing their trust in God by using their resources to meet the needs of others?

2.      What should be our attitude toward giving to God? (Give from a willing heart, not grudgingly or out of obligation. This will often motivate others to give.)

3.      How does our giving impact the needs of people both inside and outside of the church?

4.      What are some appropriate ways for us to challenge each other to meet the needs of others in the community and to meet the needs of our church?

5.      What adjustments need to be made within our group based on our discussion?

Consider whether you give your tithes and offerings grudgingly or joyfully.

Understand that God will bless you based on the attitude of your heart and not on how much you give!

Close with prayer.

Bible passages that deal with giving:

 

Deut. 15:10; 16:17

1 Ch. 29:9; 29:14

Ps. 37:4, 21

Prov. 3:9, 27; 11:24-25; 18:16; 21:26; 22:9; 28:27; 31:9

Neh. 8:10

Mal. 3:8-10

Matt. 6:2-4; 10:8; 19:21

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 6:30, 38; 3:11

Acts 20:35

Romans 12:8

1 Cor. 13:3

Phil. 4:15-17

James 2:15-16

Becoming New - 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

The world we live in is filled with all kinds of broken relationships.

1.      What are some broken relationships we see all around us? (Divorce; countries at war; companies suing each other; employer/employee;  children and parents; friendships; etc)

The closer the relationship, the greater the hurt if that relationship is broken!

2.      Can any broken relationship be fixed?

3.      How does the restoring of a once broken relationship change the people who were once at odds with each other?

The restoration of a broken relationship requires at least one of the parties involved to take a step toward the other, offering a solution to the problem.

God created us to relate to one another and to Him. Because of sin, our greatest need is to be reconciled to God. When we get our relationship with God fixed, our relationship with each other will improve as well.  Churches that reconcile fractured relationships will be more effective in proclaiming the gospel message!

            In our study today, we’ll see that Paul thought deeply about reconciliation and insisted that genuine reconciliation comes only through a right relationship with Jesus!

 

Read 2 Cor. 5:14-15. These verses leading up to our focal passage emphasize the driving force in Paul’s life and should be the driving force in our life.

 

Reborn! Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

 

1.      Paul explained that we are made different by the Holy Spirit. How should this change cause believers to regard one another? (We no longer look at the flesh or outward appearance of people. He wanted them to look at the heart. Our view should go from temporal to an eternal perspective.)

2.      Before Paul’s conversion, how did he view Jesus? (He viewed Jesus as a mere man of flesh and blood, but now he understood who Jesus was and knew Him as the Messiah!)

3.      How did Paul explain the transformation process that takes place in believers? (“New creation.” In other passages we are told we will be “born again.” When we accept what Jesus did for us on the cross we become a new creation—new on the inside.)

In this transformation, nothing changes on the outside, but our perspectives, deep prejudices, wills, and love of sin are changed. Only God can make this change!

4.      Christ is said to be in believers. Being united with Christ involves both aspects, revealing a complimentary relationship between our being in Christ and Him dwelling in us. What are the benefits of being united with Christ? (We have His power indwelling us, which helps us resist sin as well as empower us to live in right relationship to Him.)

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus!

 

Reconciled! Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

 

Some form of the word “reconcile” is used five times in these verses.

1.      In your own words, how would you define “reconcile”?

Our author offered this definition: Reconciliation is the restoration of a relationship that has been broken or severed; it is the reunion of parties separated by the consequences of sin or wrong doing.

Note that God initiated reconciliation with humanity, taking all the actions necessary for that reconciliation to happen.

2.      How should being reconciled to God serve as motivation for serving Him?

3.      What does God initiating the reconciliation with us reveal about how God feels about humanity in general and you in particular?

4.      How should the love God demonstrates motivate us to serve Him?

5.      If we have accepted Jesus’ offer of reconciliation, according to verse 20 to what position have we been appointed? (Ambassador.)

6.      How does being reconciled to God qualify a person to be an ambassador for Christ to a lost world?(Heavenly ambassador.)

7.      What responsibilities does an ambassador carry and how do those responsibilities inform believers of God’s expectations for them?

Two definitions for an ambassador include (1) the highest-ranking representative of the president or leader to a specific nation or international organization abroad, or (2) a messenger or representative who tells or reveals truth.

8.      How do these definitions help you understand God’s expectations for believers?

9.      Whose message does an ambassador share with those he is sent to, his own message or the message from the One who appointed him? (We are sent to be ambassadors to a lost world by the One who loves them with a message of love and acceptance through the blood of His one and only Son.)

Our message is a message of reconciliation as a desperate appeal for people to return to God. The message should also include an explanation about the transformation that takes place in the lives and hearts of those who believe!

 

Ready! Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

 

1.      What warning did Paul extend to the Corinthian believers? (We are called to work alongside of Christ. He also made a strong appeal that they take their position with Christ seriously.)

2.      What are some reasons people may give for waiting to accept the gospel? (I don’t believe all that stuff. I’ll do it someday but I’m too busy now. I know too many professed Christians who don’t live like it. Like the King told Paul—some more convenient time. Any old excuse will do.)

Paul reminded the Christians that the time to share the good news of the gospel is now. He also reminded those who heard the good news that now is the time to respond and accept this offer of grace and mercy!

The message of reconciliation with God is too important to overlook or push off for another time.

3.      What can a believer do to emphasize to others the urgency for accepting Christ?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What does this text teach us about the change that takes place in believers? (The Holy Spirit has changed our hearts, giving us new lives and new perspectives of the world. We no longer desire to participate in sinful activities.)

2.      How do some people seek to become reconciled with God on their own terms?

3.      What actions can we take to help others know that reconciliation with God only comes through faith in Jesus? (Be using the Word of God! See Hebrews 4:12!)

 

This week, take time to people watch. Your transformation and reconciliation should have changed the way you view others. As an ambassador for God and a coworker with Christ, take time to think about what Christ would say to the people around you.

Displaying the Gospel - 2 Corinthians 4:5-18

(Write the following statements on the board.)

·         Religious Liberty is on the decline in America.

·         American Christians face growing intolerance.

(Ask your class for a show of hands if they agree with the statements individually. Share the following with the class from the Leader’s Guide.)

“LifeWay Research surveyed Americans about their perceptions regarding religious liberty. Sixty percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement “Religious liberty is on the decline in America.” Almost two-thirds [63%] agreed with the statement, “American Christians face growing intolerance.” Religious liberty has become an increasingly contentious issue in American culture.”

 

1.      What actions should be taken in places where Christianity is actively persecuted or suppressed?

2.      Are we like the frog in the pot of tepid water, with the fire heating it up ever so slowly until we die without resistance?

Will we sit idly by while those who defy God’s values take control and make laws designed to silence God’s people!

      Christianity was not tolerated as a legal religion anywhere in the Roman Empire of the first century. False religions had infested the city of Corinth. When Paul wrote to encourage believers who faced persecution, he was dealing with a much more challenging cultural situation than most of us have faced up to this point. Amid these challenges, Paul focused on how God was shaping him and using him to share the gospel!

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-4

The “god of this age” is Satan and his influence was and is strong!

 

Proclaim! Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-6

 

1.      What is Paul trying to make clear to his readers here? (He is not promoting himself but Jesus! He is simply a “slave” to Jesus.)

2.      Sharing the gospel with power is one of the principles Paul taught. What did he express as the essentials for sharing the gospel? (Paul explained that he did not talk about himself when he preached. The gospel message is exclusively about Jesus Christ; therefore Paul focused his message on Christ!

Paul did not want to rule over the Corinthian church. He saw himself as a servant of God and the church. Jesus is the One to whom everyone should submit.)

3.      How would you describe God’s illuminating work in the hearts of His people? (Jesus shines in the darkness of our hearts as we allow Him to live in us His light overcomes our darkness!)

Moses face shone brightly simple reflecting God’s glorious light and he had to wear a veil over his face, but Jesus’ face is shining brightly to overcome the darkness in our hearts. Christ alone is the One to proclaim.

Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them!

4.      How can we allow the “light” of God to be seen in us?

5.      Taking verse 5 and 6 together, what are the implications and consequences for proclaiming someone or something other than salvation in Christ alone? (We will live in darkness without God’s illuminating truth in Jesus!)

Heb. 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature.” Jesus is “the image of God”!

* When Paul preached he did not say, “Look at me!”He said, “Look at Jesus Christ! And there you will see the glory of God come to earth in a form that a man can understand.”

 

Live! Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-15

 

1.      What “treasure” is Paul referring to in verse 7? (The indwelling Spirit of God! Along with the gospel that brings light to us.)

This “treasure” is valuable and costly, while “clay jars” are weak and common! The weakness of the vessel allows God’s extraordinary power to be shown and for others to realize the power came from God and not from us.

Read 2 Cor. 8-9. (Discuss each paradox.)

* After he has stated the great paradoxes of the Christian life Paul goes on to give the secret of his own life, the reason why he was able to do and to endure as he did.—He was well aware that if a man would share the life of Christ he must share his risks, that if a man wished to live with Christ he must be ready to die with Him. Paul knew and accepted the inexorable law of the Christian life—“No Cross, No Crown.” … When a man has the conviction that what is happening to him is happening literally for Christ’s sake he can face anything.

 

Reflect on the challenges or difficulties you may be facing. Write in the margin of you book “I am __________. Briefly describe your situation in the blank. Then complete the rest of the phrase “but not ________. Write the words that reflect God’s power.

Earlier this week I had to write several large checks and found myself complaining about it. I was reminded that I should be thanking God that the resources were there to cove these unexpected expenses. God had provided once again!

Read Gal. 2:19-20

2.      How is it that we must carry the death of Jesus in us so that the life of Jesus can be revealed in us? (The more of self we have living in us the less influence Christ has in us However, the more we die to self the brighter the light of Christ shines through us!

3.      What is the hope expressed in verses 14-15? (We have the hope of resurrection with Christ! We are not forsaken.)

4.      Why did Paul continue to preach the gospel of Christ despite the dangers? (For the sake of those who have not yet heard the Good News about eternal life in Christ!)

 

Paul didn’t dwell on death, but instead magnified life!

 

Focus! Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

1.      How did Paul contrast life on earth with eternal life in Heaven?

2.      How does the inner person get renewed daily?

3.      How does that daily renewal fuel and motivate the believer? (Read Lamentations 3:22-24.)

4.      How may Paul’s suffering cause some believers to be discouraged? (We must look at the whole picture. Paul’s sufferings did not cause him to become discouraged. He maintained his focus on the message of Christ no matter what else was happening to him.)

Paul believed that the sufferings he endured did not compare to the glory that lay ahead of him!

Paul encouraged other believers to focus on the “unseen,” which Paul said is “eternal,” and not on the “temporary,” which is what can be “seen”. Paul reminded them that focusing on the eternal would produce an incomparable reward in heaven!

5.      How does the glory reserved for us in the future serve as motivation in the now to be faithful and courageous in suffering?

 

We think of salvation completed in three distinct stages: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.  We can also think of it this way: God loves us so much He accepts us just as we are, but He loves us to much to leave us just as we are. Sanctification is the process of our earthly man dying and Christ living through us!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Recap of truths:

·         Christians are to exclusively proclaim Jesus as Savior!

·         All people can live victoriously through faith in the resurrected Jesus!

·         As Christians, we are to focus on things with eternal consequences!

 

Even though we are frail (jars of clay) we hold a great treasure (the gospel of Jesus). We are commanded to share this treasure. Though we are weak God’s power can impact others through us!

 

Pray thanking God for His grace and intrusting us with this great treasure! Pray we will be faithful in sharing it with others.

 

  *  The Daily Study Bible Series, The Letters to the Corinthians Revised Edition by William Barclay

Enjoying God’s Comfort - 2 Corinthians 1:1-14

Where are you in relationship to the storms that come into our lives? No one is immune from storms. People with a deep love for God face painful and intense trials in life just like those outside the body of Christ. Being a Christian does not immunize us against the difficulties and trials of this life. Just last week Dr. Fannin repeated a truth we all know: Everyone falls into one of three categories—(1) You’re currently in a storm. (2) You just came through a storm. (3) You’re headed into a storm. As I write this, scattered thunderstorms and rain storms are moving through our area. How apt! We are either in a storm, just finished a storm or one is coming our way! We can’t avoid them! Storms in life can be physical, relational, financial, vocational, or spiritual. Storms of life generally surface with no warning.

            Trials can be fertile soil for spiritual growth if handled God’s way. God never wants His people to waste a hurt or trial. Joseph faced hatred from his brothers. God placed Joseph in a place of authority. He had the chance to get even with his brothers. However, Joseph pursued a redemptive path, saying to his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about…the survival of many people” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph saw God’s hand in his suffering.

            The Corinthian church was dysfunctional and filled with hurting people. The church needed to know God’s nature. In times of trials and storms, God’s presence was with them. God’s comfort equipped those suffering for ministry. Trials and storms serve as theological classrooms for God’s people!

Read 2 Cor. 1:1-2.

            Our focal passage today reveals how we can apply what we learned these last two weeks about our spiritual gifts and the characteristics of love God desires to show others through us!

1.      To whom do you turn for comfort during times of stress or distress?

2.      What object or activity most comforts you?

Paul’s experiences placed him in the category of one who needed comfort. He shared with the Corinthian believers what he had learned, so they could be comforted.

 

Comforted! Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

 

1.      What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples in Matt. 20:23, “You will indeed drink my cup.”? (His followers would suffer as He suffered. As we know now, looking back on Christian history, suffering as Jesus did is common for Christians throughout the world—even to being martyred.)

In verse 5 Paul says we will experience suffering as Jesus did but we will also be comforted as He was.

2.      How does a person’s attitude when facing suffering influence others? (Jesus said, “Not My will, but Thy will, Father.” From the cross.)

3.      How might the sufferings of a believer be used by God to impact the lives of others?

4.      What hope did Paul offer those who are suffering? (We will share in the same comfort also. Another name used for the Holy Spirit is “Comforter.” He lives within us and will bring comfort to us!)

5.      The disciples were in an epic storm one night on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). Where was Jesus? (He was not only in the boat with them but was asleep! The amazing lesson to learn here is: if you’re in a storm, whether self-inflicted due to sin or brought on by outside circumstances, Jesus hasn’t abandoned you.)

 

God allows trials in the lives of His children for a reason. Paul listed situations that highlighted his weakness as a human in contrast with God’s power as demonstrated through the gospel.

Tested! Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

 

1.      What emotions did Paul say he had as he faced this most trying storm in Asia? (Completely overwhelmed, beyond our strength, despaired of life, and believed he was going to die.)

2.      Do you ever feel guilty, like your faith is too weak, for being completely overwhelmed by the situation in which you find yourself?

3.      What situation might cause a person to feel completely overwhelmed?

4.      What positives can come from these situations? (When we are at the end of ourselves we have nowhere else to turn but to God. It is then that God teaches us the greatest lessons about trusting Him!)

Though many have speculated about this experience Paul had, there are no details on what he endured. After relying on his own strength, Paul remembered the power of God to raise the dead and turned to God for help.

5.      How were the Corinthian believers involved in Paul’s experience? (They were praying for Paul. He understood intercessory prayer’s power in our lives!)

Paul passed a test of faith, growing as a result of what he faced in Asia. Believers can celebrate a testing of their faith, knowing that God will strengthen them and demonstrate His power.

 

Accepted! Read 2 Corinthians 1:12-14

 

Paul called for the Corinthian believers to accept him as a proven apostle, even though he had been delayed in his visit. His integrity seemed to have been at stake. Even though Paul had poured his life into this church, they still only partially understood him and his ministry among them.

Paul wrote that he had been straightforward with the Corinthian believers about everything. There were no hidden meanings or agendas.

1.      In what sense can we take pride in those to whom we are called to minister? (Pride in what God is doing in the lives of those you minister to and how God is using them for His kingdom! The emphasis is always on God’s activity and power.)

2.      What would be a greater source of pride—being a person of integrity or being recognized by others for the work you do? (Our integrity should be our greatest concern here.)

Paul wasn’t boasting in himself or his own human wisdom. Rather, he admitted that anything good and praiseworthy is because of God’s grace. Read 1 Cor. 15:10.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How is God using someone who is suffering and the way they are facing that suffering to encourage you? (John DeHart! Linda Boston! Chuck McMillen! Angela Leu! Ben Owens!……….)

2.      What can we do to be encouragers to others?

 

People need our empathy. If you’ve battled cancer, divorce, the death of a child or spouse, the heartbreak of a prodigal child or an addiction, and you’ve been touched by God’s comfort, other people need to hear your story. Your works have power and relevance. You can speak to others from experience. That’s an amazing platform for ministry!

As you face trials and storms, remember that you’re in a theological classroom for a divine reason. And always remember, the Lord comforts and uses broken people.

3.      How is God testing your faith?

4.      What are you learning about Him and yourself through that test?

5.      Who can encourage you through your difficulty?

6.      With whom can you share insights you gained from this lesson?

7.      How can you share those insights in an encouraging way?

Understanding Love - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1.      When you hear the word “love” what thoughts come to your mind? (It depends on the context the word “love” is used. Perhaps our spouse, children, best friends, a favorite food, etc.)

2.      How many different emotions do we use the word “love” to describe our feelings toward someone or something? (We certainly don’t have the same feelings for a spouse and a friend, or our children and a favorite food, etc.)

I love God. I love Linda, my wife. I love my best friend. I love my children and grandchildren. I love shrimp. I love my neighbor.

Love is a choice we make and is expressed through our actions.

Every believer has received love. It is a wonderful gift from God and helps us to grow in our relationship with Him. But God wants us not only to love Him; He wants us to love one another.

There are several Greek words for love, depending on the object of our love. “Eros” is the passionate love one has for their mate! “Philio” is affectionate regard, or close friendship. “Storge” is affection between parents and children. “Ludus” is playful love, affection between children and casual friends. “Pragma” is mature love that develops between long-married couples.

While love is a common human experience, the uniquely Christian love is “Agape”! It describes the love God has for us. Agape is sacrificial giving of oneself to others, whether they deserve it or not. In this week’s study, we’ll seek to understand Paul’s view of agape as he challenged the Corinthians (and us) regarding the necessity for this kind of love!

Last week we studied “spiritual gifts” in chapter 12. Paul closes chapter by saying in verse 31 “But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way.” Paul wanted to show the Corinthians the way of love. Believers who use their gifts motivated by love will make the greatest impact! In fact, as we will see, if we do not use our gifts motivated by love they are of no impact!

 

 

Necessity of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 

(Consider having an annoying sound in the background.)

1.      Of what importance did Paul say love is in regard to the use of spiritual gifts?

Note: from here on the use of the word “love” is the Greek word “agape.”

If a person does not have love, the exercise of his or her spiritual gift is useless.

2.      How should believers communicate love? (Love is more than a feeling, it’s also a willful action. Paul wanted us to know that love is more powerful than our spiritual gifts. In fact, without love our spiritual gifts are useless.)

Love should demonstrate God’s character in our lives. Many in the Corinthian church felt that speaking another language or speaking the language of angels was prestigious, so they desired these gifts above others. Paul said a person who speaks a language that is meant to edify the body of Christ is doing nothing but loud talk if that person is not motivated by love.

3.      How can our ministry impact the lives of believers?

4.      How can our ministry impact the lives of unbelievers?

If the goal of ministry is to impact others for Christ, then love must be the motivator!

5.      What would it look like for spiritual gifts to be used without love? (It would simply be self-serving. The impact of the gifts used without love would exalt the individual not God!)

Notice that Paul positioned love as a necessity before describing what love is! Now Paul presents a series of descriptors to illustrate the nature of love and what love in action looks like.

 

Nature of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

1.      What other characteristics of love can you think of that isn’t listed in these verses? (Generous, Truth telling, Sacrificial, Not Irritable, Does not keep a record of wrongs, Does not enjoy seeing others embarrassed, Expects the best outcome, endures all things or puts us with other’s faults and insults.)

Some of these may seem the same but have a slightly different nuance.

(Create teams of three or four people. Give each group a list of Love’s characteristics and have them brainstorm what would be the opposite of each assigned characteristic. After about 3-4 minutes bring them back together and have each group share what they came up with. The list of Love’s characteristics can be found at the end of this outline.)

We have a list of characteristics others should see demonstrated through the life of a Christian and the list of those negative characteristics that should NOT be seen in our lives.

2.      Which of these positive characteristics give you the greatest trouble?

3.      What action stands out as most significant in your life?

4.      How do you see the positive and negative demonstrated around you every day?

God is characterized as love, and those of us who follow Him should exhibit that same kind of love.

5.      How is the description of love given by Paul seen in God’s character? (Everything positive about God is directed to us!)

6.      How does substituting the word “love” with “God” give you a better understanding of the relationship between the love defined by Paul and the character of God?

7.      What do others see in my life?

 

Permanence of Love! Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

 

Paul contrasted love with other things valued by the Corinthians, emphasizing that of all the things valued on earth, only love is eternal.

1.      Based on the fact that Paul taught that love will outlast every spiritual gift, how can believers make love their priority? (Place love at the top of our priorities and demonstrate love in everything we do. Love alone will endure.)

2.      How do you interpret what Paul has to say about “faith, hope and love”? (Our “faith” will become sight! Our “hope” will be realized! We will live in the presence of God’s “love” forever.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         When we serve motivated by love we will make the greatest impact for Christ!

·         We should be characterized by actions that demonstrate godly love for others.

·         We should base our lives on things that have an eternal duration, with love leading the way!

 

1.      If my actions this past week were to be evaluated by this chapter, what did others see in me? Self? Or God?

2.      What actions can I take to ensure I make improvements this week so that God is seen in all I do?

 

Love seeks reconciliation and will even suffer an unfair loss if doing so brings glory to Christ before a lost world!

We are never more like Christ than when we graciously limit our freedoms to help others!

 

Reflect on ministry priorities. If showing genuine love is not a motivating factor in your life, commit to let others feel love and see love in you as you minister to them!

 

Characteristics of Love!

 

1.      Giving/Generous

2.      Truth Telling

3.      Humble

4.      Sacrificial

5.      Patient

6.      Kind

7.      Does not envy

8.      Does not boast

9.      Is not arrogant/conceited

10.  Is not self-seeking

11.  Is not rude

12.  Is not irritable

13.  Does not keep a record of wrongs

14.  Forgiving

15.  Doesn’t delight in unrighteousness

16.  Rejoices in the truth

17.  Does not want others embarrassed

18.  Gives others the benefit of the doubt

19.  Expects the best outcome

20.  Puts up with others

 

Opposite Characteristics of Love!

 

1.      Stingy

2.      Lying

3.      Boastful/proud

4.      Selfish

5.      Self-aggrandizing

6.      Impatient/short fused

7.      Harsh

8.      Envy/Jealousy/resentment

9.      Conceited

10.  Only looks out for self

11.  Rude/Contentious

12.  Irritable/Touchy/Easily offended

13.  Keeps a record of wrongs

14.  Unforgiving/Resentful

15.  Gloats over other’s misfortunes

16.  Loves lies

17.   Loves seeing others hurt.

18.  Jumps to evil conclusions

19.  Is sure of the worst outcome

20.  Not patient while others mature

Serving God’s People - 1 Corinthians 12:1-26

(Display a Mr. Potato Head toy with all the parts in their proper place. We will move them around later.)

1.      What are some common misunderstandings people have about spiritual gifts? (Spiritual gifts are a thing of the past. Only certain people, like pastors; music ministers; etc have spiritual gifts. If I have one, I don’t know what it is. People don’t have them today like they used to in Biblical times.)

2.      What are some things that foster misunderstandings about spiritual gifts? (Some people might feel that acknowledging the fact that I have a spiritual gift and actually using it is bragging about your own special ability. They are misunderstanding the fact that God chooses who gets what gift and you cannot exercise your gift effectively without the Holy Spirit’s leading. Your gift is not for your edification but for that of the Church or Body of Christ!)

Our spiritual gifts are to be used most effectively in love and humility, giving God all the glory!

3.      How can we use Mr. Potato Head to illustrate some truths about spiritual gifts?

We will see today that every Christian has received at least one spiritual gift! In today’s study, we will see how Paul corrected the misunderstanding and misuse of spiritual gifts in the church at Corinth!

(Read 1 Cor. 12:1-3. One sure test we have to see if a person was of God or not was what came out of one’s mouth. The Spirit of God would not say “Jesus is cursed”! No one can say with assurance that “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwelling in a person also gifted that person with special gifts.)

 

Diverse! Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

 

1.      What words follow the word “different” in each verse? (Gifts; ministries; activities.)

2.      What words follow “same” in each case? (Spirit, Lord, God.)

Spiritual gifts are the special abilities from the Holy Spirit to each believer. While ministries are the specific offices (such as teacher, pastor, and so on), activities are the works of God through different believers.

The same Spirit gives gifts, but those gifts might manifest themselves through various ministries in the church and also through a broad range of activities that equip and edify God’s people.

3.      What are some different areas the gift of proclaiming the truth of God’s Word might be evident? (Pastor; SS teachers at all the different age groups; those in jail ministry; music ministry; etc. The gift is just demonstrated in a variety of ways, none superior to the others but all are important!)

In the body of Christ, not all have the same gifts or assignments, but they do share the same Spirit, the same Lord, and the same God! The three different references to God in these verses clearly represent the Trinity, or God’s three-in-oneness. Recall the old hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber, which is based on the reality of the Trinity!

To help the church at Corinth begin to function with unity in service to God, Paul wanted them to see that spiritual gifts were given by God to them and for them to all work together in unity!

4.      What would help a divided church begin to function with unity in service to God? (Recognize the spiritual gifts others have and appreciate the way God has gifted us differently. Don’t get upset when someone does not have a passion for the same ministry you are passionate about. They are gifted differently and minister in another area of the Body!)

All believers are gifted to fulfill a God initiated role in the ministry of the church. The Holy Spirit initiates and determines what gifts will be given to what believers. In the next section of verses, Paul identified specific spiritual gifts.

 

Specific! Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-10

            (Handout kit item 8—Paul’s List of Spiritual Gifts)

There is no one place in Scripture that gives a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts. There are lists in several letters Paul wrote for us to use. But there may be other gifts than those listed.

1.      Why would it be important to know that every believer receives a spiritual gift? (Every member of the Body is important for the Body to function properly. The Holy Spirit manifests the gifts within each believer for ministry. They should not be used to compete against one another. In fact, we should rejoice when any part of the Body grows or demonstrates success in their area of ministry!)

The list Paul gives here is representative rather than exhaustive.

--The Message of wisdom most likely refers to declaring how the gospel applies to a particular situation.

--The Message of knowledge may mean knowledge that comes from direct revelation or the ability to teach correctly.

--The gift of Faith is distinguished from saving faith, which all Christians have. Perhaps it reflects the strong conviction that God will act in a particular way in a specific situation.

--The Gifts of healing may refer to the many miraculous examples found in the Gospels and Acts. There may be different kinds of healing, medical, mental etc. Perhaps even through the miracle of medicine.

--Performing of miracles refers perhaps to supernatural intervention in situations other than bodily healings, like the feeding of thousands with a small amount of food; calming the storm and those recorded in Acts.

--Prophecy is foretelling as well as forth-telling. Paul later taught that prophecy builds up believers gathered for worship!

--Distinguishing between spirits is telling the difference between true prophets of God and false prophets.

--Different kinds of tongues. Paul makes two points later about this gift which are important to note: not all Christians have this gift (12:30) and those with this gift are to control when and how they use it (14:27-28). (Unfortunately I have seen people who claimed to have this gift and looked down on those who didn’t.)

--Interpretation of tongues. If a person gifted in languages did not understand what they were saying, then it was important for a translator to be provided. Paul later taught that in public worship there must be no more than two or three people who spoke in a different language, each in turn, and that a translation or interpretation must be provided. (14:27-28.

2.      Why do you think Paul mentioned the Holy Spirit so frequently in this passage (five times in vv.7-9)?

3.      How should that emphasis impact the way we view spiritual gifts? (Much the same way we should view our salvation, it is only by the grace of God and nothing we deserve!)

4.      What are some ways in which a person might use a spiritual gift to benefit himself or herself rather than the church? (Exhibit pride in what God had done through them.)

5.      How can we guard against those tendencies?

We must humble ourselves before God. The exercise of our spiritual gifts will soon become like second nature and we don’t think about using it when we are following God’s will for our lives.

6.      How does knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts create confidence in a believer to exercise his or her gift?

7.      How can receiving and using a spiritual gift be part of our stewardship?

 

Every spiritual gift is important to the church and strategically intentional in its placement. Just as the human body must function as one unit, so too must the body of Christ. God knows exactly what each church needs and “gifts” individuals to meet those needs. When one part isn’t functioning as it should, the Body is crippled! See 12:18

 

Intentional! Read 1 Corinthians 1211-12, 21-26

 

1.      What is the likely result when believers don’t use their spiritual gifts? (Paul used the human body as a metaphor to describe the workings of the spiritual gifts within the church. Each part of the body has a specific function to the life of the body, just as each member in the church has a specific function to the life of the church. When that function is left undone the whole body or church suffers!)

2.      We’ve been talking about how we should regard our spiritual gifts to this point. How should we regard the spiritual gifts of another Christian? (We should never allow pride to get in the way of allowing others to use their spiritual gifts. All spiritual gifts should be recognized for their significance in the church. Believers should care for one another because they are all part of the same body.)

3.      How does the variety of gifts in a church give greater value to the giftedness of an individual? (I’m the one God has chosen to do this task. I need to take it seriously and do the best I can in God’s strength.)

4.      Why might a person devalue the role or gift God has given him?

5.      How can a person protect himself from devaluing his giftedness?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

A quick review:

·         All believers are gifted to fulfill a God-initiated role in the ministry of the church.

·         Believers receive specific gifts given at the Holy Spirit’s discretion.

·         Believers add value to the church when they use their God-given spiritual gifts in kingdom work.

 

1.      How can we as believers come to know and understand what particular spiritual gift we have been given?

2.      How can we help each other discover and exercise our gifts?

 

Seek to identify the spiritual gift(s) God has given you. You can find a spiritual gifts inventory in the downloads under the resources tab at Blog.LifeWay.com/ExploreTheBible.

 

3.      Are you using your gift to build up your church?

4.      What action do you need to take to be more effective?

 

Thank God for each believer’s special gift from God.

Pray that we will use our God-given spiritual gifts to build God’s kingdom!

Remembering the Sacrifice - 1 Corinthians 11:17-29

1.      What are some dates and places here in the United States that we set aside to remember certain events or people? (The USS Arizona; Memorial Day; MLK Day; President’s Day; Gettysburg; Thanksgiving Day; Christmas Day; etc.)

2.      What memorial places are special to you? (Most will have a marker in a cemetery that is especially significant.)

3.      What makes that place special or significant?

 

Jesus took the occasion of eating the Passover Meal with His disciples the night before His crucifixion to establish a new memorial, the Lord’s Supper. In our study this week, we’ll look at what Paul taught the believers in Corinth about the right way—and the wrong way—to remember Jesus’ death through the Lord’s Supper!

 

With Worship! Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

 

1.      How did Paul describe divisions within the church in these verses? (There are divisions in the church, different than the cliques earlier mentioned; when you come together for a fellowship meal (potluck) you do not share with all; the rich ate their meals and the poor had little or nothing to eat.)

2.      How had divisions impacted the Corinthian worship services? (Paul’s conclusion for what he had heard was that the believers there were worse for coming together. They did not demonstrate brotherly love toward one another. The divisiveness seemed to grow out of the way the fellowship meal and the Lord’s Supper was celebrated.)

The intention of the church, of course, was to observe the Lord’s Supper as they met together—and Paul had every expectation they would follow his instructions. But instead, at the meal, each one ate…without regard to other believers. Unlike the observance of many churches today, when the Lord’s Supper is part of a corporate worship service, the Corinthian believers included the Lord’s Supper as part of a meal they would eat together. Some rich members were greedily eating most of the food, leaving little or none for those who were poor. If the rich were hungry, Paul implied that they should eat at home.

Scripture clearly gives us guidance: Luke 14:8-11—Jesus says take the last seat not the seat of honor; James 2:1-9—rich man and poor man come to church; Phil. 2:3—consider others first; Eph. 5:18—don’t get drunk with wine.

3.      What are some ways a religious observance can become misguided?

4.      What factors contribute to the observance becoming misguided? (Sometimes frequency leads to simply going through the actions without a meaningful worship experience.)

5.      What do Paul’s instructions here reveal about the nature of the Lord’s Supper? (It is a time to care for one another. When the Lord’s Supper is shared in a spirit of selfishness, it is a farce. Believers should approach the Lord’s Supper with reverence for God and respect for one another.)

6.      What can be done to keep the focus of a religious practice on God and His purposes?

7.      What lessons can we learn and apply to our gathering together each week for Bible Study and Worship? (Don’t allow it to become simply a ritual we go through without thought, but a true time of learning and focused worship!)

Paul did not simply rebuke the Corinthians’ actions without offering truth to help them recover a right focus on the Lord’s Supper.

 

With Remembrance! Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

 

1.      How did Paul re-focus them on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper?

2.      How did Paul’s use of the plural “you” in these verses confront the selfish individualism of the Corinthians that Paul was addressing? (He was speaking to the church body as a whole. They were united in several ways and Paul wanted them to realize they were all part of one body—the body of Christ.)

3.      How would you summarize Paul’s instructions? (Believers should be mindful that the words Paul spoke in this passage are the words of Jesus. This should provide even more credibility to the correct observance of the Lord’s Supper.)

4.      Why did Jesus tell His disciples to observe the Lord’s Supper? (It is done in remembrance of Jesus and the sacrifice He made on our behalf.)

5.      What emotions well up in you when you hear the words of these verses repeated during the Lord’s Supper? (We should honor Jesus in His humanity as the incarnated Son of God and remember how His broken body endured the suffering of the cross.)

6.      What does the “New Covenant” mean? (The old covenant consisted of the laws that God gave Moses. These laws defined the relationship between God and His people and helped them to live in righteousness before God.)

The blood of Jesus represented the new covenant, which changed the relationship between God and the followers of Christ. Christians are not governed by the written laws of Moses but by laws that are written on the heart. In Hebrews 9:15-17 the writer tells us that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant between God and Man. In Hebrews 10:4 the writer tells us “The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.” That is why Jesus had to come and be the ultimate Sacrifice so that our sins are atoned for once and for all!

7.      How often are we supposed to observe the Lord’s Supper? (Jesus didn’t tell us how often it should be observed. He simply said that when we do we are remembering and proclaiming the Lord’s death until He returns!)

8.      How can the Lord’s Supper be a means of sharing the gospel with others?

9.      How does observing the Lord’s Supper give a believer confidence in his or her salvation?

 

After recalling Jesus’ Last Supper, Paul returned to instructions for the Corinthians.

 

With Examination! Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-29

 

1.      How might a person approach the Lord’s Supper in “an unworthy manner”? (Flippantly; without considering what the bread and juice represents; etc.)

2.      What are the consequences of receiving the Lord’s Supper in “an unworthy manner”? (Paul warned the Corinthians that if they didn’t practice the Lord’s Supper with reverence, then they were dishonoring Christ. They would be guilty of sinning against the body of Christ, mocking what Jesus did and not taking it seriously.)

3.      How should Christians prepare to observe the Lord’s Supper? (The reverence believers show during the Lord’s Supper has everything to do with their hearts! Our sin should drive us to the Lord’s Supper and not away from it. Therefore, when we sin we should repentantly approach the Lord’s Supper.)

When an offense that results in discord occurs between believers, they should seek forgiveness. Believers should always seek to practice the Lord’s Supper in unity with one another. After an honest appraisal of our attitudes toward God and fellow believers, Christians should partake of the Lord’s Supper in reverential awe.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can we make the Lord’s Supper a meaningful experience between them and God? (The Lord’s Supper is a serious and sacred ordinance that Jesus initiated Himself; believers should give their heartfelt focus.)

2.      What actions do you need to personally take to safeguard against abusing or ignoring the observance of the Lord’s Supper?

 

One of the most meaningful times of observing the Lord’s Supper was when we had the observance in complete silence! It was deeply meaningful and moving!

 

May our observance of the Lord’s Supper always be a time of worship, remembrance and self-examination!

Assurance of the Resurrection - John 20:2-9; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

(In advance, write the following on the whiteboard or large sheet of paper: “Stormy forecast,” “Tornadoes,” Hurricanes,” “Floods,”       “ Random Bombings,” “School Shooting,” “Many massacred in church shooting,” “Identity Theft,” “Sexual Abuse,” “Physical Abuse,”…there seems to be no end to the evil in today’s world!)

Ask the class members:

1.      What feelings and emotions do you feel when reading about these events? (Consider recording their responses on the board.)

Like today, life was not guaranteed as safe and secure for first-century Christians.

In some ways, life in the first century was like our own, taking into account they did not have the advanced technology that we do.

—various groups did not trust each other.

—the Roman army was brutal.

—Justice was often meted out by corrupt emperors and other

     Politicians.

—Life was not guaranteed safe and secure.

—There was very little that people could be certain of.

Human nature has been remarkably consistent when it comes to exploiting others.   In a world where it seemed no one could be trusted, Paul wanted the new believers in Corinth to understand the crucial connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming resurrection of all those united with the Lord Jesus. There was someone who could be trusted—the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.      How is a person’s sense of security related to what one is willing to trust for their security?

Paul was well aware that life is unfair and little, if anything, in this life has been guaranteed. That’s why he placed all his confidence in the resurrection of Jesus.  Paul was trying to help his readers understand the crucial connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming resurrection of all who place their trust in Jesus!

As we study our passage today consider this question: How does the resurrection of Christ impact your daily life?

Believing in the Resurrection! Read John 20:1-9

 

I can’t read this passage without being amazed by John’s remark in verse 2—“The one Jesus loved.” John felt Jesus’ love so deeply that it was as if he was the only one Jesus loved!

1.      What emotions would this experience bring out of those involved?

2.      What is significant about the linen cloths being left in the tomb? (If it were grave robbers who took Jesus they would have taken the linen cloths with them.  This was a deliberate act to fold the linen cloths that was around Jesus’ head. The other grave cloths may have been there as if the body just vanished through the cloths.)

3.      Do the details included by John give more credibility to his account of Jesus’ resurrection?

4.      What conclusions could Peter and John draw following an examination of the tomb?

5.      What did John finally believe about the disappearance of Jesus’ body? (Based on what he saw, John believed that Jesus was alive. Although they knew something unusual had happened they did not know what had occurred!)

6.      What is the connection between seeing and believing?

7.      How can a person believe in Jesus without fully understanding? (It is by faith we believe, not seeing! If it is by seeing there is no faith involved. They saw that Jesus was not there but could not explain where Jesus was or how His body was removed.)

(The Scripture referred to in verse 9 may have been Isaiah 53; Psalm 16:10 or Hosea 6:2.)

 

(If you have the Resource Kit, hand out copies of Resurrection appearances in Scripture.)

 

The resurrection of Jesus grounds our faith, undergirds our mission, and establishes our hope in the life to come. In nearly all of his letters found in the New Testament, Paul had something to say about the resurrection of Jesus and its impact upon our lives.

 

 

Made Alive Through the Resurrection!

Read 1 Cor. 15:20-22

 

The term “firstfruits” was taken from the history of the Jewish people. It referred to the first sample of agricultural produce which indicated the nature of the entire harvest that was soon to follow.

1.      In what sense was Jesus’ resurrection the “firstfruits”? (Jesus was the first person to ever be resurrected. Jesus was the first of many to follow, and their resurrected bodies would be like his.)

2.      In what sense is Jesus the second Adam? (The first Adam brought sin and death while, for those who believe in Jesus, He brings forgiveness and eternal life. 1 Cor. 15:45 “So it is written: the first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”)

3.      What do these verses reveal about the results of Jesus’ resurrection?

4.      How do the results identified by Paul give hope? (In Christ, we have a second chance!)

5.      Hope for what? (Believers will follow Jesus in physical death but we will rise from the dead, just as He did! 

Read 1 Thess. 4:16. Jesus paved the way for the believers!

 

Future Found in the Resurrection! Read 1 Cor. 15:23-28

 

1.      What event will signal the end of time, as we know it?

2.      What enemies will Jesus defeat once and for all? (Satan and death. When the events we read about a moment ago in 1 Thess. 4:16 take place the final enemy—death—will be defeated. From that point on, no one will die. Everything will be under the rule of the Son who has yielded Himself to the Lordship of the Father. Note this is not one being greater than the other, it is the role and function of each Person of the Godhead!)

Christ will take full authority over the evil on the earth, subduing those who rise against Him and those who refuse to accept His gift of eternal life.

3.      How does Paul’s view of eternity compare to how most people view eternity? (Paul looked forward to the time when Christ would bring a complete resolution to earthly sin and present it to God, the Father.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

We, as believers, find assurance for this life and the life to come through the resurrected Lord!

Persons live beyond time, not because of any inherent immortality, but because God gives them life. Ref. 2 Cor. 5:1-10.

 

Reflect on the time when you first placed your trust in Jesus. (If you haven’t done so read the inside cover of your PSG and consider doing so.)

With whom can you share about your salvation this week?

 

What a sad commentary it is to see a life with hope only in the span of time they live here on this earth. Our Hope is placed in Christ to live with Him eternally for we too shall rise from the grave with a new body but only through God’s grace and mercy.

 

Last Sunday morning in our Department time we sang the old hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.”  There is a phrase in the song that goes like this, “And when in scenes of Glory I sing a new, new song, it will be the old, old story that I have loved so long.”

We will have eternity to praise and thank Jesus and the Father for His sacrifice that secured our salvation!

 

Share the “Old, Old Story” with someone this week!

Influencing for Christ - 1 Corinthians 9:19-27, 10:31-33, 11:1

   Over the last three Sundays we have seen the Bible provide ample wisdom and counsel about unity, sexual immorality and marriage. However, many Christians have fallen short in learning and using this knowledge to impact the lives of those around us. Many of the citizens of Corinth operated under the notion that “Everything is permissible for me.” Before we beat up and chastise the Corinthians for their thinking, we should look at our world today and realize that Paul’s messages are still right on target. First, as believers, we share the same salvation and therefore should be unified by that confession. Second, as believers, we can live holy lives by focusing on Christ’s Lordship and not temporal things. Then last Sunday, as believers, we honor God by keeping our marriage and purity vows. Basically, through these last three lessons, Paul has challenged us, as believers, to embrace God’s standard of holy, righteous living.

      

   Our lesson today is “Influencing for Christ” and we see Paul continue to answer questions posed by the Corinthians. Hopefully their questions today are not as challenging and sensitive as those of the last couple of Sundays. Today Paul will remind us that as believes we represent God by using our influence to bring others to Him. We are to live as examples of what it means to follow Christ.

 

   In our first group of verses, Paul explained why he did not insist on certain rights that he possessed as an apostle of Christ. We will see that he was motivated by a greater desire.

Read 1 Cor. 9:19-23 “Walking In Their Shoes”

   What was Paul willing to give up so he could share the gospel with others?

   What rights did Paul have?

   Paul had a passion to see lost people saved. He knew that his free status and gospel calling included having certain rights and benefits. He willingly put aside those rights and benefits for the sake of focusing people’s hearts on Christ as Savior and Lord.

   What was Paul’s concern about sharing the gospel?

   What are cultural concessions?

   Christ had called Paul to present the gospel to lost people and build up the church. He avoided all potential hindrances to that calling.

   What influenced Paul to sacrifice his own time and attention to himself so he could impact others for Christ?

   What method did Paul use to influence people?

   Why would Paul become weak?

   What do you think was the most important element in Paul’s life?

   When we apply these verses to our world today, we must understand that as believers we need to be motivated by Paul’s example. We will never win others to genuine faith in Christ by joining in sinful behavior. We can establish friendships through appropriate common interests that give us opportunities to share the gospel. However, it will be our transformed lives and true testimony that point others to the only One who can save them.

   In the next three verses Paul continued his emphasis on doing whatever was required to faithfully fulfill his gospel calling. He illustrated his point with an analogy of athletes.

Read 1 Cor. 9:24-27 “Running the Race”

   Lots of comparisons of the Christian life to running. With Corinth hosting the Isthmian Games (similar to the Olympics in Greece) Paul’s use of runners in a stadium would have been readily understood by the Corinthians.

   How did Paul associate his goal of winning people to Christ to the athlete’s goal of winning the race?

   What boundaries did Paul establish for himself?

   We need to understand what Paul was and was not implying with his analogy. He was not implying that Christians are somehow in competition with one another for salvation or that only one believer would win that prize. His point was that believers must strive with all our strength for God’s will in our lives, just as athletes strive for their prize.

   What did Paul think would disqualify him from sharing the gospel?

   When have we disqualified ourselves from sharing the gospel?

   Paul was not competing against other apostles. Just like us today, Paul was competing against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Bring the lesson into today’s world, isn’t our main obstacle to success in the Christian life an undisciplined lifestyle that yields to sinful desires?

 

   As we studied the past few Sundays, the Corinthian’s were coming from pagan religions built around sexual immorality and idolatry. Just as we must be on guard for today, Paul knew that the new believers in Corinth would have many temptations to return to their sinful past. These next verses encourage us to keep our eyes on Jesus and our wills under the Spirit’s control. We are to use our influence to lead others to do the same.

Read 1 Cor. 10:31-33; 11:1 “Following Our Leader”

   What was Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers?

   What did the believer’s influence have to do with what they ate or drank?

   We have studied the issues of eating or not eating many times over the years. For believers who knew that all food was from God and idols were not really gods then eating food that had been used as a pagan sacrifice was acceptable. However, Paul did not want to eat sacrificed food if it would hinder the faith of a less mature Christian.

   Was Paul being proud or arrogant in 11:1 when he said, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ”?

   Who was Paul’s model of influence?

 

Summary: How can we follow Paul’s example to influence people and win them for Christ?

·         Be willing to be flexible for winning others to Christ.

·         Restrict our flexibility so we do not disobey biblical principles and compromise our witness to the gospel.

·         Practice Bible reading and prayer disciplines so that we are strong.

·         Christian freedom does not mean we can force others to follow our practices.

Close in prayer, thanking God for His presence and power as we use our influence to represent Him.

Marriage and Purity Vows - 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

(Give each person in the class a postcard as they arrive. Ask each person to write on the card one piece of advice you would give a newly engaged couple about marriage! Collect them and read them or have individual members read what they wrote.)

Good marriages involve keeping God at the center, spending quality time together, effective communications and more. Cultural changes have weakened the institution of marriage, including changes that make it easy to obtain a divorce. Many couples marry, citing divorce as a backup plan if faced with problems in the marriage.

[Unfortunately, some preachers have misquoted research results done by George Barna. His research actually found that the divorce rate among professed believers to be not that much different from the non-churched. But the divorce rate for Christians who are involved in their church and attend 3 out of 4 Sundays is about half that of the non-churched. The top three reasons for divorce are money, sex and children—in that order.]

(The above information was provided by Bro. Curtis Owens.)

Relationship advice abounds, and it can be difficult to sort valid from invalid counsel. Today’s focal passage provides a scriptural basis for how believers can honor God by keeping their vows related to marriage and purity.

Paul wrote chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians in response to questions from the church at Corinth related to marriage after conversion and what place sexual intimacy had in marriage. This chapter is only a beginning point for the discussion on marriage, not a complete statement about marriage or its ethical implications. In other words, Paul gave a broad stroke of the brush on some marriage issues without a lot of detailed explanation.

 

The following is an overview of our verses today:

·         Principles of sex in marriage

·         A word to the unmarried

·         Advice about married people

Marriage and Intimacy! Read 1 Cor. 7:1-7

 

1.      Review these verses. What counsel did Paul give to husbands?

(Men should have one (implied) wife; fulfill the marital responsibility to his wife; husband does not have right over his own body; do not deprive his wife sexually unless it is a mutual agreement for a specified time and purpose)

2.      What counsel did Paul give to wives? (Wife should have one (implied) husband; fulfill the marital responsibility of her husband; wife does not have right over her own body; do not deprive her husband sexually unless it is a mutual agreement for a specified time and purpose. Note: Illness and other medical reasons may also prevent sexual relations.)

Sexual relations in Corinth were strongly tied to pagan worship. Corinthian Christians had been impacted by their culture. Sexual immorality in Corinth was unchecked, and sexual temptations were everywhere. For this reason, the Corinthian believers had questions and Paul provided answers.

3.       How does this teaching of duty and rights in marriage contrast with contemporary views about marital relationships?

4.      What corrections need to be made for a healthy view of sex within marriage? (The world we live in has so perverted sex as to make it something dirty and vulgar rather than a beautiful union of man and wife, as God intended!)

5.      What are some implications to be avoided? (The marriage relationship does not give them license to be controlling, vindictive, or abusive.)

God provided for the natural sexual urges of men and women through the institution of marriage—a God-ordained relationship.

6.      How do Paul’s directives strengthen a marriage? (God designed marriage so that the sexual relationship between a man and woman would be the one thing that would not be shared with any other person.)

7.      What should be some of the distinctives of the Christian view of sex?

Sexual relations within marriage are to be on mutually agreeable terms.

 

Marriage and Singleness! Read 1 Cor. 7:8-9

 

(Read these verses in several different translations.)

1.      How did the different translations add clarity to the meaning here?

2.      How would you summarize Paul’s counsel to the unmarried and widows?

3.      How can singleness as an alternative to marriage be satisfying? (Paul considered himself to be a successful single person, and he wanted to help other single people to be successful and satisfied in their status.)

The Scripture is silent on whether Paul was married at one time and whether he was a widower at the time of this writing. Paul recognized singleness to be a “good” thing, meaning not everyone would fulfill the requirements of singleness. He also emphasized that marriage was God’s way of meeting the sexual needs of people who are single. God has not gifted anyone for sexual immorality!

4.      “Believers are to be content regardless of marital status.” How does the statement summarize Paul’s point?

5.      What is the relationship between what Paul was teaching and God’s expectation of His people living in a God-honoring way?

 

Marriage and Divorce! Read 1 Cor. 7:10-13

 

1.      How does Paul address divorce in verses 10-11? (A wife or a husband is not to leave a marriage. But if they do, they are not to remarry.)

2.      How does Paul address divorce in the situation where one is a believer and the other is not a believer? (If the unbeliever wants to stay then remain together. If the unbeliever chooses to leave then divorce them.)

3.      Why should a believer stay married to an unbeliever? (See verse 16. That is exactly what happened with Sterling Eggleston! His wife was a Christian and continued to live a committed Christian life before him, including attending church week after week. He was finally marvelously saved!)

4.      How does this passage help us understand how to relate to people who were friends prior to our accepting Christ?

Paul’s directives to remain married affirm God’s design for all marriages. Not to divorce applied to all married couples to whom Paul was writing, even believers who had unbelieving spouses. Leaving a spouse because that person is an unbeliever is not a valid reason to divorce. God mandate is for couples to remain married!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Paul responded to specific questions about marriage for a specific group of people during a specific time, but how do Paul’s answers translate to today’s marriages? (If you are married, you have the responsibility to care for your spouse and to fulfill all his or her needs and desires. We should view being single and being married as gifts from God. To avoid frustration with one’s natural desire for sex, one should pursue marriage.)

2.      Regardless of your marital status, what are you doing to make sure your sexual expression honors God and His design for creation?

3.      How can you help others understand God’s expectations?

 

Our view of marriage and divorce should be the same as God’s view: marriage should be embraced as a permanent relationship between a man and a woman. Consider, too, that Christians who are divorced and remarried are not disqualified from receiving the mercy and grace of God. Determine to encourage others no matter what their marital status is!

Glorifying God - 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

1.      How would you characterize our culture’s view of sex?

2.      How would you characterize our culture’s view of immorality?

The Bible provides ample wisdom and counsel about immorality; however, Christians have fallen short in learning and using this knowledge to impact their lives and lives of people around us.

We have become so desensitized by our culture that what used to be completely unthinkable is common place.  There are few books in the Bible that does not deal with sexual immorality in some way!

Before Christ, the Corinthian believers may have been entangled in unrighteousness. After their conversion God demanded holiness in all areas of their lives. However, one believer had either continued to sin or returned to it, and the church had not dealt with the sin.

There is hardly a week that passes without a teacher, coach, high visibility political figure, pastor or church staff member being charged with some kind of sexual misconduct. It is destroying our lives and Satan is enjoying every minute of it!

3.      To what degree do you think it matters how a person uses his or her body?

4.      How would you describe the connection between your body and your spiritual life?

Through Paul, this session provides an understanding of what God expects of Christians regarding sexual morality. Paul challenged the believers in Corinth, and thereby all believers, to embrace God’s standard for holy, righteous living.

5.      Is this message needed for the church today? (I think one would be hard pressed to find a book in the New Testament that does not deal with sexual immorality in some way.)

Some people embrace the notion that what they do with their own body is their business. The first-century Christians thought similarly. They came out of lifestyles of physical indulgence and supposed that once they were followers of Jesus, everything bodily was still permitted.

 

Focused on Christ’s Lordship! Read 1 Cor. 6:12-14

 

We all have cultural habits or practices that are hard to overcome once we become Christians. Paul possibly quoted something he had said previously or slogans from the broader Corinthian culture. The verses fall within Paul’s larger discussion of Christian liberty and freedom in 1 Cor. 5-11. Either way, the Corinthian believers misapplied the quoted phrase, using them to pursue ungodly actions and selfish ends.

1.      Read John 8:36 and Gal. 5:1. What is the Scripture talking about in these verses about being free? (From the bondage of sin.)

Freedom in Christ is never meant as a license to sin. See Heb. 10:26. We cannot presume on God’s grace. If we choose to sin, saying God will forgive and all will be well, we are wrong! There may be confession but there is no repentance in this case!

2.      What other areas beyond food and sex might master a Christian’s life if left unchecked or unchallenged? (My mouth.)

3.      When we become a Christian do all temptations go away? (Absolutely not. But God doesn’t tempt us, it comes from Satan. See James 1:13-15.)

4.      What is the relationship between freedom and responsibility?

5.      What might be said to believers who think they are free to do as they please?

Paul stressed that believers can live holy lives by focusing on Christ’s Lordship and not being controlled by temporal things, such as food and sexual appetites.

 

Joined with Christ! Read 1 Cor. 6:15-17

 

1.      If Paul were saying these words instead of writing them, what inflection do you think he would use?

As we have already hinted at, there were those who believed that the physical body and the spirit were separated and one had nothing to do with the other. That is not the case!

2.      What did Corinthian believers misunderstand about the nature of sex? (Just as a husband and wife become one through sex, a believer becomes one with a person through a sexual encounter.)

I recently heard about one single adult asking another single adult, “How do you satisfy your sexual needs?” The reply was, “I give it up to God.”! Nothing satisfies more than our relationship with Christ, which unites us with God!

3.      In what way are we part of Christ’s body? (Believers are part of Christ’s body—the church. But we also have the Spirit of God living in us! The two are inseparable. So when we join ourselves with a prostitute God’s Spirit is right there too!)

As members of the church, there is accountability with one another for how we behave!

4.       Why might a person bristle at the thought of accountability with another person?

5.      How does being held accountable by others help a person use his or her freedom for good?

6.      How should being united with Christ impact how a person views what he or she does with his or her body?

Think of it this way. Wherever I go I visualize Jesus being right there with me! Would I go to a prostitute with Jesus right there in the room with me? I think not! The truth is He is right there with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit!

 

Bought with a Price! Read 1 Cor. 6:18-20

 

1.      How are we told to respond when we face sexual temptation? (RUN! Not walk but run as Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife!)

2.      What must the Corinthian believers do to strengthen their ability to flee sexual immorality? (Stay in the Word of God. Stay connected to the body of believers—the church! Hang out with fellow believers. Make wise choices when choosing friends.)

We cannot take chances when faced with sexual immorality. It is powerful, and one cannot reason with it. I’ve known strong Christians who were trapped in this sin. RUN!

3.      To whom did Paul say the Corinthian believers belonged? Why? (They were “slaves to Christ”. They had been bought at a high price!)

We too have been bought at a high price and we should seek to honor Christ with how we use our bodies! Hosea and Gomer.

4.      How does realizing you were bought for a high price encourage you to honor God with how you use your body?

5.      Read 1 Thess. 4:3-8. How does what Paul wrote in this passage compare to what he wrote to the Corinthian believers?

Sexual immorality has a deep spiritual impact on a person’s body, because of the nature of this sinful act. It physically and spiritually corrupts the inside of the body, while other sins corrupt the outside of the body.

Our bodies are sacred vessels that house the Holy Spirit. Therefore, our bodies should be treated with honor and respect!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Unless one lives in a vacuum, no one can escape the widespread exposure of immorality in today’s culture.

1.      How can Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers strengthen our resolve to resist the practice of immorality and live holy before God?

Sexual temptation knows no limits. Some have the opinion that as you age your temptations become less and less. But, as I heard someone say just the other day, “My body may be 80 years old but in my mind I’m still 18!”

2.      Are you more focused on Christ or on temporal things?

3.      What evidence would you point to in support of your answer?

4.      What needs to change and how?

5.      Do you think we are responsible to holding each other accountable?

6.      How can we hold one another accountable without judging, condoning, or ignoring? (We become desensitized to sin.)

Some Christian groups form accountability partnerships, or pairs of believers who will help each other be mutually accountable for honoring God with their bodies. These would need to be prayed over and be very, very good friends and keep things confidential!

It is difficult in the world we live in, but we should resolve to guard our minds from the influence of immorality. This means filtering what we watch on TV and other media and what we read!

We must aggressively turn away from every temptation!

United in Christ - 1 Corinthians 1:1-25

1.      What is the purpose of a sports team? (Ultimately, the purpose is to win games.)

2.      What is important for a team to be successful? (Each team member must understand the purpose of the team; their part in contributing to the achievement of their purpose; and their willingness to do their assigned task.)

3.      What happens when there is a team member who doesn’t understand their part or wants to do someone else’s job?

The point: In order to be successful a team must be unified in purpose and be willing to do their part! I have seen team members get so focused on a nonessential that they lost focus on their main purpose!

4.      Have you ever been part of an organization or team driven by a common purpose?

5.      How did that purpose help you deal with differences within the group?

 

Our church is made up of people from many different walks of life, backgrounds and interests, who find their unity in the gospel, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we let our preferences get in the way of our love and mission, and believers are unnecessarily divided. In this week’s study, Paul addressed divisions in the church at Corinth and called believers back to unity!

 

The gospel arrived in Corinth around AD 50. After Paul and his team had established churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea and proclaiming the gospel in Athens Paul went on to Corinth. There Silas and Timothy as well as the Jewish-Christian couple, Aquila and Priscilla joined him.

During Paul’s third missionary trip, near the end of his two years in Ephesus, Paul wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians around AD 55. Paul addresses at least five important themes: Christian unity, sexual morality, women’s roles, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.  At least part of this letter may have been in direct response to questions that had been asked.

(Point out the location of Corinth on a map and note that it was a major crossroads for land and sea travel.)

 

Call for Unity! Read 1 Cor. 1:10

 

1.      How did Paul address the church in this verse? (“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)

2.      What difference does it make how Paul addressed the church here? (Paul used the name of Jesus nine times in the first ten verses of this chapter. Paul wanted them to be certain of whom they were to follow!)

(Use the poster from the Pack Item 4, Poster: Problems in Corinth.)

3.      What three specific ways did Paul call the church to unity? (Paul was focusing on basic doctrinal convictions and goals as opposed to unity of opinion about everything-color of paint.)

4.      What factors could potentially threaten unity in a church?

5.      What steps might be taken to ensure that a local church remains unified?

(Consider a brief lecture on “Unity in the Church”. 

Unity is God’s idea from the very beginning. “The Lord your God is one Lord!”

Human’s history is a story of sins disruption of God’s ordained unity! Marriage where man and woman become as one but sinful lust enters; One Language but sinful pride enters; uniting the peoples of the world under one Lord [see Zech 14:19] but self-centeredness enters; Disciples to experience unity as the Son has with the Father; Jesus prayed for unity in the early church in Acts 2:1, 43 and 4:32 but sin enters.

Paul spoke repeatedly of believers as “one body in Christ.” For Paul their unity in the church reflects the unity of the Godhead: One God; One Lord; and One Spirit.)

6.      What are the aspects of Christian unity? (Christ is Lord; One baptism; One mission; Our shared concern for one another; Same love; Shared experience of suffering for Christ.)

When our focus is on the mission we were given by Jesus, Himself, the minor differences become meaningless! Where is our focus!

Contempt for Divisions! Read 1 Cor. 11-16

 

1.      How would you describe the divisions in the church in Corinth? (They each picked their favorite church leader and thought everyone else was wrong. The people who claimed Jesus felt they were more spiritual than others, perhaps.)

2.      What part does selfishness play in the Corinthian believers’ identification with different leaders? (Selfishness is at the heart of divisive spirits. Believers at the church in Corinth were boasting with pride about specific leaders they followed.)

3.      What purpose did Paul’s rhetorical questions serve? (Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to recognize the false doctrine that their divisiveness showed they believed.)

The truth is that Christ is not divided, Paul did not die for their sins, and they were not baptized in Paul’s name!

4.      Why was Paul glad he did not baptize many of the Corinthian believers? (Proof that Paul did not baptize any in his own name. Also, those baptized by Paul did not have any advantage over those baptized by other ministry leaders!)

5.      Where do you see this kind of division in the church today? (Some may choose a particular tele-evangelist; Some a favorite pastor; Some a favorite staff member; the list goes on.)

6.      How does rivalry get in the way of God’s work?

Even though these leaders helped the church in Corinth to grow, Paul’s contempt for this rivalry and division is clear in these verses. Basing allegiances on human personalities leads to prideful boasting and divisions within the church. Every member has his or her role in helping the church reach its mission! See 1 Cor. 3:6-7!

 

We will see that what unites Christians also separates us from the world!

The Cross That Divides!

As someone reads 1 Cor. 1:17-25 listen for references to the cross of Christ. (It’s mentioned 4 times.)

 

For Paul, the cross was a rallying point and unifier for the church. But the cross also divides: it divides those who are perishing from those who are being saved.

1.      According to Paul, what makes preaching ineffective? (Those who preach to impress others with flowery or eloquent speech lose the message of the cross. The listeners tend to be caught up in the antics of the preacher.)

It is through a genuine presentation of the gospel that people will either reject or accept salvation through Jesus Christ. It should go without saying that we should prepare to our very best but we depend upon the power of the gospel message and not the eloquence of our delivery.

The gospel isn’t something we can “talk” a person into accepting. It is through the power of the cross and the convicting activity of the Holy Spirit in that person’s heart! Sorry, but we get no credit!

2.      In what ways does the cross divide? (Paul revealed that those who were unsaved did not take the message seriously, but believers in Christ saw the gospel as powerful.)

3.      How is the cross of Christ divisive in our world today?

4.      In what way was the gospel message a “stumbling block” to the Jews? (The Jews, generally speaking, could not accept that the King of kings and their Messiah would come as a “Suffering Servant”, be nailed to a cross and die a shameful death!)

5.      In what way was the gospel message “foolishness?” (The gospel message that Jesus had died, was buried and arose from the grave three days later is simply foolishness!)

6.      All of us who believe the gospel have come to enjoy God’s wisdom and God’s power. Therefore, we are to exalt nothing above the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving death. What “power” or “wisdom” do nonbelievers today rely on to answer questions of eternal significance?

In all of our studying and seeking, whether in the universe or in God’s word there are no new truths discovered. The truth is already there, we simply discover what has already been placed there by God in the beginning!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Review the summary statements on page 18 of the PSG:

·         Believers are to be unified by their confession of Christ

·         Basing allegiances on human personalities leads to prideful boasting and divisions in the church.

·         The only dividing line believers should recognize is the division between those who are saved and those who are not.

 

1.      Which of those do you feel is the biggest insight you gained during this session?

2.      What walls have you built between yourself and other people?

3.      Which of those walls get in the way of your building relationships with other believers?

4.      What actions do you need to take to begin to remove these walls?

5.      What is one action you can take to begin to remove these walls?

 

I thank God for the unity we experience in our church. There are small disagreements from time to time among our members but they are generally quickly resolved and the mission isn’t hard.

Always On Mission - Acts 28:17-31

(Prior to the session write the following phrases on the board or poster paper: “Guaranteed for life,” “Too good to be true,” “Guaranteed or your money back,” “I’ve heard that before,” “Lifetime warranty,” “$5,000 a week for life,” and “It’s life changing.”)

1.      When have you heard these phrases, or something similar?

2.      What do these phrases have in common? (Generally speaking, they are designed to get you to buy something, or put your trust in something.)

Paul knew that he had something that was life changing to share, and he used every opportunity to let people know how Christ had changed him. He knew it wasn’t too good to be true, and it guaranteed eternal life.

3.      What would people give to be assured they would live forever?

When most people think of living forever, they think of living in this life forever! What a miserable existence to be trapped in this mortal body for eternity.

But to live forever as the Scripture defines living is eternal joy! What must a person give to have this eternal life? Give your mortal life for Jesus! Sounds like a pretty good bargain to me!

            (Consider having a class member give a summary of the events that have occurred since last week’s study.)

Our focal passage today picks up after Paul had been in Rome three days! Paul was permitted to stay in a rented house with the soldier who guarded him. These events occurred four years after Paul wrote the letter to the churches in Rome—Romans!

 

The Journey! Read Acts 28:17-20

 

After all of these years of ministry Paul’s approach has not changed. He went first to the Jews in Rome. Inscriptions found in Rome that date back to this period contain the names of at least eleven synagogues in the city. We are not told how Paul got them to come; perhaps they had heard about him and were open to hearing what he had to say.

 

1.      How did Paul connect with his audience?

2.      Why would Paul say he was wearing chains for the “hope of Israel?” (The Christian message does not undermine the religion of Israel but is in truth its ultimate fulfillment!)

3.      What was Paul’s purpose in initiating the meeting with the Jewish leaders?

4.      What are some things God uses to prepare a person to hear the gospel?

5.      How does God use a variety of things to demonstrate His sovereignty in our world?

6.      How do you see God’s sovereignty working in Paul’s life here?

7.      Why is it important for us to recognize God’s direction in our lives? (Like Paul, it is important for us to acknowledge God’s hand in directing our paths when we meet people who do not know Christ.)

8.      Do you believe anytime you meet someone it is just chance and not God working in your life?

God can use a variety of means to bring believers into contact with those who need to know Christ. The main objective is to make sure we take advantage of opportunities to witness.

 

The Seekers! Read Acts 28:21-23

 

1.      How would you describe the Jewish leaders’ response to Paul?

No one in Jerusalem had asked the leaders in Rome to get involved, so in their own self-interest they were not going to join the conflict. They knew about or had heard about those who had become Christians, but they considered it to be a sect—in other words these people had turned away from Judaism. They were curious enough to come back to Paul. In verse 23, we note that the second meeting lasted a full day, and that Paul spent every moment presenting the gospel. (This was the first record of “All day preaching and dinner on the grounds.” LOL!)

2.      What makes the gospel message so intriguing and interesting? (It doesn’t talk about what we can do for God but what God has already done for us. It fulfills prophecies given thousands of years ago! It is so exact in its fulfillment of these prophecies.)

3.      How does that intrigue open the door to share the gospel with others? (It piques our interest in the mystery of God’s love for us.)

Any level of government should be elated to have Christians among their constituents because we are driven by a moral code and standards that promote peace, unity, and obedience to our rulers as long as the laws meet God’s moral code!

4.      Have you ever had a time when someone wanted to hear from you about the Christian faith?

When people express an interest in the things of God, we should engage them in further conversations. The key is to point them to the truth about Jesus. He is the One of whom the Scriptures speak!

 

The Response! Read Acts 28:24-28

 

1.      What was the response from Paul’s listeners to the gospel? (As will be the case most of the time, some will believe and some will reject the truths about Jesus.)

2.      What do you think caused the Jews to disagree among themselves, as they left? Was the disagreement about who Jesus is or about taking the message to the Gentiles?

3.      Why do you think Paul shared this passage out of Isaiah 6:9-10?

4.      How did this passage from Isaiah strike right to the heart of the issue involving Jesus?

Spiritual hardheartedness and spiritual blindness prevented the people from hearing Isaiah’s message, repenting and receiving God’s healing. (see 2 Chron. 7:14) In the same way some of the Jewish leaders were unable to comprehend Paul’s message and accept Jesus as the Messiah!

 

Notice verse 28. Paul let it be known that the gospel was for all, both Jews and Gentiles.

5.      How does the gospel divide and unite at the same time?

6.      Why does the gospel have this kind of effect on people? (Jesus’ holy character exposes our sinful humanity—the pride, lust, and hatred we have in our hearts. We can draw near to Him for His help and forgiveness, or we can run from Him because we don’t believe He is who He says He is or that we are worthy of His love.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      If the gospel is for all and some will respond and some will not, how would you describe our responsibility as believers today? (We don’t know who will accept and who will reject. It is our mission to “go tell” it is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to convict and the hearer’s responsibility to respond!)

2.      Our lesson title today is “Always on Mission.” Do you see yourself as always on mission?

3.      Do you follow Paul’s example and initiate conversations?

 

(Leader read Acts 28:28-31.)

 

Rather than using his “house arrest” as an excuse, Paul used it as an opportunity. As people came to see him, he shared the gospel and, I believe, discipled many Christians over the next two years!

 

We have had a very strong emphasis these last 13 weeks about sharing the gospel. I pray, first of all for myself, that I would keep my “spiritual radar” on and detect anyone needing to hear the gospel.

I pray the same for you.

May we all be Always on Mission spreading the gospel!

 

Answering Critics - Acts 26:19-29

Answering Critics

Acts 26:19-29

 

1.      What is required to make an intelligent decision about a particular issue? (We must have all of the information that is available on the issue. As an officer in the army serving on a staff there were numerous times I had to brief the commander on various issues that required him to make a decision. It was my responsibility to provide him with all available information on the issue to give a high probability that the right decision would be made.)

2.      What is important in witnessing to others about Jesus? (Present the facts as they are in the Word of God.)

Conversations that require decisions can be stressful, and when the other person is the one making the choice a certain amount of risk is involved. The outcome remains in the balance until someone makes a decision.

Paul shared his testimony as a prisoner with people in authority. While Paul did not know how they would respond, he extended an invitation to consider the claims of Christ. He wanted to give them an opportunity to respond to the gospel.

Last week we saw that Paul had been taken into the custody of the Roman officials and transported to Caesarea. I was shocked to learn that the time between the events we studied last week and this week’s focus passage is two years! The Jewish leaders were still looking for an opportunity to kill him. Paul finally appealed to Caesar so the Romans were getting ready to send Paul to Rome. Before that happened King Agrippa comes to visit Festus, the governor of the area were Paul was located. King Agrippa was the grandson of King Herod, who was in power when Jesus was born. Being a Jew, he was familiar with the Old Testament, so Paul used that to his advantage.

 

The Gospel Told! Read Acts 26:19-23

 

Paul had given testimony of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus in verses 12-18.

1.      What did Paul say he had done that caused the Jews to want to kill him? (Simply shared the gospel about Jesus with them.)

2.      Read Acts 1:8. How did Paul’s testimony line up with the commands of Jesus to share the gospel?

3.      To whom was Paul willing to share the gospel?

4.      Why did Paul appear to say that repentance and turning to God were one action?

5.      How did Paul use his own life as an example of repentance and a change in behavior?

6.      How would you define “repentance”? (Turn and go in the opposite direction.)

7.      What did Paul say true repentance would lead to in verse 20?

8.      Why does Paul talk about repentance connected with works?

9.      How are repentance and faith connected? (See James 2:17-18.)

No one secures his or her salvation through works, but works are a natural response to repentance. See Eph. 2:8-10

10.  In verse 22 Paul admitted his human need for God’s help. How does sharing our struggles help encourage and engage others in their walk with God? (The Christian life is not an easy one, but God has promised to be with us. He will redirect our steps to follow Him when we seek His guidance and repent from sin.)

Notice that Paul said he preached nothing other than what the prophets and Moses (The Law) proclaimed concerning the Messiah! This would resonate with King Agrippa, being a Jew.

 

Paul gets a response!

Objection Rebuffed! Read Acts 26:24-26

 

1.      How did Paul respond to objections from critics? (Paul deflected criticism from Festus by refuting him with the truth.)

Paul mentioned that the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were “not done in a corner” because they had not escaped Agrippa’s notice. Paul also insisted that his message was reasonable because it was supported by Scripture.

2.      Why is appealing to Scripture so convincing? (The best way to respond to objections concerning the gospel is to appeal to the truth proclaimed in Scripture. The Bible has endured the test of time and scrutiny. See Hebrews 4:12.

The thought of a resurrection was too much for Festus. Paul remained respectful of Festus, but he did not change his message!

 

Invitation Given! Read Acts 26:27-29

 

1.      How did Paul appeal to Agrippa to make a decision about Jesus? (Paul began with Agrippa’s belief in the Old Testament prophecies. Once we have established belief in Scripture’s truthfulness we can consider Christ’s claims and invite unbelievers to make decisions.)

2.      How were Paul’s words demonstrated by his actions? (Paul expressed his desire for all people to hear the gospel and accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ.)

When we present the gospel to others, it is important for them to know we care about them and are not trying to win a persuasion contest!

3.      What roadblock might a person encounter when trying to give another person the opportunity to respond to the gospel? (Interruptions. Different standing in the community economically. Close friendship. Different backgrounds. Etc.)

4.      How do those roadblocks compare to what Paul faced?

 

Paul stayed firm in his convictions and ardently shared the gospel despite remaining in prison. Even Agrippa recognized that the charges against Paul were false and would have recommended his release had Paul not already appealed to Caesar!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

What have we learned from Paul’s example of sharing the gospel today?

 

Consider these truths from Paul’s example today:

·         Believers can and should point to the Scriptures when presenting the gospel. God’s Word can penetrate the heart!

·         Believers must be prepared to respond to objections with love and directness. Many times objections are voiced in a way that is not respectful, maybe even hateful. But we must respond in love! Sometimes that can be the difference that wins a person over to Christ.

·         Everyone who hears the gospel must be given the opportunity to make a decision about Jesus! We must be bold in asking people to make a decision when the gospel has been presented!

Sometimes we may share the gospel but stop before offering an invitation. Paul made sure that Agrippa heard the invitation that was open to him. Paul’s desire was for all to know Christ as he did. Our desire should be the same.

 

Prayer: Thank God for the privilege of sharing Christ. Pray for boldness in offering invitations to accept Christ!

 

The Testimony - Acts 21:1—22:29

 

 

Our study today is about a truly life-changing experience in the life of the Apostle Paul. “Life-changing” experiences occur in the life of every individual. Sometimes it is the sudden death of a loved one. Sometimes it is a carefully planned decision. Sometimes it is a decision we make without realizing the far reaching consequences it will have in our life. The decision the Apostle Paul made was after a supernatural encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Making a decision to accept or reject Jesus as our Lord always has far reaching consequences. They are not always as dramatic as they were in Paul’s life. In my case I accepted Jesus as a young boy so the difference I experienced was a gradual change. All Christians have a testimony to share and we should be ready and willing to share it when the opportunity presents itself.

Last week we left Paul as he was getting back on the ship at Miletus headed ultimately for Jerusalem. At every town they came to, the disciples warned Paul against going to Jerusalem. But Paul was determined to go. Read Acts 21:13.

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he met with James and the elders in the church. They too were concerned about what would happen to Paul.

(Tell about the plan to have Paul purify himself so he could enter the Temple along with four other men. Then some Jews from Asia saw him and stirred up the people against Paul, accusing him of taking a Gentile into the Temple. Paul had to be rescued by the Roman guards but asked to address the mob and was granted permission to do so.) Read Acts 21:40-22:2.

 

Former Life! Read Acts 22:3-5

 

1.      How would you describe Paul’s background as a Jew?

2.      What was Paul’s response initially to the followers of the Way?

3.      Why was it important that Paul relate his background to his listeners? (Just as we have pointed out in the past, Paul started where his listeners were and tried to take them to understand his commitment to Christ!)

Paul’s background provided him with an entry point to share his story. Perhaps there were people in the crowd who knew him when he was persecuting Christians and wondered what led to the change in his life.

4.      Why would it be important to clearly contrast your life before and after your commitment to Christ as you tell your life story?

Paul boldly shared his experience in the hope that at least some would believe.

 

Life-Changing Encounter! Read Acts 22:6-8

 

1.      How would you contrast Paul’s experience here with that of others who were confronted with having to accept or reject Christ? (Each person’s encounter with the living Christ is unique to that person. Jesus meets us where we are!)

2.      How does Paul’s encounter with Christ inspire hope that the Lord can save anyone—even those who strongly oppose Him? (Despite Paul’s opposition to Christ and His followers, the Lord was willing to save Paul. Paul’s testimony includes how he came to know Christ and serve Him.)

3.      I have heard many theologians and preachers make the statement that Paul was perhaps the greatest Christian who has ever lived! Why do you think that may be true? (Paul was as fervent a Christian as he was a persecutor of Christians.)

Paul was led into the city and a man named Ananias, a devout man of God was led by the Holy Spirit to go to Paul and tell him what to do next.

Read Acts 22:14-16

4.      What was Paul’s first step of obedience? (To be baptized. Some have taken this one verse and built their entire theology around the wording here. Paul was not saved by baptism but by calling on the name of Jesus to save him!)

5.      How can your story encourage fellow believers? (Mine can help some believers understand that we do not have to have a supernatural experience like Paul to really encounter Jesus!)

Sharing the gospel with unbelievers and encouraging new believers to identify with Christ and His people in baptism are the first steps of the Christian journey.

“Baptism in Jesus’ name differed in meaning from the baptism practiced by John the Baptist. John’s baptism focused on repentance in anticipation of the coming Messiah. Baptism in Jesus’ name testifies to the Messiah’s completed work. Jesus’ death and resurrection had made possible the ultimate cleansing from unrighteousness. By faith, the believer’s sins are washed away. Baptism is the first step of obedience in confessing one’s faith in Christ.”—Explore the Bible Commentary Acts 13-28 pg 116.

 

New Purpose! Read Acts 22:17-21

 

Read Matthew 28:18-20

1.      How was Paul’s new life purpose tied to Jesus’ commission recorded in Matthew 28:18-20?

2.      How does salvation in Christ change one’s life purpose? (Paul had a new purpose but his vocation was tent maker.)

My vocation may be a soldier but my life purpose is to glorify God by sharing Him with everyone I encounter!

3.      Does the specific purpose given to each believer always relate to the commission Jesus gave in Matthew 28?

4.      How might a person’s past (the one sharing and the one being shared with) be perceived as an obstacle when it comes to accepting Christ?

5.      What are the strongest motivators for sharing the gospel with others? (When we receive new life in Christ, we begin a journey of being on mission with the Lord.  I would suggest that our strongest motivators would be love for Christ and people around us; then obedience to Christ’s commands.)

As we faithfully follow Him, the Lord will guide our steps to share the gospel with people who are receptive to the message.

 

Paul felt like the Jews in Jerusalem would see the change in his life and that he would be the perfect one to reach the Jews, but God had different plans.

 

Rejection! Read Acts 22:22

1.      Are you surprised at the response of the crowd?

2.      What caused the Jews to reject Paul’s testimony? (Their prejudice against the Gentiles was too strong!)

Their own personal bias blinded them from seeing the full extent of God’s grace!

After listening to Paul’s testimony, the crowd turned against him. When we share the gospel with others, it is possible that they may reject us because they are not willing to accept the message.

3.      What traits, skills, or experiences does our group have that they can use to reach people for Christ? (It is important to build trusting relationships with lost people so that we “earn” the right to share the gospel with them.)

We need to keep an open mind about the reach of the gospel, including the salvation of people we would not expect to come to Christ.

4.      Is there any person or group of persons that you view as unreachable by the gospel? (This calls for some real soul searching. On the surface we would all say “no”, but if we look deep enough we may discover there actually are some we think unreachable.)

The Jews of Jerusalem failed to see themselves in need of a change, but Paul continued to share that God’s salvation was for all people!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Paul emphasized his life before he met Christ, his life-changing encounter, and his new purpose.

1.      What did Paul’s testimony reveal about the change that took place in his life? (There was a dramatic change!)

2.      Are all conversions as dramatic as Paul’s? (Paul’s conversion experience is very rare!)

(Have a volunteer prearranged and ready to share their testimony. Only about 3-5 minutes.)

Every Christian has a testimony! If you haven’t done it already, write your testimony out and be prepared to share it when the opportunity presents itself. If you get ready, God will give you opportunity to share it.

 

Delivered - Acts 20:22-35

1.      What was the most difficult goal you ever accomplished that was completely worth the effort and sacrifice? (The Winter Olympics will start next month. These athletes train for years for this one opportunity to be the best in the world at their specific event. It take more sacrifice than most of us can imagine. That is one reason we see tears on the victor’s stand and on the sidelines for those who didn’t quite make it.)

Goals can push us to achieve great things. A worthy goal is not accomplished unless we apply consistent effort and make sacrifices. We have to be diligent to meet our goals. Anyone we would call successful has sacrificed and achieved goals. It may be in education, the workplace, sports, marriage, or as we will see today, the Christian life.

2.      If you had to say what the Apostle Paul’s goal was in his life, what would it be? (See Phil. 3:12-14.)

The Apostle Paul considered sharing the gospel a primary goal for his life. He was willing to endure sacrifice, hardships, and imprisonment for the sake of telling others about Jesus.

Paul never did stay at one place very long for a variety of reasons. But Paul stayed at Ephesus three years.

3.      What happens to relationships when we stay at one location for an extended period of time? (Love and appreciation for each other grows! So there developed a strong relationship between Paul and the church at Ephesus.)

In our study today Paul will say, what he believes to be, his final goodbye to the elders in the church in Ephesus. He tells them that he won’t see them again in this life. His final message to the believers provides a warning and a challenge.

Paul is at the end of his third missionary journey as he heads toward Jerusalem and then on to Rome.

 

 

 

 

Paul’s Commitment! Read Acts 20:22-24

 

Paul was convinced that God’s plan for him was to go to Jerusalem and ultimately on to Rome.

1.      What did the Holy Spirit affirm to Paul in town after town? (That “chains and afflictions” were waiting for him.) Gal. 2:20

2.      What motivated Paul to endure the potential dangers? (Paul knew that sharing the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ was the one thing he must do until God called him home.)

Believers face countless distractions and deterrents, but the one thing that matters most is how we represent Christ to those around us. Sharing the gospel with one more person should be the desire of a believer’s heart.

I found out how we, as believers, can without question have the desire of their heart. Read Psalm 37:4.

3.      What was Paul’s attitude about his call and commitment to follow Christ? (Paul had a steadfast trust in the Lord no matter what happened to him. He was willing to serve Christ regardless of the cost. He did whatever it took to be obedient to his calling in Christ Jesus!)

Paul compared his pursuit to follow Christ to a race to run and a task to complete. He was resolved to find contentment in being faithful to God despite his circumstances.

Our attitude to follow Christ must demonstrate a willingness to respond to whatever the Lord commands. We need to be resolved to follow Him faithfully in every assignment and at every opportunity. We have all seen movies or actual film clips of our troops storming the beaches at Normandy! That is what Christians sharing the gospel should look like! We should storm the gates of hell for Christ.

4.      How does understanding the value of the gospel give a person the strength to endure difficulties that result from the gospel?

5.      It seems that the more Paul was persecuted the more fervently he shared the gospel. Why do you think that was the case?

Paul’s race to share the gospel would continue, but first he had a message to share with the elders from Ephesus.

 

Paul’s Concern! Read Acts 20:25-31

 

1.      What was Paul’s specific message to the church in this passage? (Be on guard for those who would preach false doctrine. They become like wolves, scattering the flock. One lone wolf can’t do too much damage but when they run in packs they are very dangerous. When they attack the flock the goal is to get one of the sheep separated from the flock. Then it is easy for them to take that sheep by itself. Stay true to the doctrine you were taught, get rid of wolves early on and stay in the flock!)

Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, and the news that they would not see him again was very difficult for his fellow believers. Knowing his departure was at hand, Paul had a warning and a challenge for the leaders in the Ephesus church. This message is the only recorded talk of Paul’s in Acts directed specifically to believers.

2.       What was Paul’s challenge to the elders in verses 28-31?

3.      What responsibility do we have to warn others who already know the truth? (Here Paul was the mature missionary pointing out to the elders, who were not as spiritually mature as Paul, what was sure to happen as soon as he was gone.)

Knowing the truth and guarding against error are two different things. Paul wanted the Ephesian leaders to guard against the potential dangers of false teachings that would distort God’s truth. Leaders have an obligation to protect their congregations from divisive people!

4.      What is dangerous about false teachers that should concern us? (Unlike Paul, who taught the Ephesians the whole counsel of God, the false teachers distorted the truth. For this reason, the Ephesian believers needed to be on guard against any error. Teach the whole truth of God; don’t go to seed on just one aspect of the Scripture!)

The most destructive goal false teachers accomplish is the following they obtain. Paul warned the Ephesians about false teachers who would arise to draw away disciples after themselves. Beware of any teacher who distorts the truth and draws people away from God and toward themselves.

Paul closed his message by relating how he worked among the church and challenged them to follow his example. He let them know that he had shown them everything needed to continue the work of sharing the gospel.

Paul’s Commendation! Read Acts 20:32-35

 

1.      What kind of example did Paul set for these elders in the church? (Paul appealed to his work ethic and willingness to serve the needs of others as an example for them to follow.)

Paul did not covet others people’s possessions. On the contrary, he worked to meet his own needs. He also modeled giving to others and referred to the words of Jesus.

2.      How do the actions listed here by Paul relate to the motivation for service?

3.      Why would it have been important for these church leaders to be aware of their motives for ministry?

Paul shared his testimony, addressed what would happen when he was gone, and committed the ongoing ministry in Ephesus to the church leaders. He encouraged them to focus on others by being generous in both thought and action.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

What compelling reasons did Paul provide to make sharing the gospel worth the sacrifice and effort?

·         First, Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to be a faithful witness and possessed a deep trust in the Lord regardless of the outcome.

·         Second, Paul considered his life’s calling to finish the race and share his gospel testimony.

·         Third, Paul was faithful to declare the gospel and the teaching of God’s Word to them over a period of three years.

This week ask God to give you His love for people. Ask Him also for opportunities to share the gospel and show His love to the people around you. Remember the words of Jesus as you go: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 35).

Read Acts 20:36-38.

Incomplete Picture - Acts 18:24-19:7

1.      Who would you say is the most controversial person in the entire world? (Most likely it’s Jesus. Just to mention His name almost immediately polarizes people based on what they believe about Him.)

2.      What are some of the wrong understandings about who Jesus really is? (Some don’t believe He ever existed—just a made up story; some believe He was simply a good man. Some even believe He was another prophet from God. Some believe He was God’s Son sent to be the Sacrifice for our sin, was crucified, arose on the third day and ascended into Heaven triumphant over sin death and the grave forever to reign over His people.)

Some people have a partial understanding about who Jesus really is because they have never heard the complete story. In other words their understanding is not completely accurate because they have never heard the complete truth about Jesus.

 

As we study the Bible, we may recognize that there are gaps in our understanding that keep us from fully comprehending the whole picture. In today’s study, we discover that Apollos had only a partial understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

 

Two weeks ago we concluded Acts 17 with Paul preaching in Athens and revealing to them the god they had worshiped as an “Unknown God” was Creator God. From there Paul traveled to Corinth. There he met Aquila and Priscilla, a very devout Christian couple who were tent makers—Paul’s trade as well.

When Silas and Timothy came to Corinth they found Paul preaching and teaching in the synagogue. The Jews resisted and blasphemed so Paul shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

After many days there, Paul left to return to Antioch. Aquila and Pricilla went with him as far as Ephesus. Paul continued his journey to Caesarea, Jerusalem and back to Antioch. After spending some time there he left on his third missionary journey.

In the mean time in Ephesus, a believer named Apollos encountered Aquila and Pricilla.

 

A Partial Witness! Read Acts 18:24-26

 

We are not told exactly where the message Apollos was teaching fell short of the full truth, but evidently he lacked in some understanding in the area of baptism.

1.      What are the dangers of a person teaching a partial truth and teaching it well? (Without full disclosure, a bad decision can be made with limited information available. A proper understanding of something is necessary before we can draw reasonable conclusions.)

When Christians do not have a complete understanding of the gospel, they could potentially confuse other believers based upon their limited knowledge. That is why knowledgeable Christians should come alongside new believers to explain the truths about God! That is another reason Sunday School is so important for a new believer.

As teachers, we must be certain of our facts before we teach it to others. If we teach one false truth, what are they to believe about other things we may be teaching!

2.      How did the approach of this Christian couple strengthen Apollos as opposed to tearing him down?

3.      What principles for confronting a person did they follow? (Rather than publicly correcting him they invited him to their home where they explained the way of God more adequately.)

People are more receptive to new truth when we take the time to have a personal conversation with them.

After listening to Apollos, this couple realized that he taught correct doctrine but had limited understanding about baptism. So they spent time with Apollos to improve his understanding on that subject.

4.      Is there some area of Scripture I have limited understanding about and need to be certain of before I try to teach someone else?

5.      Am I teachable—willing to learn from others?

A Complete Witness! Read Acts 18:27-29

 

Apollos crossed over to Achaia—modern day Greece, where Athens and Corinth were located.

1.      How did the believers in Ephesus support and affirm Apollos’ ministry? (They sent a letter of recommendation with him. Apollos was not known by the people in Achaia.)

2.      How can we encourage and support ministers, missionaries and strong church members who relocate to another place of service?

3.      Apollos’ growth in spiritual understanding was extremely important to his preaching and debating in Corinth. What role did his background play in his effectiveness? (He obviously knew the Old Testament very well, and when coming to a full understanding about Jesus, he was able to demonstrate “through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.”)

The gospel was spread more effectively!

 

While Apollos was sharing in Corinth, Paul met some disciples in Ephesus and began to dialogue with them.

An Inadequate Understanding! Read Acts 19:1-7

 

There is a world of difference between an incomplete understanding and an inadequate understanding! One writer states: “This is a particularly relevant passage because we face similar issues in the church today.”

Paul seemed to indicate that the disciples he encountered were not believers in Jesus. They had a rudimentary, inadequate understanding that they had acquired through some direct or indirect contact with John the Baptist. They appeared to have missed John’s message that the one coming after him would be greater and would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The focus of the understanding these 12 or so men had was on John the Baptist, not Jesus.

1.      What are the dangers of trusting in baptism rather than faith in Jesus for one’s salvation? (Our salvation becomes one about works. Trusting in baptism gives false hope!)

2.      If baptism is not essential to our salvation, why do we need to be baptized? (Baptism is our public testimony that we are committed followers of Jesus; Baptism is a visual picture of what happened in our heart—I have died to sin and been resurrected to walk in a new life in Christ Jesus; Baptism is our first act of obedience as a new believer in Christ Jesus.)

John baptized people for repentance in preparation of the Lord’s coming. While John baptized only with water, Jesus baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit as well.

Paul asked these men if they had received the Holy Spirit. He wanted to know if they were believers in Christ. Paul taught the Ephesian believers that they received the Holy Spirit once they placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

The New Testament teaches that our assurance of salvation is grounded in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—Rom. 8:16; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 3:2; 1 John 4:13.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

While Apollos had a partial understanding, the men in Ephesus had an inadequate understanding of the truths of God’s Word.

1.      What doctrines or truths from the Bible does someone need to understand to be saved? (Jesus is the Messiah. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised on the third day. Repentance and faith are two steps we take to come to Jesus for salvation.)

The Holy Spirit indwells every believer as a witness of our salvation in Christ!

2.      Are there different approaches to sharing the gospel needed in various settings? Why?

3.      When divine appointments occur, what steps do we need to take?

Encourage new believers by sharing how you grew up in your salvation and learned more about the Christian life.  Share that our growth to be more like Jesus is a lifelong process and will only be complete when we are with Jesus in Heaven!

Pray, thanking God for our salvation. Pray that each person has already made that decision!

Value All - Acts 16:16-19; Psalm 139:13-16

This week, it was discovered that a couple in California had 13 children they were basically holding captive and starving them. Some were chained to furniture. They ranged in age from 2 to 29.

1.      What value did these parents seem to place on their children?

2.      What value do those (The parents as well as the medical personal) who abort a pregnancy seem to place on an unborn child?

I want to insert this fact early on: God forgives all sin except blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, including abortion. Many people, on both sides of this issue, demonstrate in an ungodly way at times, neither is justified by their actions.

Our lives are constantly bombarded with images of people. Imagine, for a moment, you have before you an image of Hitler and Mother Teresa.

3.      How do we respond to these images?

4.      Are certain images more difficult to accept than others?

5.      What do our responses to an image of a person reveal about who we value and why?

6.      Are there certain groups of individuals that seem harder to value than others?

7.      How does God view all people, including Hitler and Mother Teresa? (The same: they are all precious to Him and He sent Jesus to die for each one.)

 

As we focus on the value of human life, we will examine passages from the Old and New Testaments. First, we will examine Acts 16:16-19 and then Psalm 139:13-16. Both passages reveal that a person’s life, which is created in God’s image, is precious and to be valued. All people are to be treated with respect, and considered valuable in God’s sight.

 

Freedom Gained! Read Acts 16:16-18

 

1.      What was Paul’s view of the slave girl?

2.      Why was she becoming a problem for Paul? (Perhaps the people who would like to hear what Paul had to say were distracted by her or even failed to come hear Paul because of her constant, loud proclamations.)

3.      Why did Paul cast the demon out of the girl? (Was it because she was a distraction to what they were trying to accomplish among the people or because he had compassion for the girl?)

4.      Was the proclamation made by the girl true? (Yes, but your background would influence its interpretation. Here claims were ambiguous enough to be open to different interpretations. Salvation could have been physical deliverance. The Most High God, for those Greeks, was a reference to Zeus. So her proclamations were not necessarily understood to be about Yahweh!)

5.      How would you describe the difference between Paul’s view of the slave girl and the owners’ views of her?

6.      How would you define the motives of each in how they related to her? (Her owners were interested only in what they could gain from her as a “fortune teller”. Paul perhaps had in mind freeing the girl from this demon and keeping her quiet as he preached.)

7.      What kind of freedom did the slave girl receive? (Although the girl was a physical slave, she received spiritual freedom when Paul commanded the spirit to leave her.)

Only the name of Jesus has the power to deliver someone from demon possession! When we look at the physical hardships of other people, we need to remember the reality of spiritual bondage prompts us to share the good news that Jesus died to set us free from sin and death.

 

There are other places in the New Testament where evil spirits were cast out of an individual. Let’s look at two of them.

Read Mark 1:23-26—Demon possessed man in the synagogue.

Read Mark 5:13—The Gadarean  Demoniac!

 

The Complaint! Read Acts 16:19

 

When the owners realized their hope of profit from her was gone, they became angry at Paul and Silas. They were taken by force to the authorities and false charges were brought against them.

The young girl’s owners had little regard for what might be best for her, and thought only of the potential profit they had lost. They were blind to the power of Christ and the value of each person, seeing only their own self-interest.

1.      How might someone try to justify the response of the owners? (At least they kept her from having to survive by begging on the streets. At least she had a place to sleep and food to eat.)

2.      How do people use the same justification today for devaluing human life?

3.      What parallels would you make between the slave girl and modern day human trafficking? (In both instances, the captive person is considered personal property that serves the owner. While a slave girl was used as a fortune teller, human trafficking has a much darker purpose. The principle behind both activities involves seeing people as commodities rather than human beings who need help.)

The gospel compels us to reach out to people who are disregarded by society as well as those who devalue them!

 

In Psalm 139 David celebrated the wonder of creation and the value of each person. From the moment of conception God is at work in each person’s life!

 

Valued By God! Read Palm 139:13-16

 

1.      How does the analogy of the weaver and the “mother’s womb” illustrate to you God’s creation? (It is a “master piece” in the making. Particular attention is paid to every stitch to make sure it is exactly the way the weaver wants it!)

2.      Why is it so difficult to comprehend how remarkable all human life is? (Even with all of the scientific research that has been done on the human body, new discoveries are being made!)

David was light years ahead of his time in the statements he makes about the development in the womb. It had to be God’s revelation to him.

3.      Why is life considered valuable based upon the Bible? (Psalm 139 teaches us that we are created and made by God in our mother’s womb. He knows everything about us because He made us.)

We are made in God’s image, so we are valuable in His eyes. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, man has been under the curse of sin. Yet, Jesus came to die for our sins and redeem us from the curse.

Read Jeremiah 1:4-5.

4.      What does this passage teach about the value of human life?

Read Job 10:8-12

5.      How did Jeremiah, Job and David know how the body is made? (Only by God’s revelation.)

6.      How do the images shared in these verses support the analogy of the weaver’s creation of a one-of-a-kind masterpiece?

7.      What does it mean that God has numbered all of our days?

8.      How does that affect the way you view and value your time on earth? (God knew the amount of time each of us would spend on this earth before He created us. We are responsible for productive use of that time for His glory!)

These passages in the Old and New Testaments all reveal the value of all human life. Let’s consider how these passages relate to our lives today!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Do you think it is true that society will tolerate Christians until their actions impact their pocketbook? (When that happens, Christian views are seen as a threat and painted as a problem, regardless of the truth. Christian beliefs are then seen as archaic and irrelevant for today!

2.      How do the words of the psalmist relate to the slave girl freed from the demon by Paul?

3.      How does our understanding of both passages impact our treatment of all people from conception to death?

4.      How can we be active in our community to be an advocate for people who can’t help themselves?

God is the creator of life, therefore all life is sacred! Pray that we will be sensitive to those who are mistreated and be willing to take a stand to protect them from abuse. At the same time we need to be in prayer for those who kill unborn children or mistreat others in some way.

Pray for the workers and volunteers at our local crisis pregnancy center for the ministry they provide in our community!

The Unknown Known - Acts 17:16-34

1.      What kinds of questions about God do people face that causes them to search for answers?

·         Why do bad things happen to good people?

·         Does God really love me?

·         Can we really have a personal relationship with God?

·         Is there really a God?

·         Is there really only one God?

·         Does God really care about me?

·         What happens to me after death?

·         If God really cares about me why won’t He solve all my problems?

2.      Who is at the center of most of the questions we have concerning God, our relationship with God and the future? (ME!)

3.      What sources might someone consult to find answers to these questions? (Internet, experts, friends, mentors, counselors; ministers; trusted scholars; lastly—God, Himself; etc.)

Notice the title of today’s study: The Unknown Known. Paul encountered people who were honestly searching but somehow still missing the point!

 

At the close of last week’s study Paul and his traveling companions, left Philippi and went to Thessalonica. There they had some success sharing the gospel, but once again Jews became jealous and brought them before the local officials with this accusation: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (17:6).

From there they went to Berea where once again they were attacked by the Jews. To save him from the Jews, Paul was sent to Athens. He told Silas and Timothy to join him there as soon as possible. In Athens Paul went to the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews and witnessed daily in the marketplace. 

As Paul went around the city he saw many pagan idols. Athens was the home of Socrates and Plato, the adopted home of Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers took Paul to task on his teachings. 

Read Acts 17:16-21

The philosophizers interpreted what Paul was saying as introducing two foreign gods they had never heard of, Jesus and Anastasis—the Greek word for resurrection! So they invited Paul to come to their assembly and share his ideas/beliefs.

Note: The Areopagus was not only a place but the name for the group of philosophers who met there.

 

Unknown God! Read Acts 17:22-23

 

1.      What about these people enabled Paul to be able to speak to them about Jesus?

Paul showed quick thinking, agility, and wisdom in seizing this opportunity to share the truth about Jesus!

2.      How did Paul get their interest immediately?

3.      How does the idol “To an Unknown God” in Athens reflect man’s search for meaning? (To avoid overlooking any particular “god” they erected an altar to an unknown god in case they left one out.)

Idolatry, then and now, indicates that people are searching for something more in this life. The need to worship an unknown god proves that man is still searching for something more. Accepting anyone and everyone’s version of “god” is an oxymoron. To accept Yahweh is to exclude all others! And to say you are free to worship what or whomever you choose is to say, “I can create my own god” which makes you god and creator! Foolishness!

4.      What can we do to develop the kind of mind-set that led Paul to seize the unique opportunity to share Christ?

5.      What barriers might we have felt in Paul’s situation?

6.      What misconceptions do people have about life and deities?

7.      How could those misconceptions be used to initiate a conversation about the gospel?

 

The Known Creator!

As someone Reads Acts 17:24-29 as we all listen for claims Paul made about God.

1.      What claims did Paul make about God? (Creator of all that exists; Lord of heaven and earth; does not live in shrines; needs nothing we can give Him; all men came from one man; God established boundaries and times; we have a need to know Him and He isn’t far from us; we were made in His image.)

2.      What misconceptions about God does Paul address in this passage?

3.      How are those same misconceptions expressed today?

4.      How does a Creator God who wants to have a personal relationship with people compare to the idols the Athenians worshiped? (The idols were made of gold, silver, or stone. Notice they are man-made—man is the creator of his own god.)

5.      Which of the Ten Commandments does this passage bring to mind? (Exodus 20:4)

Paul told them that God is the Creator of all nations from one man. He made the world and everything in it. He provides everything people need. God does not need anything from humans, but Paul explained that God created us so we would seek out a relationship with Him. There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person’s heart.

 

Judgment by the Son! Read Acts 17:30-31

 

1.      What key word in verse 30 does Paul use that might have offended those listening? (Those listening considered everyone who did not believe in the idols as they did to be ignorant. But Paul declared God to them so they were no longer ignorant but in need of repentance.)

Repentance by the Athenians would require that they turn from their ignorance and idolatry and submit to the true knowledge of God made clear in the coming of Jesus! Paul extended here a direct invitation to receive Christ, the very reason he launched into a discussion of the unknown god.

For those who have heard the gospel and rejected it, the Day of Judgment would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for them (Matt. 10:15).

2.      How does an understanding of God’s righteous character help us understand His judgment? (Jesus is the standard!)

When we talk to unbelievers about the reality of the judgment day, we can point to Jesus’ resurrection as proof that He is alive and will one day judge every person who has ever lived.

3.      In what ways is God’s requirement for repentance fair to everyone?

 

Split Decision! Read Acts 17:32-34

 

1.      What reaction did the people have to Paul’s message? (There were skeptics, those interested and some receptive.)

People today have different views about the dead. One of Christianity’s distinctions is a living Lord who died for the sins of the world. Although He died, He arose from the dead and now lives forevermore.

2.      How might a person’s past understanding get in the way of them following Jesus?

As we seek out people in our circles of influence who do not yet know God, we should look for natural connecting points that allow us opportunities to share about who God is and what He has done in our lives.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      What are some ways people might be religious without being Christian? (Mormonism; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Armstrongism; Unification Church; Christian Science; Unity School of Christianity; Spiritualism; Scientology; New Age; Judaism; Hinduism; Hare Krishna; Transcendental Meditation; Buddhism; Islam; Baha’I World Faith; etc.)

2.      Who do you know that may be religious but not Christian?

3.      How can you be used to share the gospel with them in a loving way?

 

People are searching for the truth about God and a meaningful life. Ask God to lead you to someone who needs to hear the gospel. Start a conversation with that person. You may want to suggest that the prevalence of idolatry reflects man’s search for meaning and the need for something or someone to worship. Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you and to speak to them as you share Christ!

 

A Changed Family Acts 16:22-34

1.      Who here has received some good news this past week?

2.      Some news is simply too good to keep to oneself and must be shared. What is the typical kind of news that people just can’t wait to share with each other? (New job. Engagement. Expecting a baby. Won the lottery!—Ha! Ha!)

3.      Can you think of a time when you have directly influenced someone for good or for bad? (Could be a fashion trend you set; a time you got someone else in trouble; a person you mentored. Etc.)

4.      While we are on the subject: Do you think a family or a culture has more influence on a person’s life? (A Christian family goes to church together, but there is so much more. A Christian family strives to live out the teachings of Jesus in their home as an everyday lifestyle. And yet, we all know of situations where a person was raised in a Christian family and went astray—the Prodigal Son. Some return and some don’t.)

When a person’s life is changed by the good news of Jesus Christ they are a new person. As a result, they desire to share with others, especially family members, the difference that Jesus has made in their lives!

 

The Situation!

 

Last week we left Paul and Silas in Derbe and Lystra where they had enlisted Timothy to go with them. They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and found themselves in Troy. There a Macedonian man appeared to Paul in a vision pleading with him to come over to Macedonia and help them. They went there and the first convert in Europe was a lady named Lydia at Philippi. They stayed there for some time and were harassed by a girl who had an evil spirit in her. Paul had finally had enough of her badgering and commanded the spirit to leave her, which it did. Because her owners had lost their source of income they incited a mob against Paul and Silas. They were arrested, beaten and thrown in prison. We will study verses 16-19 in greater detail two weeks from now.

 

Read Acts 16:19-24

 

1.      Who was responsible for what happened to Paul and Silas?

2.      What actions were taken against Paul and Silas?

3.      What was the charge against them? (They were seriously disturbing our city! See verse 21!)

4.      What was the number one job of the local authorities in Roman occupied cities? (Keep the peace! Any type of unrest was snuffed out promptly.)

Then the “mob” joined in and the magistrates acted quickly! As was the case most of the time, the charges were false!

5.      What are some concerns that keep people from accepting Jesus Christ as Lord today? (Some of the reasons people don’t accept Jesus include pride, doubt, shame, or feelings of unworthiness. Unbelievers can also be hostile to Christians when they perceive that the message of the gospel threatens their economic livelihood. Many also don’t want to give up their sinful lifestyle.)

 

The Opportunity! Read Acts 16:25-28

 

1.      How did Paul and Silas respond to their imprisonment? (They maintained a positive attitude. Although they were in a physical prison, they were spiritually free to worship God. Instead of wallowing in misery, they prayed and sang hymns of praise to God!)

2.      We are told only that the other prisoners were listening to them not their reaction to them. What do you think they were thinking at this point?

Paul and Silas’s worship of God became a witness to the other prisoners. When other people see believers praising God in spite of their difficult circumstances, our worship becomes a witness!

3.      Ask yourself: If I was in the same circumstances as Paul and Silas, how would I be responding?

4.      What can we learn from Paul’s example of peace and joy in the midst of hardship? (God is in control at all times!)

5.      How did Paul and Silas demonstrate confidence in God?

There is nothing quite like suffering to teach us what true joy is all about. While we don’t long to experience suffering, God will use our circumstances for His good (Rom. 8:28; Jas. 1:2-4).

6.      I imagine the earthquake woke the jailer. Why would he kill himself?

7.      Why weren’t all the prisoners gone? (They were most likely in shock at what had just happened.)

 

The Conversion! Read Acts 16:29-32

 

Note that Paul stopped the Jailer from killing himself.

1.      How do you think Paul and Silas’s response to being imprisoned and not leaving when the opportunity presented itself, opened the door to reach the Jailer with the Gospel? (A jailer’s life was at stake if his prisoners escaped. After a violent earthquake shook the prison’s doors open, the jailer took desperate measures.)

2.      Why do you think the Jailer came in before Paul and Silas trembling?

3.      What prompted the Jailer to ask about receiving salvation? (Because Paul and Silas demonstrated their faith in God through worship, the jailer wanted to know more about this God they served.)

As we live out our faith in Christ, life’s problems can create opportunities to witness to unbelievers.

4.      What is your answer to the question asked by the jailer? (Discuss how you would answer his questions in groups of 4 or 5 briefly.)

 

Notice Paul included the jailer’s entire family in the good news!

The Transformation! Read Acts 16:33-34

 

1.      What tangible difference can be seen in the jailer as a result of his belief in Jesus? (The jailer and his family washed the wounds of Paul and Silas. Also, they were all baptized, the jailer provided a meal for them in his own home. The jailer was filled with joy because he and his household believed in Jesus.)

2.      What evidence can be pointed to today that indicates a person is a follower of Jesus? (When people come to know Christ, there will be evidence of good works because of their belief in Jesus. The transformation in people’s lives because of their belief in Jesus produces evidence observable to others.)

 

Read Acts 16:35-40

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Conversion is the first step in a process of lifelong transformation.

1.      If transformation leads to observable demonstrations of faith, how do we explain the lack of ministry by such a large number of people who claim to be Christians? (There are two possibilities that present themselves immediately: 1—The individual never believed in the first place. 2—Those who are believers failed to disciple the new believer effectively!)

2.      With whom in your family can you share the gospel of Jesus?

3.      What kind of example are you setting before others who need to hear the gospel of Jesus?

4.      Does your life make others “thirsty” for Jesus?

 

Pray asking God to provide opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus and the boldness to do so!