“Hey, look at this,” Fred said. “The Mormons are getting energized to preach their message around the world.”
It was the first day of the General Conference session of the Church of
Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, in October of 2011.
“They’re building six new temples,” Fred continued. “Look at this.” He held up a sheet of paper. “Kinshasha in the Congo, Durban in South Africa, Paris in France, Baranquilla in Colombia and, here’s the best of them all, in “Star Valley, Wyoming.”
“That’s only five temples,” Brian said.
“Oh. They’re also rebuilding the tabernacle in Provo, Utah. That makes six.”
“They must be excited about bringing in new members.”
“They are, and they use temples to do that.”
“Sure,” Fred said. “They find that by building a big temple, people are
attracted to the religion. The news story says they now have 135 temples around the world with 35 more under construction or being planned.”
“If we built great big beautiful temples around the world, maybe we’d have a lot more members.”
“I think God has another plan for us. He says that each of us is His temple. He wants to live in us and help us shine our light to reach others.”
“So we shouldn’t have churches?”
“Of course we should. We need a place where members meet to share with each other what they’ve learned from Scripture and to be friendly with one another and to listen to the minister preach from the Word of God.”
“I still think it would be nice to have a big beautiful temple or a cathedral”
“—Nice, yes. But not necessary.”
Discussion Questions for Paul’s Authority and Gospel, October 8, 2011
1. Letters from Paul. Remember letters you wrote as a child? “How are you? I am fine. I wish you were here. Yours truly.” Does Paul’s letter to the Galatians bear any resemblance to that simple format? Or was Paul given a special script from God Himself to package special messages to them? Was Paul’s sole purpose in writing to the churches to cheer them on and help them feel good about their current circumstances? If not, what was his purpose? How well were his letters received?
2. But he wasn’t a disciple. Was Paul arrogant in inserting himself
into the work of the disciples? What business did he have interpreting the meaning of the gospel of Christ when he had denied himself the opportunity of getting to know Jesus while He was on earth in human form? Did some of the Galatian people share similar doubts about Paul’s spiritual qualifications? Would you say that, coming as he did from “outside” the chosen disciples, Paul faced a severe disadvantage when he took up the challenge to reach all of God’s people? How would you feel about seeing Paul, coming from a legalistic culture and attending your church? Would you have been able to forget about Christians he had hurt and even killed?
3. Grace and peace. These two words, spoken as a phrase, combine tremendous meaning. What is the added meaning of “grace” when “peace” is added? Or of “peace” when “grace” is added? To Paul’s listeners, was it important to them that the word “grace” came from the Greek language, and the word “peace” from the Jewish tongue? To Paul, what was the most important element in the salvation story? Instead of that, what did Paul’s critics find of utmost value? Do we ever run into this contradiction today?
4. Greetings. Why didn’t Paul follow custom and begin his sermon with reassurances of his love for the believers and an expression of his joy for the fulfillment of the gospel in their lives? Instead, what did Paul bring up? What happens to your confidence in your doctor when he gives you bad news instead of assuring you that everything is fine? Is it the doctor’s fault? What was the first “pill” of bad news that Paul delivered? How would you feel if a visiting preacher stood up in your church’s pulpit and said, “You have forgotten why you are Christians. You have devised other ways than the gospel to guide your lives”? Why do you think the congregation sat quietly and listened to what Paul had to say? Were their hearts cleansed?
5. Let’s fight about circumcision. In some parts of the world today the right to perform circumcision on a newborn male is a major issue. For hundreds of years the people of God had been instructed to carry out this ancient rite. Why? Why did the Gentile converts object to the custom of having the private parts of males cut to fulfill the tradition? What was Paul’s position on this touchy subject? Didn’t that automatically make friends for him from Gentile believers? And enemies of just-made friends from the body of believers? Where should we derive all of our authority before we follow any practice? Is that possible to do?
6. Growing problems. We talk about “growing pains” when a child’s arms and legs are growing fast. What “growing pains” do we see occurring in the early Christian church? Even though Paul was miles and miles away, how did he end up right in the middle of controversy? How could Paul be so sure he was right? Why were his opponents so outraged? When trouble arose in the church, what was the impulse of the believers who did not accept false doctrine? Do we ever see stalwart Adventist Christians quietly disappear after a church has gone through a period of name-calling or major disagreement? What is a better way to deal with turmoil in the local church?
7. False teachers. Do we have any false teachers today? Does every false teacher realize that’s what he or she is? What sort of false teaching is most noted in our churches today? What does Paul’s early ministry tell you about how you can deal with a church ridden with errors of belief or behavior? What if God hasn’t called you to lead the local church out of trouble? Should you work, and work hard, for a closer walk with Jesus? Does God know about troubles in a local church or church organization? Is He working to make His body of believers more pure, more holy, more sanctified in Him to eliminate those problems? What can we do personally to achieve a higher degree of righteousness in God’s earthly family?