I have about as many bones as the average adult female does, and that’s enough for me. Some of those 206 bones are long and narrow, some are short and stubby.
They attach to other bones by various means. Some of them are “fused” together. Others fit together by means of a hinge. And I just read that the bone that keeps our tongue in place doesn’t work with any other bones but is controlled entirely by muscles and ligaments.
Still, a bone is a bone, and each bone has a set of tasks to do in the human body. Are the bones united? Well, of course.
But what if someone decided that all the bones should not only be united in
purpose and function but also uniform in structure and form? Would you
like to own that unified and uniform skeleton of bones? Could you make a good
use of it?
In what ways is the human skeleton like the membership of a local church? Should uniformity be a congregational goal? Or can we have unity without uniformity? Or are there degrees of uniformity we should understand?
This week we consider the back-and-forth between Paul and the early Christian church regarding the issue of being united and uniform. These issues are still raging in our church and other churches today. Can you draw conclusions from Paul’s experience to help us find our way by the grace of God through the confusion of these modern days?
Discussion Questions for Lesson 3: Unity of the Gospel, Oct 15, 2011
- The importance of unity. Paul advocates unity. Writing to the Philippians he waxes eloquent about what a good dose of unity would do for his spirits. Are you tired of the endless debating and judging that goes on in the name of religion? Would you do anything to belong to a church of harmony without any disagreement? Or do you find the harmony you need by hiding from all discussion that veers from a single perspective? Would the church be better off if everyone agreed with you? Does Satan place a high value on unity among those he has captured to serve him? In other words, is unity a virtue unto itself?
- A church united. What was Paul’s biggest challenge:
A: Dealing with a church that was united but headed the wrong way?
B: Leading a church that was split into two divergent groups?
C: Bringing order from a church that was confused about what is truth?
What about the church you attend? Have you ever belonged to a church with doctrinal differences within it? Have you ever had a pastor who worked through problems and got the church functioning as one? What are you willing to do to assure a united church where you live?
- Circumcision—again. Are you sure you wouldn’t have been
upset with Paul when he said the Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised? How long had the rite of circumcision been followed among the Israelite people? How important was it to them? Didn’t they believe that without circumcision the Israelites would be lost eternally? Can you imagine how shocked the people were when Paul said it didn’t matter if the Gentiles were circumcised or not? Is there a belief or practice we Adventists follow today that we believe is a sign
or a seal that we are saved in Christ? What does God say?
- Unity in Diversity.We hear that phrase a lot: unity in diversity. Can we be fully united in Christ and still be fully free? Explain. Our church embraces hundreds of distinct cultures, countries, and language groups. Does the local church carry any responsibility to bring us all together in Christ? Or is that something only the General Conference and the missionaries should be concerned about? How can Peter and Paul guide us in formulating our message to reach around the world? What did each of them do that made the formidable task, under God, possible? Can we do the same?
- Antioch. If you lived in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago, what would a trip to Antioch three hundred miles away in Syria involve? Why do you think Paul might have referred to Peter, who also came to Antioch, as Cephas? Do you think Paul is irritated with Peter? If so, why? What do you say to the person who uses Galatians 2:15 as proof positive that the seventh-day Sabbath is no longer a holy day?
- Conflict. Why are Peter and Paul, who were in agreement in so many ways, thrust into a conflict? Why was Paul so sure of himself that this time he had it right? What was the “right” that he defended? And what about Barnabas? How did he get involved in this super argument? Do you think we expect too much of our new converts? Can a person have a heart relationship with God without becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian? What should our attitude be towards these people in our midst?
- Sometime. The lesson authors note that the longer time goes on, the larger and more diverse our church will become. Are we paying enough attention to the problems of the early Christian church so that we can deal with the ones we face today? Or is the 2,000-year age of the New Testament’s evidence in itself that we can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions? Does God keep changing His mind? Can unity last forever?