October 30 - November 5
United in Diversity
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:1-3, 11-16; John 17:17-23.
MEMORY TEXT: " 'I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me' " (John 17:20, 21, NKJV).
KEY QUESTIONS: There are millions of Seventh-day Adventists in many parts of the world. They worship God in places such as Chad, Russia, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, India, Australia, China, Peru, and Namibia. How can such a diverse group of people maintain unity as a worldwide church family? What does unity do for the church?
CALLED TO BE UNITED. Last week we saw the need to be an open church, without discrimination toward anyone. Such an attitude of love and impartiality enables us to fulfill our global mission (Matt. 28:19, 20). This week we shall consider how unity in the church also helps us do to so. We must remember, however, that when Jesus prayed for the disciples to be one in Him and with one another (John 17:21), He also prayed for their sanctification in the truth of His word (v. 17).
"Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 236.
An analogy compares two items to show how they are similar. What analogy does Paul use in Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 to help us understand the concept of unity within the church?
Paul's comparison teaches us the following about unity:
1. The church needs all of its members. We are not to act in isolation, but in concert with one another.
2. The work of each member is important. Try having a church without Sabbath School leaders or teachers. Without deacons or deaconesses. Without elders or a pastor. How could your church function without hostesses or hosts? It does not matter whether you sweep the floors, change the light bulbs, preach the sermon, teach a class, or set up tables for fellowship dinners. Whatever you do is vital to the unity of the church.
3. God gives each of us a gift to use on behalf of his church family. Because of this, people do not need to be jealous of a gift they do not have. The gift God has given us may not be a highly visible one, but it is nevertheless a useful one, and we are to use it cheerfully and willingly.
What other things about church unity does Paul's comparison teach us? Plan to share one or two ideas with your Sabbath School class. Provide specific verses from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 to support your ideas.
"Union with Christ and with one another is our only safety in these last days. Let us not make it possible for Satan to point to our church members, saying: 'Behold how these people, standing under the banner of Christ, hate one another. We have nothing to fear from them while they spend more strength fighting one another than in warfare with my forces.' "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 240.
All bodily functions depend upon the head. Who is the head of the church? Eph. 4:15. What difference does it make?
"May have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18, NKJV) is rendered as "might have the first place" (TEV) and "be in all things alone supreme" (NEB). When Christ has first place in our lives, there will be unity in the church.
Explain the key that enables us to prevent or to heal disunity among Christ's disciples. Gal. 3:28.
Since all virtue in the church is the result of the Christian's new life, we all should be daily born again in order to build church unity in Christ.
"We should seek for true goodness rather than greatness. Those who possess the mind of Christ will have humble views of themselves. They will labor for the purity and prosperity of the church, and be ready to sacrifice their own interests and desires rather than to cause dissension among their brethren."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 242.
How do you understand the admonition to "be of one mind"? 2 Cor. 13:11 (NIV). Does it mean that we all must think and act alike? Why, or why not?
"Have the same feeling;" "agree with one another; live in harmony;" "think in the same direction." These are some other good expressions to say what Paul had in mind in his last letter to the Corinthians.
What relationship exists between being "of one mind" and the rest of Paul's counsel in 2 Corinthians 13:11?
"Strive earnestly for unity. Pray for it, work for it. It will bring spiritual health, elevation of thought, nobility of character, heavenly mindedness, enabling you to overcome selfishness and evil-surmising, and to be more than conquerors through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 188.
Church unity was a priority of Paul's. In his letter to the Ephesians he writes again on this topic, this time in connection with other Christian virtues. List and comment on each of these virtues. Eph. 4:1-3.
|"Divisions in the church dishonor the religion of Christ before the world. ... What are we doing to preserve unity? . . ."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 239.|
Explain how unity can function harmoniously in diversity. 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Rom. 12:4-8.
Spiritual gifts are different in each member of Christ's body according to God's will. But His power can perform the miracle of unity in making such gifts complementary and unifying to serve His ideals and purposes.
"The vine has many branches, but though all the branches are different, they do not quarrel. In diversity there is unity. All the branches obtain their nourishment from one source. This is an illustration of the unity that is to exist among Christ's followers. In their different lines of work they all have but one Head. The same Spirit, in different ways, works through them. There is harmonious action, though the gifts differ. Study this chapter [1 Corinthians 12]. You will see from it that the man who is truly united with Christ will never act as though he were a complete whole in himself"Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1090.
What goals should we have in mind as we use our spiritual gifts? Eph. 4:11-13. How do the goals relate to each other?
The word translated "equipping" (NKJV), "perfecting" (KJV), or "to prepare" (NIV) is used in Matthew 4:21 in relationship to mending nets, and in Galatians 6:1 in relationship to restoring a person who succumbs to a fault. Thus, the spiritual gifts 'were for the purpose of mending' the saints and uniting them. The 'perfecting' involves, as the context suggests, an ordered ministry and government of the church."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1023.
|Consider your spiritual gift(s) or something you know you do well. Think of at least two ways you can use that ability according to each of the goals Paul outlined in Ephesians 4:12, 13. Then with God's help, fulfill one of those goals this week.|
Again and again Paul wrote about unity. He wanted to be sure his readers understood the importance of this subject. How can the church be strong if its members are divided, are jealous of one another, have selfish ambitions, or fight one against the other? (Mark 3:24, 25).
What does Paul plead for in 1 Corinthians 1:10?
Paul's pleading is a result of a report that there was strife within the Corinthian church (v. 11). Based on verse 12, this strife must have involved different members of the church supporting or following one teacher or another. Thus the Corinthians focused on human teachers instead of Christ the Master Teacher. The result? Disunity. Then they needed to relearn that "Christ is the center to which all should be attracted; for the nearer we approach the center, the closer we shall come together in feeling, in sympathy, in love, growing into the character and image of Jesus."Selected Messages, book 1, p. 259.
Plutarch, a Greek historian of the first century, tells how Scilurus, on his deathbed, gave a bundle of darts to each of his children and told them to try to break the darts as a unit within the bundle. When none of the children could do so, he separately withdrew each dart and easily broke them all one by one. Thus he taught them that if they held together they would remain strong. But if they became divided, they would be weak.
What does Paul mean when he says we should be "like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus" (Rom. 15:5, NKJV)?
"Paul is not praying for identity of opinion on inconsequential matters, but for a spirit of unity and harmony, in spite of differences of opinion. Mere unity or unanimity is not what Paul desires for his fellow Christians, but a spirit of unity patterned after the perfect model of whose whole purpose was to do ... the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38)"SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 643, 644.
Christ is our model of such unity. He desired not to do His will, but the will of the Father who sent Him (John 6:38). If this were truly the goal of each church-family member, unity would prevail.
|Over what issues is your church divided? What could be done corporately to bring about unity? What could you do as an individual to help unite the church?|
Jesus wanted the world to know that the Father had sent Him. He wished for people to accept Him as God's Son, the Messiah and Christ (John 17:3). In order for this to happen, what picture must Christ's followers present to the world? John 17:20-23.
We find the model for Christian unity in the perfect oneness that exists between the Father and the Son (John 17:21). We should also note that we may be one in Them. Jesus' prayer places unity in its proper perspective: first we must each be united with God. Then, as a result, we will be united as a church family. (This is exactly as it is with the Ten Commandments. The first four stress our relationship with God. When our relationship is as it should be, then our relationships with others-the last six commandments-will be as they should be.)
Our personal union with Christ and unity among the believers are still the best evidence that He was sent by the Father.
"Let each one who claims to follow Christ esteem himself less and others more. Press together, press together. ...
"Let everyone seek to answer the prayer of Christ: 'That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.' "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 488, 489.
"The disunion that is striving for existence among those who profess to believe the last message of mercy to be given to the world, must find no place; for it would be a fearful hindrance to the advancement of God's work."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp.174, 175.
What attitudes should we cultivate that will in turn cultivate Christian unity? Phil. 2:1-5. Examine yourself before these attitudes as if they were a mirror.
|When Jesus prayed His famous prayer in John 17, He prayed for each one of us. How will you be a part of the answer?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Psalm 133. How do David's analogies in this Psalm help us to understand the blessings of church unity?
Read Selected Messages, book 3, chap. 2; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, chap. "Unity of the Church"; vol. 5, chap. "Christian Unity."
"The testimony of every believer in the truth must be as one. All your little differences, which arouse the combative spirit among brethren, are devices of Satan to divert minds from the great and fearful issue before us. The true peace will come among God's people when through united zeal and earnest prayer the false peace that exists to a large degree is disturbed. Now there is earnest work to do. Now is the time to manifest your soldierly qualities; let the Lord's people present a united front to the foes of God and truth and righteousness."Selected Messages, book 3, p. 20.
SUMMARY: To have a united church despite the diversity that exists in it is a miracle of God. This miracle is possible only when Christ dwells in our hearts. Only then can we (1) be one in Christ, (2) build church unity, (3) use our spiritual gifts for God's glory, and (4) grow as a church, revealing to all that the Father sent His Son to save us.
J. H. Zachary
Mori Emeri and her husband owned a dance hall and parlor next door to their home in Papua New Guinea. Then Mori met Jesus and accepted Him as her personal Lord and Savior.
She rejoiced in her new life as a Christian and was determined to live for Christ. But her former lifestyle was making it difficult, and the dance hall and beer parlor were their only source of income.
Mori knew that her young children were being influenced by the people who frequented their establishment next door. She pleaded with her husband to find different work. What would become of their children as they grew up with this bad influence? What future would they have?
Although her husband is not a Christian, he agreed to try to find work in Port Moresby. While he was gone, Mori tore down the dance hall and built a bush church from woven bamboo walls and a grass roof.
With tender care she decorated the church. She arranged the backless benches, place a clean decorated cloth over the table at the front, and placed jungle flowers on the front walls. The simple building was an inviting and lovely place to worship God.
Mori's decision to follow Christ has made a large impact on her community. Instead of the noises of dancing and carousing, songs of praise fill the air. The neighbors appreciate having the church in their neighborhood instead of the dance hall that attracted less-than-desirable patrons. And Mori's children now live in a more peaceful environment, where she can teach them to love the Savior as she does.
Attendance at the new church is growing as Mori Emeri visits her neighbors and shares with them the joy she has found in serving the Lord Jesus. But her most earnest prayer is that her husband will find the same joy, the same new life, that she has found in Jesus.
Mori Emeri (left). J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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