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Sabbath School Lessons on Worship
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: Conformity, Compromise, and Crisis in Worship *
Introduction: Hillsdale University student David Wagner researched
the history of the use of the pipe organ in church worship. Wagner
reports that Thomas Brattle, a New England Puritan, died in 1713. He
left his pipe organ to the church, but the church rejected the gift
"believing it improper to use musical instruments in worship." Was
the decision by the Puritan church a refusal to conform to the
world, a determination not to compromise its worship of God?
Apparently, in 1713 there was controversy over what kind of music
constitutes proper worship! Three hundred years later, the same is
true. Let's dive into our study of the Bible to find out what it
means to "compromise" in worship!
- Examples of Sinful Compromise
- Read 1 Kings 11:4-6. What happened to Solomon in his old
- I thought you were supposed to get wiser when you
got older! What caused Solomon to slip? (Read 1
Kings 11:1-2. God told His people not to marry women
who followed other gods. Solomon disobeyed and it
weakened his faith in the true God.)
- Read 1 Kings 11:7-8. What is at the heart of false
worship? (Building an altar to a false god, and
- Read 1 Kings 18:19-20. What was the worship conflict
which brought Elijah and King Ahab into conflict? (You
may need to read the greater context, but it was whether
Baal, Asherah or Jehovah was the true God.)
- Read 1 Kings 19:14-18. This is dialog between God and
Elijah. What was Elijah's wrong conclusion? (He thought
that he, alone, was true to God. It turned out that at
least 7,000 had remained true to God.)
- What was God's test for dividing those who were
still worshiping Him from those who had sinfully
compromised? (Whether they "bowed down" or "kissed"
- What does it mean to "kiss" Baal? (Bowing down
would be a formal act of worship. Kissing Baal,
would indicate an affection for him.)
- Examples of Godly Compromise
- Read Deuteronomy 4:1-4. What are the two errors that
God's followers can make in their effort to avoid Baal
worship? (They can tell people that practices which are
not sinful are sinful, and they can tell people that
sinful practices are not sinful.)
- Is one practice worse than the other? (Apparently
both are a violation of God's will.)
- When I was in college I wore a beard (and still do).
One Sabbath, when visiting my girlfriend's church, I
was asked to lead the church in prayer. I agreed,
which meant I sat up front during the entire
service. It turned out that the sermon was about
the sin of wearing a beard. The preacher ended his
sermon with something like, "Fidel Castro wears a
beard, and we all know what he stands for." I was
thinking, "What about the depictions of Jesus
wearing a beard?" Was the preacher sinning when he
gave his sermon?
- Read Luke 16:1-7. Is the manager a good man or a bad man?
Has the manager compromised his principles to live a
better life? (He is clearly dishonest, preferring himself
to his master.)
- Read Luke 16:8-9. Who is the master? (Jesus is telling
this story. He puts Himself in the place of the master)
- What does Jesus see as good in this story of
dishonesty and betrayal? (That the manager is
shrewd. Jesus says that His followers need to be
- Carefully study Luke 16:9. What do you think is "worldly
wealth?" (It must be the things the world considers
valuable: money, beauty, influence.)
- What does it mean to "gain friends for yourself?"
(Since "eternal dwellings" must refer to heaven,
Jesus is telling us to use the tools of the world to
win people to the gospel.)
- Read Luke 16:10-12. How is this an appropriate conclusion
to the story we just read? (This makes absolutely no
sense at first. The story makes just the opposite point!
But, if we look deeper, we see that Jesus is teaching us
in this parable that we need to be as smart (shrewd) as
the world in bringing the gospel to others - and we need
to use worldly wealth to do it.)
- What do you think is Jesus' definition of
compromise? (We compromise the gospel when we do not
use all of our available means to advance the
kingdom of heaven. We are untrustworthy servants if
we fail God in this!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. The apostle Paul explains his
approach to winning others to Jesus. Is he a compromiser?
- Is Paul a hypocrite, believing one thing and doing
- What do you think Paul means when he writes "to the
Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews?"
- Read Galatians 2:11-13. Wait a minute! Paul condemns
Peter for becoming "like a Jew, to win the Jews,"
right? Isn't that what Paul just wrote that we
- What difference do you see here? How do you
explain Paul's rebuke of Peter? (Peter is not
trying to win new converts, the "men from
James" were already Christians. The problem
seems to be that Peter's compromise is hurting
the new Gentile converts.)
- What rule for promoting the gospel would you
draw from Paul's argument for compromise and
Peter's compromise? (Paul seems to say that in
different situations he adapts himself to the
culture to win others to the gospel. Peter is
merely offending existing Christians.)
- Uncompromising Compromise
- Read Romans 14:1-4. I'm a vegetarian, so my faith must be
weak! Read again 1 Corinthians 9:20. You smile when I
write that I'm a vegetarian. What would your reaction be
if I wrote "I am under the law?" One seems to be a
harmless disputable matter (except I'm healthier!), while
the other seems a serious theological error. How far
should we take our willingness to compromise?
- Read Romans 14:13-18. Would you call what Paul is
advocating here a "compromise?"
- What is Paul's standard for an uncompromising
compromise? (Do not do anything that hinders someone
coming to faith.)
- Let's see if we can reach some conclusions about worship.
We learned that Jesus calls us unfaithful servants if we
do not use the tools of the world to advance the gospel.
We learned that Paul advocates conforming to different
cultural (and theological?) views to advance the gospel.
We learned that God tells us it is sin to prohibit things
He has not prohibited (or to allow things He prohibits).
We also learned that when Solomon brought in the cultural
gods of his foreign wives, he sinned. Tell me what
rule(s) for worship you believe God requires?
- Let's move you back in time 300 years and apply your
rule. You are on the Puritan Church Board which
just learned Thomas Brattle has given you his
valuable pipe organ. How should you vote?
- What if I added the fact that a number of
people who had no interest in the Puritan
church would come to church if they could hear
some entertaining pipe organ music?
- Friend, my view is that God's unwavering rule for worship
is not to worship false gods. His secondary rule is to
use our common sense and wisdom to adapt to the culture
to advance the gospel. His third rule is avoid insulting
those whose faith is weak - those who confuse their
cultural preferences with God's law. To best follow all
of these rules, my advice is to worship in a growing
church (one that is advancing the gospel)which has a
worship style you like.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.