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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: The Church: In Service to Humanity *
Introduction: What role should the church play in the life of the
believer? Some think that they can comfortably live a Christian life
apart from organized religion. Avoiding organized religion, and its
institutional conflicts, allows them to have a closer, more personal
relationship with God. I think this is delusion and a profound
mistake. The church plays many indispensable roles in the life of the
Christian. But, what does it matter what I think? What matters is
what God thinks. Let's plunge into the Bible and see what it has to
teach us about the role of the church in our life!
- Spiritual Gifts
- Read John 16:12-15. Most of you recognize that these are
some of Jesus' parting words to His disciples. How
important is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a
Christian? (He is the replacement for Jesus being with us
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-3. Who leads pagans and who leads
Christians? (Pagans are led astray by idols. Christians
are inspired and led by the Holy Spirit.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. How does the Holy Spirit lead
us? (One way the Holy Spirit leads us is to give us gifts
so that we can be of service to God. He leads us in
- Are our gifts and service the same? (No. Different
people receive different gifts. They have different
gifts because they have a different kind of service
and different work.)
- The Common Good
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:7. How does it make any sense to
give Christians different gifts? In law school, we try to
give our students the core skills that will allow them to
be good lawyers. These core skills are the same.
- What is this "common good?" (The body of believers,
- How is the church essential to the method by which the
Holy Spirit works? (Is the picture beginning to come into
focus? Without the body of believers all contributing the
various gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit, the work
falls apart. The method by which the Holy Spirit works
makes the church essential!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. How essential are these gifts
to the life of the believer? (Unless we are together in a
group, we are deprived of the benefit some of these
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. What analogy does Paul give
us to help us understand the importance of the church? (He
says it is like a body. Individuals are like part of the
- If members of a church are like part of a body, what
does this say about the person who says they refuse
to be a part of "organized religion?"
- Unity and diversity are competing visions. These days
I think we have run off the road and into the weeds
on the side of diversity. What is both a blessing
and an antidote to diversity? (The Holy Spirit brings
all of us together, regardless of race or social
status. The key is that the Holy Spirit unifies us.
The focus is on unity. If the focus were on
diversity, we would be like a bunch of unconnected
- Lone Wolf
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:15-17. What is wrong with the
thinking of the "lone wolf" Christian - the one who does
not want to be part of a group of believers? (Two things.
First, that person denies the reality of the way the Holy
Spirit works in giving us individual gifts. Second, that
person cannot be effective in ministry because he is
missing important gifts. It is like trying to look
through your ear!)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:18-20. Who decided that Christians
should work together as a body? (God! This is God's plan.
Thus, those who work alone work in a way inconsistent with
the plan of God.)
- To what degree is God involved in the organization of
the local church? ("God has arranged the parts in the
body ... just as He wanted them to be." God decided
who should have each role.)
- If someone is trying to fulfill a role for
which they have not been selected by God, are
they opposing God? (They are at least opposing
- Body Language
- Each one of us has a body. Our parts (hopefully) work
together without serious problems. Is that the goal of
life - to have a workable body? (No. We need to do
something with our body.)
- Is that also true for the body that is the church?
- Read Matthew 28:19-20. What is the mission of the church?
(To make disciples.)
- What are the component parts of this mission? (To
baptize and teach.)
- Is this order important? (The way Jesus states the
mission, that seems to be true. Teaching disciples to
obey follows baptism.)
- What order does your church follow?
- Why does Jesus end with "I'm with you!" (He wants us
to know that He is present, through the Holy Spirit,
to help us with our central mission.)
- Is there anything more to the mission than to convert
others and make disciples? (I don't think so. Any
other specific tasks we can think of come under these
two headings. But, let's look at some more texts to
test my theory.)
- Read 1 Peter 2:9. Is this part of the mission? If so,
what part? (Praising God and representing God are a part
of converting and teaching.)
- Read Matthew 10:5-10. In the next section, we are going to
discuss the issue of the church and helping the poor. Why
is giving money to the poor not mentioned here?
- What is mentioned in these verses that is a "help" to
- If someone tells you that you have not sufficiently
helped the poor, is it appropriate to respond that
they have not sufficiently healed or resurrected?
- Why is it that in this model given by Jesus,
the disciples collect money, they don't give it
- Read James 1:27. What is the first thing that James
mentions about the mission of religion? (To help orphans
- What does this teach us about helping the poor? (It
is part of the mission of the church - but note that
those being helped were powerless.)
- Sheep and Goats Test?
- Skim over Matthew 25:31-46 and read Matthew 25:34-36.
Jesus seems to say that the test of salvation, and
therefore logically the primary work of the church, is
helping the poor. Do you agree?
- Read Romans 10:9 and John 6:29. How can you reconcile
these texts with Jesus' story of the sheep and goats?
- Read Matthew 25:37-39. Did these people accidentally get
into heaven? Unless this is a trick question, how can
they be unaware that they were performing the "central"
mission of the church? (This is the most important part of
the story. The saved are unaware of the "good deeds" part
of the mission. Helping the poor is not the central work
of the church. Converting and discipling is the central
work of the church. It is converted hearts, those who
understand the love of God, that automatically help
others. It is the natural impulse of the converted heart.
You can no more help the poor to be saved than you can do
any other work to earn salvation.)
- Friend, are you a lone wolf? The Holy Spirit directs His
gifts and power so that they work best in the body which
is the church. When that body is working right, it is
converting and discipling. Will you decide right now to
share your gifts with the church to advance the Kingdom of
- Next week: The Church: Rites and Rituals.
* Copr. 2012, 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.