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Sabbath School Lessons on Teachings of Jesus
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: The Church *
Introduction: A significant part of my job over the years is handling
religious liberty cases. I only represent "the little guy," meaning
employees, in a narrow area of workplace religious freedom. However,
a very important question in this kind of case is whether the
employee has a sincere religious belief. I have learned to avoid
representing employees who do not have a solid connection to a local
church. Those who regularly worship with a group of believers are
much more likely to hold sincere religious beliefs. Why is that?
Let's explore what the Bible teaches about the believer and the
- The Rock
- Read Matthew 16:13. Why do you think Jesus asked His
disciples this question?
- Read Matthew 16:14. What do you think about these answers?
(This is an impressive list of possibilities. Of course,
these are not the correct answer.)
- Read Matthew 16:15-17. Peter has the right answer! Who
inspired him with it? (God.)
- Read Matthew 16:18. Was there some confusion about Peter's
name? Why would Jesus say to Peter, "I tell you that you
are Peter?" (The Greek is important here. The Greek for
Peter means a small rock, or piece of rock. Jesus is
making a play on words, "I tell you piece of rock that I
will build my church on a big rock.")
- What do you think is the meaning of that? (Read what
Peter says about this in 1 Peter 2:4-6. Peter says
that Christians are "living stones" that are built
into a "spiritual house." Jesus is the cornerstone of
- Let's go back to the big rock in Matthew 16:18. As
you consider the dialog with Jesus, what do you think
the "rock" (the big rock) represents? (I think the
rock on which the Church is built is Peter's
statement that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the
Living God." Jesus is the cornerstone and His
divinity is the cornerstone belief.)
- Let's step back a minute. What do you think is the
total meaning of Matthew 16:18? (That the Church is
built on the "rock" of knowing that Jesus is God, and
the Church consists of little rocks who understand
this, like Peter and you and me, and hell will not
- Read Matthew 16:19. Who is getting the "keys" here? (It
sounds like the Church - or at least the members of the
Church. It can hardly mean Jesus for Jesus would not be
giving the keys to Himself.)
- This is a very serious sounding statement. What do
you think Jesus means when He says that the "keys to
the kingdom of heaven" are given to the Church, or at
least Church members working together as the Church?
(I'm sure I don't understand the full extent of this
statement, but at least it says that the Church
reveals the way to heaven. Being in a company of
believers helps us to understand grace and the
- Read Matthew 16:20. If the fact that Jesus is God is the
rock on which the Church is built, why would it ever be
kept a secret? (God has His timing for everything. This is
a truth that we need to keep in mind when we are
frustrated by the inactions of others.)
- The Attitude
- Read John 17:20-23. We have a lot of concepts packed into
these verses. What is the reason for having an attitude of
unity among believers? ("To let the world know that You
sent Me." Unity within the church gives a positive
message to the world of unbelievers.)
- What is at the heart of that message? (The unity
arises from love. God loves us and we love each
- How is the Church doing on this score? (You may have
noticed that when we were discussing Matthew 16:19 I
skipped over the language about the Church binding
and releasing things in heaven and earth. It is hard
for me to understand how this applies now when we
have so many churches with different standards.)
- Another interesting statement in John 17:22 is that
Jesus has "given [us] the glory that [God the Father
gave Jesus]." What is this Godly glory that you and I
have? (I think it is the glory of being associated
with God. Do you have certain associations in life
that make you look good? Right now I have a new car
that people will stop me to talk about. If you have a
successful spouse, successful children, a successful
company, these associations all bring you "glory."
Being a close associate of the Creator of the
Universe brings us glory.)
- When Unity Has a Flat Tire
- Read Matthew 7:1-2. This sounds like a practical lesson.
What is the problem with judging others? (You get judged
by the same measure you use.)
- Are we talking about the final judgment? Does it have
a sliding scale? Those who don't care about anything
get the lowest standard applied? (Again, this sounds
like a practical lesson for life, rather than a
statement about the final judgment.)
- Read Matthew 7:3-4. Why do you think that both of the
examples, sawdust and plank, are made of wood? (I think we
tend to notice our own sins in others. It is the same sin,
except the other person has it. Of course, the text
suggests that the one judging has the bigger problem.)
- Read Matthew 7:5. Are we supposed to be in the business of
removing sawdust? The issue is simply whether we are
- How do you like having sawdust in your eye? (Sin
problems in our life irritate us. They make us
uncomfortable. When someone with that same problem
starts criticizing us, it makes us angry - even
though we really would be better without the sin
- I've always thought that someone who has
experience with a certain sin is better able to
counsel others about that sin. Is that true? (I
think this is what "you will see clearly to
remove the speck" means. If, by the power of
the Holy Spirit, you have overcome a big sin
problem, you can "see clearly" the solution.)
- What does all of this have to do with unity?
(Criticizing others about the very sins in your life
creates strife and division. Helping someone overcome
a sin that you have overcome brings a blessing.)
- Should that be a rule in the church - only
those previously struggling with a sin can
comment on that sin in others?
- Read Matthew 7:6. Has Jesus changed topics?
- If we are on the same topic, what would be the sacred
pearls? (Your advice based on your own experience.
Your discussion of your addiction in that area. Dogs
and pigs will not benefit from your sincere
revelation of past problems, they will "turn and tear
you to pieces.")
- Fixing the Flat
- Read Matthew 5:23-24. What are these people doing at the
time they remember a conflict? (They are at the altar -
meaning that they are getting right with God. Often,
getting right with God involves a sin that
impacted others. You would naturally think of this person
when you were confessing your sin to God.)
- Are we talking about someone who has offended you?
(No. "Your brother has something against you.")
- Are we talking about a situation in which you are not
at fault? (The text says nothing about who is at
fault. It simply says that someone else is unhappy
- What are we required to do for those brothers who
hold a grudge against us? (Go and be reconciled.)
- I notice that Jesus uses the word "brother." Is that
significant? (Read Luke 6:22-23. These people have
something against you, and this time it is a
blessing. I think this goes back to the dog and pig
discussion in Matthew 7:6. When the problem is
between church members you need to pursue working it
out. When the problem arises with pagans because you
are faithful to God, then trying to reconcile is
impossible. Pagan pigs will turn on you and trample
- Friend, are you in a church and is your church unified?
The Church is God's special vehicle for advancing the
gospel. If you or your church are experiencing a flat tire
when it comes to unity, will you commit today to try to
- Next week: Our Mission.
* Copr. 2014, 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.