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Lesson 12: Church Organization and Unity *

Introduction: What is your picture of unity in the Church? What should be the goal? We look around us and find all sorts of different churches. If different churches form the "big picture," why would we expect something different in the "small picture" of our local congregation? What about the "medium picture" of our denomination? Should we modify our definition of unity in the Church? Is it enough that we are all under the leadership of Jesus? Let's open our Bibles and see what it has to teach us!

  1. Christ and the Church

    1. Read Matthew 28:16-17. Jesus has been raised from the dead. What problem is reported in these verses? (Some of the disciples doubted that it was Jesus - doubted that He had been raised from the dead.)

      1. What does this say about the honesty and veracity of the Bible? (If this were a false account, it would not express any doubt.)

      2. What do these verses say about unity?

    2. Read Matthew 28:18-20. What does Jesus say for those who are doubting? (That all authority has been given to Him.)

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says that all authority "in heaven" has been given to Him?

      2. What are we to do in reaction to Jesus having all authority? (Make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them. We do this knowing Jesus is with us always.)

        1. What does this say to those who doubted? (Stop doubting. Your job is to help others believe.)

    3. Read Ephesians 5:23-24. Let's focus on the relationship between Jesus and the Church. Who is the head of the Church? (Jesus.)

      1. What do you think it means for the Church to "submit" to Jesus? (If we consider the verses in Matthew that we just read, it means first that we accept that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. Second, it means that we are engaged in the tasks of baptizing and teaching.)

      2. What does this say about the Church and organization? (When Jesus says that He is "the head" of the Church, that suggests an organization. The obvious point of the organization is to facilitate doing what Jesus has commanded.)

      3. Are being engaged in evangelizing, teaching, or both the minimum qualifications to be considered part of Jesus' Church on earth?

    4. Re-read Matthew 28:20 and Ephesians 5:24. The instruction is for us to teach obedience to "everything [Jesus] commanded." We are called to submit to this instruction. As I look around, I see many churches teaching many different things. I doubt that any of them think they are wrong. How do we explain this?

      1. Let's closely examine Matthew 28:19-20. What doctrines, what teachings, do you find here? (Baptism. The Trinity. Obedience. The presence of God.)

        1. As you contemplate each of these, can you see that they have a natural expansion? Baptism is about righteousness by faith. The presence of God is about the Holy Spirit.)

      2. Are these the only things we should be teaching? (No. Jesus says in Matthew 28:20 that we should teach obedience to "everything I have commanded you.")

        1. If you agree that the correct answer is "No," must we conclude that the Christian Church is obviously not organized because of all of these different teachings? Let's explore that next.

  2. Unity in Doctrine

    1. Read Titus 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 2 Peter 2:1. Are all of the different churches all teaching truth? (Just as we find false prophets in the Old Testament, so we are warned about false teachers in the New Testament.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. Is this division about false teaching? (No. These are unhelpful arbitrary divisions. The members seem to misunderstand who is the head of the Church.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. To what is the Church compared? (A body.)

      1. What are the common elements here? (Baptism and the Holy Spirit.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-18. What do you say about these divisions? (Unless we are going to say that the many different churches show that Satan has defeated us, I think the best way to look at this is through the lens of this illustration. Most churches teach the basic doctrines set out in Matthew 28:18-20. However, each church has its own unique contribution to the gospel. For example, the Salvation Army emphasizes social welfare. Pentecostals emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit. Seventh-day Adventists emphasize the Sabbath and the Second Coming. All this work is done under the headship of Jesus.)

  3. Servant Leadership

    1. Read Matthew 20:20-22. Thanks, Mom! Who are the "We can" who answer Jesus? (The name of the mother is Salome and the names of the sons are James and John. Obviously, the sons are present when their mother asks for the top leadership positions for them. That is how they are able to immediately answer Jesus' question with "We can.")

    2. Read Matthew 20:24. Why are the ten indignant? Have they just discovered they have inferior mothers? (Seriously, this shows us that all of the disciples wanted to have the top positions in Jesus' coming kingdom.)

      1. Do you find this strange? Do you want to be promoted at work? Would you like to be in charge of a country?

      2. What do these leadership requests assume with regard to Jesus? (They are not seeking to take the place of Jesus. They understand that He is in charge.)

    3. Read Matthew 20:25-28. Jesus says that "rulers" in the Church should not "lord" over others or "exercise authority" over others. Instead, they should serve and be a slave. How can you have an organization if no one is exercising authority and everyone is serving everyone else?

      1. Is this consistent with Ephesians 5:23-25?

      2. Is this consistent with Hebrews 13:17? (In case you wonder whether "leaders" means church leaders, read Hebrews 13:7.)

    4. Read Acts 15:23-29. What does this suggest about church authority?

      1. Were many of the disciples who heard Jesus talk about authority in Matthew 20 present at this meeting? (Determining what Jesus meant by leadership not exercising authority is aided by looking at what His listeners thought He meant. In Acts 15 we see leaders who exercise their authority to quell division and controversy. I don't think Jesus is saying that church leaders should never exercise authority - that conclusion is inconsistent with many examples in the New Testament. What Jesus is talking about is seeking positions of leadership because you desire power and authority over others. Leaders are called to serve.)

    5. Read 1 Timothy 5:17-19. What kind of authority do the leaders exercise here?

      1. What servant leadership do you find in these verses? (It refers to the leaders "preaching and teaching." Thus, they are servants in that they are doing this work.)

    6. Read 2 Corinthians 13:10. What authority does Paul exercise here?

    7. Read 1 Corinthians 5:1&4-5. What authority is being exercised here? (Removing a member from fellowship.)

    8. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Two words catch my eye: "rebuking" and "correcting." Who is doing this? (Likely the same leaders who are teaching.)

      1. Are these actions consistent with being a servant leader?

      2. Look again at 1 Corinthians 5:5. What is the goal of church discipline? (To cause the wayward member to recognize his sin and repent. It is not vindictive.)

    9. Friend, what is your view of unity in the Church now? The verses we studied show a loose organization under the headship of Jesus - thus the presence of all of the different denominations does not show that we are defeated by Satan. The overall organization is intended to evangelize and teach. If you are not in some way a part of this effort, why not give your heart to Jesus today and join His organization?

  4. Next week: Final Restoration of Unity.
* Copr. 2018, 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.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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