Sabbath School Lesson for November 3-9, 2018
We see many images (or metaphors) of unity in the Bible. For example…
- God has always had His followers–they have been a chosen people, a royal priesthood, to share the plan of salvation with the world (Sunday, The People of God)
- Christians are members of His household–living in His dwelling, we are brothers and sisters of Christ, who is the chief cornerstone of this house (Monday, The Household of God)
- Since the Spirit of God dwells in this house, it becomes a temple–we are encouraged to keep it holy and not defile it (Tuesday, The Temple of the Holy Spirit)
- God’s church, although made up of different parts, must work together–much the same as our different body parts work together to keep us alive (Wednesday, The Body of Christ)
- God’s people are like sheep, we must listen to and follow our Shepherd, who is compared to Christ (Thursday, Sheep and Shepherd)
Theological ideas are difficult to describe in human terms. Therefore, God uses ideas and things we are already familiar with to teach us even the most basic heavenly themes. And since one image can’t convey it all, we find God using multiple ways to educate His people.
The reason so many images, symbols, and metaphors are needed to explain spiritual truths is because each one alone is incomplete.
The furnishings and activities in the sanctuary seem to comprise the most eloquent expression of God’s love and desire to save this world. The Old Testament symbols, however, are most fully understood in the light of New Testament events. Together, we can absorb from them enough of God’s will to proclaim it to the world.
Memory Text: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 NKJV
Through these images that expand our knowledge of unity, we are given insight into…
- the church’s relationship to God,
- our responsibility to each other, and
- how we might bring this enlightened knowledge to our community and to the world.
Sunday: The People of God
The most important sense of belonging we experience must be our belonging to the Lord. He emphasizes to us our status as His holy, treasured people.
Both Abraham and later Moses, valued leaders of God’s people in their time, were given multiple reassurances of God’s love and desire to lead them to His kingdom, the one in heaven and the one in our hearts.
Abraham was first told to leave his earthly home, which was seeped in idolatry. Moses was likewise told to leave Egypt, their land of bondage, where pagan religions were prevalent.
God added His sanctuary during Moses’ time, a step to lead them further in their understanding of their special standing as God’s people.
Read Exodus 19:5, 6, Deuteronomy 4:20, 2 Kings 23:25, and 18:5. What did God do to indicate His faithfulness, and what were His children to do in order to remain His people? How were they to keep His covenant? What specifically did Israel, the Jewish nation, fail to do?
Read Deuteronomy 7:6 and 1 Peter 2:9, 10. Why did God transfer His priesthood blessing to the Gentiles? Why did the Gentiles receive mercy, but the Jews fail to obtain it? How does this impact how we treat Jews, even today?
Read Deuteronomy 7:7, 8 and 2 Corinthians 12:10. Why does God chose the “least”, as opposed to the strongest?
Monday: The Household of God
Seeing a house, or any kind of building, being raised from the ground up, is an amazing thing. Each workman has his unique job to do. Each part of the house will only fit in the place for which it was designed.
This image helps us see the intricacies of how the family of God must work together and fit together, in order for God’s “house” to rightly represent Him. God further reminds us that none of the pieces will fit together, unless the chief cornerstone, representing Christ, is the foundation of our church.
We actually see two images with this idea of house or building. The first one is inert, the actual dwelling place. The second one is alive, meaning the people who make up the household. Both are needed for a complete picture of God’s church.
In other words, it takes something special for a house to be a home. Although often used interchangeably, these words carry different meanings. It takes people to make a home.
Most of us not only want to belong to a church, but desire to be part of a church family. In order for God to grow His relationship with us, we must strive to be part of His household, not just part of His church.
Read 1 Peter 2:4, 5 and Ephesians 2:19. Why is it important to be a “living stone”? What does it take to become “living”? Is it possible to be dead and still be in God’s church?
Read Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Corinthians 3:11, and John 17:23. What is the purpose of having Christ as our foundation? What does it do for our unity?
Read Matthew 10:37-39. How do we honor our parents by loving Jesus more than family members? How is our loyalty to God linked with our fitting into God’s church, and even making us more united as His family?
Tuesday: The Temple of the Holy Spirit
God wants us to see that His house is special, so He also compares it with a temple, a concept we readily understand. Temples, and churches, are most often constructed of the finest materials, with the utmost care. Even the pagans felt it represented their god, and was a place that was not only holy, but where they could communicate with a deity.
God’s holiness also fills a dwelling, making it a sacred edifice. Likewise, His Spirit is in His people, in us individually as Christians. We must do all we can to make ourselves fit vessels for His service–fit representatives of His character by not defiling or in any way marring the love and mercy He has bestowed on us by doing things that harm our body.
An undefiled, united church can provide the greatest witness to the world of the God we serve. Therefore, we must beware of these three challenges to our unity:
- envy, which leads to…
- strife, which leads to…
Paul spelled out these carnal tendencies in 1 Corinthians 3:3–“for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” NKJV
How important it then is to recognize our divisions for what they are and to stay alert to our only remedy, which is to have more of God’s Spirit in our hearts, and less of the carnal, worldly nature.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20. Why are we “not our own”? How do we glorify God and why is it necessary?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. Although the context of this passage seems to refer to the corporate church, how would it also apply to defiling our individual bodies? How does defiling our physical bodies, with unhealthful practices for instance, affect the church body as a whole?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10 and 3:3. How can we behave more like God, and less like the humans we are? How would this unite us?
Wednesday: The Body of Christ
Perhaps our most engaging analogy found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was his description of the body parts, as representing members of God’s church body. Chapter twelve reveals that we can be different, just as an eye or an ear are different, and yet still work effectively to make God’s church alive and able to function well.
Each part is not only different, but it is different for a reason: to make the person (in this case, God’s church body) complete. Therefore, we can say with certainty that our unity is not in our diversity, or despite our diversity, but it is through our diversity.
How could God make it any simpler? We may look and act differently, whether based on ethnicity, race, education, age, or gender. But the bottom line is that God needs us all, acting our parts in making God’s church a united body.
Read Romans 12:4, 5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12. How does diversity bring about unity?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:28. What makes us one, fully united?
Read Colossians 1:17, 18 and Ephesians 5:23. Who is the head of our body, or church?
Thursday: Sheep and Shepherd
There is something sweet and profound about thinking of the Good Shepherd, caring for His sheep. One of the most favorite psalms begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Jesus also mentioned a lost sheep in one of His beloved parables.
Although we aren’t quite as familiar with sheep herding as they were and are in the Middle East and other rural parts of the world, we can easily learn about their habits and care. Usually, they were kept in a single sheepfold, with one gate that the shepherds pass through and call for their own sheep. The sheep know their master’s voice and those who listen for him will follow him eagerly. To stray from the flock brings the danger of separation and loss.
How fitting this scenario is in understanding our relationship to Jesus, our Shepherd. We also gain insights into how we must band together in unity with each other. Just as sheep, we must stay close to the Shepherd and submissively obey His voice. Being separated from the flock is not a wise option.
Read Psalm 23. Why has this psalm become so popular? What does it teach us about our role as God’s people?
Read John 10:11, 14-16. Besides basic care, how does the shepherd protect his sheep? When will there be one flock?
Read John 10:4. 25-27. How do we know Jesus’ voice?
Only by working toward eliminating our carnal, worldly natures (manifested in our envy, strife, and divisions) will we be able to achieve true unity as a church body.
We are given insight into need for unity by recognizing…
- the church’s relationship to God through the image of the Good Shepherd caring for His flock,
- our responsibility to each other through the image of body parts making the body whole, and
- how we might bring this enlightened knowledge to our community and to the world through the image of God’s people being a royal and holy priesthood.
Two other images we might consider that would help us understand unity for God’s people even today are found in 2 Timothy 2:3-5…
- the military system, with soldiers obeying through its established discipline and chains of command
- an athletic team, in pursuit of victory on the field or in the gym
What other images come to mind for you?
Next Week’s Lesson: When Conflicts Arise
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/