Sabbath School Lesson for November 24-30, 2018
Some of the key ideas explored this week, pertaining to how church unity becomes the best proof of God’s grace, are…
- The death and resurrection of Jesus, as symbolized in baptism, is a unifying experience that makes us brothers and sisters in God’s family.
- The mission of reconciliation that God stands for is presented most concretely by the church, when it demonstrates unity and healing reconciliation among its members.
- Our attitudes, words, and actions are all engaged when it comes to creating an atmosphere of peace and unity in the church.
- Being patient and forbearing with each other, despite different ideas when it comes to non-salvation issues, is key to preserving our unity.
- The nearer we are to God, the easier it is to put aside personal differences and continue our purpose to spread the gospel to the world.
Without church unity it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to portray to the world the goal of reconciliation that God has in mind for His children. We must continually work toward becoming more at one with each other and with God, if we are to fulfill the mission God has given us.
This does not mean that we have to agree on each and every item of belief. But how we conduct ourselves in day-to-day interactions with each other is a powerful portrayal to the world of the sincerity and integrity of our message.
Memory Text: “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51, 52 NKJV
Although this prophecy came from Caiaphas, the high priest who interviewed Jesus before His crucifixion, we are struck by the truth in his statement. Jesus did die for the whole world, and the movement He began in and around Jerusalem did indeed go everywhere upon His death.
What better proof was there for the cause of Christ than the “gathering together” of His children. Unity does matter when it comes to vindicating and glorifying God. As His church, we must never let our guard down when it comes to protecting our unity.
Sunday: Under the Cross of Jesus
The cross of Christ, and the blessing of sacrifice it affords us, is a gift from God that draws us each to a closer connection with our Lord. Baptism is a small reenactment of His death and resurrection, and our own death to sin and resurrection to a new life.
Through baptism we are accepting His sacrifice and are showing the world that we have “put on Christ”. Through faith in Him we become sons and daughters of God, and, at the same time, brothers and sisters with each other.
Our common faith in the forgiveness of Jesus, in all He has accomplished for us, should help us overcome any cultural, ethnic, or political differences we may be struggling with. Therefore, our faith in what Jesus has done through His sacrificial death on the cross is the foundation of our unity.
Read John 11:51, 52. What event would begin the unity of God’s church? Why is it important for God’s people to be gathered together?
Read Galatians 3:26, 27. How do we “put on Christ” and how does baptism make us make us one family?
Read Romans 6:3, 4 and Colossians 2:12. Why is baptism by immersion, going completely under water, an important feature of what baptism stands for?
Monday: Ministry of Reconciliation
In order for the universe to get back to its original unified state, before Lucifer stirred things up, we must make reconciliation our supreme goal of ministry. By sending His Son to die for us, God demonstrated His desire to become reconciled to His children. We, in turn, must be reconciled to each other, in order for the universe to see that God’s way works.
There are three levels this ministry of reconciliation works:
- We, His church, once alienated from God, are reconciled to Him (a great personal blessing)
- We, His church, once reconciled to God, become reconciled to each other (a blessing to God’s church family).
- We, His church, once reconciled to God and each other, are reconciled with the rest of God’s heavenly Kingdom (a blessing to the world).
Read Ephesians 3:8. What personal benefits are there from being reconciled with God?
Read Ephesians 3:9. How is our fellowship with each other affected by our reconciliation with God?
Read Ephesians 3:10, 11. How does our reconciliation with God and each other affect the universe?
Tuesday: Practical Unity
There are so many ways we conduct ourselves that lead to unity; so many signs that can be observed in our demeanor that foster closeness and bonding with others. Some of them are…
- Behaviors that show character: the absence of lying, stealing, anger, talking mean about others, selfishness, filthy language–the presence of kindness, being tenderhearted, forgiving, patient, peace-loving, and thankful (Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and Colossians 3:1-17)
- seeking the welfare of others (Matthew 7:12)
- bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- living a simple life, focusing on inner spirituality rather than outward, prideful display (1 Peter 3:3, 4)
- following a healthy lifestyle (1 Corinthians 10:31)
It’s these characteristics that signal to others that we have “put on Christ”. They send a powerful message of love to the world that draws people to God. The response of a gentle spirit contrasts sharply with impatience and harshness in our words and attitude.
We must constantly promote these Christlike traits, if we are to remain united as Christian brothers and sisters. Those in the church, and without, must see us practice them daily.
Read Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and Colossians 3:5-9, 12, 13. Why are both kinds of character traits listed in these verses? What is helpful in seeing the contrast between those who have Christ and those who don’t?
Read Philippians 2:3-8. What mindset must we foster, if we want to be like Jesus? Of what benefit is humility in our attempts to be loving Christians?
Read 1 Peter 2:11, 12. How do our conduct and good works glorify God?
Wednesday: Unity Amid Diversity
With Jews and Gentiles, who were so separated over the years, making up the early church, there would obviously be some conflicts in their religious practices.
We are told that Paul tried to downplay these differences by simply allowing for them. He didn’t see any harm in those who were more conscientious in their diet or observance of feast days, for instance, and those who were not.
He recommended two things in his epistle to the Romans, chapter 14. We should make sure we…
- don’t judge each other because we worship or live differently,
- don’t be a stumbling block to someone, causing them to fall away from God.
Read 1 Corinthians 8:4, 7 and Colossians 2:16, 17. What problem with eating was experienced in the New Testament church? Why were the yearly feast days of the Jewish faith not needed after the crucifixion? Was it harmful if they continued these practices, but didn’t require them as an issue of salvation?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. How do we keep from being a stumbling block to those around us, and yet retain our integrity? How do we determine what is essential and non-essential when it comes to our religious beliefs and practices?
Read Romans 14:1-6. Understanding the context of the times then, how can we conclude that eating unclean meats and keeping the Sabbath are not the issues spoken of here? What other issues, called “doubtful things” in v. 1, might be a problem in the church today?
Thursday: Unity in Mission
Right up to the Last Supper with His disciples, Jesus struggled with the discord in their midst. Luke tells us there was a “dispute among them” (Luke 22:24) over who would be greatest.
And, of course, what happened later, after the crucifixion, was cause for even more disunity: Peter’s denial of Jesus and Thomas’ doubt concerning His resurrection. This on top of the varied backgrounds of the disciples: Matthew being a tax collector, others who were fisherman, etc.
But, here they were, in the upper room, just before Pentecost. Jesus had gone back to heaven for good. It was up to them to see that the ministry of Jesus continued and that the mission Jesus had assigned them would not fail. What a burden of responsibility this must have felt like to the grieving friends of Jesus.
As they drew nearer to God and put away their personal grievances, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a fashion they never thought possible. The spiritual gifts bestowed to these early believers made them bold, fearless witnesses, who were destined to launch God’s worldwide church.
Read Luke 22:24 and John 13:3-7, 14. Why were the disciples, in their present mental state, unable to understand Jesus’ actions in washing their feet? Why is foot-washing, called an ordinance of humility, an important part of the Lord’s Supper, even in some churches today?
Read Acts 1:14 and 2:1, 46. How would you describe their being “in one accord” at this point? Did it mean they all believed, thought, and acted the same way? What was different about them just before and after Pentecost, as opposed to how they were at the Last Supper?
Read Mark 10:35-37, 42-45, and Philippians 2:5-7. What kind of actions show real power in God’s eyes, and why is it so different from the power we seek as humans? How did Jesus show humility, even before He washed the disciples’ feet?
Plainly stated, this week’s lesson promotes this idea:
“Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another. This unity is the most convincing proof to the world of the majesty and virtue of Christ, and of His power to take away sin.” ~Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1148.
In order to become this unified body of Christian believers, known as God’s church, we must develop these habits…
- comfort each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11–“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another….”)
- encourage each other (Hebrews 3:13–“but exhort [encourage] one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”)
- live in peace with each other (2 Corinthians 13:11–“Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”)
As you can see, “putting on Christ” is an activity that is easily observed and measured. It requires constant effort to stay positively engaged with others. It’s more than just not fighting or quibbling over non-essential items in the church family. We must have a impact on the growth of fellow Christians by DAILY comforting and encouraging each other, in order for the world to see that God’s love has lovely results.
Next Week’s Lesson: Unity and Broken Relationships
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/