Seeking the Family of God
Am I In Christ?7 Digging Deeper
- There is nothing wrong with asking the questions, “Am I in Christ?” or “Am I really saved?” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Test everything; hold fast what is good.” Why would you think it is healthy for us to ask these questions?
- Have you ever felt doubtful of your relationship with Christ? Did you feel like your doubt was due to your inability to properly obey God or God’s inability or lack of love towards you?
- What are some of the blessings we can enjoy when we are in Christ? Do you have any personal experiences with these blessings that you can share with your group?
- What must we do to come into a relationship with Christ?
- What does it mean to “Follow Jesus”? How does the idea of commitment relate to this?
- At what point does our relationship with Jesus start and we begin to enjoy the blessings in Christ?
- Is it possible to know for certain if we are in Christ? Why or why not?
What is the Kingdom of God?3 Digging Deeper
- Just as there are different countries or kingdoms with different cultures and practices, what makes the Kingdom of God different than the rest of the world?
- What is the goal and purpose of the Kingdom of God?
- If those who are in Christ do not belong in this world, where do they belong and where is their home?
What is the Church?5 Digging Deeper
- What will happen to Christians who try to remain faithful to God by themselves?
- Why do you believe God desires Christians to come together as a family?
- The church is made up of many different races, ethnicities, and social classes. Despite these differences, what unites the church?
- What blessings come from being a part of God’s family? Do you have any personal examples?
- How would you define God’s church?
Why Are There So Many Different Christian Religions?6 Digging Deeper
- What are some things people look for when searching for a new church home? Are these necessarily bad things? Are they good things?
- After watching this video, what mindset must we have when searching for a church home? What should be the determining factor when selecting a church home?
- Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians emphasized unity and oneness when discussing the church. Where is this unity based and how is it achieved?
- Do you believe this unity is possible? Why or why not?
- Why is it important for Jesus’ church to remain unified? What happens when the church stops being “one” (see Ephesians 4:4-6)?
- Do you believe it is possible to discover the church Jesus established among all the religious organizations in the world? How would the apostles and early Christians respond to this same question?
How Can I Know the Will of God?4 Digging Deeper
- In your experience, what are some things that hinder or make it difficult to fully know God’s will?
- In John 1:1, Jesus is referred to as the Word. John 14:5-6 confirms truth is in Christ Jesus. How does this prove we can definitively know truth and God’s will? How do we gain access to it?
- Do you believe absolute truth is attainable? Why or why not?
- What can protect us from being deceived by Satan?
How Do I Pray?5 Digging Deeper
- Many people view prayer like making a wish. Why is this an unhealthy approach to God in prayer?
- The narrator in the video stated prayer is “about us being conformed to God’s will for us and asking for His help to accomplish this.” How might this effect the way we talk to our all-powerful God and Father who wants an intimate relationship with us?
- What is the difference between demanding things from God verses being dependent upon God when praying for what we need?
- What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
- Why is it important to recognize who God is and his will for us as we pray to him?
What is Worship?6 Digging Deeper
- After watching this video, how would you define worship to God?
- What has God done in your life that moves you to worship him?
- What does worship to God look like in a church that worships like the believers did in New Testament times according to the teachings and pattern established by Jesus and his apostles?
- What does our personal spiritual worship to God look like when one follows the standard set in the New Testament?
- How does worshiping with our church family effect our continual daily spiritual worship to God?
- Why should we worship God? Why should we participate in worship services with our church family? Why should we be in constant spiritual worship to God?
What is the Significance of the Lord’s Supper?5 Digging Deeper
- What makes the Lord’s Supper more significant than an ordinary meal? Jesus commands us to remember his body as we eat of the bread. Why does Jesus want us to remember his body?
- Jesus commands us to remember his blood as we drink of the grape juice. What is the significance of Jesus’ blood?
- In what way is baptism connected to the Lord’s Supper?
- Why does Paul command us to examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper?
- What should we be reminded of as we partake of the Lord’s Supper? How should this reminder impact the way we conduct ourselves throughout the week?
How Do I Become Like Christ?6 Digging Deeper
- What led you to become a Christian or to want to learn more about Christ?
- Since the beginning of your journey to becoming like Christ, would you consider it an instant transformation or a gradual one? Why?
- Rather than measuring the power of our conversion story based upon our degree of sinfulness before we became a Christian, we should base it upon the cost Jesus paid to bring us back to God. How should this understanding impact the way we view our conversion story in comparison with others?
- What has God provided that enables us to become like Christ?
- How do we know when we are being led by the Holy Spirit?
- At what point do we begin being led by the Holy Spirit?
What if there is no New Testament Church Near Me?5 Digging Deeper
- What do you believe is the most important thing to consider when seeking a church home?
- According to the New Testament, how did first century Christians respond to the Great Commission? What challenges did they face and how did they overcome them? Was this something only church leaders had to follow?
- "A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation": How will you specifically respond to these truths from God?
- What does it mean for the church to be its own unique culture or society?
- How is it that the Lord’s church can exist under any government or within any culture?
God desires that we worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). We are to “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). We want to worship God the way he desires to be worshiped. The writer of Hebrews urges believers to “offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28-29). This means that not everything man chooses to do in worship is acceptable to God. Jesus condemned “vain worship” that followed “the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Since God revealed himself through Jesus and his word, we do not worship in ignorance as the Athenians did (Acts 17:30).
We do not want to worship as some did in the church at Colossae. They worshiped God following Old Covenant (Old Testament) practices in “food and drink, festivals, new moons and Sabbaths” which “are a shadow of the things to come.” Christ is the real substance (Colossians 2:16-17). They were “not holding fast to the Head” (Jesus) because they were adding to their worship “asceticism, the worship of angels, visions, and arrogant sensuality” (2:18-19). The Apostle Paul called these practices “self-made religion” because they were based on “human precepts and teachings” (2:22-23).
Since we want to avoid “ignorant worship,” “vain worship,” “self-willed worship,” and “offer to God acceptable worship,” how are we to worship God? The only way we can know that our worship is acceptable to God is to read the teachings of Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament and see how believers worshiped in approved ways back then. The following paragraphs describe what we know believers did in their assemblies.
Teaching, giving, fellowshipping, breaking of bread and praying were a part of the first church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42). This church began on the day of Pentecost which always occurred on the first day of the week in New Testament times. “Breaking of bread” here in a worship context is a reference to “the communion” or “the Lord’s Supper” (20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20, 23-26). Jesus commanded his disciples to remember him in “the breaking of bread” and drinking of the cup, the fruit of the vine (Luke 22:17-20). The believers gave generously to help those in need among them (2:44-45; 4:34-35). They loved one another, shared their homes and meals together and more and more people were saved and added to their number (Acts 2:46-47).
Giving to help other believers was a ministry of the church at Antioch of Syria (11:27-30). Paul commanded the churches of Galatia and the Corinthians to help the poor among the saints at Jerusalem (I Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9). Churches also gave to support preachers and teachers in their work of evangelism and in the spiritual building up of the church (2 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 5:17; Galatians 6:6).
At Corinth, the believers assembled as a church (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34) to eat common meals and to participate in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Jesus (11:23-26; 10:16-18, 21). This is probably the same assembly described in chapter 14. God was concerned how the assemblies were conducted. Since he is “not a God of confusion but of peace,” he wanted assemblies “done decently and in order” (14:33, 40). The assembly was participatory. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (14:27). “Building up” or “edifying” was an essential ingredient of the assembly. It is mentioned a dozen times in this chapter.
In New Testament times, miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were active among the believers. Some at Corinth exercised the spiritual gifts of prophesy and tongue speaking in the assemblies. Since the death of the apostles and the complete revelation and confirmation of his word, it appears that God is no longer endowing believers with these special gifts (Hebrews 2:3-4; and in 16:20 of the longer reading of Mark 16). However, in the teaching about the use of these gifts while they were operative, some principles are still applicable.
The local church prophesy was exercised by both men and women (Acts 2:18; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5, 13) for the purpose of “upbuilding, encouragement and consolation” and “learning and encouragement” (14:3, 31). This prophesy is not the same as “teaching” because they are named as different gifts in 12:27-29. When the prophets spoke, they were to speak in turn by two or three and the congregation was to evaluate (that is, “weigh the accuracy of”) what was said (14:29) in light of scripture.
Tongue speaking is defined in Acts as speaking in foreign languages (Acts 2:4-11). It appears to have the same meaning here (14:10, 11, 21). This gift was not to be exercised without an interpreter to give the meaning (14: 5, 6-11, 27-28).
Both tongue speakers and prophets were to be silent at times (14;28, 30). The spirits of the prophets were subject to the prophets (14:32). Women were to keep silent when the messages of the prophets were being weighed or evaluated. Their questioning or arguing with the male prophets could subvert male leadership (14:29, 33-35; as taught in 11:3. 8-9; Genesis 2:20-24; and the general pattern of male leadership in the Old Testament).
Paul’s teaching about the role of women is in accord to what he wrote later in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. He addressed the roles of men and women in “every place” (that is, “every church”). He instructed men to pray by “lifting up holy hands without quarrelling or anger.” He asked women to “adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” He then wrote about the role of the women:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
According to Paul, in the church women were not to teach over men or to have authority over men. He based this on the order of creation and the fall. Paul wrote that overseers (also known as elders) were to be “husbands of one wife.” This indicates that they were males (I Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-6). Preachers of the word like Timothy and Titus were to “preach the word, reprove, rebuke and exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2-3) and “exhort and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). This indicates that preachers were men since Paul prohibited women from speaking with authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12).
With the exceptions that Paul names in I Corinthians 14:33-35 and in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, women were otherwise very active in the work and ministry of the church (for example, see Romans 16:1-2, 3-4, 6, 12, 15). Women taught women (Titus 2:2-5) and Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, “explained” to Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).
The church met on “the first day of the week” (commonly called “Sunday”) “to break bread” (Acts 20:7). The “first day of the week” was significant because on this day Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:1-6). The first day of the week was later referred to as “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). The church at Corinth “came together” in assemblies (I Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34). Paul commanded them to lay aside money, either individually at home or when they met together, for the poor on “every first day of the week.” This indicates that this day had some special significance (16:1-2). This is because their assemblies were on that day, like the assembly at Troas (Acts 20:7).
Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and commanded that they “be filled with the Spirit.” Obedience to this command (an imperative) was demonstrated by five participles (helping verbs) which he immediately names: “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing, making melody to the Lord in your heart, giving thanks always and for everything, and submitting to one another” (Ephesians 5:18-21). He wrote to the church at Colossae that they “taught and admonished” one another in the song lyrics when they sang together: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). The writer of Hebrews urged the believers to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15). The Old Testament commanded the use of instruments of music in the temple. Jesus asks us to use the instrument of our hearts for worship when we are in assembly with one another. Christian worship is intensely spiritual and every member can participate.
The church also conducted church business in the assembly. Sometimes a believer who was living a sinful life needed to be disciplined “when the church assembled” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). At times, problems arose that needed to be discussed by “the whole church” and solutions proposed and agreed upon (Acts 15:2, 4, 12, 22). On special occasions, the church fasted and prayed in conjunction with making an important decision (Acts 13:3; 14:23).
A summary of the above paragraphs describing the activities of the churches in the New Testament shows that in participatory assemblies the believers did the following for worship to God:
- Taught or received God’s word
- sang songs, hymns and spiritual songs
- gave money to help the needy and to support evangelism and teaching
- fellowshipped with one another
- partook of the Lord’s supper (“the breaking of the bread,” the communion) on the first day of the week
Today, believers can assemble and worship God in “spirit and truth” as these believers did in New Testament times. The teachings we find in the New Testament are the only way we know what Christianity looks like and how we are to live and worship our God. By following these teachings, we know that our lives and worship will please God.