Bible Study: March 22, 2015
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.
This week's Bible study is adapted from the YOU! curriculum.
Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 3:4-11
Discussion Questions: What does godly authority look like in the church? What skills do you possess that can be used to help build up the church?
Food for thought:
As a child, I witnessed a business meeting that threatened to divide our small church. Half of the church lined up behind the pastor and the bold new initiatives he was bringing to our congregation; the other half lined up behind some of the "unofficial" leaders of the church. Sadly, it was not a pretty picture. Church conflict is real.
I wondered through the years, "Is that what church is supposed to be?" Now, as a pastor, I think about the question, "What does godly authority look like in the church?" Paul helped me with my response to that question as he wrote to a divided church at Corinth. He sincerely wanted competent servant leaders to rise up in the church. He provided illustrations of how God wanted them to grow in spiritual maturity, fruitfulness and quality of service.
Godly authority in the church looks like servants -- not masters. A sign of Christian immaturity in the church was acceptance of the gospel based on the personality of Paul and Apollos. Paul reminded the church at Corinth that both he and Apollos were servants and were not in competition with each other (v. 5). They both preferred the church to follow Christ. They knew a church built around their personalities would not survive. Christ had to be the Head; as leaders they had to point the people toward Him.
Godly authority in the church looks like coworkers -- not competitors. Paul and Apollos clearly had different roles in the church, but they had the same goal. Paul planted and founded the church; Apollos watered, nurtured and expanded the church. Paul stressed that "neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything." Both must happen, but even so "only God ... gives the growth." They were not trying to "best" each other, but to work together to "better" the church.
There is no need for Christians to feel compelled to compete with one another; we only need to do what has been assigned. We need to acknowledge and celebrate diversity and inclusion in ministry as well as in purpose. Unity comes in the spirit. Paul knew he and Apollos played a minor role in salvation. They only had to do what was assigned; God would supply the blessing.
Lastly, Godly authority in the church looks like builders -- not wreckers. Paul pointed out to the Christians that he had "laid a foundation as a skilled master builder" (v. 10). The division and tensions brought on in part by the splintering of the congregation were wrecking the building project Paul had begun. And while he welcomed anyone to add to the foundation he had laid, he cautioned them to do so "according to God's grace." Things built without a solid foundation are subject to crumble and fall. This includes the church. For Christians, building on any other foundation besides Christ is destined for failure.
Paul warned the church at Corinth, and he's warning us today, to beware of false teachers and personal agendas. Today's world seems more focused on individuals than on God. People decide their day based on what their favorite personality or sports figure suggests. We give authority to individuals we know little about. Sadly we do the same thing in the church at times. Yet many churches know their foundation is Christ, and they build ministries that will outlast church personalities and probably their own lives.
Following Christ is essential to our spiritual growth and healthy church growth. Staying focused on Christ, and not the personalities of our leaders, will keep the church centered. Staying focused on Christ will prevent dissension and help the church grow.
Intentionally focused on urban and multicultural believers, YOU is biblically based with culturally relevant and affirming lessons to help your members connect, grow, serve, and ultimately be engaged in impacting the world for Christ. This flexible, non-dated all-in-one quarterly resource offers weekly Bible study for leaders and learners, devotionals, and teaching plans, as well as articles on hot topics and missions. For additional online teaching resources, visit LifeWay.com/YOU
Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool