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Bible Study: December 14, 2014

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: Acts 2:37-47

Discussion questions: Why is unity in Christ an absolute necessity for the health of a church? When was the last time you joined other believers in prayer, expecting God to use you to spread the Gospel?

Food for thought:

American Express used to run an ad campaign with the slogan, “Membership has its privileges.” It emphasized there are some privileges in life you just can’t get without an American Express credit card. It was a good ad campaign, too, because it made people want the card. Some people view the church with the same consumer mentality. You know, “Join the club, get the benefits.” But the privilege of church membership isn’t like carrying a card that gets you stuff you like; it goes much deeper.

People come to church with different expectations regarding what they want from it and what they plan to give to it. Today’s lesson will help us examine the question, “What holds us together as a church?” Unity goes much deeper than being members of the same church.

When discussing a preacher’s great sermon, we sometimes say, “He brought it!” On the day of Pentecost, people could have said that about Peter; except they probably didn’t, because everyone who heard that sermon was too overcome by conviction and awe of the power of the Holy Spirit. The sermon itself is recorded in verses 16-36. Verse 37 lets us know what happened when Peter finished.

Peter didn’t spend any time begging people to come forward; the truth of the Gospel compelled them. United in their need for forgiveness and salvation, they needed to “repent and be baptized” and be united in Christ. They needed to turn from their sin to faith in Jesus. In so doing, they would receive forgiveness for their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the same promise made to each of us.

Here’s the irony: there are many churches that would say they are united in Christ, but are not united in devotion. This is impossible. Faith in Jesus necessitates devotion to His purposes.

The early Christians didn’t just have their names on the church rolls. They were devoted to the leaders’ teaching, to fellowship and breaking bread, and to prayer. These four practices give insight about the priority of unity in the church, because they all center on community.

For believers described in Acts 2, church was literally awesome. The God-given result of their unity in devotion was that many signs and wonders were being performed. It wasn’t because the apostles were super cool guys. They weren’t devoted to the personalities of the apostles; they were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Since everyone was on the same page about what was important, how to spend their time and resources, and the meaning behind all of it, God used them to reveal Himself in unmistakable ways.

Just like it is impossible to have true faith in Jesus without also being devoted to His purposes, it is impossible to have faith in Jesus without being devoted to His people. That’s why Jesus said the command to love people is like the command to love God (Matt. 22:36-40). When those 3,000 people repented and turned to Jesus in faith, they also turned to each other. Every day they met together at the temple and in their homes. This isn’t a call to communal living; they just shared their stuff and their food, and were glad to do it.

The last sentence of chapter 2 is aptly placed at the end of the discourse. Numerical growth, in and of itself, wasn’t the focus; it was the result. When the church is united in Christ, devotion, and community, God uses that unity to draw people to Himself. The church grows because people see the effects of the body of Christ at work, and the process comes full circle. Conviction happens, people repent, and they join in the unity of believers.

Belonging to a church requires both unity and togetherness. To be God’s church means we must remain in right relationship with God and also with one another.

Intentionally focused on African American, urban and multicultural believers, YOU is biblically based with culturally relevant and affirming lessons to help people 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 offered by LifeWay for all ages can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool.

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  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources