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BIBLE STUDY: Serving together in Christ

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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 Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passage: Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

Discussion Question:

— When have you seen a musical experience move a crowd emotionally?

Food for Thought by Jennifer Denning*

A symphony orchestra may boast 100 or more musicians playing instruments of four types. The strings section consists of violin, viola, cello, double bass and harp. Woodwinds include flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe and bassoon. The brass section has the trumpet, tuba, French horn and trombone. And percussion comprises various drums, tambourine, chimes, xylophone, piano and more.

What makes an orchestra a symphony orchestra is its size. A symphony orchestra is big enough to play a symphony — a major classical piece that requires 18 to 25 different instruments.

The English word, “symphony,” comes from the Greek, “syn” meaning “together” and “phone” meaning “voice or sound.” Literally, “symphony” means “playing together.”

Great composers know how to skillfully combine many instruments. They use strings for their singing quality, brass instruments for big themes, woodwinds for color and sparkle, and percussion for style, flair and rhythm. Each instrument serves a purpose in the composer’s design.

The church is like a symphony orchestra where we all play together, but each instrument contributes uniquely. This is how we are to serve together in Christ. As all members exercise their distinct gifts, we minister to one another and to the world around us.

A symphony requires unity. That’s precisely what the apostle Paul advocated in Ephesians 4:1-7.

The first half of his Ephesian letter was about doctrine, what the church believes. Starting in chapter 4, the focus shifts to practical instruction on how to live out our beliefs. Writing from a Roman prison, Paul urged his readers to lead a life worthy of their calling. The Greek word for “worthy” was used in reference to balance, as with scales. That is, believers’ behavior must balance with their profession as Christ-followers.

Paul urged his readers to work hard at maintaining unity (Ephesians 4:3). Preserving oneness in the body is the task of every Christian.

The typical local church consists of different generations and perhaps different races and cultures. Church members hold varying political views and different opinions on some matters of biblical interpretation and Christian living. But what unites us is much bigger than what separates us.

Yet, unity is not uniformity. God doesn’t clone believers. With verse 7, Paul turned from what makes us the same to what makes individuals unique. God uses individual personalities and gifts them differently, so together they can pool their resources to accomplish His kingdom purposes.

Every believer receives spiritual gifts for ministry (1 Corinthians 12:7). But someone must train church members to use those gifts. For that, God has provided His church with leaders, whom He equips to equip others. Paul’s list of leaders includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Church leaders train members for ministry in order to build up the body of Christ. When the church ministers, it builds the body not only in size but also in strength.

It’s also important to remember that what we believe impacts how we live. Maturity provides stability to understand the truth and consistently live it out. In contrast to the spiritually immature, beguiled by every new idea they hear, mature believers will speak the truth and receive it for their mutual growth. They edify one another. They encourage and sharpen fellow believers.

Each member is gifted for ministry. And every member exercises his or her gifts. Not as a lone ranger, but in unity with the body.

Once again, the church is like a symphony orchestra. It functions together to glorify Christ and accomplish His mission, but only when each member does his or her part, working side by side together.

*Jennifer Denning co-leads a Bible study class at Redeemer Church in Cary, N.C.

Bible Studies For Life

Bible Studies For Life is a family of resources addressing key issues in the lives of adults, students, and kids. Visit www.biblestudiesforlife.com and use it to help you “Connect the Unconnected, Strengthen Families, and Disciple People with Wisdom.” Free session downloads are available, plus PDFs and videos that accompany this Bible study resource.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by Lifeway can be found at Lifeway.com/SundaySchool.

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