Family Bible Study Lesson for April 18: Church Builder : Friday, April 2, 2004
April 1 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study Lesson for April 18: Church Builder : Friday, April 2, 2004
Friday, April 2, 2004

Family Bible Study Lesson for April 18: Church Builder

By Vic Ramsey
Key verses: Ephesians 2:21-22

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main ..."

So opens John Donne's famous reflection on the connectedness of all humankind. We are all related one to another. We are social creatures.

Christianity is a social experience. But today, the church no longer holds a central place in many Christian lives. Millions of Americans profess to be Christians, but they have no active involvement in the life of any congregation.

No doubt, the church's own history has contributed to this "go it alone" approach to faith. Moreover, the church seems to have soaked up the individualism of our culture. Even in our worship music, we sing "I" and "me" more than "us" and "we."

Jesus called His disciples to, "Come, follow me." When they answered, they entered into an enduring relationship, not only with Jesus, but with one another. Jesus did not simply save souls; He built a community of faith.

Based on a Vital Confession

Matthew 16:13-16

Jesus took His disciples to a place north of Galilee, beyond the reach of crowds and onlookers, to pose to them a crucial question.

He begins by asking what other people think of Him. The answers, while positive, fail to capture the full dimension of Jesus' identity.

Then Jesus asks, "Who do you say that I am?"

Peter replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The word "Christ" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "messiah," which means "anointed one." It is not so much a name as a role or identity. Peter identifies Jesus as the unique savior the Jewish people had been waiting for a thousand years.

Promised by God's Son

Matthew 16:17-19

These verses are among the most controversial in the New Testament.

Peter's given name was Simon, but Jesus called him "Cephas," Aramaic for "rock," of which "petra" is the Greek translation. Prior to New Testament times, there is no record of "Peter" being used as a personal name.

In verse 18, Jesus uses a pun on Peter's nickname. Commentators differ on the meaning of "upon this rock." Does Jesus refer to Peter, directly and personally, or to Peter's declaration of faith?

Understandably, Catholic commentators have tended toward the first, seeing scriptural support for the apostolic succession of the pope. Protestant scholars have tended toward the second, seeing support for an understanding of the church as built on faith - faith in Jesus as the Messiah and God's Son.

Peter's leadership of the early church cannot be denied. That role, however, was unique and unrepeatable, and cannot be used to support a doctrine of apostolic succession.

Verse 19 speaks of the "keys of the kingdom" being given to Peter. This does not mean that he would determine who would or would not enter heaven. Rather, "the keeper of the keys" is probably a reference to leadership and administration, perhaps with an emphasis on teaching. "Binding" and "loosing" are commonly used in Jewish writings as "forbidding" and "permitting."

The key declaration is one that is clear and uncontested. Jesus said, "I will build My church."

Built According to the Divine Plan

Ephesians 2:17-22

For Paul, the church was the essential witness to the Christian faith. Its continued existence, health and strength is a testimony of the truth of the gospel. Paul didn't simply win people to faith, but, like Jesus, invited Christians to participate in an enduring community of faith.

Paul's most common and powerful metaphor for the church is the human body. Here, however, he uses another picture, that of a building. Every Christian is part of the building, a "holy temple" in the Lord.

As a pastor, I've been involved in two major building campaigns. One thing I've learned is that a building is a complex system, almost a living thing, in which every piece must fit and function properly.

So is the church. There are no unimportant, non-essential members. Every one of us is necessary for the church to become what Jesus is building it be.

4/1/2004 11:00:00 PM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

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