Bible Study: May 21, 2017
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 Passages: Acts 15:1-2, 19-20, 36-41
Discussion Questions: What are dangerous conflicts in the church? Why is handling them the wrong way even more dangerous? When have you seen God bring something great out of something that looked like a mess? What does that tell you about Him and His church?
Food for Thought:
For some reason certain people love to argue a point –– any point. Whether it's strong conviction or just the need to be proven right, they can't let the opportunity to engage in a debate go by. For those of us who would rather avoid conflict in any shape or form, being caught in the middle of a debate can be really uncomfortable. But sometimes standing strong in the face of a conflict is exactly what we need to do. Today's Scripture from Acts 15 focuses on how conflicts affect the ministry of the church and examines how churches can deal effectively and lovingly with conflicts.
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas had been designated by the Holy Spirit to go as missionaries to parts of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) that had not yet been reached with the Gospel. By the end of chapter 14, they had returned from the trip and had reported the miraculous things God had done among the Gentiles to the believers at their home base in Antioch, a multicultural church that would have appreciated the results of the effort.
While the church was not perfect, Jews and Gentiles had been getting along well for years. They had been working together to spread the Gospel and lead people to Christ –– just as they had been called to do. But somewhere along the way certain people had come from Jerusalem raising questions about what it really took to be a Christ follower. They thought Gentiles needed to be good Jews before they could be good Christians. They attempted to enforce a legalistic requirement on anyone who wanted to follow Christ, especially Gentiles who had no cultural or religious context for the law. Wrong!
After spending time watching God work in the lives of Gentiles around Asia Minor –– all apart from the law –– Paul and Barnabas refused to take this new challenge sitting down. The only solution was to take the matter to a church council in Jerusalem to decide the matter. And whatever the council decided would impact the way believers understood the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for years to come. They had to get it right and in the end, they did. The young Christian church leaders had wrestled with an important question related to a big issue and settled a major conflict. Today, when we face conflicts (even inside the church) on issues like missions, evangelism, salvation and sexuality, we need to stand in unity. Godly people should agree on big issues.
Paul and Barnabas later had to deal with a conflict between themselves. While they agreed that they needed to do a spiritual checkup on the spiritual growth of the churches they had founded in every town of their missionary journey, they disagreed on whether or not Barnabas' young cousin, John Mark should join them. Paul remembered that John Mark had started out with them on their first journey, but had returned home (John 13:13). He did not want to risk the same thing happening again.
While believers should demand unity in the larger issues of the Christian faith, we have to recognize people are going to have conflicts over some of the nonessentials. Even strong Christians and the best of friends can run into irreconcilable differences. Note that the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was not about theology. It was about method. Good, godly people can disagree over lesser issues without compromising the heart of the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas did. They demonstrated grace in doing so.
The church is designed to be a safe place. It's a place where people can come to find encouragement and healing. It's a place where people can be challenged to live and love differently. But people are people –– imperfect and flawed –– so conflicts can pop up. Some challenges are doctrinal and have to be refuted. Some are a matter of preference and deserve some grace. But nothing should hinder the church from moving forward and fulfilling the work God has started. His mission must go on!
Whatever the conflict you're dealing with, don't forget that God can and will use you to resolve the dispute or to build something great for His kingdom in spite of it. Be open to His leading. Remember that some conflicts require you to stand and others allow for grace. Whether or not you respond to both forms of conflict in a way that honors Christ is up to you.
In a shifting cultural context, it's more important than ever before that people connect, grow, serve, and go in their Christian life. YOU is committed to doing just that by providing a complete Bible study experience for small groups and classes. Every session is written through an urban and multi cultural lens that provides relevant, engaging, and applicable studies that not only encourage and equip people, but also motivate them to mission. 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.