Images of Unity

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1 Peter 2, 1 Corinthians 12, John 10
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 6

Images of Unity

(1 Peter 2, 1 Corinthians 12, John 10)


Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.


Introduction: How many times do you say “Picture this?” Or, “let me paint a picture of what is happening?” These are not paintings or photographs, rather they are word pictures that help us understand a concept. That is our study this week. What word pictures in the Bible help us to better understand unity in the church? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!


  1. Nation


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:9. What do you think Peter means by the term “holy nation?” (He is not simply describing a country, he is describing the combination of church and state.)


      1. What is unusual about the citizens of this theocracy? (We are all “royal” priests who belong to God.)


        1. What concepts normally come to mind when you think of a priest? (One who leads in religious matters. This picture tells us that we are all religious leaders.)


      1. What is our job? (To praise God!)


      1. Where did we used to live? (We used to live in darkness and now we live in light.)


      1. When you consider the words “holy,” “nation,” “priest,” and “light,” does this suggest a division from others? (Yes. A nation covers a specific territory, a priest is a specific job category, holy is something set aside, and moving towards the light suggests a grouping. All of these paint a picture of a division from the rest of the world.)


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:10. What was our former status? (We were not God’s people and we did not enjoy mercy.)


      1. How can that be? Didn’t God always love us and show us mercy? (Context is important. We explore that in the next section.)


  1. Temple


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:4-5. What did priests do during Peter’s time? (They offered sacrifices to God.)


      1. What makes our sacrifices acceptable? (We offer them through Jesus Christ.)


      1. Think about this a moment. What was the reason for the Old Testament sacrifices? (To rid the people of their sins.)


      1. These are the verses that precede the text telling us that we were not a people and did not enjoy mercy. How would you answer the question about whether God has always loved us and shown us mercy? (Jesus came to live, die and be resurrected for us. This rescued us from our terrible decision to turn our allegiance over to Satan. Jesus gave us the opportunity for eternal life. The opportunity to be in a right relationship with God is now ours!)


    1. Re-read 1 Peter 2:5. How are we like Jesus? (We, too, are now “living stones.”)


      1. Why are we described as stones? I’m not sure that is how I would want to be complimented - “Cameron, you are a lot like this rock: round, fat, dense, and you don’t move.” (We are “stones” that are alive to form “a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.”)


      1. Once again, we are told that we are all “priests,” part of a greater order of priests. What does that say about whether we are all ministers for God? (In the next section we will be studying a picture of a church that looks like a body. This tells us that we do not all have the same jobs. But, all of us are in unity as ministers.)


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:6. What is the design for our living temple? (Jesus is our cornerstone. If we put our confidence in Him, we “will never be put to shame.”)


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:7-8. If a person does not build his life on Jesus, what happens? (Jesus is merely a rock that trips us up, makes us stumble and fall.)


      1. What causes this stumbling? (Disobedience.)


      1. Can you explain this? Why does rejecting Jesus make us disobey? (We are naturally evil. Our sinful human nature makes us “not a people” of God. Jesus changes all of that if we accept Him.)


    1. Read 1 Peter 2:11-12. We earlier learned that our job as priests is to bring glory to God. What aspect of our job of bringing glory to God do we find here? (We are priests, in an organized “holy nation” for the purpose of showing our good deeds to pagans. This brings glory to God.)


      1. What gets in the way of these good deeds? (“Sinful desires.” What do you desire? What do you spend time thinking about? If it is sinful, this creates a “war against your soul.”)


      1. Consider your life. Who are you glorifying by your actions? (I don’t know about you, but this is a constant rebuke to me and a reminder to focus my desires on the true goal.)


  1. The Body


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. What is the unifying power in all of these different abilities? (The Holy Spirit. He directs who gets what abilities and roles.)


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. To what are members of the church compared? (A human body.)


      1. Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. Paul now tells us that our body is a temple and God lives in it. How can he say that our body is a temple and that we are stones for a greater living temple? (We are individually important, and we are collectively important as a unified church. The common element is that God, through the Holy Spirit, lives in us. He also directs the building of the greater temple.)


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-20. What are we warned against? Hand envy? (We should realize the importance of our position in the church. Every position is critical for the body to operate properly.)


      1. Should we be content with our position? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:29-31. This tells us to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.”)


      1. What is the difference between envy and desiring to have greater gifts? Have you run into church members who envied the role of another church member? (Decades ago I had a member of the class who would start asking questions of other members. As the teacher, I could have just sat down, because she was now asking questions. This was not my idea of what it meant for me to teach the class, so the church offered to let her teach her own class. Within weeks, people stopped attending her class and she left the church. I believe this illustrates the problem of saying “because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.”)


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-24. Against what is Paul warning us? (Not only is every role in the church essential, but no one should look down on the role of another.)


      1. Is this another weapon against envy? (Yes. Envy may begin because church members sense that some roles are more important than others.)


      1. What specific advice does Paul give the church to fight against the problem of thinking that certain roles are less desirable? (We need to treat those jobs with “special honor.” We need to publically praise and thank those who do those jobs. Being “up front” has built into it a reward. We need to reward those who do jobs which are not inherently rewarding.)


  1. Gate Crashers


    1. Read John 10:1-6. The Bible tells us that the people did not understand the point Jesus was making. Do you see any lesson about unity in this?


      1. What do you think Jesus means when He speaks about recognizing voices? (We need to recognize the voice of God.)


      1. When you think about issues of unity in the church, how much of this arises from not understanding God’s will, understanding His “voice?” (The thief and robber can only succeed with those sheep who do not know their shepherd.)


        1. How can we know God’s voice? (By doing what you are doing right now, studying God’s word. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand as you read the Bible and try to understand its message.)


    1. Friend, do these Bible word pictures of a nation, temple, stone, body and sheep help you to better understand what God has in mind for our unity? Will you do your part, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring greater unity to your church?


  1. Next week: When Conflicts Arise.