Lesson 12


Many people will readily admit to the concept that there is a God. The idea that there must be “something out there’’ is expressed in all kinds of ways. We have tried to demonstrate in these lessons that “may the Force be with you’’ as stated in science fiction dramas, misses most of what the evidence strongly suggests. A good number of people will even be willing to admit that Jesus was certainly no mere mortal. They may even say that He was God in the flesh. With the myriad of beliefs that people entertain in these areas it is no wonder that there are an incredible number of superstitions and misconceptions about the Church.

Before we go any further in this discussion, let us clearly identify what we mean by the Church. We are NOT talking about any denomination. We also are NOT talking about any man-made organization. We are not talking about any physical structure or group of structures. Someone has said that sitting in a hen house does not make you a hen. In the same way, sitting in any kind of a building does not make you a Christian. In these lessons we are not supporting any church (small c is deliberate), we are supporting the Church that the Bible describes. Whether that Church exists on the earth today is a point we will address in our discussion.

If you read the biblical description of the Church of the first century, you will not find a clergy/laity system. You will not find religious titles or honors given to one person who is set above others. You also will not find the Church owning property, or buildings, or other facilities. What you will see is a group of people meeting together on a daily basis to meet one another’s needs. First Corinthians 3:16 (“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’’ [italics is in the KJV]) tells us that the individual is what makes up the Church. Matthew 18:20 (“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’’) finds Jesus telling us that His presence is only dependent upon our desire for Him to be there, not on a geographic location or setting with a holy nature.

In spite of all this freedom from structures and power struggles, there are some things that those who follow the Christian system are encouraged to do. Each of these items has the capacity to meet a particular need that men and women have, and yet each of them is an act that has been branded as religious nonsense by atheists and skeptics. Let us look at each item briefly and see what possible relevance it may have to life today.

Biblical References: Philippians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:1; Colossians 4:2; Ephesians 6:18.

Why are Christians told to pray? Is it because God needs information? Those who present such an idea are ignorant of what God is. If in God “we live and move and have our being’’ (Acts 17:28), we obviously are not talking about a God void of information. The Bible tells us that God knows what we need before we ask! Are we told to pray to build up God’s ego? Clearly the God the Bible describes is not a God who is deficient in any characteristic. God is not subject to depression, feelings of inadequacy, or vanity. Prayer is not for God’s benefit, but for ours. We have a great need to look to something greater than ourselves. This need is expressed in many different ways, but being able to concentrate on a God of love, compassion and understanding in times of trouble has sustained many individuals. Science has shown that there are therapeutic values in prayer as well, so all kinds of benefits are found for man in an active prayer life.

Biblical References: Romans 15:9; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.

Worship is not a spectator sport! We are commanded to sing with involvement and enthusiasm (making melody in your heart). Why are Christians told to do this? Is it because God is bored and needs good music? The way most of us sing, it is obvious that music appreciation and needs are not the focus of singing.

Several years ago I saw a TV show that really drove home to me what singing can do. The program was a USO show and the featured singer was Lee Greenwood. One of Mr. Greenwood’s best musical creations was a song titled “I’m Proud to be an American.” It is a very patriotic song about the advantages of living in America, and he sang it late in the show. After singing the first stanza, Mr. Greenwood asked the audience to sing the rest of the song with him. As men and women began to sing they spontaneously rose to their feet, and began to raise their hands over their heads and to join hands. Grizzled grease jockeys joined hands with petite nurses and the voices got louder. As the cameras moved from face to face, it was clear that the emotions of people, far from the land they loved but were committed to defend, were being touched and tears began to flow unashamedly. I doubt very much that any participant in that event went back to their room exactly as they had left it.

Lifting our voices together with those of a common belief or cause is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. Our involvement and participation can provide unity, love, and under- standing in a very special way.

Biblical References: Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2.

I have never had the resources to visit the Middle East, but I have been told about some of the unique places that are there. One of them is a body of water called the Sea of Galilee. I am told it is a place of great beauty and abundant life. Fish and birds of all descriptions abound, and animal life is abundant on its shores. I am told that people come from all over the region to visit its shores and enjoy its resources.

Not far away there is another body of water that is just the opposite. It is desolate and wasted with no birds or fish. There are no animals around its edges, and people will make long detours around it to avoid getting close to its water. It has been appropriately named the Dead Sea.

What is the primary difference in these two bodies of water? The Sea of Galilee actually has more water flow out of it than flows into it. Due to underground springs and abundant rainfall the lake actually gives more than it receives. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has no outlet. It just takes and takes and takes—but it never gives. Since its water loss is only by evaporation its salt content gets higher and higher, and the conditions are simply too harsh for life.

People are like these two bodies of water. God has told us to give freely and cheerfully not because He needs the money. God does not worry about having to file bankruptcy. In spite of some Church leader’s preoccupation with the dollar, the Creator of the universe is not dependent on our giving for His Will to be accomplished. Maturing into adults who can freely and cheerfully give is part of becoming a balanced, positive person. This is not just about money. It also applies to our friends, family, business, sexual, and social relationships. There is little happiness in a selfish egocentric life.

Biblical References: Titus 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 8:4.

Many people have been turned off from going to church services because of their view of religion and because of what the worship services have become. For many people religion is conformance to a set of written or unwritten traditions. Many times those attending involve themselves in a power struggle based on income, family heritage, or some other human contrivance. This happened in the Corinthian church of the first century, and Paul addressed it repeatedly in his letters to the Corinthians.

There is a real need for Christian education. The reason we have written this course is to try to help meet some of the needs we see in today’s Christian congregations. It is not our desire to try to tell people what to think, but we do hope to help people learn how to think. You, as a student, may have found a lot of our questions difficult or disturbing because they were designed to stimulate your thinking.

Preaching and teaching should constantly stir us, challenge our thinking, charge our emotions, open new views and new understandings, and motivate us to action. This need is a regular need, not an occasional one. Much of the preaching and teaching we hear is aimed at repetition of old ideas because so many of us don’t strive for new understanding and insight. The wisdom of constant recharging of our spiritual and intellectual batteries cannot be questioned. Our apathy is a child of our failure to accomplish this.

There are many other areas of the biblical system that we could discuss in the same way. The need to fellowship with people of like mind is essential to stability and usefulness in the world in which we live. The beauty of the communion service, the wisdom of the qualifications given in the Bible for church leaders, the importance of repentance, and the beauty of baptism are all things that make sense when we stop and think about why they have been commanded of us. The chart below gives some insight into these acts, and in the questions we hope to challenge you to think through why such a system is given to us. We have additional courses available to allow you to study these subjects, and we hope you will enroll in them.

Romans 1:19

STRUCTURE God Seeks Man Revelation 3:20 Man Seeks God
Personal Relationship to God 1 Timothy 2:5
Matthew 18:20
Priests, Ministers, etc.
Spiritual Body 1 Corinthians 3:16 Buildings
Heaven John 14:1 Reincarnation or Nothing
Prayer Philippians 4:6
I Timothy 2:1
Colossians 4:2
Ephesians 6:18 
Meditation or Nothing
Singing Romans 15:9
1 Corinthians 14:15
Ephesians 5:19
Colossians 3:16
Being Entertained
Communion 1 Corinthians 10:16
1 Corinthians 11:23-28
None or Involuntary
Personal Miracle
Teaching/Preaching Titus 1:3
1 Corinthians 1:21
None or Involuntary
Personal Revelation
Giving Acts 20:35
2 Corinthians 9:7
1 Corinthians 16:2
Attendance Hebrews 10:25 Isolationism
Fellowship 1 John 3:23
John 15:12
Acts 2:42
Acts 2:46
Wrong Kind or Isolationism
Leader’s Qualifications 1 Timothy 3:1ff
Titus 1:5ff
Acts 6:1ff
Division of Labor Acts 6:1ff
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
None--”Let George do it!”
MEMBERSHIP Believe Mark 16:16
John 3:15, 36
1 Corinthians 1:21
Galatians 3:22
Hebrews 10:39
Repent Act 2:38
Luke 13:3
Acts 3:19; 17:30
Situation Ethics
Confess Romans 10:9
Matthew 10:32
1 John 4:15
Baptism 1 Peter 3:21
Acts 22:16
Acts 16:33
Feel Saved,
Verify Salvation
Life 2 Timothy 4:7-10 No Responsibility

© 2009, John N. Clayton

Lesson 12 Questions

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