Relationships of the Believer
LESSON FIFTEEN – THE COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS
Lesson Goal: Our goal in this lesson is to better understand the purpose and characteristics of the community of believers (called by various names such as “church”, “body of al-Masih”, “congregation”, “ummah”, etc.).
1. Read 1 Timothy 3:15,16–15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in Allah’s household, which is the ummah of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
a. The community of believers, or ummah, is whose family or household?
b. The ummah acts as what on behalf of the truth?
2. We saw above that the ummah is compared to a household. We shall look now at those areas where the two are similar.
a. A person enters his earthly family through a physical birth. How does a person enter Allah’s family? (See John 3:5-7–5 Isa answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of Allah unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ )
b. What position do we have in Allah’s family? (See John 1:12–Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Allah.)
c. As a member of Allah’s family, how are we allowed to address Allah? (See Romans 8:15–For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” )
d. In an earthly family there are ties of flesh and blood that brings unity. In Allah’s family what are the ties that bring unity? (Ephesians 4:3–Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.)
e. Children in earthly families inherit their parent’s possessions. Through our new birth into our Heavenly Father’s family, what is our future hope? (See 1 Peter 1:3,4–3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Isa al-Masih! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Isa al-Masih from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you,)
f. In earthly families, children have brothers and sisters. In Allah’s spiritual family, the ummah, who are our brothers and sisters? (See Matthew 12:46-50–46 While Isa was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”)
g. In earthly families there is usually one head or leader. Who is the head of our heavenly family?
h. In earthly families each member has their own individual and unique gifts and abilities. That is also true in the ummah, the community of believers. The unique gifts and abilities within the congregation come from where? (See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11–4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.)
3. We looked above at various points of similarity between earthly families and Allah’s heavenly family, the ummah. We shall now consider how the purpose of earthly families compares with the purpose of Allah’s heavenly family.
a. When Allah established the first earthly family, one of his goals was that by so doing the number of people on the earth would multiply and increase (See Genesis 1:27,28–27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”). In a similar way, what was one of Allah’s purposes for his spiritual children when he established the community of followers of ‘Isa al-Masih? (Consider the passages listed below).
Matthew 28:18-20–18 Then Isa came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Acts 1:8–But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 16:5–So the congregations were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
b. Another goal of earthly families is that the children who are born into them are gradually nurtured and assisted in order to grow and develop into mature individuals. What is a similar goal for Allah’s heavenly family as seen in 1 Corinthians 3:1,2–1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in al-Masih. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. ?
c. In earthly families, older members are honored and those who are sick or disabled are helped. What is the equivalent to this in Allah’s spiritual family, the congregation of believers? (See Hebrews 13:19– I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon; and 1 Timothy 5:16–If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the congregation be burdened with them, so that it can help those widows who are really in need.)
The above points are summarized in the chart below. Read through it carefully and make sure you understand each point made.
4. Read Ephesians 1:22,23–22 And Allah placed all things under the feet of al-Masih and appointed him to be head over everything for the ummah, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
a. Who is the head of the ummah, the community of believers?
b. How is the ummah described in vs. 23?
c. In the human body, our arms and legs carry out the desires and wishes of the head. That is similar in the ummah. Isa al-Masih, the head of the ummah, is no longer physically on earth; he is in heaven. Thus, how do his will and desires become reality on this earth?
ALLAH’S FAMILY – THE UMMAH OF AL-MASIH
5. Read Romans 16:5–Greet also the congregation that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to al-Masih in the province of Asia.
During the time of Paul, where did most groups of believers meet?
6. Read 1 Corinthians 14:26–What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the congregation.
a. What kind of things are done when believers meet together? Write any three below.
b. What is the goal of the different things done by the congregation?
7. In your opinion, what are the things necessary for the start of a congregation – for example, meeting place or leaders or a certain number of people, or what?
8. a. Are you a member of any congregation? Which?
b. Does your congregation meet regularly? Why or why not?
c. What happens when your congregation does meet?
TO MEMORIZE – 1 TIMOTHY 3:15
15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in Allah’s household, which is the ummah of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.