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AUTUMN LIFE GROUPS 22 – Page 2 – St Mary's Church, Reigate

AUTUMN LIFE GROUPS 22

Church is the goal of the gospel     

Exodus 19:1-6 | Romans 16:25-27 | Genesis 17:1-7 | Ephesians 1:1-14 | 1 John 1:1-4

Exodus 19:1-6

On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt – on that very day – they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’

Romans 16:25-27

25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes fromfaith – 27 to the only wise God be glory for ever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

….

OVERVIEW

What is the purpose of the gospel?  What does it achieve?  Why did Jesus come?

As we start this new series on Sundays and mid-week, we set a course for the weeks to come by returning again to the reason Jesus came, why he was sent.  In our individualistic age the gospel has often been reduced to a message that is focused on personal salvation offering people the hope of heaven and a personal relationship with God.  There is often a tendency to miss out the social aspects of our belonging to Christ and the church and it can be a challenge for people coming to faith working out whether church is important to them or not.

The goal of the gospel outlined in the whole biblical story is much broader and more expansive than mere personal salvation.  It is to bring all people into the family of God – to be formed into a people for his name – a kingdom of priests – a people to bear his name.   As the title of the session puts it, “The goal of the gospel was church.”

It is important for us to take time to explore the implications of this for our lives, for how we see ourselves and for how we see ourselves relating to church in our every day lives. 

In the reading from Romans 16 Paul states that the revelation of Christ has come so that all Gentiles might come to the full obedience of faith and become part of his new community, giving Jesus their full allegiance to him, and to participating in his life, death and resurrection. 

John puts it similarly in 1 John 1:1-4

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 

John is making that point that the goal of the gospel was to form church – the community of the Messiah – Christians, who live in and through the Messiah – the fellowship of faith.  

Take away

The invitation to belong to Christ and live in him is simultaneously an invitation and call into a belonging in God’s new community that represents him in the world.  We are being called into a new way of living our lives as the people of God – the family who bear God’s name, the identity of the Messiah.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS

  • How important is church in your life, your family life, right now?
  • How has this changed over time?
  • How did the pandemic change your experience and ideas about church?

  • Why do we participate in church life?
  • What holds us back from being more involved in Church life? 
  • What moves us toward greater participation?

  • What is God’s vision for his Church?
  • What is the significance of being God’s treasured possession?
  • What does it mean to be a kingdom of priests?
  • What does it mean to be a holy nation?
  • In what way is the Church a fulfilment of this story and covenant?
  • Why is the inclusion of the Gentiles into this covenant so important to Paul?
  • What does it mean to be drawn into the ‘obedience of faith’?

Additional Scriptures

Genesis 17:1-7

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’

Abram fell face down, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nationsI will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Ephesians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

1 John 1:1-4

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.