A Closer Look
In the last lesson, Christian was introduced to the Palace Beautiful, which repre-sents the local church in the life of the believer. In this lesson, Christian experiences the blessings and benefits for which the church was established.
Sadly, many Christians try to live without the ministry of the local church and thereby miss all of these blessings. God, however, established the local church to accomplish His work on earth. Our efforts, money, and service should be channeled through the local church. Our greatest loyalty should be to the church, not to a Christian school, a youth group, a campus ministry, or a radio or television ministry. These other types of ministries, which are called “parachurch” ministries, are good and can supplement and assist the local church, but they cannot be a substitute for it. They are helpful, but they were not founded by Christ in the same way that the church was.
Some people argue that because they are in the “universal church” they do not need to join and work in a local church. But God does not work through this so–called “universal” church; He works through local assemblies.
Let’s examine Christian’s experiences in the local church (Palace Beautiful) to see the blessings that it holds for us.
Acts 2:42 mentions three specific purposes of the first local church:
1. To teach the apostle’s __doctrine____
2. For __fellowship__ and breaking of bread
3. For group __prayer_
Christian experienced these blessings while he was staying at the Palace Beautiful. He learned his doctrine in the study and the importance of prayer in the armory, and he fellowships at the meal that his hostesses provided.
The word fellowship means “sharing with others; communication.”
• Many Christians call any gathering of Christians “fellowship,” including eating, drinking, and talking about current events, sports, jobs, etc. In the most general sense, this is true because the people have shared common experiences and interests in those topics. In the strictest sense, however, that is not the kind of fellowship that the Bible means. According to 1 John 1:3, what is the topic of true fellowship? _the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ
Therefore, banquets, socials, class meetings, etc., events that focus on anything other than Christ, cannot be considered fellowship in the strictest sense.
• About what three things did Christian and his friends talk at their meal?
1. _what the Lord has done_
2. _why He did those things_
3. _why He built that house_
• What was the greatest single thing that Jesus did and about which the friends were sure to talk? _He shed His blood on the cross for our sins.
• According to
John 3:16 and Ephesians 5:25, why did He purchase the church with His own blood? _so that He could present it to Himself, a glorious, spotless, unwrinkled, holy church
Watch Protestant Reformation j 5 min video
Thus, we see that the church is founded on the blood of Christ, and it is purchased by that same blood and founded for the purpose of His own holy enjoyment. His greatest pleasure comes from our gathering and talking about His wonderful works and grace toward us. That is true fellowship among believers and with Christ!
The first church met daily and, according to
Acts 2:42, continued “steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine.” Read
2 Timothy 3:16–17 and list the six–fold purpose of the Scriptures.
4. __instruction in righteousness
5. __perfection of the man of God
6. __his furnishing for all good works
Note where doctrine appears in this list—first! Thus, the purpose of the church matches the purpose of the Scriptures: to teach the doctrines of the Word.
Christian learned his doctrine in the study of Palace Beautiful. The study represents the Bible itself. In the study, he learned of the pedigree of the Lord, that is, of His deity. The rest of what he learned there is a summary of the various books of the Bible. In the spaces provided, summarize what he learned about each of these groups of books of the Bible.
• The Four Gospels— _acts that He had done; the names of many hundreds that He had taken into His service
• Acts— _the worthy acts that some of His servants had done
• Old Testament Events— _They subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, etc.
• Romans through Jude— _showed how willingly the Lord receives into His favor even those who used to be His enemies and were so ofensive to Him
• Revelation-- of things old and modern, prophecies and predictions of things to come that will surely come to pass and that will make His enemies dred them and comfort His pilgrims
• Your pastor has the same responsibility to you and the rest of his church as the people at the Palace Beautiful had for Christian. According to Acts 20:27, what is your pastor to teach and preach? _the whole counsel of God_
• According to verse 28, he is to take heed that he _feed the church of God_. He is not to be sidetracked from this great task. The ground for his—and every other Christian’s—every action, attitude, and method is doctrine. If we do not understand doctrine, we have no grounds for our standards or for dealing with the issues of the day or for our service for the Lord. Without doctrine, our views are only opinions and preferences.
Strengthening the Christian
• In the armory, Christian is equipped for the battles of the Christian life. Read Ephesians 6:13–18 and then list the pieces of the Christian armor.
1. loins girt about with truth
2. breastplace of righteousness
3. feet shod with preparation of the gospel of peace
4. shield of faith
5. helmet of salvation
6. sword of the Spirit
7. all prayer
• What is the sword of the Spirit? _the Word of God
This important weapon is effective only as the believer reads, meditates upon, memorizes, and uses the Scriptures.
Encouraging the Christian
At the Palace Beautiful, Christian sees the Delectable Mountains for the first time. They represent the point of greater maturity to which he will one day come and from which he will begin to enjoy the nearness of heaven. The sight of these mountains encourages him to trust the Lord to bring him to that point of matu-rity that awaits him.
After being equipped with his armor, Christian’s friends accompany him back to the path and bid him farewell.
Note the difference in Christian between the time he enters the palace and when he resumes his journey. He enters fearful and shy, ignorant and weak. He leaves much wiser, stronger, and better equipped for the battles that await him. In this we see the importance of the local church in the life of every believer.
• What does Proverbs 27:17 say about the effects of Christian friends (and the church) upon each other? _As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friends_
Conflicts Can Be Good for Us
In Psalm 119:71, David makes an unusual statement about his affliction: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Afflictions make one go to God for answers and help. This is one of the greatest benefits of problems. How often do you turn to God’s Word when you have a problem?
We Must Arm the Spirit
When Satan attacks a Christian through a conflict with someone or through inappropriate attitudes and thoughts, how does the Christian fight back? Ephesians 6 tells us that it is the Spirit, not the believer, who should fight the battle. However, the Spirit must have a weapon, and that weapon is described as “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Spirit gets this sword by the Christian’s memorization of specific verses for various conflicts. (See the illustration of this point.) You must build up an arsenal of ammunition to use against Satan. Then, every time you have a conflict, record the event and a verse that deals with that problem.
notes from the teacher’s lesson (TCA 10)
1. Draw an illustration of a soldier who is equipped with the armor discussed in Ephesians 6.
Label each piece of equipment as it is named in that passage of Scripture with its corresponding reference.
2. Write a paper describing each of the pieces of armor mentioned in Ephesians 6 and explaining how each piece equips the believer for life in this world.
3. Make a list of parachurch organizations whose ministries assist the pastors and congregations of local churches. Contact one of them to ask how they ensure that they do not usurp the authority of the local church or drain funds from its necessary work.
4. Write a paper explaining the proper role of a parachurch organization.
5. Many believers try to be “lone ranger” Christians, getting by without the ben-efits offered by the local church. Explain why such an attitude is unscriptural and counterproductive.