Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 4, Lesson 8

Lesson Eight

The "Jerusalem Principle"
of Stewardship

Texts: Acts 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Romans 15:25-27

People problems produce the most immediate, stressful challenges to Christian stewardship. People problems are life's primary source for stress. Being God's people among people who choose to reject God results in stressful situations. Christians have opportunity to be merciful because people wrong us. Christians have opportunity to love our enemies because some people are enemies. Christians have opportunity to reject vengeance because some people are unjust to us. Christians have opportunity to forgive because some people sin against us. Jesus said, if we only love those who love us or greet those who greet us, we behave precisely as godless people behave (Matthew 5:46,47).

God uses Christian stewardship to heal sickness in human relationships. What sickness? Prejudice. Arrogance. Attitudes of superiority. Attitudes of condescension. Rejection. God's love is demonstrated powerfully through the human acts of Christian stewardship.

Israel was taught [correctly] that they were God's chosen people. God promised Abraham the nation of Israel would exist through his descendants. God rescued Abraham's descendants from Egyptian slavery and transformed them into that nation. God sustained Israel in the wilderness. After forty years, God gave Canaan to Israel as their homeland.

The Old Testament people called Israelites are the New Testament people called Jews. In the New Testament, the Jews who lived in their homeland segregated themselves from people who were not Jewish. A primary reason for this self-imposed isolation was religious. The isolation restricted the religious influences of people who were not Jewish. Jews in Palestine carefully monitored association with people outside the Jewish community.

When Christianity began in Acts 2, only Jews or Jewish converts became Christians. Early in Christianity, Jewish Christians regarded Christianity as a Jewish religious movement that fulfilled God's promise to Israel. The earliest Christians understanding of Jesus' great commission: "take the gospel to all the Jews scattered throughout the world."

The baptism of non-Jewish people who believed in Jesus Christ created a major crisis. First, the initial reaction of Jewish Christians to the conversion of people who were not Jewish was this: it is improper and inappropriate to include such people in the Christian community (Acts 11:1-3). Second, some Jewish Christians insisted that people who were not Jews could become Christians only if they observed Jewish customs and requirements (Acts 15:1,5).

How would you react if Christian strangers told your congregation (1) all of you were not saved and (2) your baptisms were meaningless. Would you feel rejected and resented? If you can be honest about your feelings in that situation, you can empathize with the feelings of many Christians who were not Jews.

What a barrier between Christians in God's family! God's community could never become the people God wanted as long as that barrier existed. Christian alienation could never achieve God's purposes. God removed the barrier (Ephesians 2:11-22), but many Christians did not.

Christian stewardship assaulted the barrier.

Read Acts 11:27-30.

  1. The prophets came from where and went where (verse 27)?

  2. What did the prophet Agabus declare [through the Spirit] (verse 28)? When did this happen?

  3. What did the Christians at Antioch decide to do (verse 29)? Were these Jewish Christians? Explain your answer.

  4. What did these Christians do (verses 29, 30)?

Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4.

  1. Paul organized and promoted a relief project to aid Christians in Judea. Who received instructions about this relief project (verse 1)?

  2. How were the Corinthian Christians to prepare for participation in this project (verse 2)?

  3. Besides contributing to the gift, how would Christians at Corinth participate in the project (verse 3)?

  4. What two things were appropriate (verse 4)?

Read Romans 15:25-27.

  1. Where was Paul going (verse 25)? Why was he going?

  2. What were the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia pleased to do (verse 26)?

  3. Why were these Christians pleased to collect and send this gift for relief (verse 27)? It was appropriate for them to feel this way. Why?

  4. What was it appropriate for the Gentile Christians [Christians who were not Jewish] to do (verse 27)?

  5. In this reading, Christian stewardship is centered in two areas of reality. What are the two areas? Note the natural link between these two realities.

The barrier between many Jewish Christians and Christians who were not Jewish was enormous. The barrier was constructed of religious perspectives, cultural views, moral and ethical criteria, social customs, and physical heritage. From the Jewish perspective, God laid the foundations of that barrier in His promises to Abraham, erected the barrier in God's covenant with Israel at Sinai, and renewed the barrier in His promises through the prophets.

Paul stressed the fact that people who were not Jews [Gentiles] were included in the covenant God established with Abraham (Genesis 12:3b; 22:18; 26:4,5; Galatians 3:8).

God intended Jewish Christians and Christians who were not Jewish to be God's single community. Since the barrier was real, strong, and ancient, how could that happen? (1) It could happen if Jewish Christians, as God's stewards, shared spiritual things with Christians who were not Jews. (2) It could happen if Christians who were not Jews, as God's stewards, shared material things with Jewish Christians. Christian stewardship is that powerful today.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 8

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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