6-SESSIONBIBLE STUDYTHECHURCHSaved, United, EmpoweredGeoff Ashley

THECHURCHSaved, United, EmpoweredGeoff AshleyLifeWay Press Nashville, Tennessee

2014 LifeWay Press No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic ormechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system,except as may be expressly permitted in writing by the publisher. Requests for permission should beaddressed in writing to LifeWay Press , One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0152.Item: 005695956ISBN: 978-1-4300-3678-4Dewey decimal classification number: 262Subject heading: CHURCH \ CHRISTIAN LIFE \ DISCIPLESHIPEric GeigerVice President, Church ResourcesEd StetzerGeneral EditorTrevin WaxManaging EditorFaith WhatleyDirector, Adult MinistryPhilip NationDirector, Adult Ministry PublishingJoel PolkContent EditorWe believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture oferror, for its matter and that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. To review LifeWay’s doctrinalguideline, please visit otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian StandardBible , copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.For ordering or inquiries, visit; write LifeWay Small Groups; One LifeWay Plaza;Nashville, TN 37234-0152; or call toll free (800) 458-2772.Printed in the United States of America.Adult Ministry PublishingLifeWay Church ResourcesOne LifeWay PlazaNashville, Tennessee 37234-0152

TABLE OF CONTENTSABOUT THE GOSPEL PROJECT AND WRITERS 4HOW TO USE THIS STUDY 5SESSION 1: 6United with a PurposeSESSION 2: 18A House for GodSESSION 3: 30Tomorrow’s Reality for TodaySESSION 4: 42Sent into the WorldSESSION 5: 54Dead to OurselvesSESSION 6: 66Alive with PowerSMALL-GROUP TIPS AND VALUES 78

The ChurchABOUT THE GOSPEL PROJECTSome people see the Bible as a collection of stories with morals for life application. But it’s somuch more. Sure, the Bible has some stories in it, but it’s also full of poetry, history, codes oflaw and civilization, songs, prophecy, letters—even a love letter. When you tie it all together,something remarkable happens. A story is revealed. One story. The story of redemptionthrough Jesus. This is The Gospel Project.When we begin to see the Bible as the story of redemption through Jesus Christ, God’s plan torescue the world from sin and death, our perspective changes. We no longer look primarily forwhat the Bible says about us but instead see what it tells us about God and what He has done.After all, it’s the gospel that saves us, and when we encounter Jesus in the pages of Scripture,the gospel works on us, transforming us into His image. We become God’s gospel project.ABOUT THE WRITERSGeoff Ashley is the Groups Pastor for The Village Church in Flower Mound,Texas. He received a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2009 and hasbeen on staff at The Village since 2006, overseeing development of theologicalresources. He is married to Kaci.Barry Cram adapted this material for use with small groups.4

HOW TO USE THIS STUDYWelcome to The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small-group study that dives deep into thethings of God, lifts up Jesus, focuses on the grand story of Scripture, and drives participantsto be on mission. This small-group Bible study provides opportunities to study the Bible andto encounter the living Christ. The Gospel Project provides you with tools and resources topurposefully study God’s Word and to grow in the faith and knowledge of God’s Son. Andwhat’s more, you can do so in the company of others, encouraging and building up oneanother. Here are some things to remember that will help you maximize the usefulness ofthis resource:GATHER A GROUP. We grow in the faith best in community with other believers, as welove, encourage, correct, and challenge one another. The life of a disciple of Christ was nevermeant to be lived alone, in isolation.PRAY. Pray regularly for your group members.PREPARE. This resource includes the Bible study content, three devotionals, and discussion questions for each session. Work through the session and devotionals in preparation foreach group session. Take notes and record your own questions. Also consider the follow-upquestions so you are ready to participate in and add to the discussion, bringing up your ownnotes and questions where appropriate.RESOURCE YOURSELF. Make good use of the additional resources available on theWeb at and search for this specific title. Download apodcast. Read a blog post. Be intentional about learning from others in the faith. For tips onhow to better lead groups or additional ideas for leading this Bible study, OUP TIME. Gather together with your group to discuss the session and devotionalcontent. Work through the follow-up questions and your own questions. Discuss the materialand the implications for the lives of believers and the mission to which we have been called.OVERFLOW. Remember, The Gospel Project is not just a Bible study. We are the project.The gospel is working on us. Don’t let your preparation time be simply about the content.Let the truths of God’s Word soak in as you study. Let God work on your heart first, andthen pray that He will change the hearts of the other people in your group.5

Session 1United witha PurposeThat which we would do for Christ if he were here among us weshould do for [each] other who are members of the body of Christ. 1PETER WALPOT

United with a PurposeINDIVIDUAL STUDYThe Word of God is filled with vivid words that depict and describe the people of God—thetemple in which God’s Spirit dwells, the vine planted and nourished for the glory of God, theflock that Christ shepherds, the bride of Christ, the family of God, etc. Each image providesinsight into our individual and corporate identity as the ransomed, rescued, and redeemed.Perhaps the most dominant image of the church is the body of Christ. As the body of Christ,we are unified in our common salvation and mission. Though our relationship with God ispersonal, it’s never private or completely separated from the rest of God’s people.Why is this “body” language helpful to our understanding of the church?What other implications are there from understanding the church this way?Any guy who grew up with an older brother knows what it’s like to hear the phrase “Stop hittingyourself.” Your brother pins you down, typically by sitting on your chest, overpowers you, anduses your own hand to slap your face. It usually isn’t physically painful, but the ego takes a bit ofa beating. The “game” may be cruel, but the idea itself is humorous. After all, you don’t normallyattack yourself. A body tries to protect its various parts rather than do itself harm.When the apostle Paul used the metaphor of “the body” to describe the church, he focusedon our unity—our need to work together for a common cause. If we really are members ofthe same body, then there should be an underlying love, protection, sympathy, and compassion for each other. Otherwise, we’re just some kid lying on the ground hitting ourselves, butthis time with no big brother.In this session, we will consider who we are in light of the biblical depiction of the people ofGod as the body of Christ. As we do so, we’ll see that the body of Christ is joined togetherand united in one Spirit, in a common experience of suffering and rejoicing, and in a sharedopportunity and responsibility to serve each other.Throughout the week engage these daily study sections on your own. Each of these examinesthe different ways we are united in Christ as His church. There are three daily readings toprepare you before your group meets for this session. Interact with the Scriptures, and beready to interact with your small group.7

The Church1United in the SpiritFor as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body,though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by oneSpirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and wewere all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 So the body is not one part but many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” inspite of this it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “BecauseI’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to thebody. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the wholebody were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placedeach one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. 19 And if they were all thesame part, where would the body be? 20 Now there are many parts, yet one body.121 CORINTHIANS 12:12-20If you ever find yourself in Europe and you have some money to spend, go shopping for anauthentic Black Forest cuckoo clock. You will be in awe of the craftsmanship, both in function and form. Without the benefit of battery or electricity, it keeps accurate time through anintricate and delicate process. Its pendulum, weights, and gears all work together to accomplish a shared goal of timekeeping.But for all of its sophisticated complexity, a clock is nowhere near as intricate as a living body.Imagine the degree of care and concern that must go into the creation of a person! This truthalso speaks to our identity as the body of Christ. If a clockmaker invests so much time increating this complex mechanism, how much more should we be amazed at the creation ofthe living organism that is the body of Christ!Think about all of the necessary movements that take place for a clockto operate. What would happen if one of the weights were missing or justone of the gears were broken?How might this perspective help us understand the importance ofindividual members contributing to the mission Christ has given usas a body?8

United with a PurposeAs the individual parts of the body are called “members,” so the individual persons of thechurch are called members. Membership is an interesting thing. Many, if not most of us,have been members before in various organizations and entities. We were once members ofa high school sports team or the band, boy scouts or girl scouts, honor society or key club,FCA, PTA, or YMCA.Those who are called the body of Christ share the same breath—the Holy Spirit—whoenables and empowers His people for the mission of God. His personal presence is like theblood that pulses through the body and supplies oxygen to live and move. If the Spirit hasunited us through one faith into one body, then we can assume it is for one purpose. Hisintentions and plans do not drift aimlessly but are eternal and steadfast.While the Bible provides various insights into God’s intention for His people, one of themost accessible is that we were created to adorn the person and work of Jesus Christ. Aspeople formed by the gospel, we are united to show forth the beauties of the gospel in theway that we love each other (John 17:20-23). Accordingly, the Spirit has composed thebody of Christ in order to facilitate our working together to accomplish the mission of thekingdom of God. The more we understand and appreciate the glory of the body of Christ,the more we will be enthralled with the opportunity to contribute to its common good.What are some potential areas of division in a local church body?How does staying sensitive to the Spirit help to guard us againstunnecessary division?What are some ways you and your group can practically pursue morefaithful and diligent participation in the body?9

The Church2United in Suffering and RejoicingSo the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, thehead can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 But even more, those partsof the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those parts ofthe body that we think to be less honorable, we clothe these with greaterhonor, and our unpresentable parts have a better presentation. 24 But ourpresentable parts have no need of clothing. Instead, God has put thebody together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, 25 so that therewould be no division in the body, but that the members would have thesame concern for each other. 26 So if one member suffers, all the memberssuffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.211 CORINTHIANS 12:21-26Some of the best movies involve loners. There’s something in the Western psyche that lovesthe story of one man against the world. Whether it’s Clint Eastwood riding away into a sunset,Bruce Willis taking down terrorists, Tom Hanks beating the elements on an isolated island, orWill Smith surviving a zombie apocalypse, we are enthralled by the image of a lone ranger.As interesting and entertaining as such stories might be, they often miss the truth that we werecreated for community. Only in life together can we experience the fullness and joy for whichwe were created. In fact, of everything that existed in the garden, only one thing was notgood—solitude. God said to Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Isolation and ruggedindividualism may be Western ideals, but from a biblical perspective, they are deficient.As God Himself is a holy community of three distinct Persons, so we were created to dwellin sacred unity in the church. For this reason, we need to embrace the biblical truth that amember cannot survive without a body. Cut off an ear and see how well it survives, muchless hears. Though the body might survive the loss of a hand or foot, its function will behindered greatly—and the appendage itself will not last long once it is amputated!Which parts of your body would you consider expendable?What functions would be hindered if these parts were absent?10

United with a PurposeThis is true of the body of Christ as well. Take a member of the church and disconnect himor her from the body. It will not be long before disease and decay begin to happen. Isolationis an enemy in our pursuit of sanctification. Those who honestly think that they don’t needthe body of Christ are greatly deceived and in great danger: “One who isolates himselfpursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1). We need eachother to survive and thrive as God intended.Paul wrote that the entire body suffers when any individual member suffers, and the wholebody rejoices when a member rejoices. In doing so, he pointed to the interconnected togetherness that marks the body of Jesus Christ.It is amazing how an injury to one part of the body will cause pain to another. A misalignedback can cause shoulder or leg pain. Compensating for a blister on one foot can cause difficulty in the other. Pretty soon, walking itself becomes a struggle. The same interconnectedness is required for healing as well. A laceration will not heal without coagulants in the blood.And an infection will not clear up without white blood cells. When the body is functioningproperly, it experiences both the pain of injury and the joy of healing.If we are members of the same body, then surely we shall suffer together. There is no wayaround it unless we isolate ourselves. But isolation only leads to more pain. There is aprofound interconnectedness in the body of Christ such that both pain and pleasure extendbeyond individual members. It is to be experienced by the entire community of believers.When one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all rejoice.What does this notion teach us about individual rights and privileges? Inwhat ways does the gospel affect our perspective of “the individual”?What does suffering and rejoicing as the body of Christ communicate tothose outside the church?11

The Church3United in ServiceNow you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, secondprophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping,managing, various kinds of languages. 29 Are all apostles? Are allprophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have giftsof healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret?27281 CORINTHIANS 12:27-30The original 1992 Dream Team of Olympic basketball was probably the greatest basketball team of all time. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, andCharles Barkley not only wowed the world with their art but absolutely dominated thecompetition. The average game was won by 44 points. In fact, the closest game wasdecided by 32 points!The individual talent on the Dream Team was astounding. But what was even moreimpressive was the way they were able to come together as a solitary unit. Good teams arecomposed of individuals with complementary skills. What if the 1992 USA team had beencomposed of five traditional centers or five power forwards? Who would have taken the ballup the court? Or who would have protected the lane and contested shots with a team ofpoint guards?Think of the body of Christ in a similar way. The church is constituted by various personshaving differing gifts, skills, and abilities. This is so much more than a basketball team.The church is the means by which God accomplishes His eternal purposes. Every believeris invited to contribute. Every Christ-follower is invited to participate. The Spirit has socomposed the church that it is intended to function as a cohesive unit.How can you better steward the various gifts and talents you have beengiven for the sake of your local congregation?12

United with a PurposeWhat structures, organizations, attitudes, or ideas have youencountered that hinder individuals from using their gifts toserve the body of Christ?The concept of complementary gifts distributed by the Spirit for the common good of thebody and the glory of Christ saturates the biblical text. Consider a few of the places wherePaul expounded upon this reality (Rom. 12:4-8; Eph. 4:4-7; 4:15-16), or examine Peter’swords in his first letter: “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, asgood managers of the varied grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10).Service is an essential implication of the gospel. After all, Christ Himself spoke of Hismission as summarized by the idea of service: “For even the Son of Man did not come to beserved, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).As those who are being conformed to His image, we have a responsibility to mirror andimitate Christ in our serving and preferring others. We have a responsibility to humbleourselves, seek the good of others, and lay down our lives to adorn the glorious gospel ofJesus Christ. This is true in our parenting, marriages, workplaces, social circles, and especiallyin our churches.What are some practical ways you might live the life of a servant inyour family, among your friends, and in your community?13

The ChurchGROUP STUDYWarm UpFirst Corinthians 12–14 provides the most comprehensive discussion on spiritual gifts in theBible. For three chapters, Paul wrote about the person of the Holy Spirit and the gifts that Hehas distributed for the edification and encouragement of the body. Paul wrote that the giftsvary (12:4-5) but that it is the same Spirit who empowers them (12:6) and has distributed themaccording to His will (12:11).But right in the middle of all of this is love—the central and preeminent ideal that trumps allgifts and individual activity. We often read the following passage with the married couple inmind. But let’s not forget that this passage of Scripture was first given for the sake of the body,the Church of Jesus Christ.If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I amonly a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecyand can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith thatcan move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all Ipossess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It doesnot envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, itis not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects,always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.11 CORINTHIANS 13:1-8How have you attempted to love like this within the body of Christ?Where have you seen this kind of love on display in your church?Mark Dever says of the body of Christ, “This is no polite and formal fellowship. It’s a body,bound together by our individual decisions but also bound together by far more than humandecision—the person and work of Christ.”2 If God brings the body together, it will take God’spower to keep it together. It’s not enough to keep learning new applications of this spiritual truth.We will need to keep learning a new day of surrender so God can continue to work through Hispeople—His Body, His Church.14

United with a PurposeDiscussionAs the body of Christ, the church is the extension of his ministry.3MILLARD J. ERICKSONWe all need each other because we are an extension of Jesus Christ. When we come together,we have the opportunity to express our love to the community. God designed it this way. Weare important—each one of us! A voice from church history once said, “Even if the body hadonly its most important member, it would still be useless without the others.” 4 That’s anotherway of saying, “We are only as important as those with whom we serve.”During this time you will have an opportunity to discuss what God revealed to you duringthe week. See this as a time to serve and minister one to another. Listed below are some of thequestions from your daily reading assignments. They will guide your small-group discussion.1. What are some potential areas of division in a local church body? How does stayingsensitive to the Spirit help to guard us against unnecessary division?2. What are some ways you and your group can practically pursue more faithful and diligent participation in the body?3. What does this notion teach us about individual rights and privileges? In what ways doesthe gospel affect our perspective of “the individual”?4. What does suffering and rejoicing as the body of Christ communicate to those outsidethe church?5. How can you better steward the various gifts and talents you have been given for thesake of your local congregation?6. What structures, organizations, attitudes, or ideas have you encountered that hinderindividuals from using their gifts to serve the body of Christ?7. What are some practical ways you might live the life of a servant in your family, amongyour friends, and in your community?15

The ChurchConclusionOften admonitions to pursue unity are really just subtle admonishments to uniformity. Thehistory of Christian missions is littered with stories of missionaries, many well-intentioned, whoequated cultural conformity with conversion. But the clear biblical charge to pursue unity is nota call toward uniformity. God doesn’t desire a homogeneous church of clones but a gloriouslydiverse body that highlights the creativity of God Himself.As the triune God is three distinct and diverse Persons dwelling in perfect unity, so the churchis intended to be composed of varied and assorted members pursuing a similar unity. What abeautiful picture of the gospel to begin to pursue even now—a picture that will one day be fullyrealized in the age to come with a multitude from every nation, tribe, and tongue as the kings ofthe earth all bring their own unique glory into the city to come (Rev. 7:9; 21:24).Spend some time praying this for yourself and for your group:“God, teach us what Your church looks like as we gather around Your resurrectedSon. Lead us to suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice.Help us to serve one another in love and humility. Give us the ability to obey Youas we express Jesus Christ in our neighborhoods and communities. Amen.”1. Peter Walpot, “The True Yieldedness and the Christian Community of Goods,” in Early Anabaptist Spirituality, ed. Daniel Liechty(Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994), 179.2. Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 26.3. T heodoret of Cyr, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 247, quoted in 1–2 Corinthians, ed. Gerald Bray, vol. VII in AncientChristian Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: IVP, 1999), 123.4. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 961.5. Augustine, Letters 99, quoted in 1–2 Corinthians, ed. Gerald Bray, vol. VII in Ancient Christian Commentary: New Testament (DownersGrove: IVP, 1999), 128.16

United with a PurposeFar be it from us to refuse to hear what is bitter and sadto those whom we love. It is not possible for one memberto suffer without the other members suffering with it. 5AUGUSTINENOTES 17

Uniting God’sKingdom PeopleWho are we? What is the church? In the New Testament we seethat we are not simply individuals. We are the body of Christ—God’s temple—united in truth and given the mission of makingdisciples. We are God’s kingdom people, saved by Jesus andempowered by the Spirit. We are a crucified people dead to sin anda resurrected people alive for righteousness. The Church: Saved,United, Empowered explores the nature and purpose of the church.6 SESSIONSUnited with a PurposeA House for GodTomorrow’s Reality for TodaySent into the WorldDead to OurselvesAlive with Powerinvites you to dive deeper into the thingsof God, lifts up Jesus, focuses on the grand story of Scripture,and drives you to be on mission. This small-group Bible studyprovides opportunities to study the Bible and to encounter theliving Christ. And what’s more, you can do so in the companyof others, encouraging and building up one another.The Gospel Project

Geoff Ashley is the Groups Pastor for The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He received a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2009 and has been on staff at The Village since 2006, overseeing development of theological resources. He is married to Kaci. Barry Cram adapted this material