Answering Jesus' Call
Study Guide
prepared by David W. Chadwell

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Quarter One: The Early Outreach of Jesus Christ

Important Note To Students And Teachers

Lesson 1 The Righteous

Lesson 2 The Sinners

Lesson 3 The Pharisees

Lesson 4 The Sadducees

Lesson 5 The Proselytes

Lesson 6 The Godfearers

Lesson 7 The Idol Worshippers

Lesson 8 A Complex Age

Lesson 9 Jewish and Proselyte Converts

Lesson 10 Judaizing Christians

Lesson 11 Christians Converted From Idolatry

Lesson 12 Understanding What God Does

Lesson 13 A Review of the Quarter

Quarter Two: First Century Conversion

Important Note To Students And Teachers

Lesson 1 Understanding the Concept To "convert" is to turn. Conversion is a turning to Jesus Christ, a redirection of life that turns from evil to Jesus Christ. In first century conversion, converts turned to Jesus Christ. Their "conversion issues" were focused on the meaning of Jesus being the Christ. Our "conversion issues" tend to focus on the church.

Lesson 2 The First Century Jew and Conversion Theological perspectives in first century Jewish society were diverse. Those Jewish people had in-depth Jewish issues to resolve if they were to turn to Christ. Their perception of God's people and of covenant relationship with God opposed their conversion to Jesus Christ. When presenting the gospel to Jewish audiences, Christian teachers stressed (1) God's purposes in His promises and (2) God's long-standing love for "the nations" [not just Israel].

Lesson 3 The Conversion of Idol Worshippers The conversion issues of first century people who worshipped idols differed in distinct ways from Jewish conversion issues. To idol worshippers, the issue of many gods versus one God was a real, relevant issue. Neither the lives of Jews nor idol worshippers were compartmentalized. Every aspect of life was naturally a part of spiritual and religious reality. To the person who believed in many gods, to oppose the gods was to oppose existence.

Lesson 4 Conversion Issues As then, today people of different cultural backgrounds and life experiences confront different questions when they consider conversion to Jesus Christ. The concerns people confront today are not the concerns people confronted in the first century. Though the primary first century conversion concern was placing faith in Jesus Christ, placing faith in Christ involved different issues and concerns for different people. In that way, there is a similarity between conversion in the first century and conversion today.

Lesson 5 The Sermon in Acts 2 The basic context of Peter's sermon to the Jewish audience of Acts 2 is presented. (1) Peter explained what occurred. (2) Peter documented his lesson with Jewish prophecies. (3) Peter used evidences that had significance to his Jewish audience to verify his message. (4) Peter's conclusion: God made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.

Lesson 6 The Sermon in Acts 3 The basic context of Peter's sermon to a Jewish audience gathered in the temple area (in Acts 3) is presented. Peter created the opportunity through an act of healing in the temple area, and then capitalized on the opportunity. He focused attention on the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Lesson 7 The Sermon in Acts 7 The basic context of Stephen's sermon to the Jewish audience of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin (in Acts 7) is presented. Stephen's sermon was a synopsis of Israel's history. Stephen declared (1) they misunderstood the purpose of the temple and (2) they rebelled against God as had their ancestors.

Lesson 8 The Sermon in Acts 10 The basic context of Peter's sermon to the non-Jewish Godfearer, Cornelius, is presented. Peter declared his new understanding of God's interest in all people. He affirmed the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ. He urged Cornelius and those Cornelius gathered to turn to Jesus Christ. God confirmed their right to be baptized.

Lesson 9 The Sermon in Acts 13 The basic context of Paul's sermon in Antioch of Pisidia to Jews and people who were not Jews is presented. The setting for this sermon was the Jewish synagogue. He connected Jesus to Israelite history (1) by declaring Jesus was a descendant of King David and (2) by associating Jesus with John. When the Jewish audience opposed Paul's teachings, he focused his work on people who were not Jews.

Lesson 10 The Sermon in Acts 17:22-33 The basic context of Paul's sermon to the idolatrous philosophers in Athens (Acts 17) is presented. Their derogatory attitude toward Paul and his teachings is noted. The challenge confronting Paul in appealing to their interest without endorsing idolatry is noted. Paul approached them on the only "common ground" they shared: the identity and nature of God.

Lesson 11 Conversion Then Two basic conversion issues existed in the first century. To the Jews, the basic issue was this: is Jesus the Christ that God promised Israel? To those who worshipped idols, the basic issue was this: can a human be resurrected to be the divine Lord?

Lesson 12 Conversion Now Almost 2000 years after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, it is easy to change conversion's basic concerns. It is too easy to focus conversion on baptism instead of Jesus Christ. It is too easy to minimize the roles and importance of faith and repentance. It is too easy to substitute modern concerns about church organization and tradition for faith in Jesus Christ.

Lesson 13 A Review of the Quarter A review of the quarter's focus on Jesus Christ as the core of conversion.

Quarter Three: Climbing on the Altar

Important Note To Students And Teachers

Lesson 1 Climbing on the Altar (Romans 12:1,2) Among today's Christians in today's context, "faithfulness" is demonstrated in (1) what occurs in the "worship assembly" and (2) attending worship assemblies. In the first century, prior to Christian conversion, worship commonly involved sacrificing an animal's life at a temple. Paul's image of sacrificial worship in Romans 12:1,2 was clearly understood because everyone witnessed worship through animal sacrifices. Paul declared that worship was not an event, but a daily life that glorified God. The purpose of Christian worship assemblies is to glorify God. Glorification of God continues in the daily behavior of the Christian. The worshipper becomes the sacrifice in his or her response to God's mercy. Worship continually occurs in the lives of Christians.

Lesson 2 The Body (Romans 12:3-8) Christians are not in competition. They need each other as they function together to fulfill God's purposes. They may be quite different as individuals. They may have different gifts and abilities. Perhaps the only thing their lives have in common is a mutual faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus who became God's promised Christ. "Christians, you should function together as a body does. Regardless of how little you have in common, function together for the good of the whole. God's mercy calls you to function together."

Lesson 3 Love Each Other (Romans 12:9-16) Relationships in Rome's Christian community between Jewish Christians and Christians who were not Jews were severely strained. Only mutual love (agape) had the power to eliminate stressed relationships and to heal the resulting problems. Such love (agape) was possible. It could heal strained relationships. For such to occur, that love (agape) must be founded on God's mercy. That love (agape) must be a continual expression of God's mercy.

Lesson 4 Christians Refuse to "Pay Back" (Romans 12:17-20) Christians refuse to seek revenge. Love (agape) rooted in God's mercy destroys the desire for revenge. Enduring evil or experiencing evil's wrath never justifies a Christian taking revenge. When a Christian lives in God's mercy, he or she is not controlled by an environment of abuse and suspicion. Even in an evil environment, the Christian respects what is right. Only a "whole being" response to God's mercy refuses to resort to evil to fight evil. Only a "whole being" response to God's mercy can motivate a Christian to seek to live at peace with all people.

Lesson 5 Good Overcomes Evil (Romans 12:21) Humanity has no expertise in overcoming evil. Humanity's only hope for overcoming evil is forgiveness. Such forgiveness is an act of God through Jesus Christ. Only God defeated evil through Jesus' crucifixion. The Christian is recreated by God through Christ as an act of His mercy. God's mercy was at work before any human realized what God did. God in His mercy defeated evil by doing good. Only those Christians who trust God's mercy dare to defeat evil by doing good.

Lesson 6 A Law-Abiding People (Romans 13:1-7) Christians living in the city of Rome were surrounded by idolatry's influence. The Roman government embraced idolatry in all political and military affairs. Christians in Rome knew nothing of democracy, human rights, or human freedoms. Yet, in an environment that honored the gods, Christians were to be good citizens who paid their taxes and who showed proper respect for those in governmental authority. Paul said do so for the sake of consequence and the sake of conscience. Only those enslaved to God's mercy could function in that manner.

Lesson 7 The Debt We Cannot Eliminate (Romans 13:8-10) The system on which first century life in Roman cities functioned was the patronage system. Clients used patrons, and patrons used clients. Relationships among Christians were not fashioned by their city's social system. Christians did not "learn the system and use it." Paul said not to be indebted to the patronage system. Instead, be indebted to God's mercy. Because of God's mercy, a Christian can never repay his or her indebtedness to love.

Lesson 8 Sober Awareness (Romans 13:11-14) Paul urged them, "Wake up! Live life differently! Your behavior must differ from the behavior of those who do not know God's mercy." Through Christ God brings the dawning of a new day. The Christian objective is not to control nations or transform societies. The Christian goal is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and live as a part of the new day. Paul's challenge went far beyond the event of baptism. It was the challenge of being God's new creation. It was the challenge of being a person fashioned in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Lesson 9 Mutual Respect Among Christians (Romans 14:1-12) Christians must respect each other. Strong Christians must not judge weak Christians, and weak Christians must not regard strong Christians with contempt. They must be merciful to each other. Paul illustrated the urgency of mutual respect. Weaker Christians, as an act of conscience and faith, refused to eat meat produced by a sacrifice to idols. Stronger Christians realized God, not the idol, created that meat. As an act of faith and conscience, stronger Christians could eat the meat. Paul's admonition: be spiritually sensitive to each other.

Lesson 10 A Matter of Priority (Romans 14:13-23) These two truths were in the foundation of Paul's decisions and behavior: (1) God always seeks the Christian's best interest. (2) Life with God in His world is superior to any lifestyle in this world. With those two understandings, one Christian would never cause another Christian to fall away from God. He or she would never knowingly cause another Christian to stumble. Why? He or she understands Christ died to save that person. He or she will not cause someone for whom Christ died to fall away from God. The realization of God's mercy will not permit it.

Lesson 11 What It Is All About (Romans 14:13-23) God wishes to save every person--no exceptions! Christians represent the God who wishes to save everyone by encouraging and nurturing others. God's incredible mercy is the controlling motivation in the lives of Christians. God's purposes are never served by holding another Christian in contempt. God's kingdom exists to encourage all those who pursue God. That commitment requires every Christian to respect another Christian's conscience. If in my weakness God forgives me and enables me to stand in Christ, I cannot discourage a Christian weaker than myself by holding him or her in contempt.

Lesson 12 The Strong Help the Weak (Romans 15:1-13) Paul's comprehensive emphasis in Romans 12:1 through Romans 15:13 is this: a Christian's response to God's mercy is revealed in the way he or she treats other people. In no relationship will his or her changed behavior be more visible than in the way he or she treats other Christians. Paul said, "When you understand God's mercy, indebtedness to God's mercy will change the way you treat other people." For a Christian who understands his or her indebtedness to God's mercy, personal preference is never as important as encouraging a weak Christian.

Lesson 13 A Review of the Quarter

Copyright © 2001
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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