Connections 10.09.2016: One Foundation

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Hebrews 3:1-6; Matthew 7:24-29

The church I attend is brand new. We became official in spring 2015. Our name is new, our sign is new, and our hymnals are new. Our bylaws are new. We’re so new that our mission is still evolving. But we have a history that stretches backward much longer than eighteen months. This new church is actually a merger of two churches that were long established in our city. This new building and property belonged to one of the churches. We have eighty-year-old members who have been part of either church for decades. We have thirty-year-old members who recently joined us and who bring their young babies to the nursery. Even in our newness, we stand on a firm foundation of the past.

As we figure out the purpose of our church moving forward, the leadership team decided to ask each Bible study class a set of questions about discipleship: what it is, whether we should make disciples, why we should, and how we would do it. The team will collect the input and, hopefully, have a clearer sense of where our church stands on the idea of discipleship.

I lead a Bible study for young and middle-aged adults. They are curious questioners and honest Christ followers. As the leadership team member asked them about discipleship, a beautiful metaphor emerged of our church that I believe can apply to all fellowships that follow Jesus. My class expressed the desire to work with the older and younger members of the church to serve our community and learn more about God. We decided that we’re probably more alike than we are different. After all, we have one foundation, and that is the rock of Jesus Christ (Matt 7:24-25). The problems sometimes arise because, on this one foundation, we may feel led to build different rooms using varied materials.

Your approach to discipleship and outreach may not be like mine. You may look at mine and question how it’s built, and I may do the same to you. Your materials may be long lasting, tried and true, firm, solid. Mine may be flexible, slightly unstable, even transparent. Could it be that there’s room for both on the foundation of Christ? Could it be that God is still the builder even when the rooms are so different (Heb 3:4)?

Time passes. Communication changes. Interests come and go. Schedules fill. Priorities shift. Needs ebb and flow. Questions rise and fall. People vary. What attracts one individual to God won’t necessarily attract another individual. Because of this, our methods and approaches must vary. And to me, covering the one foundation with a variety of different rooms makes God’s house so much more beautiful and welcoming.

Discussion

1. Both of today’s Scripture texts refer to construction. In Hebrews, God is the master builder of the house of faith. In Matthew, those who build their homes (or lives) on the rock (or Jesus) will stand firm in storms. How do these metaphors for God’s work in our lives speak to you?
2. In my Bible study class, we expanded the metaphor a bit. We referred to the one foundation of Jesus Christ who serves as the basis for many beautiful rooms—that is, varied methods of reaching people for Christ. What do you think of this metaphor?
3. How do you and/or your church approach the calling of making disciples? In what ways have methods of discipleship changed over the years? What do you think of these changes?
4. What is lost if churches move along with the flow of the current culture? What is gained? What is lost if churches remain the same for decades? What is gained?
5. How could we work toward a better balance of tradition with innovation in our faith?

Reference Shelf

Faithfulness is a theme in this section, with the word “faithful” used of Moses (3:2, 5) and of Christ (3:2, 6) and implied in the treatment of the readers (3:6). The faithfulness of Moses and Jesus is spoken of in reference to “God’s house”: “Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son.” The Greek word translated “house” (oikos) is open to different meanings (the created world, God’s heavenly household, the temple, the people of Israel, the Davidic dynasty, Jewish and Christian communities). Both Moses and Christ are faithful in God’s house, but Christ has greater glory, the glory associated with being Son. The faithfulness of Christ has greater significance because it is associated with the sacred community presided over by Christ as the “great high priest.” By v. 6 the referent of “house” is clearly God’s people: “[W]e are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belongs to hope.” From this perspective, Moses was faithful as a servant “to testify to the things that would be spoken of later.” What was future for Moses (as for the angels in 1:14) was a present reality—the final and decisive word of God (see 8:7-13; 10:1; 11:26, 39-40). Different perspectives on the significance of servanthood (whether a servant is viewed positively or negatively) reflect different epochs in the history of salvation. In Numbers 12:7, cited as evidence by the writer, God says Moses is not merely a prophet with whom God communicates in visions and dreams, but that he is a servant with whom God speaks face to face. The term “servant” is used in the book of Numbers, then, in a positive rather than a negative fashion. In Hebrews, however, the term “servant” is used in a disparaging way (“only a servant”).

The different relationships of Moses and Christ to the house of God and the relative significance of the role of Moses as servant become clear as Moses was faithful “in” all God’s house as a servant while Christ was faithful “over” God’s house as a Son. Moses was “in” the community over which Christ presides in the sense that that community extends to the faithful of the past ages who heard the good news (4:2), who exemplified faith (ch. 11), and who are made perfect with the members of the new covenant (11:40). But the Son is “over” the house of God, as he presides over that house in the role of the great high priest.

Edgar McKnight & Christopher Church, Hebrews–James, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2004) 87-88.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters, and watching television shows on Netflix.

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