Huddles: November 6, 2019

Togetherness is God’s Plan

 

Basic Instructions

Below is the plan for you to follow as you lead out this study. At the end of this post we have attached the full curriculum that includes some very helpful Bible background and commentary to help you as you prepare to lead. Our prayer for you is that the Lord will bring this Scripture to life in your life and that your leading will be an overflow from that! Let us know if you have any questions.

The Main Idea

The main point in this lesson is to look at how powerfully Paul talks about the unity that is made possible to all who come to saving faith in Jesus. By highlighting the traditional cultural differences between the Jews and Gentiles, Paul shines a spotlight on just how remarkable the unifying work of the Gospel is. The blood of Christ wasn’t just shed for God’s chosen people, the Israelites. It was for all people. And through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, all people are welcomed into one family: the Church.

The Lead In

FIRST, explain to your students that in this activity, you’re going to start by examining some groups of people who have traditionally been opposed to one another. Give a few examples of groups who don’t see eye-to-eye. Explain that there is some divisiveness in the group. Your job is to try and define exactly WHY there is disagreement.

Some examples of groups that oppose each other:

  • Cat people vs Dog people, Pepperoni vs Cheese pizza, toilet paper goes over vs toilet paper goes under, etc. You may have students come up with their own examples.

Ask students to consider your first group of opposed sides, “Cat people” vs “Dog people.” Ask students to raise their hand with which group they would identify with. Then, lead a discussion where students attempt to pinpoint exactly why there two groups are opposed to each other. Next, proceed in this exact same manner for the other examples.

When you are finished, begin transitioning to the Digging In section by saying something like this:

  • As you might have guessed by now, we’re going to be spending our time together talking about the concept of togetherness. There is a lot of “un-togetherness” in our world today, isn’t there? We’re going to see over the next few sessions that while there will always be discord outside of the church, God has created the Church as a place where there is great unity, great togetherness. Let’s dig into Scripture and see where we see some of this talked about.

Digging In

FIRST, give your students some context for the verse in Ephesians they are about to read. Explain that the book of Ephesians was written by Paul to the church in Ephesus. Paul had a very close relationships with the church in Ephesus. The letter covers general teaching on the work of Christ to redeem believers, unity among believers, and how believers are supposed to conduct themselves. Then, say something like this:

  • When we think about the Bible and what we know about culture in that time, there were two groups of people who were about as different as you could imagine: God’s chosen people, the Jews, and non-Jews, what the Bible calls Gentiles. Let’s take a second, and using what you’ve heard or studied before, let’s see if we can come up with some reasons why Jews and Gentiles were so different from one another.

Lead your group in a brief discussion about the differences between Jews and Gentiles. Encourage them to write their answers down as you will have the option to refer to it again. See if you can pull responses out of the students, even if they are not perfectly correct. Use the list below to help you guide and correct as needed:

  • Jews believed in one, true God. Most Gentiles, if they were religious at all, believed in multiple gods. 
  • Jews celebrated the festivals called for by the Law, such as Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, etc. These were all commanded by God in the Old Testament to be celebrated.
  • There were dietary restrictions that Jews followed that Gentiles didn’t.
  • Other cultural issues included the Jews approach to sex and sexuality, worship, and so on. 

Make sure students grasp that these differences, and more, created a really profound difference between Jew and Gentile. It’s actually hard for us to grasp just how pervasive it was. When you think you’ve made the point, begin to transition to the Bible Study. Encourage students to look out for the impact the Gospel had on the difference between Jew and Gentile.

THEN, have students turn to Ephesians 2. Have a volunteer read verses 11-12. Then, lead them in a short discussion of the text. Ask:

  • Paul, a Jew, used five phrases to describe what the life of a Gentile was apart from Christ. Can you spot them?
    • Answer: “separated from Christ,” “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel,” “strangers to the covenants of promise,” “having no hope,” and “without God in the world.”
  • How would you sum up the Gentiles condition based on these descriptions?
    • Answer: Not good! Pretty hopeless.
  • Remember, we’re talking about the differences that divided Jews and Gentiles. Why would these same descriptions not be accurate for the Jews?
    • Answer: The Jews were God’s chosen people. God “created” the nation of Israel out of the promise He made to Abraham (Abram). God faithfully kept His covenant promise throughout the history of the Old Testament. God’s plan of salvation in the Old Testament came through the Jewish nation. And while this doesn’t mean all Jews were automatically “saved,” it did mean that the message of salvation came through God’s people.
  • Knowing that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that there were thousands of years of animosity between Jews and Gentiles, how might some Jews have been tempted to view Gentiles, especially Gentile Christians? 
    • Answers will vary. Point them back to Paul’s description. Make sure to enforce the fact that culturally, there could still be a big rift between Jews and Gentiles, even within the church.

Explain to students that we can point to the reasons for the potential distance between Jews and Gentiles, and the differences this distance could create. It’s no surprise given the history of Israel, their special place with God, and the fact that Christianity was really just coming into its own. But explain that what they are about to read speaks to the unifying power of the Gospel.

NEXT, have a volunteer read verses 13-18. When you have finished lead students in a brief discussion. Ask:

  • What is the visual Paul paints in verse 13? Can you see the picture in your mind?
    • Answer: Paul is helping us see that when Gentiles come to faith in Jesus, it is as if they were standing far apart from God and were suddenly brought very near.
  • What is the means of the Gentiles being brought close to God? And what exactly is Paul describing here?
    • Answer: Saving faith in Jesus’ death on the cross made salvation available to the Gentiles in Ephesus. (And everywhere else, for that matter!)
  • Look at verses 14-15. Paul says that Jesus is the peace this world needs and that Jesus tore down the wall of hostility that divided Jews and Gentiles. One author has said that through Jesus, God made peace both “horizontal and vertical.”  What do you think this means? 
    • Answer: Through Jesus, God not only made peace between Jews and Gentiles (horizontal), He made peace between humankind and Himself (vertical).
  • Think about what we just talked about, how there were very real differences between Jews and Gentiles. Look at the end of verse 15. What did Jesus do to these two different people groups? 
    • Answer: He unified them! He made one “man” out of “two.”
  • This is important, so important we’ll ask it again. Look at verse 16. What was the means Jesus used to accomplish His mighty work of unity?
    • Answer: The cross.

Take a moment and really drive this point home. Through His death on the cross, Jesus put to death the division that was inherent in the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. This may seem insignificant today, but it’s anything but. Say something like:

  • The Gospel was always intended for Jews and Gentiles alike. Always. But God had a plan, and that plan had a certain timetable. Jesus was always the Messiah who would be born as a Jew into the Jewish context and culture. But the transforming message of His love was always meant for all people. What Paul was helping his audience see was that the time had come. The time for division in the family of God was over. The Gospel message of reconciliation with God was for all people. Let’s see how Paul talks about this. 

THEN, have a student read verses 19-22. When he or she has finished, ask:

  • Whoa. Don’t miss this. We just said that through Jesus, God crushed any hate between the Jews and Gentiles. But this seems to take it a step further. What does Paul say about the new identity made possible to Gentiles through Jesus’ death on the cross?
    • Answer: Not only is there no longer any division, but the Gentiles, who were once strangers are now welcomed members of the family of God. They have been adopted. Through saving faith in Jesus, they have become children of God.
  • Finally, Paul does something really cool. He teaches his audience about the Church, the people of God, using a metaphor. What metaphor, or word picture, does he use to describe the Church?
    • Answer: Paul says that the growing number of Christ-followers are like a building being built, a temple, where the foundation is all who came before, and where Jesus is the cornerstone. Paul says we are like the bricks of the walls, all joining together to become a mighty dwelling place for God.

FINALLY, encourage your students to begin to tie this all together. Say/ask:

  • Let’s think about this for a moment. Look back over at the way Paul described the Gentiles apart from Christ. Read those descriptions out loud. Now, compare those to the way Paul has just been talking about the Gentiles. There’s a pretty big difference isn’t there? Paul helps us see that within the body of people who have come to saving faith in Jesus, there is no room for division or hostility. Why? Because Jesus has destroyed all the reasons that might divide us. This is all because of the power of the Gospel. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, there a way was made for sin to no longer divide us and God, or us and others. Those who come to saving faith in Christ join a community, a family, of people who have also been brought near to Jesus. It is what true togetherness is all about. Let’s spend another moment thinking about how this impacts our lives. 

If there are no questions or additional points to be made, transition to the Wrapping Up section of your lesson.

Last Word & Application

FIRST, ask students to consider for a moment some of the different categories or issues that divide people in our culture. Students will come up with a list that may vary, but help them see that divisions like race, ethnicity, gender, income level, and geography (where we live or are from) are some of the most divisive issues facing our culture. Guide them in fleshing out a list that helps them see some of the big-picture issues that divide people.

NEXT, bring it a little closer to home. Ask students for their thoughts on the types of issues or categories that divide people in their schools. Some of these will be the same as your previous list, though some may be different.

THEN, say something like the following:

  • If you’re paying attention to the world around you, you’ve noticed the issues and divisions that come between various people. Many of the kinds of divisions we just mentioned are wrong. When we see categories like race and ethnicity, for example, used to discriminate against or divide people, that goes against God’s will for His people. But there are many aspects of the world that go against God’s ways. While it’s still tough to watch, it’s not surprising when people who don’t know God don’t act in godly ways. The real issue for us is when we see divisions in the church. What we’ve learned today is that God came to bridge the gaps of difference that can sometimes separate us. Jesus came to bring about a spirit of togetherness. That’s His plan for His people. 

Now, lead students in a brief discussion:

  • If you were completely honest, would you say there are divisions in your youth group?
    • Answers will vary.
  • If there are divisions, how do they make you feel? If you don’t feel like there are significant divisions, why do you think this is so? 
    • Answers will vary.
  • Whether there are divisions or not, it is clear that as a local church, and as a youth group, we are called to be united by our faith in Jesus. We’re all members of one family. Can you come up with a few practical things that our youth group can do to grow closer together?
    • Answers will vary.

FINALLY, challenge students to begin to see their youth group, their local church, and the “big C” Church, the global body of believers in Jesus, as a big family. (That’s exactly how God describes it!) Like any family, we won’t always get along. But there is an underlying bond of love, the love for Jesus and the love for others Jesus births in us, that unites us. Encourage them to let this concept sink in and impact how they view their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ask students if they have any questions or additional comments. If there are no more questions, close in prayer for your group.


Click here to access the full lesson!