These Bible studies are designed to use in small groups. They may provide a useful introduction to a meeting where different topics from the Guide are being discussed. Choose a study that will be linked to the topic you plan to study or that is relevant to your situation. During the studies, encourage people to think about what they read, to discuss the meaning and the implications of what they learn and, finally, to pray together about what they have learnt.
BIBLE STUDY 1 Picture 1: a spiritual house
Read 1 Peter 2:4-8. Here Peter uses the first of three pictures to describe the community of Christians. In Jewish culture the cornerstone was the first stone to be laid down and was a large stone at the corner of the building supporting two walls at right angles to each other.
- Discuss the significance of the cornerstone when building a house. In this passage, Jesus is compared to a cornerstone. What is his importance in building our lives?
- How does Peter describe the cornerstone and the temple in this passage?
- What is Peter trying to say about the nature of the Christian Church by using these words?
- Who is the builder? God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or the people?
- What are the characteristics of the ideal church?
BIBLE STUDY 2 Picture 2: a holy and royal priesthood
Read 1 Peter 2:4-9. At the time when Peter was writing, the priests in the Jewish faith acted as go-betweens between God and the people of Israel. They maintained the buildings, took the people’s sacrifices, presented them to God on the altar and gave the people’s tithes to the poor.
- What was the role of the priesthood according to this passage?
- In what ways are the holy priesthood and all Christian believers similar?
- Discuss why Peter says that all believers are ‘royal priests’.
- What are the spiritual sacrifices we are to offer as believers?
BIBLE STUDY 3 Picture 3: a holy nation
Read 1 Peter 2:9-12. Using the term ‘holy nation’ would remind Jewish people of their own history. God had saved the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and taken them to the Promised Land. They were to be the light, or an example, for the Gentiles.
- What do you understand by the term ‘holy nation’? What was the role of Israel towards the Gentiles?
- In what ways is the church different from the world?
- What is the purpose of the church being ‘different’?
After bringing together all the answers and discussion from these three studies, consider the characteristics of: • the ideal church (and compare with our own church situation) • the ideal priesthood of believers (and compare with the situation within our churches) • the ideal nation (and compare with the situation within this country).
BIBLE STUDY 4 The ministry of Jesus: repentance
Read Matthew 3:1-2 and 4:17. Jesus is giving his agreement to the message which John the Baptist had preached.
- Why do you think Jesus is repeating John’s message?
- What was the content of what John the Baptist preached? (Read Luke 3:7-14)
- Which particular sins did John stress needed repentance, if people were to be ready for the kingdom of God? Make a list.
- If John were to preach in our community today, discuss what sins he would stress that people need to repent of. Make a list.
- From what Jesus and John preached, what are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God?
- What challenges does this present to us today?
BIBLE STUDY 5 The ministry of Jesus: healing
Read Matthew 4:12-13, 23-25. Jesus went out to meet with people where they were, in order to do his work.
- What do these verses say about the actions of Jesus?
- What brought so many people coming to hear Jesus?
- What does Jesus’ healing ministry tell us about the kingdom of God?
BIBLE STUDY 6 The ministry of Jesus: compassion
Read Matthew 9:35-38.
- How are the descriptions of Jesus’s work similar in this passage to what is described in Matthew 4:23-25? What new things do we learn about Jesus’ ministry?
- What images does the description, ‘The people were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd,’ (verse 36) mean to you?
- How do we respond when we see people in need? How often do we look to see if someone if in need?
- When we try to help people in need, is our motivation similar or different to that of Jesus?
- Why do we think Jesus’ compassionate response to those in need leads him to say, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are so few’? (verse 37)
After bringing together all the answers and discussion from the three studies above on the ministry of Jesus, consider what we have learned about: • the kingdom of God • how we need to change in order to show more of God’s kingdom in our own lives • how we need to change as a church in order to show more of God’s kingdom.
BIBLE STUDY 7 Salt and light
Read Matthew 5:13-16. This is a passage from Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the mount’.
- What are the natural characteristics and uses of salt?
- What do we think Jesus meant when he said, ‘You are the salt of the earth’? (verse 13)
- If salt loses its taste what is its use – in food and in the spiritual sense?
- What does it mean for the church to be ‘the light of the world’? (verse 14)
- If we are salt and light, what impact should we be having in our community and church?
- What things could we do to have more impact on our community and church?
BIBLE STUDY 8 Servants of the King
Read Matthew 20:20-28. Each of us needs to develop humility and servanthood in our Christian lives. We need to be witnesses by what we do – not just by what we say – even if those all around us act differently.
- Why do you think James, John and their mother asked for a special favour?
- How did Jesus respond to their request? What does this tell us about Jesus’ idea of leadership?
- What impact did this request have on the other disciples? Have there been similar situations within our work or church?
- What kind of leadership does Jesus refer to in verse 28? Is this the model of leadership we have found in our church?
- Discuss what this model of leadership would look like: • in the workplace • in the family • in the church • in the community.
- What are the key characteristics of a servant leader?
- How do both we and our church need to change to reflect more of the servant attitude of Jesus?