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Tetelestai (It is Finished) Week 6 Study Guide: The Cross Shaped Community

Community Group Study Guide — Tetelestai (It is Finished): The Cross and Community 
Ephesians 2:13-16

Study Information:
In our series on the atonement we’ve mostly emphasized what God has done for individuals through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but the scripture also emphasizes how the cross shapes the community of the church. One such passage is Ephesians 2:13-16. Paul focused beautifully on how we’re saved by faith and united to Christ in Ephesians 2:1-10 but then shifted to how the cross shapes relationships among the people of God in Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul said that the cross brought down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, God made one new humanity in the place of two, Christ himself became our peace and we corporately are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.

What brings radically different people into community with one another? Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” The cross is the foundation of Christian unity and a pathway of reconciliation between people who would normally be distant or even enemies.

This study guide will survey a few passages that help us see how the cross shapes Christian community in the local church. 

A Humble Community
Philippians 2:3-8
Our humility and concern for others is anchored to the cross. Paul admonished the church to pursue humility by denying selfish ambition and considering the interest of others. This is a challenge for many of us because our sin nature and the world around us emphasizes our needs and our desires at the expense of others. Being part of a church is not only about what you receive and how you can grow, but also about how you can contribute and build up others. How does someone become selfless and able to actually consider the interests of others? That comes from looking to Jesus and by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:5 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” This command was not given to individuals but to the church as a whole; Paul said “you all should think this way as a group.” It is easier and easier to look out for the interests of others when you’re part of a family or group that does that. You have less compulsion to hoard or look out for your own needs if you can be confident that others will be looking out for you. But ultimately, this happens more and more as we grow in Christ because the cross modeled humility for us to follow. Jesus did not use his power to stay far from the people he saved. He drew near to them and considered their interests over his own. Paul emphasized four downward steps of humility in Jesus. First, God the Son took on a human nature. Second, he took on the form of a servant, meaning he was born into an obscure and poor family and lived a life to help others. Third, Jesus choose the path of self-sacrifice in his death. Finally, dying on the cross was a mark of humility because of how much shame was associated with that manner of death. The implication is that as we live like Jesus we will grow more and more humble as individuals and as a church. 

A Forgiving Community
Colossians 3:12-17
A truly Christian community can forgive one another because God in Christ has forgiven us (Col 3:13). We can be tempted to withhold forgiveness from others because we somehow think that they may not deserve it or it is our only way to get back at them or maybe we’ve been hurt so much it is hard to let go. Yet as you look to the cross you see that God forgave when we did not deserve it, that forgiveness became a pathway for freedom from judgement and wrath, and that our forgiveness cost Jesus his life. 

Being in a Christian community means learning how to respond when others sin against you. Of all people we should be the most aware of the presence of sin in the world. We should have good boundaries and measures to protect people from harm. Yet, we know from living in families and with friends that every relationship is imperfect and will require that we over look offenses or offer forgiveness when wrong has been done. What do you do when someone sins against you? Are you surprised? Do you get back at them? Do you judge their motives? Are you tempted to hold it against them? Are you quick to overlook an offense? The cross shaped community is empowered by the grace of God to bear with one another in love, to forgive each other, and to let God’s peace rule in our hearts. This is exceedingly difficult and forgiveness does not mean that consequences are ignored or that trust is fully restored, it just means that you no longer hold a debt against the other person. This is not a “try harder” area, but we may have to walk in faith believing that God will equip us to forgive and pursue peace when we do not think we have the strength, and that God’s grace and the example of Jesus empowers us to do it.

An Evangelistic Community
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
As Christ reconciled us to God so too we go out to help others be restored to God. Paul described the church community as ambassadors for God who makes an appeal through us (2 Cor 5:20). You will not know what to say all the time or how to argue against people’s views of science and philosophy, but that is not the point. We can often use that as a smokescreen objection to get out of having to think about sharing our faith. But, look at how great this news is! God has entrusted to us a message of reconciliation which is a message of hope in a hopeless world (2 Cor 5:19). We are not responsible for the results, we’re only called to be faithful with that message of hope. Reconciliation is the message of the gospel, that through faith people can be restored to God and not have their sins counted against them because Jesus took those sins to the cross. We can be an evangelistic community by praying for opportunity, having courage to speak when opportunity comes up and by reminding ourselves that we represent God. Paul calls the church “ambassadors.” Ambassadors are people who represent their government or organization in a place that is not their own. Ambassadors in our world go off to far off kingdoms, countries and companies to advocate on behalf of who they represent. In Christ we are now citizens of heaven and act as ambassadors here and now to reflect God. As you pray for opportunity and courageously share the good news of reconciliation, also give careful consideration to how your life reflect God, do your actions and values and use of time reflect God and his ways? 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

What are some reason that how we live with one another in the church is connected to the cross? Another way to think of this question is, why do the Biblical authors connect these commands to the cross rather than just saying “hey do this?”

Read Ephesians 2:13-16. How does the cross remove hostility and division between different groups of people. 

When it comes to humility, why is it easier to look out for our own interests and needs? How does being part of a loving and selfless church help you to no longer feel like you have to look out just for yourself?

What does it mean to be an ambassador? How does God use us today to be ambassadors and what are some ways you’re growing in that area?