Exploring Grace in Community: Bible Study Part 10

Bible Study About Grace: Part 10 – Grace in Community

Pastor Duke Taber

Updated on:

Spread the love

Introduction

Throughout our study on grace, we have primarily focused on the vertical dimension – how grace impacts our relationship with God. We’ve seen how grace saves us, sanctifies us, sustains us in suffering, and gives us hope for the future. But grace also has a significant horizontal dimension – it profoundly impacts our relationships with others, particularly within the Christian community.

The Church is not just a collection of individuals who happen to believe the same things. It is a community knit together by the grace of God, a family of faith called to reflect the love and unity of the Triune God. In this study, we will explore how grace shapes and empowers our relationships within the body of Christ, fostering forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

Reflect:

  • Why do you think community is important in the Christian life?
  • How have you experienced the impact of grace (or the lack thereof) in your relationships with other believers?
Bible Study About Grace: Part 10 - Grace in Community

For You or Your Church!

A 13-week Grace Bible study course perfect for Mid-Week services, home groups, or personal growth!

Grace and Unity

One of the primary ways grace impacts Christian community is by creating and sustaining unity. In Ephesians, Paul presents a profound vision of the Church as a new humanity created in Christ to showcase God’s wisdom and grace. Central to this vision is the unity of believers, particularly the unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Paul writes that Christ “himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). Through His death on the cross, Jesus has reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body (Ephesians 2:16). This unity is not based on cultural, ethnic, or social similarities, but on the shared experience of God’s grace in Christ.

Moreover, this unity is to be actively maintained by the Church. As Paul exhorts in Ephesians 4:3, we are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This involves humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) – all qualities that require God’s grace to put into practice.

The goal of this unity is that we would all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:13), growing together into maturity in Christ. When the Church is united, it reflects the unity of the Triune God and serves as a powerful witness to the world.

Key Verses:

  • “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
  • “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

Reflect:

  • Why is unity so important in the body of Christ? What does it communicate about God?
  • What are some practical ways you can contribute to the unity of your church community?

Grace and Forgiveness

Another critical way grace shapes Christian community is by empowering forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the very heart of the gospel – we have been forgiven a debt we could never pay through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. This vertical forgiveness from God then flows horizontally into our relationships with others.

Jesus Himself emphasizes the link between receiving God’s forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. In the Lord’s Prayer, He teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). After the prayer, He elaborates, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15).

This can be a challenging teaching, especially when the hurt is deep. But it’s important to understand that forgiveness is not minimizing the offense, excusing the behavior, or necessarily restoring trust. Rather, it is a choice to release the offender from the debt of their sin against us, to not seek vengeance or hold on to bitterness. It is an act of grace, modeled after the infinitely greater grace we have received from God.

Paul captures this well in his letter to the Ephesians: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32). Our forgiveness of others is to be patterned after God’s forgiveness of us in Christ – unconditional, unmerited, and complete.

When grace enables forgiveness in Christian community, it prevents bitterness from taking root, allows for healing and reconciliation, and showcases the transforming power of the gospel.

Key Verses:

  • “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

Reflect:

  • Why is forgiveness so central to Christian community? What happens when unforgiveness prevails?
  • Is there anyone you need to extend forgiveness to? How can God’s grace empower you to do this?

Grace and Serving

Grace also transforms the way we serve one another in Christian community. It shifts our motivation from duty or self-interest to love and gratitude. When we truly grasp the depth of God’s grace towards us, it naturally flows out in service to others.

This is beautifully illustrated in the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet in John 13. This act of humble service was shocking to the disciples, as foot washing was considered a task for the lowest of servants. But Jesus explained, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15). Jesus’ service was an expression of His love and a model for how His followers are to serve one another.

Paul picks up on this theme in his letters, frequently connecting God’s grace with our service. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, he attributes his own ministry to the grace of God: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” God’s grace is not just for our personal benefit, but to equip us to serve others.

Moreover, our service is to be an expression of the gifts God has graciously given us. As Peter writes, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). Each believer has been gifted by God’s Spirit for the purpose of building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7).

When grace is the foundation of our service, it prevents pride and competition. We recognize that our abilities are gifts from God, not grounds for boasting. And we use these gifts not for self-promotion, but for the good of others and the glory of God.

Key Verses:

  • “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Reflect:

  • How does the grace you’ve received from God motivate you to serve others?
  • What gifts has God given you to serve the body of Christ? How are you using these gifts?

Grace and Love

Ultimately, the grace we experience vertically from God is meant to flow horizontally in love for one another. As John writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The love we extend to others in the Christian community is to be a reflection of the love we have received from God.

This love is not just a feeling, but a choice and a commitment. It is the agape love that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13 – patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way, not irritable or resentful, rejoicing with the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This kind of love is only possible by the grace of God working in us.

Moreover, this love is the identifying mark of the Christian community. Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). When believers love each other with the love of Christ, it is a powerful witness to the world.

This love is not just for those who are easy to love, but for all, including those who may be difficult or different from us. As Paul writes in Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The grace we have received in Christ breaks down barriers and enables us to love across differences.

Importantly, this love is not just theoretical, but practical. It involves meeting the real needs of our brothers and sisters. As John puts it, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18).

Key Verses:

  • “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
  • “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

Reflect:

  • How have you experienced the love of Christ through other believers? How has this impacted you?
  • In what practical ways can you demonstrate love to your Christian community this week?

Grace and Accountability

While grace fosters unity, forgiveness, service, and love in Christian community, it does not eliminate the need for accountability. In fact, grace provides the very foundation for healthy, biblical accountability among believers.

The New Testament is clear that we have a responsibility to hold one another accountable, particularly in regards to sin. As James writes, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20).

However, this accountability is always to be carried out with the goal of restoration, not condemnation. As Paul instructs the Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1). The grace we have received should make us humble and gentle in our approach to others’ sins.

Moreover, accountability in Christian community is mutual. We are all susceptible to sin and self-deception, so we need one another to help us stay on track. As the author of Hebrews exhorts, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

When grace is the foundation of our accountability, it creates a safe space for confession, repentance, and growth. We can be honest about our struggles, knowing that we will be met with compassion and support, not judgment and rejection. And we can challenge one another to grow in holiness, not to earn God’s favor, but as a response to the grace we’ve already received.

Key Verses:

  • “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a)
  • “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Reflect:

  • Why is accountability important in Christian community? What happens when it’s absent?
  • How can you cultivate relationships of grace-based accountability in your life?

Conclusion

As we’ve seen throughout this study, grace has a profound impact on Christian community. It is the basis for our unity, the power for our forgiveness, the motivation for our service, the model for our love, and the foundation for our accountability.

When grace is at the center of our relationships, it transforms the way we interact with one another. It breaks down barriers, heals wounds, and enables us to love as Christ has loved us. It frees us to be honest about our struggles and failures, knowing that we will be met with compassion and support. And it empowers us to spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

Ultimately, a community shaped by grace is a powerful witness to the world. It showcases the reality of the gospel – that God’s love and forgiveness are available to all through Christ. It demonstrates that the gospel doesn’t just save us individually, but binds us together as a new humanity, a family of faith.

As we seek to live out the reality of grace in our Christian communities, let us draw continually from the infinite well of God’s grace. Let us extend to others the same mercy, forgiveness, and love that we have received. And let us do all things for the glory of the God of all grace.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Reflect:

  • Take a moment to thank God for the gift of Christian community. Ask Him to help your church be a place where His grace is vividly displayed.
  • Is there a relationship in your Christian community that needs the touch of grace right now? How can you extend forgiveness, love, or accountability in a way that reflects the grace you’ve received?
  • How can you contribute to making your church a community that is known for its grace? What is one practical step you can take this week?

Was This Bible Study Helpful?

You can access the entire study for your church, home group, or personal enrichment with copyright permission to print out as many copies as you want for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

The complete study is available in printable PDF format. Learn more about the entire Grace Bible Study Lessons Here.


Spread the love

Leave a Comment

You cannot copy content of this page