Summary: Lessons from the church at Antioch

Acts 11b - The Church at Antioch - 4/23/17

Turn with me this morning to Acts chapter 11. We are going to pick up today with where we left off three weeks ago. We took the last two weeks to focus on Palm Sunday and Easter, but today we are back in the book of Acts. Remember that Acts is a transitional book, showing us how we went from the disciples and the ministry of Jesus in the gospels to the establishment of the church that we see in the epistles.

We saw in Acts 2, Peter takes the gospel to the Jews in Jerusalem. In Acts 8 Philip takes the gospel to the Samaritans, the half-breed Jews who lived north of Judea, the southern state of which Jerusalem was the capital. In Acts 10, we see Peter bringing the gospel to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile. Today, we see the gospel coming to out and out pagans - Gentiles with NO church background.

The reality is that this is what we often face when we seek to share the gospel, even here in America. A generation ago, most non-Christians at least knew the basic truths of the bible and had grown up spending some time in church. But today we work with, live near, and rub shoulders with people who for lack of a better word are “pagans” - they don’t believe in God, they aren’t religious, they have no church background, they don’t know what the bible says, and frankly they don’t care - they really don’t care about spiritual things.

So as we look at the church at Antioch and what God did there, we can relate well to the context of ministry that is taking place. I’ll begin reading in chapter 11 at verse 19. Read 11:19-30 Pray

Where does this passage fit in? In laying out the story of the spread of the gospel it falls at this very point, but from a timeframe, from a chronological standpoint, it takes place after the events of Acts 8. Remember that God had told the disciples at Jerusalem that they were to be His witnesses throughout the earth. But they all stayed at home and prayed that God would send somebody else to go be His witnesses. And so to get them on the move and to shake them out of the complacency of their comfort zones, God allowed great persecution to come upon the church.

Vs. 19 shows that some of the Jews went their way, sharing the gospel only with other Jews. Why would they do that? Remember that the Jews were largely an isolationistic people. They kept to themselves. They viewed themselves as “God’s chosen people” - “God’s gift to the world” - and they were - but they were God’s gift to bring the light of the knowledge of the one true God to the world. But they failed to live up to their calling. So when these Jews left Jerusalem with the good news of the resurrection, they sought to share it only with other Jews. They really didn’t care about the Gentiles. Sadly, many times we are like these Jews - yes we care about our friends and loved ones being saved - but we really don’t care about anybody else.

But reaching only the ones they cared about - that’s what MOST of them did. But we find the good news here in verse 20. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. So to begin to understand this, let’s look at a map and see where these places are. [show sites on Map]. Antioch is a city in Syria, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. In fact at this time it was the third largest and most important city in the Roman empire, coming after Rome and Alexandria. Cyrene is a city on the Mediterranean Sea in modern day Libya, to the West of Egypt, and Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean west of Syria.

So here are early believers who left town when the persecution began in Jerusalem, and traveled hundreds of miles away. They settle in new homes, and establish themselves in these regions. Yet they leave their homes to undertake a missions trip and come to Antioch, the capital of the Greek province of Syria - a large, pagan, immoral city - and they start telling the good news about Jesus.

Today, I want us to see 5 examples for us that we see in this account of the church at Antioch. And they all start with “L”. The first thing we see is that Antioch was a

• LABORING church - these believers worked hard in sharing the gospel. They left the comfort of their homes and communities, and traveled hundreds of miles away to confront pagans in a very immoral society with the good news of salvation. They worked hard. They labored. They toiled. And God blessed them for their efforts.

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