Summary: There’s no question—this passage covers one of the most significant events in history. It’s the founding of the first great Gentile church
MAR 24 2013PM God’s Pattern for All Churches
Acts 11: 19-30
There’s no question—this passage covers one of the most significant events in history. It’s the founding of the first great Gentile church. The church was founded under God’s sovereignty, control and will. The church is set forth very simply, yet as a dynamic pattern for all churches and believer to copy.
The bulk of tonight’s passage takes place in Antioch. Antioch was the 3rd greatest city of the Roman world, following only Rome and Alexandria in size and importance. The city had over ½ million citizens. The city was dominated by Greek culture and language but it had a large Syrian and Jewish population. It was tolerant of all religions. But it was the home of the great temple of Daphne, which was the worship of an immoral god. The prophetesses of the temple were sacred prostitutes. (Oxymoron)
Through all that, however, Antioch was important to Christian history. It was the city of the first great Christian church among Gentiles. It was the city and church from which the first worldwide missionaries were sent. Christianity was launched from Antioch through a great mission thrust. Antioch was the church where believers were first called “Christians.”
In verses 19-21 we see the church was born. This tells us what happened to the believers who were forced to flee Jerusalem after the death of Stephen. Saul had launched a persecution against them, trying to stamp out the name of Christ. They were scattered everywhere; Phoenicia, which includes the cities of Tyre and Sidon; Cyprus; and Antioch. But even though they were scattered, they still preached Christ. There wasn’t an area not touched by the gospel. Wherever the believers went, they shared Christ. But the focus is on Antioch.
The church was born through lay believers, through their witnessing. Some believers witnessed to the Jews only, but other believers witnessed to the Gentiles in Antioch.
But the church was really born through the Lord’s hand, by His sovereignty and control. God overruled all the trials and opposition and caused the church to be born. God overruled the persecution. He overruled the fear and trauma of the believers who were having to flee for their lives. God even overruled the pleasure madness and sins of Antioch. He overruled and stirred the believers to witness and preach Christ despite all the trials and opposition. God caused the church to be born.
The result? V. 21. A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. So the first great Gentile church was born.
READ 22-24. Notice that once the church was established, it wasn’t left to fend for itself. The church was followed up and taught. The mother church heard about the witness of the scattered believers. Remember, both the apostles and the first leaders of the church were still in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was still considered the mother church. It was the church that the scattered churches looked to for leadership. And the mother wanted to help the new churches springing up all around.
Along comes Barnabas. The church at Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch. He was sent so that the new churches would have ministerial help, so that they would be encouraged, and so that they could be taught how to survive and grow as a new church. Barnabas was the right person to send. His name means “encouragement.”
He encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
His character was just what it should be. He is described as good, upright, just, moral, honorable, and pleasing to God. He was what he should be inwardly and outwardly. He was full of the HS; conscious and aware of the HS’s presence and power. And to tell you the truth, no minister of the gospel, no disciple of the Lord should be any less than Barnabas. As a result of Barnabas and his encouragement, many were added to the Lord.
Here’s the key. A new church will reach people—in fact, any church will reach people when believers are witnessing faithfully, when churches are showing interest in the witnessing of believers elsewhere, and when disciples and ministers are encouraging and demonstrating such godly character.
READ 25& 26. Now the church seeks additional staff. It was too much for one minister to handle. So Barnabas sought help. The focus in these verses seems to show that Barnabas was the one who realized that more help was needed, but surely the church was bound to have sensed the need for additional staff and given its approval. The need was sensed and the decision was made to seek help.
But who should they get that would qualify to be able to handle the church at Antioch? A unique person was needed, a person who not only had a Jewish background, but who knew the Greek language and culture and could relate to both Gentile and Jew alike. The person also needed to be fearless and bold in his witness for Christ.