ANTIOCH: A MODEL CHURCH
INTRO: Any search for a model Church must inevitably begin in the New Testament. Generally speaking, the Jerusalem Church is considered the first Church, and we are indebted to it for many reasons. The influence of the Church in Jerusalem waned, however, and the Church at Antioch became the focal point for world evangelism.
Now a poor Turkish town of about 6,000 inhabitants, it was once a splendid city, the third largest in the Roman Empire. It was an intellectual, cultural, and commercial center of the ancient world. The vary name Christian came from the Christlike living of those followers of the Lord at Antioch. The name, however, was not the notable thing about this Church. The characteristics of this Church make it a model Church for every generation.
I. THIS CHURCH WAS INTENSELY EVANGELISTIC.
Everyone preached the gospel at Antioch. According to Acts 8:1, 4 everyone preached the gospel except the apostles, who had stayed in Jerusalem. Our accepted pattern of evangelism is just the opposite—the professionals preach and everyone else does little or nothing.
In addition, they preached the gospel to everyone. Unlike the Church at Jerusalem, where everyone became a Jew before becoming a Christian, this Church took the gospel to the heathen world, establishing the basic N. T. principle that salvation is by grace through faith through Jesus Christ alone.
ILLUS: If you stood on a street corner and preached in Japan, 19 out of 20 people will have never heard of Jesus and will not even know there is a living God. It’s a rare thing to run into a Christian!
Although the command to take the gospel to “all people everywhere” is nearly 2,000 years old, the majority of the people on our earth have still not heard about Jesus.
II. THIS CHURCH WAS INHERENTLY MISSIONARY.
They were the product of missions. According to Acts 13:1-4, they had a diversified membership. God used this Church as the springboard for world missions. Two men set off on a journey that was to encompass their world—and the journey has never ended! I am sure there was protest about the Gentiles already having their religion, about the needs right there in Antioch, about getting their own Church strong and viable.
Nevertheless, they were obedient to their commission, and, utilizing the best knowledge available, they took advantage of every opportunity presented to them by the Holy Spirit.
ILLUS: Missionary Larry Cox of Burkina Faso tells of going out one Sunday morning with time only to visit two Churches. A runner came from the second Church just as he was leaving the first, telling him that people had been waiting there for over two hours to hear the gospel preached. People had gathered at a third Church hoping he could stop to preach but there was no time. He reported: “They left after singing and praying; they had nobody who could read the Bible.” How long must they wait?
God’s love is not just an emotion but a practical reality. It is not just a tingling sensation but a real commitment. The goal of God’s love is not selfish enjoyment but sacrificial involvement. To enjoy God’s love is the reason for grace. To share the love of God is the result of grace.
Thus, to be Christian is to be missionary. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE SOMEONE WENT OUT FROM THIS CHURCH AS A MISSIONARY?
III. THIS CHURCH WAS INORDINATELY GENEROUS.
The word inordinate implies “beyond reasonable limits.” One of their number, a prophet by the name of Agabus, predicted a famine (v. 28). With the leadership of Saul, they contributed according to their ability; and with this money, they purchased supplies and sent them to Jerusalem by Barnabas and Saul. They paid back the suspicion of Christians in Jerusalem with real Christian love.
The roller-coaster effect of economies all over the world has had a serious effect on missions all over the world. In effect, if we are not keeping up with inflation, we are going backward in our work. The net effect of this is that, while opportunity is increasing to share the gospel, we have less and less money with which to do the job. The only answer is a deeper commitment to missions matched by greater giving.
ILLUS: A surgeon at the Baptist Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, talked realistically about economizing. The minimum daily wage there is less than the hourly wage here in our country. He said: “We discovered a long time ago that you could sew up people with nylon fishing line. I found that I can close 100 bellies with 25¢ (worth) of it.” That’s making our mission money go a long way!
CONC: The record reveals God blessed this Church and, through its ministry, the whole world. What a model for us today.