Summary: God uses our uniqueness to build his body
“Unity in Diversity”
Intro: Read “First EZ Church”
For many of us, this is our idea of a church. Some of you might have even been scrambling for a pencil to jot down the address. But the truth is, often our churches are not what God designed for them to be. This morning, we want to look at the church at Antioch in the book of Acts, and see the pattern this church left for us to follow.
Read Acts 11:19-30 - Pray
The book of Acts records the start of the early church. It shows the disciples going from huddling together in Jerusalem, to being filled with the Holy Spirit, and taking the good news out to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Here we see the church that got started in Antioch. What can we learn from the church in Antioch?
I. There are lessons for us as individuals.
A. God saves people of all races and backgrounds.
Antioch is a Greek town, north of Damascus. We see it mentioned in Acts 6:5 that one of the first 7 deacons in the church, Nicholas, was from Antioch. As the church at Jerusalem came under persecution, the believers spread through Asia Minor. A group came to Antioch, shared the gospel, and a great number believed. Already in chapter 10 we see that Peter sees the Gentiles converted. When the church at Jerusalem hears about it, they send Barnabas to Antioch to report to them what has happened. he reports back that God’s word has truly changed the hearts of those at Antioch.
Far too often we limit God. We tend to think that God is the God of white-skinned, white-collar, middle class, working Americans. But that is far from the truth. Red, and Yellow, black, and white: Each one is precious in God’s sight. And we need to be praying for all to come to faith in Christ. Next week is a special speaker, Doug Johnson, who will be sharing with us how God is at work throughout the world bringing people to himself.
Do you work with someone of a different nationality? Tell them about Christ. Do you have a neighbor who has a different skin color? They need to trust in Christ too! Let’s learn from the church at Antioch that each person is precious to the Lord.
B. God uses individual’s spiritual gifts to build up the church.
Who is it that the church at Jerusalem sends to Antioch? Barnabas. Now, who is that?
Back in Acts 4 we see Joseph from Cyprus coming and selling a field and giving the money to the church. What an encouragement he was. So much so, that everyone started calling him Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement”. He was one who was blessed with the ability to encourage others.
When the Christian-killer Saul of Tarsus is converted, he goes to Jerusalem, but no one wants to go near him. Who ends up befriending him? Barnabas, the encourager. He brings him to the disciples, and a great many are converted through Saul, now called Paul, and his ministry.
So, what does Barnabas do when he comes to Antioch. Look at verse 23 - When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. Even here among the new believers he uses his gift on encouragement.
We see later, when Barnabas and Paul are traveling, the question arises over whether to give John Mark another chance. After all, he let them down once. What does Barnabas do? He offers encouragement to Mark and takes him along with him.
What is it that God has prepared you do do in ministry? We are reminded that each of us has something we can offer in service to the Lord. Some can teach, some can preach. But God uses some to give, some to offer encouragement, some to make phone calls to pray with others. And each of our gifts are important in the body. Let’s remember that each of us has something to do.
We also learn from the church at Antioch that
C. We work together in building up the church.
Barnabas is an encourager. He comes, sees what God has done, and offers encouragement. Yet, he sees the new believers need to grow. So in verse 25 we see him leaving to go to Tarsus to find Paul. Acts 9:22 tells us that Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. Galatians 1 tells us Paul was personally taught by Christ. What a powerful partner in ministry. Barnabas leaves Antioch to go find Paul and bring him back. Together they spend the next year building up the people there.