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The Church in Antioch

(Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3)

Lesson 9 -- second quarter 2001
April 29, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications

God isn't stuck in a rut!

I like to break molds. Paradoxically enough, though, I also tend toward living life cheerfully in my own comfortable grooves and ruts. I find one way of doing something, and that's how I continue to do it. The one way needn't be the best or most logical way, but it continues to be the way I do it. I shave in a certain pattern, I drive to church via a certain route, and I eat my bread a particular way. Predictable but, as I said, comfortable.

While God is a God of order and design, today's lesson text illustrates again that He does not do His work in a single, lock-step fashion. Notice how He used various ways to get His people out where they could spread the Gospel.

Persecution scattering. This one we already noticed in a previous lesson. Now in Acts 11:19,20 we observe again how God's people, even when fleeing persecution, continued to preach the word of the Lord Jesus. It seems most of them limited themselves to preaching to Jews only (at least in the initial stages), though some of them were notable for giving the message to non-Jews also. Lesson for us: Should persecution drive us from our home communities, let's not leave the message of the Gospel behind or under wraps!

The church sending. Word eventually got back to Jerusalem that these scattered believers were successfully scattering the Gospel with them. The Jerusalem church heard the news that "a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" (Acts 11:21), so they responded by sending Barnabas "as far as Antioch" (Acts 11:22). The church sent the "son of consolation" on a mission of encouragement and edification. Lesson for us: When the church determines we are the ones to do a given task, let's do it in the name of the Lord Who sends us!

Leaders calling. Saul was in his home town of Tarsus; why we do not know. It is possible persecution drove him there, just as it is possible the church sent him there. But we don't know. We do know that Barnabas left Antioch and headed for "Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch" (Acts 11:25,26). Barnabas had seen that Saul was needed in Antioch, so he saw to it that Paul got there. Lesson for us: If someone in the Lord's service sees a role for us there, let us not despise the call and the opportunity just because it didn't come through some board or committee.

The Spirit choosing. In an unmistakable sense, the Spirit does the calling the previous two categories mentioned. In Acts 13:1,2, though, we see a specific mention of the Holy Ghost Himself calling out those whom He would send. Whether the Spirit spoke to them audibly or in their spirits really does not matter. The critical thing here is that He told them clearly and specifically what they were to do. And they did it...promptly. Lesson for us: When the Spirit confirms His calling in our hearts and in the hearts of others, let's be prompt to do His bidding.

Our mission to new Christians

The mission of the Church with the Gospel far exceeds the initial proclamation. And it goes way beyond the successful claiming of another soul for Christ. Our mission includes discipling and encouraging new believers. Sometimes those new believers are folks who came to Jesus before we arrived on the scene. Do you not see that in today's lesson? My friend, did you know that we and our congregations have some wide open doors to minister to other believers, new and otherwise? God forbid we turn our hearts from such calls!

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