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Public Reading of Scripture [Acts 11:19-30]
Introduction to Text
What is “the grace of God”?
The grace of God is the favor of God.
The blessing of God.
The gift of God.
And this grace of God is observable!
You can see it!
You can see where God is doing a work that only God can do!
Where is the grace of God most visible to the world?
The grace of God is most visible to the world as it is seen in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Not the church as an organization, but the church as an organism — The body of people who are collectively known as followers of Jesus, who have been recipients of God’s saving grace, and make the grace of God visible to the world!
Barnabas saw the grace of God, and he saw God’s grace in the salvation that came to a city named Antioch, in a church that the Lord was planting as the message of Jesus was preached there.
Antioch was a strategic city, and in Antioch God planted a strategic church!
How does a church make the grace of God visible to the world?
How is a church known as a place where God is working?
What can we learn by observing the way God worked in and through the planting of the church in Antioch?
I. Evangelizing (Acts 11:19-21)
Acts 11:19 shows the grace of God in first getting people to Antioch!
The Lord is continuing a work that began with Stephen.
A work that saw the Hellenists, the Greeks, being cared for and ministered to, not only the Jews.
Stephen is mentioned yet again, to remind us that what God begins in Jesus Christ, God will complete in Him.
Stephen was murdered because of his testimony about Jesus, but his murder was not in vain.
The persecution that arose because of Stephen became a missions-sending force, because as the people scattered, they scattered the word of God wherever they went!
This persecution was a way of God mobilizing His people, and thereby mobilizing the Gospel.
By this time, they travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch.
Antioch was a city in Syria about 300 miles away from Jerusalem.
Rome was the largest city at the time.
Alexandria was the second largest.
Then, there was Antioch, which gives an idea of how important of a city it was then.
Like many big cities, Antioch was well connected for travel, which made its population very diverse culturally, which also brought a multitude of religions to Antioch.
For the same reasons that the Gospel could easily enter Antioch, made it a perfect place to plant a church and send the Gospel out of Antioch!
The Church in Antioch was formed as a result of evangelism.
It wasn’t that these who scattered moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and started a new church there.
It wasn’t that the Jerusalem church created a new evangelism program and sent them out for this purpose.
They evangelized — a word that means “they proclaimed the good news” — and they did it as they went, naturally.
Because that is what followers of Jesus do!
They “go into all the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything Jesus commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This evangelism is the work of “going” — as you go, making Jesus known.
First, verse 19 tells us, they were proclaiming the gospel only to Jews.
Making Jesus known as the Christ, the Messiah!
And this was a natural thing to do, for there was a large Jewish population in Antioch, and those that were forced out of Jerusalem who were Jews would naturally speak with other Jews about Jesus — but their witness was limited only to Jews.
There is a hint of disapproval in verse 19 as the text highlights that they spoke the word to “no one except Jews.”
But Jesus is opening the eyes of his disciples to know that salvation is for more than the Jews, but for all people who would believe in Him.
Some who were Greeks, from Cyprus and Cyrene, spoke to the Greeks also.
And they spoke about Jesus in a way the Greeks could understand — calling Jesus “Lord.”
The Jews understood the word Messiah, or Christ — the Greeks understood the word “Lord.”
The method of speaking about Jesus was adapted to the audience.
Believing that Jesus is Lord is the basic statement of faith.
Believing that Jesus is “Lord” means that Jesus is divine — that Jesus is God in human flesh (Allen Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory).
Notice that these men are not named.
They do not receive any recognition for what they have done by name.
They were like us, ordinary people, but God used them in an an extraordinary way.
They were not seeking to make much of themselves, but to make much of the “Lord Jesus.”
A song by Kari Jobe captures this motive well, a song called “The Cause of Christ.”
It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother's eye
I pray it's said about my life
That I lived more to build Your name than mine
God approved of what these men did.
Not speaking of Jesus only to the Jews, but speaking also to the Greeks.
And God graced them with his hand.
The “hand of the Lord” is a reference not only to the approval and presence of the Lord, but also to the power of the Lord.
The LORD brought Israel out of Egypt with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders.”
(Deut 26:8).
The hand of the Lord brought power to the word of their testimony about Jesus, and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.
Turning to the Lord means turning away from self and all that is not God--Turning away from the idols and false religions to Jesus as Lord.
It is like a magnet that turns and attracts metal pieces to it.
Believing is not merely agreeing with the testimony of Jesus, but believing translates into a turning to the Lord.
Many people say they believe in Jesus, but they have not turned to the Lord.
Perhaps we should be careful when we use that word “believers” only to describe those who are in Christ.
Believing that Jesus is Lord believes that God raised Jesus from the dead in power, and believes that same power dwells in you by the Holy Spirit, so that you are empowered to turn to the Lord, and follow Him, and worship Him and make His grace known.
This believing and turning is a response to the gospel message.
How can we be a church with an effective gospel witness?
How can we be a church that God blesses?
It is not something we can program or manufacture.
Everything that happened so far in the gospel advancing to Antioch was completely out of the disciples’ control.
David Garland points out that:
“the sudden coming of the Spirit, the hostile persecution, the angel’s appearance to a gentile centurion” (Cornelius) was all out of the believer’s control.
Just like the Christian message being spread through unnamed, individual Christians traveling across the Roman empire and sharing the Gospel in natural, informal ways.
“The church experienced amazing growth without the benefit of impressive buildings or programs and while experiencing harsh persecution.
We can learn from their example.
The church grows when every believer becomes a gospel-teller.”
(Teaching the Text).
This was the grace of God evident in the evangelism of the disciples as they traveled into Antioch, speaking of the Lord Jesus, to Jews and also to Greeks, with a great many believing and turning to the Lord.
(Acts 22-24)
Jerusalem was the first hub of Gospel advancement, and there was a large church there.
They dispatched Barnabas to investigate what they were hearing.
Barnabas himself was from Cyprus by nationality.
His name was Joseph but the apostles called him Barnabas which means (son of encouragement).
It was Barnabas that sold a field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4).
The church in Jerusalem sent a man that God had equipped with the gift of encouragement to encourage the new church that was being formed in Antioch.
Barnabas was glad at what he saw.
He rejoiced!
And he encouraged them.
This word “encouraged” has the meaning of “exhorted.”
Exhortation and encouragement go hand-in-hand.
He’s “pleading with them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.”
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