Acts 11:19-30: Antioch
January 20, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Genesis 42-43, Psalm 19, Matthew 8:14-22, Acts 11:19-30
The church at Antioch was a remarkable church. It was the place where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” And where Paul and Barnabas were first set aside for their trailblazing missionary work. What made the Christians at Antioch so remarkable, and what can we learn from their example?
First, they were not bound by tradition, but driven by the gospel. Unlike others, they did not tell the gospel only to Jews, but also to Greeks (or to non-Jews). We should learn from this example. Sometimes we do things because “that is the way they have always been done.” Or because “that’s how so-and-so did it in the past.” Instead, we should be driven by biblical principles to find ways to further the gospel cause for the glory of Christ.
Second, the Lord’s hand was with them. We can attempt to find the right strategy, work hard, and seem to be doing everything that we should be doing. But at the end of the day, “unless the Lord builds the house its workers labor in vain.” We need, therefore, to seek the blessing of God on our work. To ask for God’s hand to be with us. Without that blessing, then, our efforts—however well-intentioned—will be relatively fruitless.
Third, Barnabas exercised the ministry of encouragement. Barnabas was given his name because he was someone who was so gifted at encouraging other people. He was called “son of encouragement” or “Barnabas” (see Acts 4:36). Here in Antioch, his ministry of encouragement bore great fruit. He went and found Paul. One of the remarkable aspects of the gift of encouragement is that it draws in other people with great gifts and enables them to have the emotional and spiritual support to be able to exercise those gifts. What we should learn from this is that we should prize those with the gift of encouragement and (as it were) encourage them to use that gift. And if you yourself would not say that “you had the gift of encouragement,” you can still encourage the Christians around you. Our adversary, the devil, constantly whispers discouragement in our ears. Let us encourage one another!
Fourth, they were a church that celebrated the gift of prophecy and the ministry of God’s Word. Christians disagree as to how to interpret the gift of prophecy. But we know from Acts 13 that in Antioch the gifts were collided together in people’s minds: there were many there with the gifts of prophecy and teaching. This gift was used to great effect in Antioch to build up the church and warn them of possible missteps and difficulties ahead. In our context, we should encourage those with the gift of teaching to find ways to exercise that gift in the power of the Spirit.
Fifth, they cared for other churches. It is easy for churches to become introverted, parochial, competitive with other churches. But we should care for our brothers and sisters even if they are not in our own local congregation. These Christians at Antioch therefore took a collection to be able to help the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. Churches are healthy when they look after the health and well-being of other churches too. In what ways could you encourage your church to be more like the influential and great church of Antioch?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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