The Antiochan Model of a Biblical Church (Part 1)
(Please ensure you read ALL the verses mentioned to get the maximum benefit of this message)
TEXT: Acts 13:1-12
From here till the end of the book Acts is preoccupied with the high-speed drama of the Expansion of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. From Jerusalem the Church expanded into Judea and Samaria and now almost single handed the great Apostle Paul takes the gospel message and plants churches across the then known world. The Church expanded from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond.
We are entering into the first Missionary or Church Planting Journey of Paul. It raised quite a stir that was already brewing with Peter’s forays into Gentile territory. The 1st journey therefore logically leads to the Jerusalem Council in chapter 15 where the NT Church had to resolve the issue of Gentile Conversion.
The church in Antioch became the first Missionary Centre from where the Gospel went out to the whole of the then known pagan world. That church had an impressive beginning. In Acts 11:21 we have the record that “a large number who believed turned to the Lord”. This was through the ministry of Hellenistic Jews who fled Jerusalem following Stephen’s martyrdom (11:19-20). The Antioch Church grew under the capable leadership of Barnabas and Saul (11:26). It was in Antioch too that the name Christians was first given to the followers of Jesus Christ (11:26).
The Antiochan Church was a missionary church and greatly used of God for the spread of the Gospel because it was obedient to the Holy Spirit. The leaders (cf. 11:24; 13:9) and the congregation (cf. 13:2, 4) were Spirit-filled and totally under the authority of the Spirit. It was from this church that Paul undertook all his missionary journeys and a careful study reveals that he returned after each journey back to Antioch and possibly reported and refreshed himself before going back to missionary work.
- THE PROPHETS & TEACHERS OF ANTIOCH: 1-4a
God was going to give the Church in Antioch a HUGE responsibility. When He endows this upon the Church then it better respond
It all began with the leadership. Notice v. 1 and then look at verse 2.
- Their Names and Background:1
Barnabas has already appeared several times in the book of Acts. He was a Levite from the island of Cyprus who lived in Jerusalem and was a leader in the Jerusalem church (4:36-37; 9:27; 11:22-30). His name was Joseph but was also called Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement”. Barnabas had convinced the believers at Jerusalem to accept Saul (9:27). He had been sent to investigate the Gentile conversions at Antioch (11:22) and being “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (11:24) he had seen the grace of God at work there. He brought Saul from Tarsus and got him involved in the ministry in Antioch (11:25-26). In all this he never elevated himself. Barnabas was a man whom God could use.
He was also called Niger meaning “black.” He may have been a dark-skinned man, an African, or both. There is no evidence to identify him with Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21). In fact the text doesn’t even refer to his being from Cyrene.
- Lucius of Cyrene:
This is not the Lucius of Rom. 16:21 nor is this Dr. Luke, the author of Acts. Lucius is identified with the city of Cyrene that is in North Africa.
He had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch known also as Herod Antipas. He may have been Herod’s “foster-brother” (Suntrophos).
We have a lot of information on Saul whose Greek/Roman name was Paul. He was the great persecutor of the Church and hated Christ but was graciously converted to Christ. From Pharisee he now was to become the greatest church-planter and proclaimer of the Gospel the world has ever known.
All these are mentioned and were in the place of preparation – fully involved in God’s work and Spirit-led men available and at the beck and call of Almighty God.
- Their Preparation For Missions: 2a
We continue to observe the text and take note that it was the leaders God wants to deal with first and foremost. How does one prepare to be used by God? Whom does God call? How does He call? This passage provides part of the answers. The leaders were busy doing what they were supposed to do – serve the Lord enthusiastically where they were. This was their primary preparation.
Ministered (leitourgeo) originally meant “to discharge a public office” and is from a Greek word (and used in the NT) describes priestly service. The leaders were occupied in serving the Lord, in His Church. God expects leaders in the church to be ministers. Ministers must be involved in ministry. Those involved in ministry are candidates for His Call! You desire to be called? Be involved and you will be called.
Notice too the intensity of their ministry. First of all they ministered to the Lord!
All that you do is first and foremost directed to God. You serve the Lord Christ. You are to present yourself approved to God. Next, it says, they fasted. Fasting is a discipline most of us neglect to our spiritual stagnation! However, it is not mere staying away from food. They had an intense prayer life. Fasting speaks of intense focus and commitment to prayer and dependence upon God.
- Their Call: 2b-4a
It is important to recognize the way God calls and also when and to what? Spiritual men already involved in effective spiritual ministry will see God extend their spiritual usefulness. God chooses for further ministry those already actively serving Him. He is not going to take idle, lazy and disobedient Christians and entrust them with important work. Saul and Barnabas were deeply involved in ministering to the Lord when their call to further service came. God chose experienced, proven leaders for the vitally important mission to the Gentiles.
It is also important to see that God chose leaders from the local church. He called missionaries from the local Church and entrusted the local church to send missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission.
As we study the text we see that it is primarily Who God Calls. The local church confirms what God has already done and sends. The words sent them away (apoluoô) is better translated “they let them go,” or “they released them.” The local church had to learn to let go of their greatest assets.
To be continued