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Sermon No: 1392-ANTIOCH The prototype Christian church



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SERMON TOPIC: ANTIOCH - The prototype Christian church

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 15 February 2014

Topic Groups: MISSIONS, EVANGELISM, THE CHURCH

Sermon synopsis: Acts 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

As Antioch was the place where followers of Jesus were first named “Christians”, the name by which we are still called today, let’s have a close look at this church as a prototype Christian church.
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The prototype Christian church

Followers of Jesus were known by some as the “Nazarene sect”, obviously because Jesus was from Nazareth. Speaking of Paul, the Jewish lawyer Tertullus says to the governor Felix:

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect” (Acts 24:5)

Tertullian (Against Marcion 4:8) records that “the Jews call us Nazarenes,” while around 331 AD Eusebius records that Christ was called a Nazoraean from the name Nazareth, and that in earlier centuries “Christians,” were once called “Nazarenes.” The Hebrew equivalent of “Nazarenes”, Notzrim, occurs in the Babylonian Talmud, and is still the modern Israeli Hebrew term for Christian.1

1 "http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christian">http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christian

NAZARENE SECT

At the time of Stephen’s martyrdom, Christianity was referred to as “the Way”:

Acts 9:1-2 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

THE WAY

SO WHERE DID THE TERM “CHRISTIAN” COME FROM?

The term “Christian” is used 3 times in the NT.

We see that the term originated in Antioch in Syria.

Acts 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Peter considered the name “Christian” as an honour to have, despite the persecution they faced because of it:

1 Pet 4:16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

CHRISTIANS

Agrippa is familiar with the term when Paul stands before him. (Acts 26:28)

Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?

The name was derived from the title of Jesus; “Christ”:

Early non-Christian literature using the term “Christian” includes Josephus, who speaking of Jesus refers to “the tribe of Christians, so named from him”. 1

Tacitus, writing circa 110 AD identifies Christians as Nero’s scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome and writes “Called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin…” 2

Pliny the Younger, in correspondence with Trajan circa 110 AD says, “For the moment this is the line I have taken with all persons brought to me on the charge of being Christians…” 3

1 Antiquities of the Jews — XVIII, 3:3 2 Annals (XV.44.2-8) 3 (Letters X 96)

CHRISTIANS

As Antioch was the place where followers of Jesus were first named “Christians”, the name by which we are still called today, let’s have a close look at this church as a prototype Christian church.

BLUEPRINT

Antioch in Syria was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Antioch became a Roman city in 64 B.C. and capital of the new province of Syria.

There were 16 cities called Antioch in the Greco–Roman world, all founded by Seleucus I Nicator and named after his father Antiochus. Of these 16 cities, Antioch in Syria was the largest and most prosperous. In fact Josephus ranked it as the third greatest city of the Roman Empire, behind Rome itself and Alexandria in Egypt. (Josephus Jewish Wars 3.29)

ANTIOCH IN SYRIA

Seleucus I Nicator (ca. 358-281 BC)

Antioch in Syria had a population of over 500,000, including a Jewish colony of 70,000. It was a busy maritime city from early on, being about 30 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea up the Orontes River. It was thus known as Antioch on the Orontes to distinguish it from, for example, Pisidian Antioch (also mentioned in the book of Acts) which was in what is today Turkey.

Antioch was on a natural route to Jerusalem, which was 300 miles to the south.

TURKEY

SYRIA

ISRAEL

This explains why it was a safe haven for the people fleeing the persecution in Jerusalem which was triggered by Stephen’s death. In fact it was these “refugee” believers who founded the church in Antioch.

Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch

Barnabas was then sent by the Jerusalem church to assist at Antioch:

Acts 11:22-24 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 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. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Barnabas in turn recruited Paul:

Acts 11:25-26 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met

with the church and taught great numbers of people…

But what were the traits of this prototype church in Antioch?

It was a worshiping church (Acts 13:2)

It was a praying and fasting church

Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

It was a growing church

Acts 11:20-21 … Antioch… The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

If something is alive, it should grow.

It was a church with verifiable prophetic gifts:

Acts 11:28 Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)

The Prophecy of Agabus by Louis Cheron (1660-1713)

It was a generous church:

While Jerusalem had given Antioch a spiritual gift by sending Barnabas, Antioch reciprocated by sending a financial gift to Jerusalem when Judea was facing a famine.

Acts 11:29-30 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

It was a teaching and preaching church:

Acts 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas in Antioch (see NOTE 2)

A church concerned with doctrinal accuracy.

When some Christians from Judea came to this predominantly Gentile church, they tried to force them to adopt the OT laws, specifically circumcision and claimed it was necessary for salvation. Paul and Barnabas - themselves Jewish Christians - opposed this teaching:

Acts 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them…

It was a multiracial church

Initially only Jews were targeted in the evangelism.

Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.

However Antioch soon became the first predominantly Gentile church. In contrast to the Jewish church in Jerusalem, it included Greeks and black disciples (Cyrene was in Libya).

Acts 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

FIRST GENTILE CHURCH

Two of the prophets / teachers were Africans:

Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen… and Saul.

The leadership included Lucius from Cyrene, which was in Libya. It also included Simeon called Niger. “Niger” is the Latin adjective for “black”. 1 Hence the origin of the names of two African countries, Niger and Nigeria.

So the church had African (Libya), European (Greek) and Middle Eastern (Jewish and Syrian) disciples!

1 According to Wikipedia ‘Nigger’ is a pejorative term and common ethnic slur against black people, and is English slang. In denoting ‘black person’, nigger originated as a variant of the Spanish and Portuguese noun negro (black) derived from the Latin adjective niger (black).

FIRST GENTILE CHURCH

The first church founded was the Jewish church in Jerusalem. The second is the Gentile church in Antioch. These two churches complemented each other. The apostles recognised that Paul had the task of preaching to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been called to the Jews

Galatians 2:7-9 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

FIRST GENTILE CHURCH

Antioch was also the first mission church.

The gospel spread from the Jerusalem church because of persecution, but at Antioch they sought God’s face and obeyed His mission call.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

FIRST MISSION CHURCH

Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

From Acts 11:19 onwards you notice a marked change - Antioch is now more central to the author Luke’s narrative than Jerusalem.

Luke, himself a Gentile, now focuses primarily on the conversion of the Gentiles and the events surrounding the 3 missionary trips of Paul and his companions. The spotlight moves from Peter (the apostle to the Jews) to Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles).

FIRST MISSION CHURCH

In Antioch, following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the initiative was taken by a local congregation to launch and support a missionary venture to people beyond its own locale.

The gospel had come to Antioch almost accidentally - that is due to Christians migrating there to escape persecution. But following the events in Acts 13 the church in Antioch make the propagation of the gospel a conscious strategy.

The church in Antioch had a mission strategy which included (a) sending and support, (b) praying and fasting and (c) feedback and a home base

And so following the lead of this prototype Christian church, we too should have a conscious missions strategy.

MISSION STRATEGY

The mindset of the Jerusalem church was “you come to us”. The church started when Jews had come to Jerusalem from across the Roman Empire to celebrate Pentecost:

Acts 2:5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

Part of it’s growth was as a result of people from the towns around Jerusalem coming to the city:

Acts 5:16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

But Jesus said he’d make us “fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). When fishing, you need to go to where the fish are – in the sea; you don’t wait for them to come to you on land.

YOU COME TO US

In contrast, the Antioch church had a “we’ll come to you” mindset. Instead of waiting for potential converts to come to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to plant churches across Asia Minor and Europe.

In so doing, the Antioch church was true to its own origins. Remember it had been founded by Jewish converts from Cyprus and Cyrene coming to Antioch and evangelising the Greeks - reaching out to people who had been overlooked by the original missionaries.

The Antioch church went on to reach both Gentiles and Jews whom the Jerusalem church were unable to reach in “the ends of the earth”. Their actions set a precedent for future foreign missions.

WE’LL COME TO YOU

As noted, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem was more incidental (or rather allowed by God due to the persecution) and this was how the church in Antioch was founded.

Jesus had instructed his disciples “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”

But they didn’t leave Jerusalem until the wave of persecution that was triggered in the wake of Stephen’s martyrdom. And so they finally went to Judea and Samaria, Jesus’ second nominated target areas for the gospel.

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

Acts 8:1-5 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and SamariaThose who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

And then the start of “to the ends of the earth’:

Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews…

To those who are only concerned about evangelism in their own area, remember:

We are instructed to evangelise our home area – our “Jerusalem”.

However if we never move beyond that, remember that God allowed persecution in Jerusalem to get the church to move onto his second and third designated evangelism targets – Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

The apostle Paul had a burning desire to preach where the gospel had not been heard. He saw it as a priestly duty:

Rom 15:15-19 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

Paul endeavoured to work in new areas and had no desire to operate in another man’s territory.

Rom 15:19-21 So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

Much of the claimed growth in Christian churches today is simply transfer growth (taking converts from other congregations). Paul wasn’t interested in sheep stealing from other Christian congregations – he wanted new converts from the pagan world.

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

Remember that if it were not for the likes of missionaries like Paul, we may not have the gospel today in our country.

Jesus told his disciples before sending them out to evangelise:

Matt 10:5-8 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “… Freely you have received, freely give.”

In 1843 Livingstone visited the chief Sechéle, whose child he treated successfully. Some of the questions of this chief were difficult to answer: “Since it is true that all who died unforgiven are lost forever, why did your nation not come to tell us of it before now! My ancestors are all gone, and none of them knew anything of what you tell me. How is this?”

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

“You would believe in pioneer missions if your family were part of an unevangelized people group.” (Norm Lewis, missionary to Argentina for 15 years, author of ‘Triumphant Missionary Ministry in the Local Church’)

“People who don’t believe in missions have not read the New Testament. Right from the beginning Jesus said the field is the world. The early church took Him at His word and went East, West, North and South.” (J. Howard Edington, Senior pastor of Orlando’s First Presbyterian Church)

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

Some churches prefer to spend all their money on their own church and their local community:

“If God wills the evangelization of the world, and you refuse to support missions, then you are opposed to the will of God.” (Oswald J. Smith)

“God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions.” (John Piper)

“The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” (Mike Stachura, served with Operation Mobilization for over 20 years and was president of Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment.)

WHAT ABOUT OUR HOME?

After the wonderful promise in Rom 10:13-15 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, Paul asks 4 questions:

How can they call on the one they have not believed in?

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

How can they hear without someone preaching to them?

How can they preach unless they are sent?

So we need people to go and people to send (prayer, financial support, encouragement). Antioch was the first “sending” church.

SENDING

It is imperative that those serving God at home or abroad have the support (prayer, encouragement and financial) of a home-base church.

In the first missions-based church, God called Paul and Barnabas, but the church “sent” them.

Acts 13:1-3 … While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

SENDING

“Not every believer has the missionary gift, but every Christian is called to some kind of involvement in missions. We are called to advance the gospel in some way and to participate in the fulfilling of God’s purposes in our generation.” (David Shibley)

While not all can go into fulltime local evangelism or foreign missions, you can ‘send’ or mobilize. By ‘sending’ I don’t mean simply delegating some unwanted task to another – ‘senders’ have the responsibility to:

Pray

Support financially

Encourage

SENDING

Some churches are reluctant to send for fear that their best people will leave. But at Antioch it was Barnabas and Paul who were called – prominent leaders in the church.

J.D. Greear pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina - tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America. Greear writes, “When you create a sending culture in your church, you will likely lose some of your best people to a church plant or a missions assignment. But don’t be afraid; the sending culture creates more leaders to take their place. It has worked for us like the five loaves and two fish: the more we give away, the more is multiplied and given back to us.” 1

1 "http:// www.churchleaders.com/ outreach-missions/ outreach-missions-articles/ 156651-5-things-that-brought-life-to-a-dying-church.html?p=2">http:// www.churchleaders.com/ outreach-missions/ outreach-missions-articles/ 156651-5-things-that-brought-life-to-a-dying-church.html?p=2

LOSING OUR BEST

The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. In an article “Factors That Brought a Dying Church Back to Life” one of J.D. Greear’s point is “Create a sending culture”.

In my opinion, creating a sending culture is essential to revitalizing a church. Churches that are revitalized see themselves as communities on mission with God, not as country clubs for Christians. One very practical thing you can do to encourage this mentality is to send as many people on short-term mission trips as possible. Few things open our eyes to missional living like spending time with missionaries overseas. 1

1 Ibid

LOSING OUR BEST

The more that mentality gets into the bloodstream of the church, the more church members become willing to apply missional principles to their own context. During our first two years, we sent an inordinate amount of our people and leaders overseas. It cost a lot of money and took up valuable time, but it did two things. First, it raised the level of generosity in our church. Having seen the needs on the field, the people gave. The trips may have cost us a lot of money, but they paid for themselves many times over. Second, it made our people ask themselves if we were laboring to reach our city the same way that missionaries overseas were laboring to reach theirs. 1

1 Ibid

LOSING OUR BEST

The church at Jerusalem had a more traditional mindset than the one in Antioch, with an emphasis on being true to it’s Jewish heritage. Late in the book of Acts we read:

Acts 21:17-21 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.”

BECOME LIKE US

This love of tradition was a problem Jesus himself encountered and has been a reoccurring problem throughout the history of the Church age. Even at the outset, the initial events in the Antioch church provoke a double-edged response from Jerusalem.

On the one hand, the leaders want to support and encourage this new predominantly Gentile church and so they send Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” to assist.

On the other hand there was a strong element in the Jerusalem church who believed that Gentile converts should strictly conform to its way of doing things – in other words “BECOME LIKE US”. There was great pressure for Gentile converts to be circumcised and to observe other ceremonial practices of the OT Law.

BECOME LIKE US

Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.

And so we read in Acts 15:1 that some men come down from Judea to Antioch promoting a legalistic gospel.

Paul and Barnabas oppose this false teaching:

Acts 15:2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

When Paul and Barnabas discuss the issue with the Jerusalem church, we read in Acts 15 that some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and insisted on circumcision for Gentile believers as well as adherence to the Law. But when the apostles and elders meet to consider this question - Peter, James and the apostles concur with Paul and Barnabas that Gentiles are not required to be circumcised.

BECOME LIKE US

Peter reminds them of salvation through grace (Acts 15:6-11)

Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

James is also supportive (Acts 15:13-20)

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

Yet despite the ruling at the Jerusalem council and the letter of support endorsed by both James and Peter, when Peter visits the Antioch church he disassociates himself from the Gentile Christians due to fear of some friends of James. His bad example rubs off on Barnabas and the other Jewish Christians.

Gal 2:11-13 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

BECOME LIKE US

As such, Paul rebukes Peter publicly in Antioch (Gal 3)

We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

And so too, with both foreign missions and local evangelism which encompasses different cultures, we must be careful not to include imposing our own culture as part of our gospel message. Many aspects of different cultures like their dress, their style of singing, their language, food and manners, while being different from our own culture – are not necessarily anti-Christian.

BECOME LIKE US

James Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission (now OMF International) and spent 51 years in China. The society that he began was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who began 125 schools and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in all 18 provinces. 1

1 SOURCE: "http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Hudson_Taylor">http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Hudson_Taylor

The China Inland Mission, Newington Green, Mildmay, Islington, London. 15 October 2005. Photographer: Fin Fahey.

Yet many people don’t know that Taylor became one of the most effective pioneer evangelists in the interior of China by abandoning conventional missionary traditions.

BECOME LIKE US

Initially his mission work bore little fruit despite his many hardships. When Taylor decided to adopt the lifestyle and dress of a traditional Chinese teacher in order to better reach out to the Chinese culture, he was ostracized by his fellow British missionaries.

BECOME LIKE US

BECOME LIKE US

In 1867 Hudson Taylor addressed a long letter to all applicants looking to join the new work of CIM. In it he wrote:

If we really desire to see the Chinese such as we have described, let us as far as possible set before them a correct example: let us in everything unsinful become Chinese, that by all things we may save some. Let us adopt their costume, acquire their language, study to imitate their habits, and approximate to their diet as far as health and constitution will allow. Let us live in their houses, making no unnecessary alterations in external appearance, and only so far modifying internal arrangements as attention to health and efficiency for work absolutely require. 1

1 Quotations taken from Broomhall, Book Four, 355-356

Amy Carmichael (1867–1951) was a missionary initially to Japan (15 months) and then to India where she served for 55 years without furlough. She wrote many mission related books, opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur.

Once in Japan, even before she learned the language, Amy Carmichael went out to witness. Her interpreter, Misaki San, suggested Amy wear a kimono, but Amy was cold and her neuralgia was bothering her. She preferred her western dress and kept it on. The two visited a sick old woman who seemed interested in the Gospel. Just as Amy was about to ask her if she would repent, the woman caught sight of her fur- lined gloves and asked what they were. Driving home, Amy wept bitter tears. Never again would she risk so much for so little, she promised. From then on she wore Japanese clothes while witnessing. 1 1 Source: Christian History Institute

BECOME LIKE US

In an effort to respect Indian culture, members of Dohnavur Fellowship (the organization founded by Amy) wore Indian dress and the children were given Indian names. Amy herself dressed in Indian clothes and dyed her skin with coffee. 1

1 "http:// www.middletownbiblechurch.org/ missions">www.middletownbiblechurch.org/ missions

BECOME LIKE US

The apostle Paul writes of his different methods of evangelism when speaking to Jews and Gentiles:

1 Cor 9:20-22 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

So rather than a “BECOME LIKE US” mentality, Paul has a “I’LL BECOME LIKE YOU” mindset.

I’LL BECOME LIKE YOU

There is a need for a home base for missionaries:

“The only heroes who operate alone are figures of fiction. The true stories of accomplishment and significance always unfold as stories of teamwork. In Christ, one’s life fame and self-importance for God-granted greatness and blessing is by walking in partnership with others.” (Steve Hawthorne, Founder/ Director of WayMakers and Perspectives Author)

So Paul and Barnabas return to their home base after their first mission and the Jerusalem council:

Acts 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.

A HOME BASE

And after Paul’s second missionary journey we read:

Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there… (Acts 18:21-23)

The church at Antioch had a mission strategy which included praying, fasting and laying on off hands:

Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Always bear in mind though that not only financial resources are needed. Intercessory prayer is vital:

“We can reach our world, if we will. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer.” (Wesley Duewel, head of OMS International)

Jesus also instructed us to pray for more evangelists and missionaries: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt 9:37-38)

1) PRAYER

Part of “sending” includes financial support.

To those who accused him of preaching for financial gain, Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that his mission trip to them was funded by other churches. This included the Macedonian churches.

2 Cor 11:7-9 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.

2) FINANCIAL SUPPORT

Having a “sending” mindset includes corresponding with and encouraging those we have sent. Even the apostle Paul appreciated encouragement while on his missionary journeys. And so he writes to the Corinthian church:

3) ENCOURAGEMENT

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.” (2 Cor 7:6-7)

We saw earlier that although Paul and Barnabas opposed the false teaching from members of the Jerusalem church, they still hold themselves accountable. Barnabas had been sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch and thus considers himself accountable to them.

Likewise we see Paul and Barnabas’ accountability to the Antioch church that initially sent them on a mission trip. They return to their home base and give feedback.

Acts 14:26-28 From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

4) ACCOUNTABILITY

Jesus said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

After receiving power from the Holy Spirit we are instructed to be witnesses for Jesus in:

Jerusalem: our own geographical area - EVANGELISM

all Judea: our state - MISSIONS

and Samaria: neighbouring regions in our nation - MISSIONS.

and to the ends of the earth: FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE CHURCH’S MISSION

Oswald J. Smith (1889-1986), Canadian pastor, author and missions advocate, said:

“The mission of the church is missions.”

“The supreme task of the Church is the evangelization of the world.”

“Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.”

The church in Antioch which first gave us our name “Christian”, clearly understood the church’s mission to evangelise both locally and abroad. Let us make sure that we follow their example in this regard.

THE CHURCH’S MISSION

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)




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