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Bobby Stafford A Church is Established
Acts:  Lesson 27   Acts 11:19-30
     

The Book of Acts

A Church Is Established

Introduction:

When Jesus gave His commission to the apostles, He told them to take the good news to “all nations.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.” (NKJV)  After the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile, the gospel began to be preached to “all nations.”  Our account today is about the beginning of the Lord’s church in Antioch of Syria, one consisting of many Gentiles. 

Text:  Acts 11:19-30

Body:

I.  The Church Is Started  Acts 11:19-21  “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.  But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. (NKJV) 

·  Persecution led Christians to spread the gospel to Phoenicia [present-day Lebanon], Cyprus [an island 100 miles off the coast], and Antioch.  Antioch was a Roman metropolis of 300,000 inhabitants, the third largest city at that time.  It was a beautiful city by the river Orantes where it emerges from between the Lebanon and Taurus mountain ranges.  It was noted for its fine buildings and colonnaded, marble-paved road.  The city also contained temples dedicated to pagan gods such as Artemis and Herakles.  Its depravity was well-known.  It was ungodly and immoral.

·  The word was first spoken to the Jews, but some men from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles in the city.  Jews from Cyrene were present on the Day of Pentecost.  They were preaching the Lord Jesus – in other words, that Jesus was Lord!  (Matthew 28:18)  “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ ” (NKJV)

·  “Hand of the Lord” – divine help and divine approval  It is God who opens doors of opportunity and gives the increase.  (Colossians 4:3)  “meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,”

(I Corinthians 3:5-7)  “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (NKJV)  A large number of believers turned to the Lord; they turned from sin and turned to Christ.  Believing and turning were separate acts.  See Acts 3:19.  “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” (NKJV) 

II.  The Church Is Strengthened  Acts 11:22-26  Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.  When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.  For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And a great many people were added to the Lord.  Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.  And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people.  And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (NKJV)

·  Barnabas is sent by the church at Jerusalem to the new church to encourage and strengthen it.  Recall that Barnabas was from Cyprus.  When he arrives, he “sees the grace of God.”  He sees former enemies [Jews and Gentiles] united in Christ and loving one another.  (Ephesians 2:13-19)  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” (NKJV)  He encourages the church to remain faithful and steadfast.  And the church grew!

·  Barnabas leaves to find Saul in Tarsus to bring him to Antioch.  This was over 100 miles.  Together they form a very effective partnership and teach many people over the course of a year.

·  It is here in Antioch that the name Christian is first used.  Isaiah had spoken of the new name hundreds of years prior.  (Isaiah 62:1-2)  “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.  The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory.  You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name.”  (Isaiah 56:5)  “Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.” (NKJV)  The church was now composed of both Jews and Gentiles.  A new name was needed – a special name.  (I Peter 4:16)  “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” (NKJV)  It is a special name because God gave it and the name honors Christ.  Christians are those who belong to Christ.  (I Corinthians 6:19-20)  “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (NKJV)  

III.  The Church Is Generous  Acts 11:27-30  “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.  Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.  Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.  This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”  (NKJV)   

·  Several prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.  This is the first mention of prophets in the church.  One of them, Agabus, foretold of a coming famine.  [~45-47 A.D.]  The Christians were determined to send relief to the brethren in Judea.  Each one did so according to his/her ability.  This is all God ever asks.  (II Corinthians 8:2-4, 12-15)  “that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.  For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”  12  “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.  For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your  lack – that there may be equality.  As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over; and he who gathered little had no lack.’ ” (NKJV)  The contribution was taken to the elders in the Jerusalem church.  This is the first mention of elders in the church.

Conclusion:

The church in Antioch became one of the most influential congregations in the first century.  Its members were certainly deserving of the name “Christian.” 

Bobby Stafford 

November 29, 2015 [Evening]  Acts: 

Lesson 27  Acts 11:19-30

 More Studies on Acts

 

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