Published December 18, 2008
Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-27; 26:15-19; Gal. 2:6-10
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Dec 28
The great need in the early years of Christianity was missionaries. Doors were opened for missionaries to go and people living in darkness needed to hear the gospel. The need is just as great today.
Let us ask ourselves two questions. Is God calling me to go? Is my church doing all it should in the missionary efforts of our convention? May the Holy Spirit use today’s study to help us give the right answers to these questions.
The Church at Antioch - Acts 13:1-3
The church at Antioch occupies a distinguished place in the early history of Christianity. See Luke’s historical sketch of it in Acts 11. It was formed by Christians who had come there because of the persecution they experienced in Jerusalem.
Several things stand out about the church at Antioch. It was here that followers of Christ were first called “Christians,” a name given them out of derision rather than admiration. From Antioch relief was sent to suffering Believers in Jerusalem in a time of great need. But most of all, it is remembered as the first church to send our missionaries to the Gentile world. The church became the missionary headquarters during the early movement of Christianity.
Note the characteristics of the church. Antioch is an ideal example of what a mission minded church is like. It was a witnessing church. Its membership was comprised of Spirit-filled and faithful people. The church made an impact on the community where it was located. It was a giving church. It was a church with committed and dedicated leaders. And also, it was a fasting and praying church.
This church is the one group that reached out to Paul when he needed them. They brought him into the work at Antioch and eventually sent him out to become the world’s greatest missionary.
Notice also, who they chose to send out as missionaries. The church selected five men. These men came from very different backgrounds. They all possessed different gifts and abilities and did not have much in common.
The common thread among them was their deep faith in Jesus Christ. Among this group was Paul, who went on to become the apostle to the Gentiles. Our churches today should be careful to never exclude anyone whom Christ has called to follow Him.
We take particular note of the leading of the Holy Spirit in this missionary enterprise. The inspiration of the Spirit enables Christians to understand the will of God and empowers them to carry out the work He calls them to.
A return to headquarters - Acts 14:26-27
The missionaries returned to Antioch at the end of their first journey and gave a report to the church of their experiences and successes. It must have been an exciting thing to be in that assembly and hear first hand the experiences of these missionaries.
It’s always good to have missionaries visit your church. Christians need to hear how God answers their prayers and how he works through those who are sent to the mission fields.
They rehearsed “all that God has done.” Here credit is given not to the missionaries but to God. It was God who had enabled them to go and it was God who gave the results.
Paul mentioned, especially, how God “opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” The subject of the open doors is often mentioned by Paul. Let us be reminded from the scriptures that God is able to open and shut doors of opportunities.
Many doors are open at this moment. But the workers are few and the resources are limited. What are we doing about it?
A missionary’s testimony - Acts 26:15-19
Nothing is as powerful as a personal testimony. Paul, in his appeal to Agrippa, testifies of his own conversion and call to be a messenger to the Gentiles. In his experience on the Road to Damascus, he heard a voice, he saw a vision, and he received a call.
He also testifies that the Lord made him a promise to “deliver him” from the hands of the violent Gentiles. Missionary work is often dangerous but when we go we don’t go alone – He is with us.
Paul also testifies that the Lord had called him for a specific purpose. His purpose was to be used to open the blind eyes of those living in a dark world, to deliver them from the power of Satan, and to lead them to faith in Jesus Christ in order that they may repent and be forgiven their sin.
There is a sense in which every Christian has this calling on his life. Have you answered that call?
The council in Jerusalem - Galations 2:6-10
Paul relates to the church at Galatia of a meeting he had with some of the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem. At that meeting he defended his authority to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He made a contrast between his ministry and the ministry of Peter. Peter’s ministry was primarily to the Jews but his was to the Gentiles.
We learn a valuable lesson from this meeting. We sometimes rate people on the basis of their official status and then become intimidated by them. But this certainly was not the case with Paul.
Paul did show respect to the church leaders but his allegiance was to his Lord. Paul and Barnabas left the meeting with the blessings of the church leaders. They were reminded to remember the poor, which they were always accustomed to doing.
Let us remember. It is the Lord who saved us. We received our call from Him. Therefore, it is to Him we are to give our allegiance.
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