Bible Passage: Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
In the book of Acts there are two churches that are described in particular detail that are meant to serve as models for what the church could and should be. The first is the church in Jerusalem (Acts 2-4) that described the devotion and community of the first followers of Jesus. The second is the church in Antioch (modern-day Turkey) described here that shows the church as a base of God’s global mission.
Here we pick out some features of this exemplary church:
1. They Crossed Boundaries (v20): This verse may be easy to miss but it marks a monumental shift for the church. Before this moment the mission had focussed on Jewish people, but now believers are crossing barriers to reach different communities. There is an impulse to go and spread the gospel to people who are from different backgrounds and part of different communities.
2. Many People Added (v21, 24): The church was evangelistically fruitful and lots of people were added. Sharing faith is a key ingredient of what the church should be and this was happening in Antioch.
3. They were well connected (v22): The church in Antioch were not going it alone but they maintained good relationships with other churches and leaders. This verse highlights the friendship with the church in Jerusalem, and they received one of the leaders of that church (Barnabas) to minister with them in Antioch.
4. They Taught a Great Many (v26): When Barnabas saw what was happening in Antioch, he sent for Saul and together they taught lots of people. Saul was a theological giant, who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament. The quality of teaching these believers in Antioch received was very high indeed!
5. They Were Christlike (v26): It was in Antioch that followers of Jesus were first called ‘Christians’. This was not meant as a complement, but it spoke of how their way of life so resembled Jesus that this was the most apt name that outsiders could come up with for them.
6. Prophetic Culture (v27): We read of the Antioch church welcoming prophets such as Agabus and receiving their ministry. God has given prophets to the church to equip the saints for works of service, and we should always be ready to receive (after weighing) the words that God speaks to his people through prophets.
7. They Were Generous (v28-30): The word that Agabus gave was about a famine in Jerusalem, and this provoked the believers to give generously. We are told that each gave according to their ability, so the burden was not only carried by the rich but by everybody to the extent that they were able to.
8. They Were Multicultural (v1): The leadership team of the church is described, and five people are listed, all of different ethnicities. Barnabas was from Cyprus, Simeon was black African, Lucius was from Libya, Manean had a privileged Palestinian upbringing, and Saul was from Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). This was a multicultural church led by a multicultural leadership team.
9. Prayer (v2): The leadership team are described as worshipping and fasting together and it was as they came together before God that they heard the Spirit guiding them what to do next.
10. They Gave Their Best Away (v3): The Spirit prompted them to send out both Barnabas and Saul. These were two exceptional leaders and would have been key to the work in Antioch, but because their outlook was outward focussed, they were willing to send them out for the sake of the gospel advancing in other places.
- Ten different aspects of the Antioch church have been listed here. As a church consider which you feel most challenged by and what can you do to grow in that area.
- The Antioch church was outward looking and seeking to reach all different people, both in their own city and elsewhere. What opportunities has God put before you to see the gospel spread?
- In Antioch there was a particular need to give to the poor that they responded to with generosity. Are there particular needs that you could give to in a similar way? Perhaps you could do a special offering for one or more of them?