Saturday, August 13, 2022

2022.08.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 11:19–30

Read Acts 11:19–30

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does Acts 11:19 begin by referring? When were they scattered? Where did they go? What did they do? To whom? To which sort of Jews did they preach in Antioch (Acts 11:20)? What (Whom!) did they preach? What was with them (Acts 11:21)? With what result? Where did news of this go (Acts 11:22)? Whom did they send? What did he see when he came (Acts 11:23)? And what did he encourage them to do? What sort of man was he (Acts 11:24)? What was the outcome of his character and labors? Where does he go in Acts 11:25? To do what? Where did he bring Saul (Acts 11:26)? What did they assemble? For how long? To do what? With what result? What happened in these days (Acts 11:27)? What did a prophet show (Acts 11:28)? When did this happen? What did these well-taught disciples do (Acts 11:29)? How did each determine how much to send? To whom did they send it? By whose hands (Acts 11:30)?

What does Jesus use to build up His church on earth? Acts 11:19–30 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Jesus uses preaching, encouragement, and teaching to build His church.

Jesus uses preaching to build His churchActs 11:19-21. We could well have begun with persecution! But those who were scattered after the persecution went around preaching. We saw almost this exact statement in Acts 8:4. Now, we learn that they have gone not only throughout Judea and Samaria (cf. Acts 8:1), but are now spreading into North Africa and the Mediterranean. Those who had grown up in Hellenistic Jewish communities were preaching to the same, and they did so when they came to Antioch (Acts 11:20). 

The content of their preaching is familiar now: the Lord Jesus. We’ve seen several apostolic sermons in Acts, and the most recent is a good example. Peter’s sermon in Acts 10:34–43 was all about Who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing, and His coming glorious return.

Again, it is not the preaching by itself, but the Lord Who uses that preaching. “the hand of the Lord was with them” (Acts 11:21a). The result is that “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” So the preaching of the Lord Jesus is used by the power of the Lord Jesus to turn people to the Lord Jesus.

Jesus uses encouragement to build His churchActs 11:22-24. When the church in Jerusalem hears about this large, new church in Antioch, they send Barnabas, the son of encouragement, to them (Acts 11:22). The apostles had given him this name for his selflessness, and he was a good candidate for this group, since he himself was from Cyprus (cf. Acts 4:36–37). 

When Barnabas sees the new congregation, he sees what Acts 11:19-21 taught us to see: the grace of God. We must resist the fleshly temptation to see our own works. One might have seen the zeal of those who traveled far, or the soundness of those who preached theologically correctly, or the repentance and faith of the great number who had done so. But Acts 11:23 sums this all up by saying that Barnabas saw the grace of God!

Seeing this, Barnabas was glad. How easily one warms to ministry when he is rejoicing over God’s working in it! Now Barnabas encourages them to live their faith from the inside out. This “encouraging” is more than just telling or even teaching. It is an urging and helping in which he does whatever he can to help make this a reality for them. 

He teaches them to start in the inside: setting forth or purposing their hearts. What an easy step to forget, but what a hard thing discipleship is without it! We must be in the habit of purposing our hearts, of intentionally inclining ourselves in and toward the will of Christ. And from a heart thus conditioned, we are to continue with the Lord. We don’t come to Him to remain as we are. We come to Him to continue with Him. 

As much as the conduct of his shepherding was used, Acts 11:24 implies that his character in the shepherding was just as essential. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. He had made progress in killing what remained from his previous self. He was full of the Holy Spirit now. What remained was not from him but from Christ; it was Christ Who lived in him; the life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God Who loved him and gave Himself for him (cf. Galatians 2:20). 

Just as previously the preaching had resulted in “a great number” believing, so now by this pastoring “a great many people were added to the Lord.”

Jesus uses teaching to build His churchActs 11:25-30. Now there was a problem, and not a bad one to have: so many people had been saved so quickly that there was a great need for teaching. Barnabas knew another Hellenistic Jewish convert who was perfect for the job! He had vouched for Saul back in Acts 9:27–28. Now he goes and gets him from Tarsus.

For a whole year, Barnabas and Saul gather the church for teaching. And what happens by this teaching? The disciples in Antioch become so full of the knowledge of Christ and so much like the character of Christ that they come to be called “Christ-folk”—Christians! 

And this Christlikeness would be borne out in the first opportunity they have to sacrifice their own interests for others, just as their Master had done. This great famine is “throughout all the world” (Acts 11:28), not regional. What they are giving up is what they will need for themselves. But their brothers in Judea will need it too, and they gladly lay it out.

Teaching is the way to true Christian living. And true teaching will form the behavior of a man, not just his ideas. Believers come to offer their bodies as living sacrifices through being transformed by the renewing of their minds (cf. Romans 12:1–2).

Here, then, are three of the great activities in the gospel ministry: preaching, encouraging (we might say “pastoring”), and teaching. These are what Christ uses to grow His people in number and in grace.

How are you making use of the preaching that the Lord Jesus has given you to have in His church? How are you making use of all of the helps from your elders, and from others, for setting forth your heart toward the Lord? How are you making use of all of the helps from your elders, and from others, for continuing with the Lord? How are you making use of all of the teaching that the Lord Jesus has given you to have in His church? What fruit do you hope to see in your life from all of these things?

Sample prayer:  Lord Jesus, we thank You that it is You Who are building up Your church through the men and the means that You have appointed. Please help our preachers to be diligent in their effort and sound in their message. Please help our pastors to rejoice over Your work, to address our need for religion that comes from the heart, and to be men of impeccable character and self-forgetful faith. Please give us thorough and careful teaching, together with our own attentiveness to that teaching. And, use it to make us more and more knowers of Christ and followers of Christ, which we ask in the Name of Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32B “Instruction I Will Give to You” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight” 

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