This week I read Acts 13. This is the start of Paul’s missionary journey. We also see their strategy for preaching.
Let us look at some interesting point in this Chapter.
- The church in Antioch is mentioned again. As a separate entity than that of Jerusalem
- While the church in Jerusalem has elders, we read that the church in Antioch has prophets and teachers. There are 5 in total. Prophets are clearly those who prophecy, teachers are then those who teach, as the apostles did. We know this is what Barnabas and Saul were doing in Antioch, we read this in Acts 11.
- These men worship, pray and fast.
- This group is led by the Holy Spirit
- Barnabas and Saul are sent out with the laying of hands. This purely shows that the have the authority of the group sending them,
- The men travel in a group, with John Mark accompanying them
- Saul is a Jewish name. As they start preaching to Gentiles, Saul goes by the Greco version of the name, Paul.
- We see a negative miracle. A magician opposing Barnabas and Paul is struck with blindness.
- The men travel through various places before spending some time in Antioch, Pisidia for a while. This is a different city to that of Antioch, Syria. The strategy is first preaching to Jews, then when rejected reach out to Gentiles. They leave the area because of persecution, but apparently had time to make disciples, as the chapter closes with “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” This is the point at which Paul starts his evangelist ministry.
What is a church? Answer:
The church: Believers in Jesus, who are dedicated (aligned) to Jesus. To be a believer you must be saved by the name of Jesus. This is done by belief in Jesus as the Saviour, that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is God, and that Jesus died for our sins, and that Jesus was raised from the dead. This is essential for the Christian faith.
A church: A group of said believers in a set location, e.g. Church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:21), Church in Antioch (Acts 11:26).
This is not to be confused with a building where said believers may gather, also called a church.
What do believers do?
- Get baptised, as soon as possible. This is done in obedience to God. It is an outward sign of a believer’s dedication to Jesus. It does not save the believer.
- Be filled with Holy Spirit. The order of these 2 events is not important, they can be swapped. Both are required is would seem though.
- Pray. They prayed together as a habit (Acts 1:14, 12:12), but also in times of adversity. They also pray individually (Acts 10:9)
- Fast (Acts 13)
- Praise and worship God. While worship is a lifestyle, it is also an act, like prayer and fasting.
- Study the scriptures.
- They also went to the temple together, daily, for pray. This is no longer possible for us since (1) the temple is destroyed and (2) not all believers are Jews. However, meeting as a group is a part of the believers’ life. This can be in a large setting as in Solomon’s Porch, or a smaller setting at individual houses. Also, men and women met together. There was no separation as in Judaism, or other religions. At the meetings there is teaching and miracles. We see them meeting together to listen to Barnabas and Saul in Antioch (Acts 11).
- As a believer grows, he gets discipled. He may start preaching and doing miracles as the Apostles did (e.g. Stephen, Ananias). Success in healing is not guaranteed (Dorcus was not healed until Peter came). Disciples can also baptise others and fill them with the Holy Spirit (Ananias).
They also had fellowship which entails the following:
- They eat together, as a community but also in separate homes.
- All things are shared in common, with those having, selling their goods to provide for those without. This is voluntary, and believers can do with their possessions as they see fit. Historical context here is that a lot of the early converts were far from home and had nothing. Also, these funds were not shared with non-believers. There is also a providing between churches.
- Those in need are taken care of. Examples are the Seven who serve the tables, Dorcus who made the widows clothes, the believers in Antioch sending relief for the famine in Jerusalem.
Positions in the church:
- Apostles: a special position with the criteria that they were with Jesus from His baptism till His resurrection. Based on historical context, this position is no longer applicable for today, as no one alive can meet this criterion. They taught the new believers, did miracles, and testified of Jesus’ resurrection. They pass on the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands. They also handle disputes at the top level, such as Greek speaking widows not receiving enough, and Peter visiting Gentiles.
- Disciples: Believers learning to do all that the apostles did. Can be male or female. There is no difference in Christianity, unlike other religions.
- Ministers, that is, servers. These are men assigned to look after the widows and their provisions. The criteria for this position are: (1) men of good repute, (2) men full of the Spirit and (3) men of wisdom.
- Evangelists. They travel around, preaching, doing miracles, and baptising new believers. E.g. Philip, Barnabas, and Saul.
- Elders. Not sure who they are yet, or what the criteria is. The do receive the relief from Antioch.
- Teachers: As disciples grow, they become teachers.
What is the church not supposed to be doing?
- Healing crusades. Healing is done under 2 circumstances. The first is in private. Jesus and Peter have been seen sending people away to heal in private. The second is as an act of compassion. We see public healings being done, but not with the purpose of healing. They are done because Jesus and others are moved with compassion. Signs and wonders follow the preaching to confirm them. They are not a tool for advertising.
- In and out evangelism. Discipleship is a part the great commission and takes time. If you are going to make disciples, take time to teach them properly. Arriving in a city, giving a few messages, and leaving new believers to fend for themselves is not going to keep them in the kingdom. Also, when trying to teach older believers, the in and out approach again will leave them to fend for themselves. This is not an effective way of teaching.
- Single person going out. Philip is the only Evangelist we see traveling alone. Jesus always sent the disciples out in twos. And we see time and again that when someone goes to a new region, they are accompanied by other. Peter went to Cornelius with “some of the brothers of Joppa”. When Barnabas went to Antioch, before he started meeting with the church, he went and fetched Saul. Also Barnabas and Paul remain in Antioch, Pisidia till they have to leave because of persecution.