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The Antioch Example

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2024 12:00 am

The Antioch Example

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 13, 2024 12:00 am

Join me on a journey to the golden city of the Roman Empire—Antioch. Known as the queen city of the east, Antioch's main street, paved with marble and lined with marble columns, was a sight to behold. Despite its beauty, Antioch rivaled Corinth in its sinfulness with chariot racing, gambling, and rampant immorality. This city never slept and seemed an unlikely place for an evangelistic crusade.

Yet, as we explore Acts 11, we discover an incredible example of God's grace and the power of the gospel. The church in Antioch, born amidst this sin city, becomes a beacon of light and an example of godly living. In this episode, we will uncover the transformative story of how ordinary men from Cyprus and Cyrene, burdened for the lost, brought the message of Jesus to the Greeks in Antioch. Despite their unconventional methods, the results were undeniable—Antioch was never the same.

We will also delve into the role of Barnabas, the encourager, who was sent from Jerusalem to verify this revival. Upon witnessing the grace of God, he rejoiced and sought out Saul (Paul) to help shepherd this growing church. Together, they taught and discipled new believers, with the disciples first being called Christians in Antioch.

This episode will challenge you to consider how you are living up to the name of Christian and inspire you to embrace new opportunities for ministry, just as the church in Antioch did. Let's learn from their example and strive to walk worthy of our name, making a lasting impact for the glory of God.


These miners came to faith in Jesus Christ and they just believed that the big city needed to hear to. And so without permission from the apostles in Jerusalem, they head to Antioch to deliver the message that burned in their hearts. And I can imagine their grammar may have been a little crooked and their hands were probably callous.

They hadn't done any market research and didn't have purpose statements in their hip pocket. And these men were simply on fire for Jesus Christ. They'd come to know them. And if it's good enough for the copper miners, people in Antioch needed to. Welcome to Wisdom for the Hearts. Today we continue through our Vintage Wisdom series from the book of Acts. It's a message that Stephen's calling the Antioch example. When the gospel took root in the early church, their lives radically changed. They were committed to prayer. They were committed to sharing the good news of the gospel with others.

And they were doing all of this regardless of race or national origin or any other factor. The church was coming together to impact its culture. It's the same lesson that we need in this century.

Here's Stephen Davey. I want to invite you to travel back with me this morning to the golden city of the Roman Empire. The name of the city was Antioch. It was called the Queen City of the East. Just to give you a couple of snapshots of this city before we go to the passage, the city had a main street that was four miles long.

If you can imagine that. Add to that the opulence of this city for that main street was constructed entirely of marble. And it had colonnades of marble, pillars and curves going down that four mile stretch.

It was a city Cicero, the Roman author wrote, of learned men and liberal studies. It was also a very sinful city. It was the only ancient city in that world that had its streets lit at night.

The city never slept. It was known for its gambling, its chariot races, its immorality. In fact its chief religion centered around the Temple of Daphne where worshippers would come supposedly and they would chase the religious prostitutes, the priestesses who were nothing more than prostitutes about, the temple grounds and enact each evening what supposedly took place when Apollos captured Daphne.

It was immorality under the name of religion. If there was one city in the ancient world that you would think would close its ears to an evangelistic crusade, it would be Antioch. If there was one city in this part of the world that you would think would sort of sniff and sort of push away at these silly Christians, it would be this city.

And yet as we're going to discover together, this passage will show us how this particular city housed what would become an example. And for 1900 years to this day it provides an example of godly Christianity in the midst of ungodliness. It provides for us, to my surprise and yours perhaps, an example of what a New Testament church should look like and act like. So let's pick our story back up with chapter 11 and verse 19 in the book of Acts. So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. Now that phrase may be a little strange unless you remember the transitional nature of the book of Acts as the gospel is now reaching not just the Jew but the Gentile, but these people left Jerusalem when Stephen was stoned to death. They didn't know that Peter had already opened the gospel to the Gentile by way of Cornelius in his home. They were doing it the old way, to the Jew only. They didn't know that the Gentiles were now being reached. However, verse 20, some mavericks. There were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. Now for our study this morning I simply want to focus our thoughts on five phrases, five key phrases that really could be studies all our own. We just read the first one.

You might underline it in your text and follow in your in your notes. It's this phrase, they began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. If you go back to the fact that they were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, that sort of comes as a surprise as I have been studying this passage. Evidently these Jewish men could come to faith from Cyprus and Cyrene, were burdened for the cosmopolitan harvest field.

What's fascinating is that Cyprus and Cyrene were two rather blue-collar villages that that revolved around the copper mines. These men, perhaps copper miners or former copper miners, came to faith in Jesus Christ and they just believed that the big city needed to hear too. And so without permission from the Apostles in Jerusalem, without checking for permission first, I guess they would ask forgiveness later, they had to Antioch to deliver the message that burned in their hearts and I can imagine their grammar may have been a little crooked and their hands were probably callous.

They hadn't done any market research and didn't know the demographics and didn't have purpose statements in their hip pocket and administrative techniques. These men were simply on fire for Jesus Christ. They'd come to know him and if it's good enough for the copper miners, people in Antioch needed to. And since no one else had volunteered, they headed for Antioch.

I would have loved to have known those men. And so they go to deliver the message and I'll have to tell you their ministry was unconventional but the results were undeniable. Look at verse 21 in the hand of the Lord was with them and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

We don't know all the details but we do know Antioch is not the same. There were large numbers who had turned to the Lord. What that means is there were large numbers that had turned away from all the other practices that Antioch was known for. The Temple of Daphne noticed a drop in nightly attendance. The chariot races and the gambling tables noticed a drop in profits.

Why? Because you do not turn to the Lord unless you have turned away from the world. They didn't understand back here. They weren't sophisticated enough to know that you could gamble and be a Christian. You go to the Temple of Daphne and call yourself a Christian.

They hadn't picked up on the game yet. So they had turned away from all of that and unto the Lord and Antioch was in the midst of an incredible revolution. We aren't given many details but I can only imagine it was swept up in this evangelistic crusade. Now notice verse 22 and the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem. I like the way that just and and we're hearing things are happening over there in Antioch without our you know our stamp of approval and so they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.

We we don't know about this copper miners for Christ stuff so Barnabas you go and you go check it out. Now we've studied this man Barnabas before his nickname was encourager but if you drop down to verse 24 Luke provides a brief biographical sketch of this man. He says for he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Three things as Luke penned this under inspiration marked his mind about Barnabas. He was a man of commitment. He was a man of character. He was a man of courage.

Now I have to stop here because as I thought about this what came to my heart and mine was the challenge. If I were a member of this Jerusalem Church and the leaders needed to send somebody over there to Antioch with discernment and faith go check it out and make sure it's the real genuine item. Could they have sent me?

Could they have sent you? Could you discern whether or not the revival in Antioch was the genuine item? Barnabas we don't have any guidelines to give you on paper. We can give you some things that you've observed in Jerusalem and you've you've known men who've walked with the Lord. You can go with insight and you can go with with what you've learned and and we don't have anything really on church growth to give you to compare to but you go to Antioch with sensitive ears to the Holy Spirit.

May I ask you a question? Could the church have chosen you? They could choose him and here he arrives finally in Antioch verse 23 then when he had come here's the next key phrase and witnessed the grace of God he he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to stay true to the Lord. Here's the next key phrase he witnessed the grace of God literally Barnabas saw the grace of God and I just had to stop and ask myself the question and I want to ask you what does the grace of God look like? How do you see the grace of God? We sing about amazing grace. We know we're saved by grace. We experience the grace of God. We talk about living under grace.

What does grace look like? So so Barnabas could see it. Well it looked like people who were coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

He saw that. It looked like people who were praying and fasting. They were doing that. It looked like people who were giving spontaneously from their financial resources as we'll see in a moment.

They were doing that. It looked like people who were accepting one another in the body where there was neither Jew nor Gentile. In fact Paul will make reference in the book of Galatians to the fact that Jews and Gentiles in Antioch ate together. Probably a reference to the Lord's table. That was an amazing thing then.

We've already discussed that. He saw that. That's what grace looked like. And here here's Barnabas right in the middle of it all. He's a layman from Jerusalem preaching, encouraging, teaching. He's faithful. He soon realizes he can't do this on his own.

He needs he needs an associate. The word exhorted is Barnabas exhorted them is the word used for a preacher. He is preaching to them. He seems to be the leader of this this growing group and he realizes he needs an assistant.

Who is he going to choose? Well verse 25 says he left for Tarsus to look for Saul. Now we've studied this in detail but you may remember if you were with us that eight years would have elapsed between this time between the time of Barnabas meeting Saul and now Barnabas going to look for Saul here in Tarsus. Barnabas if you remember risked his entire reputation because this former hatchet man of the Sanhedrin had supposedly come to faith in Christ but nobody wanted to get around this man Saul his name and nobody wanted to let him into the church and he kept trying to enter the church in Jerusalem and all the disciples were saying stay out. So this man Barnabas came along and took some time with Saul and and and Barnabas was able to determine that he indeed was a believer and so he took Saul with him and introduced him to the Apostles and he said fellas he he's telling the truth he really is a believer let him in.

This encouraging man he'd risked it all. Now you remember perhaps that just as soon as he was introduced it seemed that Saul was sort of sent scuttling back to his home in Tarsus. The leadership in Jerusalem the Apostles didn't see perhaps a lot of future out of this man. It seemed that the potential of him causing division or trouble was higher with him being in Jerusalem than with him being home and because his life was was at risk they said Saul go back to Tarsus nice to meet you hello now goodbye go. And Saul left. We haven't heard anything about Saul for eight years until now. Why is it that Barnabas would not even go to the Apostles and ask them hey do you think I ought to go get Saul? What do you think about Saul?

He didn't ask permission. Was it intuition? Was it the fact that he and Saul had sort of hit it off eight years earlier and he liked Saul and thought he could work well with Saul? Maybe all those things were true but I want you to understand that Barnabas at this moment is obeying the will of God.

Say how do you know that? Well earlier in the book of Acts this blind man named Saul blinded by his experience on the Damascus Road was waiting for a man named Ananias to come visit him and God came by way of vision to Ananias and said Ananias you go to this Saul of Tarsus and you lay your hands on him and restore his sight. We studied that wonderful passage and then God told him something that he no doubt communicated to that apostolic community. He said Ananias go that is to Saul for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear my name to the Gentiles. And Barnabas is in the midst of the first Gentile revival as it were.

Gentiles are coming to faith in Christ. He needs help. But I happen to believe that this wasn't necessarily an easy decision. He is the leader of this movement and now he is going to entrust this movement to a man who is unproven, untested.

He doesn't know what's happened in eight years. Just go get an unknown and bring an unknown in here and say go after it Saul. Took great obedience to the revealed will of God. He just knew because of what God had earlier said it was Saul's time. And so verse 26 tells us that when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.

Now it's a wonderful verse when you think about it. It tells us that he went to look for Saul. That word look he ought to circle and maybe right in the margin intense. It's a very intense Greek word.

Literally means to look up and down. You get this vision differently when you understand what that word means because here's Barnabas. Where's Saul?

He doesn't have a home address. He just simply knows that eight years earlier we sent him back to Tarsus. So he's somewhere in that in that village in that town and so he's going and he's everybody he sees. Do you know Saul? Do you know this man?

He's probably that forty years old and he's looking intently. He cannot be distracted until he finds this man and brings him back. The text also doesn't tell us but some have suggested that the use of the word he brought him to Antioch has a negative connotation that maybe Saul was saying.

I'm not sure I'm the man for the job. Barnabas the encourager insisted and brought this man whose time had come into this ministry of God. Wow.

Well let's go on here. Verse 26, when he had found him he brought him to Antioch and it came about there for an entire year. They met with a church and taught considerable numbers.

It's just a constant teaching. All that Saul had learned directly from Revelation from God having been trained by the Spirit personally. Barnabas had learned they're just teaching and the church is growing and more people are coming to faith and it's an exciting community to be involved in and Antioch is scratching its heads and they just can't quite figure it out and who are these people and here's the next key phrase, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. And there have been a lot of names for for believers in the New Testament. Disciple, brother, sister, steward, child, priest, holy nation, elect, pilgrim, saint. Yet we discover from history that the name Christian that eventually stuck was a name given by pagans to believers, not one the church came up with itself. It was a derogatory term.

It was a slang. They're trying to figure out who these weird people are who left all this stuff and are now following after this crucified Nazarene. Well what do we call them? Well those people, they're little Christs. That's who they are. They're Christians. Meaning they are imitators of, they adhere to this one. Those people, those Christians.

And yet it became precious over time. In fact by the time that Peter wrote his epistle he's the only other one who used that word in the New Testament. Did you know that? When Peter used that word he used it to encourage the Christians as he said, if anyone suffers as a Christian let him not feel ashamed but at that name glorify God. See at this point in time when Peter's writing it is that name that will execute a person. The name Christian. Have you ever thought about what it means to be called a Christian? What does it mean? Is it a name tag you just invisibly put on on Sunday? You walk in the lobby and I'm a Christian now.

You drop it off at the lobby desk on your way out and now I'm somebody else Monday through Saturday. Is it a name tag? No. Is it an adjective? It's never used that way. He's a good Christian man. It's not used that way.

Stop using it that way. Or she's a, she's a fine Christian woman. Another way of saying they're kind of a moral person. It's not an adjective it's a noun. It's a name. Is it, is the name Christian synonymous with being an American citizen?

You heard that? Of course I'm a Christian. I was born in America. Does the name Christian refer to people that haven't committed a felony? Of course I'm a Christian.

I've never killed anybody. You heard that? What does it mean?

The name Christian or little Christ means that you adhere to seven days a week. You follow after. You know 11 years ago my family and I moved from the state of Texas. So we stopped being Texans. Now we're North Carolinians. You're a North Carolinian because you abide in the state of North Carolina. You live within its borders. You are a Christian because you live in Christ within his borders.

You belong to him. Well the question is are we living up to our name? I like the way one man phrased the question.

If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you in a court of law? Well at this time verse 27 says some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch and one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. Now Ephesians informs us that the Apostles, that office and the office of profit, were part of the foundation of the church. And any homebuilder knows that you don't continually build the foundation.

Eventually you build the superstructure. Ephesians goes on to tell us then that the next offices were pastors and teachers who would help build the superstructure. Well evidently for a period in this transitional era of miracle and revelation God used this this gift of prophecy. Well one of these true prophets makes a prediction and a true prophet in this era and prior to this didn't prophesy to you know just sort of answer what's going to happen in the future but really to to impact lives and to create action. Well he tells them that there's going to be a famine that will ultimately affect the church and in Jerusalem. And so in fact history tells us there were three of them under the reign of this poor fellow. Well the Jerusalem Church has already been decimated by persecution.

We've long since left the days where everyone had their needs met. The church in Jerusalem is now perhaps more than 20 years old. They need help. So he comes and he tells them it's only going to get worse. Now notice the next key phrase verse 29. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, here it is, each of them determined to send the contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did sending and in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.

There wasn't any percentage dictated. This wasn't a command to give. It was simply the response of of a caring heart that had been impacted by the grace of God for others who were in need.

And don't miss the irony here either ladies and gentlemen. Who's helping who? Gentiles are helping Jews. It is the Gentile Church that now is lending a hand to the Jewish believers. Antioch, this was a place where the Apostles didn't really, it doesn't seem, I don't want to be too hard on them, but didn't care to the point that they sent one of the Apostles to check it out. They sent a layman, Barnabas, you go and check it out and see if it's it's really the truth of the gospel. And you notice now here they come back with money. Who's carrying the money? Saul, a fellow that it seems was dismissed without too much of a future in the church.

Someone that they had probably forgotten all about. Here comes Saul. Did you know by the way this is the very first reference to a church taking up a missionary collection? Church in Antioch had a lot of firsts related to it.

We're gonna learn a lot about them because the shift of focus moves from Jerusalem to Antioch over these next many chapters. And by the way it is to this day a sign of a healthy church that is able to give to the world. In fact Philip Brooks, a famous preacher from a century ago, was once asked, how do you revive a dead church? Without even thinking he responded, take up a missionary collection. Get them to think about somebody other than themselves and give it away. And these believers gave.

Quickly let me give you two thoughts. How can we be like this church in Antioch that we're gonna get to know real well over these next many weeks? How can we move their spirit and their their commitment to Jesus Christ here?

A ministry planted by these copper miners. Well number one, we have to act worthy of our new identification, our new name. That's before the world. Paul exhorted the believers to walk worthy of the gospel. Do you realize the responsibility that is on your shoulders when you leave here today? The incredible opportunity that you and I have been told, commanded, challenged, encouraged, indwelt so that we could walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That's what we're to do. We're to walk worthy as well before other believers. The believers in Antioch could have said to the church in Jerusalem, you're on your own.

You don't really care about us. We're Gentiles, remember? They're gonna struggle all the way up to chapter 15 before the Jerusalem Church says, okay, Gentiles are in. They could have had a chip on their shoulder a mile high. You're having trouble in Jerusalem. Get another job.

Work it out. Instead they gave, they acted like Christ, Christian. Number two, if you want to be like the church in Antioch, we have to be alert to new opportunities. It is the church in Antioch that will send out the first missionaries, take up the first missionary offering. In fact, it'll be the church in Antioch that Paul, as he returns from his missionary voyages, he will report to them, not Jerusalem, he will go to Antioch and report to them.

Why? They become the center of God's working in the Gentile worlds as this process of evangelism continues to develop. The parallels between the first century church in Antioch and your church today are pretty clear, aren't they? It's a powerful example and reminder for us. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart. We've gone back to our archives with this vintage wisdom series from the book of Acts. It's a series that Stephen Davy first taught many years ago, but the truth of this series is just as relevant today. From the very beginning of this ministry, Stephen has said that we are empowered by prayer.

We're convinced that that's true. It's our desire to provide Bible teaching resources that are faithful to God's Word. As the Word of God goes forth, the Spirit of God takes the truth of His Word and uses it to bring about lasting change. I invite you to join our global prayer team and pray for us. You'll find information about the global prayer team at forward slash prayer. Each week we post specific ways that you can pray for a country where Wisdom International is teaching God's Word. We also want to pray for you. We have a team of people who pray for each request that comes in. That website includes a way for you to send us your prayer needs. Learn more about this at forward slash prayer. Do that today, then join us back here for more wisdom for the hearts. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-13 00:16:12 / 2024-06-13 00:26:19 / 10

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