Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.Acts 13:1-3
How does the GOSPEL grow??
The first twelve chapters of Acts has focused on Jerusalem, Peter, and establishing the gospel in the land of Palestine. Chapter 13 marks a transition form Peter to Paul, from Jerusalem to Rome, and from establishing the gospel to spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.
If our church is going to be used of God to continue His mission into our part of the world, we can learn from Paul and his ministry, beginning with the church that first sent him out. The church at Antioch is the first church to intentionally seek to take the gospel to other peoples. It is the first time in Scripture that anyone is deliberately sent out so that others can hear the gospel and be reconciled to God.
Just a couple notes on the soil from which this gospel mission breaks forth.
(1) Just a brief note concerning the unity of this Gospel Soil. We do not know who started the churchi n Antioch, whether it was planted by those who went home after Pentecost or if belevers scattered by persecution landed here. Either way we have a diverse group (note the leadership in verse 1) of ordinary beleivers who are together in prayer, studying God’s Word, and learning to deny themselves to seek and serve the Lord.
That leads to the second observation…
(2) Let’s focus on what is nourishing this Gospel Soil: a commitment to the Word, a devotion to prayer, and a denial of self.
All to often when most people talk about “apostolic ministry” or “being a New Testament church” or living “New Testament Christianity” their focus is not a New Testament focus? They choose, instead, to focus on miracles or speaking in tongues or spiritual authority but they do not talk about a commitment to the Word (worship), a devotion to humble prayer, or denial of self (fasting).
But that’s what we see the early church doing. Since Pentecost, we have seen them devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And here we see them gathered: worshiping & praying & fasting.
What can we learn from this pattern?
- Gospel mission should be rooted in the local church. God has entrusted the gospel to local bodies of believers, diverse group come together for the purpose of studying the word and encouraging one another, being equipped to live faithful and missional lives.
(3) Lastly, we must remember that we have a powerul ally in the Holy Spirit. We can do nothing apart from the ministry of His Holy Spirit.
We cannot discern wisdom and forsake compromise without the Holy Spirit. We have no power to convict sinners, we have no strength to persevere, we have no love to give to one another, apart from the working of His Spirit within us.
And how does the Holy Spirit work within us?? Word, Prayer, Fellowship, & self-denial. These are His appointed means. Therefore, we must treasure the gospel, be committed to the gospel, and be devoted to one another.
If we are going to be a gospel church, a place where disciples are made and built up in the faith, then we must commit to one another in transparent living and interdependent community.
If we are going to be a goepl church, a church where each member is equipped and encouraged to represent Jesus in our community, our workplaces, and our world, we must give eager attention to God’s Word.
If we are going to be a gospel church, a church where God’s Spirit is free to speak, we must demonstrate our earnest and eager desire to listen by giving attention to prayer and rediscovering fasting.
If we are going to be a gospel church, we must love, live, and share the gospel.
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