BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday February 12, 2012
WE CAN REACH THE WORLD TOGETHER
(Christian missions call for teamwork)
Antioch is a Syrian city on the south side of the Orontes River. It is the place where the followers of JESUS were first called “Christians”. It is located in Phrygia, a province of Asia Minor, near the border of Pisidia. It is also the place where Barnabas and Paul taught the Church for a full year (Acts 11:26), just prior to the start of their, one and only, missionary journey together (Acts 13).
Barnabas, as we all know, is the man who originally introduced Paul to the new Christian Church, first, to the Apostles at Jerusalem in Acts chapter 9, and then later, to the church at Antioch of Syria, here in Acts chapter 11. We also now know that Barnabas later fell out with Paul, over differences involving his cousin John Mark, who was the eventual author of the “Gospel of Mark” (Acts 15:36-40).
Here in Acts chapter 11, starting in verse 19, and going through verse 21, we see, quite literally, the birth of the Christian Church at Antioch of Syria taking place. After this predominately Gentile church is established, and word gets back to the church at Jerusalem, the Apostles send Barnabas to Antioch to encourage the believers to stay true to the LORD. Large numbers of people were being converted to Christianity at Antioch during this period. This all happened about nine years after Paul fled Jerusalem under a murder threat from some of the Greek-speaking Jews that had been debating with him concerning Church doctrine. Paul had been rescued by a group of Believers who had received prior word of this murder plot. They took him, first to Caesarea, and then, on to his hometown of Tarsus to safety (Acts 9:28-30).
Barnabas, seeing the tremendous opportunity that was developing in Antioch for Christian growth, and, also being overwhelmed by the workload there already, decided to go to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back to Antioch to help him. Both of them stayed there in Antioch with the Church for a year teaching large numbers of people.
Also during this same period, a few of GOD’s Prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, whose name was Agabus, being filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, stood up in one of the meetings and predicted that a great famine would come upon the whole Roman Empire. This prediction was later fulfilled, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
The Believers, acting upon that prophesy, decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters of Judea. Everyone gave as much as they could, and they entrusted the proceeds into the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to take back to the Elders of the Church in Jerusalem.
This act of love by the Church at Antioch towards the Church at Judea undoubtedly helped to unite the two of them together in fellowship and love, just as Christian churches are meant by CHRIST to do. We are to respond to each other in a way that is pleasing to GOD. JESUS put it this way in Mathew 25:31-46, concerning how HE would conduct the final judgment. There HE tells us, in effect, that, we will be judged according to our reaction to human need. In other words, we are judged on how we, as Christians, help and treat each other in our times of need.
This passage of Acts chapter 11, verses 27-30, holds its significance in the fact that, the early Church realized the importance of unity in the new “Christian network of Believers”. When there was famine in Palestine, the first notion of the Church at Antioch was to send financial and spiritual help. Here we see, perhaps for the first time, the Christian Church, being thought of as a body of Believers being held together by the ideology of GOD. This was and is, an ideology that is meant to transcend all of the structural, organizational, and worshiping style differences of man, and bring us all together in fellowship and love. In fact, it is called Christian Unity, and it is this kind of unity that JESUS had in mind, when HE prayed to HIS FATHER GOD in John 17. It is also the same kind of unity that Paul wrote about to the Churches in all of his Doctrinal letters. It is a unity that is not born of bricks and mortar, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, which serves as an example to us, for all time.
We, as Christians, can truly reach the world together, but we must first prove to the world that Christianity produces the best men and women. And we can only do that, through the CHRIST-like examples that, we ourselves, must manifest through our own behavior.
(1). Reflect on some of the times in your life when “teamwork” with others aided
you in getting a project done much faster, and much more efficiently.
(2). Now ask yourself “Why can’t we do that all the time?”
(3). Then, ask yourself, “Why can’t we do that in the church, in our work for
CHRIST?” Well, actually, that’s the way CHRIST intended for it to be. We
should work together as one body in CHRIST. Remember, when CHRIST first
set out on HIS three-year earthly mission, the first thing HE did, was assemble a
team of volunteer workers (HIS disciples). This is what our personal application
should be in our work in our own respective Christian churches.
(4). It was not the size of the church at Antioch that made it successful, but rather, it
was their ability and desire to work together. Discuss with your church
members, ways in which you can work together to create a more viable body for
the work of CHRIST.
Pray to GOD for wisdom in the application of your duties within your respective Christian churches. Pray also that HE show you, through the HOLY SPIRIT, how to work together in the Christian cause, and support others in Christian missions, throughout your city, state, and indeed, throughout the world.