Antioch Church: a Model for Local Church Ministry — Part 1
During a recent study of Acts 11-12, I was challenged by some clear lessons regarding the centrality of the gospel in the ministry of the local church. My hope is to explore some of these thoughts from the Scriptures with you in the next few articles.
Let us first establish an answer to the following important question: what is the gospel? The good news of Jesus Christ! So here is the bad news. We are all sinners that have rebelled against God (Rom. 3:23). The consequences of this rebellion are condemnation, death, and eternal punishment (Rom. 6:23; John 3:17-21). God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and thereby make the payment required to forgive and cleanse us from the guilt of sin. (John 3:16). Anyone who will repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation will be forgiven, justified, and saved from perishing (Rom. 5; Eph. 2:8-9).
Background of Acts 11
The early church is actively sharing the gospel not only in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7) and the region of Judea (Acts 9:32-43), but also Samaria (Acts 8), and now to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11)! Already we see a purposeful effort to follow the instructions of Jesus, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Preaching the Gospel in Antioch — Acts 11:19-21
“19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”
The brutal persecution described in Acts 6:8-8:3 resulted in believers taking the gospel to many new places. Oftentimes, this gospel ministry took place in Jewish communities and centred around the local Jewish meeting places. However, some faithful believers from Cyprus and Cyrene began sharing the gospel with Gentiles in Antioch. God blesses this ministry and many Gentiles repent (“turned”) of their sin and place their faith in the Lord Jesus! The local church begins to form in Antioch among Jewish and Gentiles believers. One great lesson we observe with the foundation of the church in Antioch is that God blesses the proclamation of the gospel to people from all backgrounds. There is absolutely no place for any prejudice or snobbery in the life of a believer.
Through the preaching of the gospel, a local church is started in a city which boasts the third largest population in the Roman Empire! Not only was this a powerful city in a strategic location, but it was also located a few miles away from a large pagan compound dedicated to the debauched worship of the false Greek deities Daphne and Apollo. Yet in the midst of all of these obstacles, God blesses the preaching of the gospel and even here in Antioch a church is established.
What about you? What challenges do you and your local church face? Has prejudice crept into your heart? Let us ask God to refocus our hearts on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and let us ask God to give us boldness to proclaim the gospel no matter what challenges we face in our culture. Next time we will look at some lessons from the life of a man called Barnabas.