Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 18 February 21:
Acts 11:26 – “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
The plot thickens as we see how God puts disparate (not desperate) people and circumstances together to build His church and spread the Gospel to all nations. Antioch was an important, cosmopolitan city of influence, full of Jews and Gentiles. Antioch is first mentioned in Acts 6 when, during a time of dispute between the Hebrews and Hellenists, seven devout and reputable men were selected (as deacons) to equitably care for the needs of the people. One of those seven was Nicolaus, a proselyte (convert to Judaism, and subsequent believer in Christ) of Antioch.
Today, we read that during the persecution and scattering of the church after Stephen’s execution, some believers went to Antioch, “speaking the word to no one except Jews.” However, some others also went to Antioch “preaching the Lord Jesus” to the Hellenists as well, “and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) When the church in Jerusalem heard of the work God was doing in Antioch, they sent Barnabas, “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24) Then, Barnabas went to Tarsus to get Saul and bring him to Antioch. Why? Likely Barnabas recalled what God had proclaimed of Saul, “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles.” (Acts 9:15) For a whole year, Barnabas and Saul taught the church in Antioch, transforming new believers into real disciples. They weren’t just preaching (kerygma), they were teaching (didache), moving from the basics to deeper understanding and application.
As a result of Barnabas’ and Saul’s teaching and discipling in Antioch, “the disciples were first called Christians,” separate and distinct from the Jews or any other religious group or faction, an identifier that is used only two other times in the Bible (Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). The evidence of Barnabas’ and Saul’s leadership in Antioch is perhaps best revealed by Antioch’s eagerness to send relief to their brothers in Judea during a world-wide famine. (Acts 11:27-30)
- Matthew 28:18-20 — And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God’s people are called to make disciples, disciplined, trained believers who are fully equipped to obey God and multiply the faith. Those who have been reached by preaching must be subsequently discipled – this is the Great Commission. Discipling requires consistent effort over time. A discipled church is an effective church, ready to subsequently fulfill the Great Commandment of love and the Great Commission. Is your church known most for its preaching or its disciple-making? Who is discipling you, and who are you discipling in Christ? What is the fruit of these discipling relationships?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Feb 21: Today, get a piece of paper and draw out your discipleship tree – who is discipling you and who you are discipling. If your tree looks more like a small sprout, pray that God will grow it and fill it out – “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)