Fredreich Nietzsche expressed his disappointments with life saying: “Where is my home? For it do I ask and seek, and have sought, but have not found it. O eternal everywhere, O eternal somewhere, O eternal–in-vain!” On the other end of the spectrum lies Michael Faraday. Faraday was an established and renowned skeptic, but he had a change of heart. In 1867 Faraday was on his deathbed. One of his colleagues asked, “Faraday, what are your speculations now?” Faraday responded, “Speculations? I have none! Thank God, I am not resting my dying head upon speculations. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Perhaps, the highlight of every Christian’s earthly life is twofold: 1) to be able to leave this world with confidence and 2) to help others to do the same. Christ and his evangelists fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).
At Antioch the seed of Christian truth first fell in abundance upon heathen soil; from Antioch first went forth the preachers of the gospel with the express purpose of disseminating it among the nations of mankind. The book of Acts and Christian history transitions at Acts 13. The center of attention has been Jerusalem, but the church in Antioch now takes center stage. The church at Antioch serves as a model for spreading the light of the Gospel because they were present, they were prepared, and the propelled evangelists into the darkness to liberate the willing to the kingdom of light.
They were Present–13:1
Who can overestimate the value of being present. We understand the implications and ramifications of being “AWOL”, absentee fathers, or the promising phrase: “I’ll be there for you”. Acts 13:1 records that the members of the church of Christ in Antioch were present. Luke twice emphasizes the fact that the church was there.
The book of Hebrews emphasizes the necessity of simply “being there” or being available. Which of us is not acquainted with Hebrews 10:24-26? Have we not experienced the encouragement of those who are present and felt the absence of those who have neglected the Lord?
Being present also means being available. There was a great order in the ancient church–Apostles, prophets, teachers–Ephesians 4.11 & 1 Corinthians 12.1. To this order God also instructed that elders be appointed in every congregation (1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1). While every member may not have an “official office”, every member is needed and useful “for the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). “But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them as he chose.” (1 Corinthians 12:18). You have a place in the the Lord’s body here. If you are not taking your place, you will be missed. The church will not function as it could, and some soul may be lost by your negligence. Earnestly desire to serve.
They were Prepared–13:2
Being present leads to being prepared. Someone said if they had only three years to preach, they would spend two years in prayer and preparation. The general rule for those in public speaking is one hour of preparation for every minute of speaking. He who dares to teach without preparation should disappear without hesitation. Those who would serve God must be prepare by being present and by studied practice of Christian skills.
The church members were described in this way, “as they ministered to the Lord” (Acts 13:2 KJV). The word “ministered” is the translation of a word which is a present active participle in Greek. That means that this group of people were presently servers of God. The word translated is the same word from which we get “liturgy”. λειτουργικὰ a general word applying to the ministrations of priests and Levites (Exod. 28:35; Numb. 8:26, etc.). Hence its use in Heb. 10:11 (see too Luke 1:23; Heb. 9:21). Joshua too is called Moses’ minister (מְשָׁרֵח) in Josh. 1:1, etc. and the angels are called λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα, “ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14). Its classical use was to designate any office performed by an individual for the public good. Hence in the New Testament its application to Church alms (2 Cor. 9:12), to gifts for the support of the ministry (Phil. 2:30), to the office of magistrates (Rom. 13:6), etc.
What a perfect example of preparedness for us today. They were practicing service and were called to further service. In order for us to grow we must first practice. In order for us to do great things for God, we must first do the routine things for God. When they had had sufficient preparation, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The word “separate” is the same word from which we get Pharisee. It is kin to being sanctified. It means to be set a part from the rest for a special task (aphorisate–Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:15). Every member must set themselves apart from all other pursuits in order to further the Gospel.
We too should spend our lives as servants offering our all to God. The exemplary servant Paul said, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). To the church in Corinth he said, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15).
They were Propelled–13:3
Their readiness led to their evangelistic mission. They were compelled to do God’s work. Therefore, they propelled others into the work. To be propelled means that there is something behind you pushing you. The gospel and the healthy gospel centered church propel Christians into God’s missionary work.
While they did not make a financial contribution to the work of Paul (Philippians 4:15), the church in Antioch supplied the foundation and encouragement most needed for God’s work. With prayer and fasting they are sent away into the service. Paul said, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for us all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle…a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:5-7).
We are sent as well (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 1:14-16; 2 Cor. 5:17-6:1). Did you know that if you make a 15 minute visit to visitors within 36 hours of worship, 85% will return; if within 72 hours, then 60%, and after one week only 15% will return. If the preacher makes the visit, then each percentage is cut in half. (Miller, Herb. How to build a magnetic Church). 22% choose a congregation because they respect the members. 34% because a member of the church invited them. Of those who simply visit a worship service, 80% visit because they were invited. Teaching is to learn twice. A great teacher is known by those students who surpass him. A great teacher is like a candle which lights others while consuming itself. Teach the Gospel today, teach the Gospel tomorrow, and shape eternity forever.
The Christians at Antioch invaded heathendom with the sword of faith, and heathendom fell before their onslaught. O God, raise up in our days such soldiers of the cross that all the kingdoms of the world may become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ! Let us unsheathe the Sword of the Spirit and ready ourselves for battle. Let us be those who send doubt, despair, and sin fleeing as we go forth with the sword of the Spirit and the healing of God’s grace.