In August, Regions Beyond which is Steve Oliver's Apostolic Sphere (which is a part of Newfrontiers ) held a Conference in the UK .At the conference Steve O and others shared on what the the apostolic, what is Regions Beyond and how do we relate as different apostolic spheres that share a common history, vision and values. This series of blogs is very useful to helping us understand who we are, what vision shapes us and what the future holds for us.You can find the mp3 audio recording the sermons that we will be summarizing here by City Church Gloucester website. This message is by RAY LOWE .
When I was speaking in the Hub, I spoke about being a missional church and spoke mainly about history. The English speaking church did not start to fulfill the great commission till the end of 18th century. And in January I spoke to you about the Moravian missionaries, etc.
1. The apostle of the free spirit; the spreading flame- F. F. Bruce
2. The quest for the radical middle regarding John Wimber and the vineyard movement.
3. From Bethlehem to Patmos- regarding what is going on at the time of Jesus and the early church- Paul Barnett
4. The history of Paul- Prof. Jerome Murphy O’Connor
In Acts 11:19-24 people with no background of monotheism- pagans were spoken to. There was a presence of God with them and a great number had come to Christ. There were 2 moves of God in a short time. In Luke’s account of this history, we can’t work out chronology and so the order of things is difficult to get a grasp of. But the Holy Spirit has orchestrated the events in a way that the promises to Abraham were being fulfilled and that is to bless every one through him. This final promise is where we are today.
At the end of the first decade, we find Peter lead to Cornelius’ house. In Acts 3 when the Jews who have been converted saw Peter they say, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men?” then he says, it wasn’t me, it’s the Holy Spirit. When God decides to do something, he is going to do it. The Samaritans and Jews hated each other. But Philip has an amazing move of the Holy Spirit in Samaria. Now we come to this story in Antioch. We do not know how Antioch fits in this but we see God’s promises being fulfilled. Antioch was a very cosmopolitan city. Jews were evangelistic in Antioch.
What did Barnabas see in Antioch? People who were out and out pagans were being saved and turning away from idolatry. He saw that Jews and gentiles now enjoy table-fellowship. They were in covenant and there was honesty and openness. They were living good lives. They were saved by just believing in Jesus. They did not have to become Jews first.
There was a total absence of Jewish paganism. He saw there that Jesus was enough. The law in Jerusalem was the big issue but Barnabas saw great potential there. He seeks out Paul and brings him to Antioch. Paul sees that it is possible to build a church like this and he writes later- there is now no Jew or gentile. He recognized that the key issue is Adam. We need to be brought out of Adam and into Christ. The law can’t do it but Jesus can.
Paul was very radical. When he was martyred, there weren't many Jews who cried over it because he was a rebel. When he persecuted the church he genuinely believed that the church was a fraud. He did not believe that the messiah would be hung on a tree and cursed by God. But when he met Jesus on the Damascus road, he was radically changed. Now he knew that Jesus is Lord, he goes back to the scriptures and understands that our problem was Adam and that Christ brought us out of Adam. He did not have a background, just an encounter with Jesus. And when he sees the church at Antioch he understands that Jesus is enough for salvation. That’s what made him so radical and unpopular.
Paul was preaching the gospel in Damascus, Syria and Silesia, and suffered the loss of all things for the gospel. By the time he had come to Antioch he was weathered and hadn’t seen much success. In verse 5, Paul saw something more than Barnabas. Barnabas saw the grace the God, but when Paul was brought into Antioch, for a whole year they taught great numbers of people. What did he talk about for a whole year? We can work out what he told, according to the fruit in the church.
1. Taking of the gospel to the ends of the earth. This was the fulfillment of the last promise given to Abraham. Paul saw that since law is now obsolete, the focus now should be Abraham and the promises made to Abraham and not Moses. Time and time again in Galatians and Romans, he says- consider Abraham and not Moses.
How to reproduce what Paul saw in Antioch when he goes to other gentiles?
F.F. Bruce in spreading Flames writes- “yet the birth of Jesus is as obscure as anybody’s birth. He spent his life in unimportant provinces of the empire and only rarely did he go out of there. He concentrated on the Jewish people in Palestine and only for 2 years in the end of his life did he play any public part. So what then is the reason that his fame spread so quickly?” It went from Jerusalem to Rome in only 30 years. The answer is in Abraham. The gospel was preached to Abraham.
We have to do the same thing that Paul did. The purpose why God restored his church was so that we’d fulfill the last part of God’s promise to Abraham. Restoration is not an end in itself. To pay the price and not win the goal is crazy. The focus is not on the world but on ourselves and the fear is that we are in the danger of being there again.
God’s heart is that no one should perish. If we are self- indulgent, we might miss this heart of God.
Restoration has come. If we get hold of this, we can do something.
2. Acts 13- after a year, something has happened. There are some caliber guys around. They developed a church of caliber leaders and functioning church. It’s hard job being a pastor- they give most of their lives to cleaning up dysfunctional people. But that is not maturity. In Luke 6:40 Jesus talks about maturity- it is character and function. The character of Christ and doing the things that Christ has done. Even if we produce a lot of nice people, it won’t change anything. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. God is not looking for sinless people. He’d much rather you have some faith and do the things that He did- that is maturity.
The great commission is this- go make disciples who go make disciples. Acts 13- the impression is that there is now a heavy- weight ministry. There are a bunch of people who are able to discern the will of God which only comes with maturity. That is what their teaching had produced.
Now the church is ready to send them and know that when they come back they will have an apostolic base there. This is very vital.
There are two ways of building churches. You could build around one man’s exemplary gift. It is great but eventually people got disillusioned. The second way is to build a functioning church where you produce in others the ability to play their part. This is the biblical way to do it. Its costly doing this, and many are not ready to pay the price. If we can see the biblical pattern in things, the Holy Spirit kicks in because He loves it. It’s the way Jesus and Paul did it.
Our thinking is got to be the kingdom of God. This will come through the manifold wisdom of God which was given to the church of God which is revealed to principalities and powers. We’re living in a time when God is doing great things. Once God starts doing something, the only thing that can hinder it Is if we don’t get behind it and we get lethargic.
Paul was beginning to learn about team. Until now, Paul was a loner. He had a call but he wanted to know how to be effective. He saw in Antioch it can happen because it was on ground. But there was a problem with his team. Mark deserted them later on, and he has a confrontation with Barnabas and Peter earlier. But after Antioch we see that there is a change in Paul’s thinking and strategy. He worked with those whom he had deep affection for. This is apostolic delegation- it’s not staff. We need to be careful about how we describe our fellow workers. Paul describes them as- “Titus, my true son”, “give my greetings to Nympha and the church in her house” and Timothy he says, he has no one like him… this is pure emotion and probably a little exaggerated because he loves them. Paul is not just a hard-working apostle but he learnt about fellowship. This is not about having people with different gifting but there was great love and relationship. He thought, “I need my friends”.
God lead Paul to some people who could really help him. Paul Barnett says, careful reading of Paul’s journey mentions at least 40 people who have sponsored Paul’s activities and he knew upto 80 people by name. Do not think that an apostle is not involved in the church, or he does not have intimate relations, Paul knew these people by name. if we do not have fellowship in our mission, we are not going for Jesus, we are going on a guilt trip.
When you say you are a pastor, people ask, “how big is your church?” that’s a worldly question. What they should be asking is “how loving is your church? How friendly is your church? How much grace is in your church? How gracious is your church?” Paul heart we see here is for the nations. Paul valued these true friends. He found companionship, encouragement, care, and strength. In such a dynamic group, there is a better way of discerning God’s will.
Lessons to learn - ( to be continued in Part 2)
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