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Todd describes the church at Antioch, and how we learn from them what kind of church and what kind of person God uses. He looks at Acts 11 to see the beginnings of the church. And then, he transitions to Acts 13:1-3 to see who and how the Antioch church send on mission. The prophetic, biblical teaching, disciple making, grace-filled, unified, spiritually disciplined, Holy Spirit attentive, abiding, ambitious missional Church is the church God uses to change the world.
Our Opportunity for Mission in Our Historical Moment: Truth Meets Myth
God's People: Quick to Go to Others and Slow to Leave Each Other
Inspiration and Invitation to the Proclamation and Demonstration of the Gospel
The Church our Mother and its Mission
The Proper Liturgy of the Church and the Proper Way to Deal With Sorcerers
Antioch: The Kind of Church (and Men) That God Uses
Good morning, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. We are glad that those of you who are not witches and, therefore, don't melt in the rain have come to gather this morning. The rest of you online, sorry you're a witch.
We are at a pivotal point in the book of Acts, where we are going to see that God's vision for and plan for the world is about to be accomplished for the very first time, and it's going to be accomplished by men who are both Jews and Greeks. We're going to read about the church in Antioch being the base through which God will do what he always intended to do, which is to take his message of grace and redemption to the world, not just to one ethnicity or one group of people.
God's desire from the beginning was that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed through the descendants of the man he revealed himself to. The world had gone its own way. It had suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness. Professing to be wise, they became fools, so God models for us what love looks like. It doesn't just sit back and have its feelings hurt that people aren't responding. It initiates in mercy and grace. That's what love does, and God is love, so God initiates specifically with Abraham.
He says, "Abraham, here's my deal. I'm going to show you who you are. I'm going to make you a nation with many descendants. I'm going to give you a place for your people to gather, and you're going to be holy amongst all of the nations. You will be blessed, and those who bless you I will bless, and those who curse you I will curse, but my design is that all of the nations of the earth will be blessed. This isn't for you and the Semite or the Jewish people who come out from you. This is for the world."
You're going to find out the Jews were not faithful in that mission, and when you're not faithful in that mission to be a kingdom of priests and rightly represent God, specifically when you reject the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets pointed to, which is that the Messiah would come and would be a suffering servant who would deliver the people not from the oppression of Caesar who ruled over them but the Caesar of sin, which corrupted them and kept them from God…
That Deliverer would come and help them deal with that which keeps them from God. When that which keeps them from God is dealt with, then they could be the nation God intends them to be, and when that happens he will bless them and deliver them from all oppression. The nation, however, rejected their Messiah. It rejected that he was their great Deliverer, because they were looking for a political deliverer.
Therefore, he had to find a group of people who would faithfully take the message of deliverance, which came through the Anointed One, the Messiah (in Greek that's called the Christ), that would be the provision God intended the world to receive. That new group is called the church. It doesn't replace Israel. It is a parentheses in God's revelation until he goes back.
When Israel's eyes are opened and as a nation they see that Jeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah, then he will fulfill his promises to them, but for now we, the church, are to dance with their date and to make them jealous. That's Romans 11. What you're going to see is the church, made up of Jew and Greek, slave and free man, barbarian and Scythian, male and female, all equal in God's eyes, is called to be the same kingdom of priests (see 1 Peter 2) that Israel was (Exodus 19:6).
The question is…Will we do it? The answer in Acts 13 is, "Yes." We're going to begin with the church at Antioch. Let's see if we can't learn something about the church at Antioch. To do that, we need to see who they really were, and to do that we have to go back to Acts 11. So go to Acts 11 with me. Look at verse 19. This is the way things had been pretty much rolling. "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen…"
Remember there was one who understood what Jesus said, that he was the Lamb of God that came to take away the sins of the world. Actually, John the Baptist said that about him, and Jesus goes, "Correct." Therefore, we no longer need the blood of bulls and goats offered in the temple where the Spirit of God, the shekinah glory of God rested. We no longer need central temple sacrifice, because the perfect sacrifice has come.
We have a great High Priest who was the sacrifice who offered himself up to God and, therefore, we don't need the temple anymore. There's no need for temple sacrifices anymore. It is finished. Death has lost its victory. Sin has lost its sting. Therefore we are free. So take the gospel to the nations. That was not warmly embraced by Jewish leadership, so they killed Stephen when he said that.
As a result, some of the other folks who were part of Stephen's persuasion, the true church, were dispersed and scattered, and they went to Phoenicia, which is modern-day Lebanon (Phoenicia just means land of the palm tree. That's kind of what Lebanon is. It's a beautiful place right there in the Mediterranean Sea), and Cyprus, which is an island just off the coast of Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea, and Antioch, which we will learn more about in a moment.
"…speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone." That's what most folks did. They would go, "Hey, listen. The Messiah came from the Jews. They have the Law and the Prophets. We're going to be able to connect the dots and show them, 'This Jeshua, this Jesus, is the suffering servant. He is the Lamb of God. He is the Deliverer. Pay attention to him.'" So they went primarily to their people, and they went to synagogues.
There's no problem with doing that. You're going to find that Paul repeats that pattern all throughout the book of Acts, but what you'll see is that God, who loves the Jewish people, also loves the non-Jewish people. He always has, always will. Jews need, though, to understand that if they reject God's provision for them in the Messiah they are separated from God, just like Gentiles need to understand if they don't recognize the Messiah God, who happens to come from the Jews, they are separated from God.
There were some individuals who knew they didn't just need to go to the synagogue; they needed to go to the world. You're going to find in verse 20 that some guys said, "Hey, it looks like the synagogues are covered. Let us take the gospel everywhere." We've seen this in Acts. God is so gracious in teaching the church that this isn't just a Jewish thing. He starts by having Philip go up to Samaria, which is a nation state of half-Jews and half-Gentiles.
When Israel was brought into exile because they were disobedient to God, some Jews remained there in Palestine, and the occupying forces wed with them. Their children were half Jews and half Babylonians, and they were called Samarians because they lived in Samaria. When the Jews returned, they were never really embraced, because their blood had been tainted. By the way, in God's eyes, the only thing that taints you is sin, which is in all our blood since we're all descendants of Adam and Eve, who were sinners.
Jesus didn't care about the fact that the Jews didn't love Samaritans. He would walk right through Samaria. A good Jew never would. A good Jew would avoid Samaria and go up and visit the Jews in the north in Galilee and then go across the Jordan River and come down through what's called Perea and then enter back in down there in Judea. Not Jesus. He'd go straight through, not because he was lazy but because he was love and loved all men.
Philip goes up to Samaria. Lo and behold, they receive the gospel. The Christians in Jerusalem hear about it. They send Peter and John up. This is Acts 8. "Hey, what in the world is going on up there?" "Well, these people are receiving the same Spirit we received. They are totally reconciled to God the way we are. I'll be. God loves Jews that aren't all Jewish."
A little bit later, there is a Gentile, Cornelius, in Caesarea in Acts 10. The church doesn't seek him; he seeks the church. We see that the Holy Spirit shows up fully in the Gentile the way he did the Samaritan (half Jew and half Gentile), the same way he did in the Jew. I'll be. Now all of a sudden, in Acts 11, we're going to see some guys who say, "We don't need to start with just Jewish people. God loves all people."
Now listen. This is what's amazing to me. For the first time, somebody is getting what God has always wanted. When you think of great men and women of God who have been busy about initiating and taking grace and mercy to people who don't have it, you might think of Jim Elliot, if you paid attention at all. You might think of Adoniram Judson who went to India. You might think of Hudson Taylor, who went to China, or Eric Liddell.
Watch Chariots of Fire. They don't capture the best part of his story. It's not that he didn't race on the Sabbath. It's that he left fame and fortune in England to go give his life away in China and take grace and mercy to a people who didn't understand it. You might think of Amy Carmichael, who went to China and India, and you'd go, "These are some amazing saints." You might think of Paul, but these guys weren't the first.
Do you know who the first folks were who ever got busy doing what God wanted them to do? We don't know. Just some guys from Cyprus and Cyrene. That is amazing to me. When you get to heaven, you're going to meet some guys and say, "Who are you?" and they're going to go, "I'm just some guy from Cyprus or Cyrene," and you're going to go, "You're the guys who were the first ones ever who figured out what God has always been trying to get men to do?"
Why aren't their names recorded in the Scripture? I think the reason their names aren't recorded is because God is like, "If you want to seek the fame and fortune and celebration of men, that's fine, but that's not going to necessarily mean you're faithful." In fact, I made a note to myself in my Bible. I just wrote down, "Do not seek to be noticed by men, but seek to be used mightily by God." This is what these guys did.
Hebrews 6:10 is a verse I love. It says, "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." In other words, people may not know at all what you do, but the Lord does if you're being faithful before him.
You might just be some guy from Plano or Fort Worth or Dallas. You might just be some single mom, but I'm going to tell you something. The only one who needs to notice you has noticed you. Even though Luke said, "Just some guys from Cyrene and Cyprus," which is Northern Africa and some island in the middle of the Mediterranean… Luke said the only historian who you want to make sure knows you knows you. That was helpful to me.
Do not seek to be noticed by men; seek to be used mightily by God, and these men were. " [They] came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus." That's what men who want to be mightily used by God do. They preach Jesus. They don't care where they are. They just do it. Antioch was the third greatest city in the known world. There was Rome. There was Alexandria, which is down there in Egypt.
That city was known for luxurious immorality. There were chariot races there. It was known for deliberate pursuit of pleasure 24 hours a day. It was Vegas or, because they had chariot races, let's call it Daytona. You went to Antioch when you wanted to get after luxurious immorality and pursue pleasure 24 hours a day. Also in Antioch, just outside of that little city… What it was most famous for was not the chariot races. It was the temple of Daphne.
Who is Daphne? Well, good question. Daphne is a nymph in Greek mythology. Daphne is the nymph that was so beautiful that Apollo, the son of Zeus, was smitten by her. Not just because it was a normal beautiful "smitteness" but because Apollo, who ran his mouth against everybody, was poking fun at Eros… You know Eros as Cupid. That's what the Romans called the Greek god Eros, where we get the word erotic.
Apollo was saying, "You're a bad aim, and your arrows are worthless," and Cupid said, "Oh yeah?" Boom! Popped him in the heinie. He got his eyes on Daphne, and he was on the prowl. Daphne was concerned, so she cried out for help from her daddy, so her daddy turned her into a lotus bush. Isn't this brilliant? I'm not kidding you. It's just like last week. This is what's going on. This is what the people believed.
There was a lotus grove outside Antioch where there was a massive and well-known temple to Daphne. So you would go to Antioch, this city of luxurious immorality, with the boys. You'd watch the chariot races, and then you would go out to the temple of Daphne five miles out in the lotus groves and reenact the storied love of Apollo and Daphne. You would pay to chase temple prostitutes through the lotus bushes until you captured them and experienced eros with them and worshiped her.
This is a pagan city. In fact, it was well known. It was a euphemism around the world that if you were around a loose girl you would say, "She has the morals of Daphne," which means she is ready and available. That's where the church began. Isn't that awesome? When God is trying to start a light for the world, he's not intimidated by darkness. When Jesus took his disciples up into the very northern part of Israel near Mount Hermon to Caesarea Philippi, he took them to the gates of hell.
That, as I've told you, is not just a metaphor. That was a literal place where they worshiped the god of Pan. There were Roman temples all around. It was just another excuse by men to sleep with women as an act of worship. Jesus took the men there. There was a gate there, a big abyss, that led to the mouth of the Jordan River that they thought was a bottomless pit, and they called it the gates of hell.
Men would sleep with prostitutes there as an act of worship, and Jesus said, "Hey, boys. I know it's just me and you Twelve, and one of you is a traitor, but even this isn't going to stand. There's going to be a day not long from now where some guy in Dallas named Wagner is going to preach the Word, and no one is going to know where the gates of hell are. This thing is going to go, because I'm in it and I'm God."
I don't care where you are, how dark it is, how hopeless the situation. When God wants to start a great work, he can start it, and what he needs is faithful men who are willing to preach Jesus to start the revival. So don't you lose heart. This is Antioch we're in, and it is the pit of luxurious immorality, and something is going to happen. Here's what's going to happen. "…preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord."
Do you want to be effective this week? Here's how you're effective. "O God, I want to preach Jesus, and may you be with me." Off you go. You just write that prayer somewhere and start every day before you get out of bed… Don't hit your feet; hit your knees, and just go, "Lord, let me preach Jesus today, and may you be with me."
Paul figured this out. This is his life mission statement. Colossians 1:28-29: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." You get that? It's not that hard.
You're like, "Man, it would be amazing to be Paul." You don't need to be Paul. You can be some random guy from Cyprus or Cyrene who preaches Jesus and asks God to be with you. That's all Paul was: some random guy from Cilicia who preached Jesus, and the Word was with him. Let's go, church. Change your Antioch. Be faithful.
The church in Jerusalem heard about these Gentiles coming to faith, and they said, "Barnabas, you're a leader. Get up there and see what's going on." Verse 22: "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord…"
That's all godly men need to do. When you want to encourage people, just say, "Let's go. Let's be strong in heart. Make sure we are resolute in heart and remain true to the Lord." Now Barnabas was there. He was an encourager. He was saying, "You go, church. I see Jesus in you," but he knows, "I have to get these boys something." Enthusiasm will only carry you so far. He goes, "These guys need a teacher."
Who could teach in a city like Antioch, this crazy, perverse, luxuriously immoral city? Answer: "There's a sharp dude I remember meeting here earlier, who came to faith here in Syria down there in Damascus, who I hung out with. He is a teacher of the law. He is brilliant. I'm going to go find me Saul." So he went up a little north of there to Cilicia, which is where Tarsus is. He found Paul and brought him back to Antioch.
Now I want to make a note of verse 24. It says Barnabas did this because "he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit." What good men full of the Holy Spirit do is they are committed to sharing their faith and making disciples. Do you want to be a good man? Do you want to be a person who's known to be full of the Holy Spirit? Then do what Barnabas and some random jokers from Cyprus and Cyrene did. Preach Jesus, and may the power of God be with you as you share your faith and make disciples.
Am I repeating myself? Yes, because that's what the Scripture does. What do you think Jesus wants you to get out of this passage? Do you want to be a good man? Do you want to be a good woman? Share your faith and make disciples. That means this week if you did not share your faith boldly with people, looked for opportunities in this very unchurched city you live in, then you were not a good man full of the Holy Spirit.
That means if you shared your faith with others and you didn't find somebody who knew a little less than you and said, "Come with me to Training Day, come with me to Equipped Disciple, come with me to learn more about what I'm learning in my Community Group," then you are not a good man or a good woman full of the Holy Spirit.
You might be what the world calls a good man, but you are not what the Bible calls a good man unless you're leading where you are, preaching Jesus, and making disciples. That is the definition, biblically, of a good man. When you say, "That's a good man," if you're talking about something else, you'd better go, "I'm not talking biblically. I'm not talking like the only opinion that matters, which is God, but to me he's a good man."
You know what's interesting? Most men would rather be noticed by men than be seen as mighty by the Lord. Don't make that mistake. This good man went to Tarsus to look for Saul. Verse 26: "…and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."
Do you know why? Because they studied God's Word and were taught, and they started to look like Jesus. They didn't just have some conversion by some random guys who were all fired up preaching Jesus. They didn't just have a crusade where there was an altar call. No, they were taught and discipled. I see people all the time who come to faith and then just go dormant and there's really no transformation.
They think they love Jesus. Maybe they do love Jesus, but nobody ever brings them along, never disciples them, never teaches them the Word, never admonishes them when they're unruly, never encourages them when they're fainthearted, never helps them when they're weak. Because of that, they're stunted, and their marriages are a disaster, their kids are a disaster, or their kids go to church but don't ever get discipled, so they have a said faith not a saving faith, or they have a faith that will not persevere through college, because they didn't get after it.
Gandhi used to say, "I love your Christ; I just have a hard time with your Christians. Because your Christians aren't what Christ said they should be, I question whether your Christ is really your Christ. If all your Christians were like Christ, I would go, 'That is the man, and I like his men.' But I don't see his men doing anything like he did. Therefore, maybe that's not the man."
That's Gandhi. It's not terrible logic. This is what Jesus said: "By this all men will know that you're my disciples: if you are little 'Jesuses' and you love one another as I have loved you and that you're one and there's unity." Do you see that? How are you guys doing? The church at Antioch was discipled. It was taught the Word of God, and it was called little Christians.
Acts 13. Now this sets you up. In Acts 12, by the way, you have the providential growth of the church in verses 24-25. That's what happens. "The Word of the Lord continued to grow." What else do you have? You have persecution. Whenever God goes to work, so does the Enemy. So after Acts 11, where the church is starting to be the church, there's persecution. "Let's get the head. Let's get James dead. Let's lock up Peter."
Then God says, "Nope. I don't care if you're Herod and the king of the world. I'm the King of the universe. You're dead. The church will continue." Acts 13: "Now there were at Antioch…" You guys are all caught up on Antioch, aren't you? You know exactly what's going on there. In this church where there's something happening, like should happen in every church, there were "…prophets and teachers…"
Do you get that? That's what has to be there in a church: prophets and teachers. Otherwise, you have little converts, but you do not have little Christs. You have baby Christians who are not little Christs. They don't become the mature measure of a man God intends them to be. A church without prophets and teachers is not a healthy church. It's not a church at all. God intends churches to have pastors and teachers.
By the way, who your pastors and teachers are matters greatly. It's why I spent my time last week talking about how if you're a teacher you ought to pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching. It's why when I taught through 2 Peter… We named that series Hold Fast. First Peter is about persecution from without. Second Peter is about perversion from within. So make sure you don't just have a teacher. Make sure it's a biblical teacher.
I literally bumped into this this morning walking out of my office. This hung up here during my entire 2 Peter series. It's the idea that I believe, just like on cigarettes there ought to be a warning sign, as there is… Our surgeon general puts on there, "Hey, you might think you're just taking a quick smoke break, but what you might be doing is letting cancer break free in your body, so be careful before you inhale and exhale that stuff."
What I said is that there is a Divine Physician's warning, and what you're taking from this pulpit may be eternally damaging to your health, so be careful. Churches should have pastors and teachers, but you have to make sure the pastors and teachers you have are teaching the right thing. Can I take a little diversion right here? There is a reason our country is jacked up, and it's because our pulpit is jacked up.
I say this all the time. I was asked to speak to a bunch of leaders in the community, and they said, "Todd, the topic is this. Would you speak on the greatest evil that's confronting the church today?" I go, "Absolutely." I said, "The greatest evil confronting the church today is the evil church." It's things that are called churches that are not churches at all, that have guys who are teaching who don't teach God's Word correctly.
They call themselves pastors, but they're hirelings. They're cowards and money-grubbers or they don't have the courage to go against society's current or against the current of their flesh, so they justify certain behaviors by torturing the Scripture. That's a problem. Here's the deal. This is a recent polling. You ask Americans today, "What are you?" and 75 percent of Americans will say, "I am a Christian." They're not the kind hanging out at Antioch. They're American Christians.
What's an American Christian? Fifty-five percent of Americans go to church…when it's not raining. That means 66 percent only are going someplace where they have the opportunity to be taught and spoken to by men who will bring forth the Word of God. That means a third of the church doesn't even get a chance. They're isolated. They're on their own. They're ignoring the Scripture's command to be a part of a body and held accountable.
Here's the other problem. Of the 55 percent of Americans who go to church, which is already a compromised number of Christians, only 35 percent of them are born again. "Well, Todd, what does that label mean?" This label born again they're using… They don't just say, "Are you born again?" They ask people a series of questions, and if they say they've made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that's still important in their life today and that they are absolutely certain that when they die they will go to heaven because they've confessed their sins and trusted in Christ as their Savior, then they label them born again.
Watch what's happening. Seventy-five percent of Americans say they're Christian. Fifty percent of Americans will go where they might run into a prophet and a teacher. Thirty-five percent of Americans think their commitment to Jesus is important today and that they're certain, because they're committed to Jesus, they're going to go to heaven. Twenty-three percent of Americans are what is called Bible-minded.
You go, "Todd, what's Bible-minded?" I'm going to tell you. Only one in four Americans believe the Bible is accurate in what it teaches and have read their Bible at least once in the last week. It gets worse. Seven percent of Americans are what are called evangelical by their definition. What's evangelical? They ask these people a series of questions.
If they say they have a faith that's still important in their life today, that they believe they have a personal responsibility to declare that faith to others, that there really is an Enemy of God who is a deceiver and a tempter of men called Satan, that they believe Jesus was a historical figure who lived a sinless life on earth, that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches, that you can only be saved by grace through faith and not as a result of works, and that God is an all-powerful, all-loving God, consistent with the theology of the Scriptures…
If you're those seven things, now you are an evangelical. In other words, only 7 percent of Americans are what probably was in Antioch, little Christians. Those things I just read… That's what a little Christ would do and believe. They would be men and women full of the Holy Spirit, who would declare their faith that man is saved only by what Jesus has done, and they live in relationship with him, resisting the living Enemy of God who tempts and taunts men to be deceived and follow wicked spirits. They represent God in a biblical way and live holy lives.
Do you want to know what the problem with America is? We don't go to church, and when we go to church we're taught poorly. Do you think Paul understood this? Let me tell you how certain I am that Paul understood this. When Paul went to plant a church all around the world, he took the truths he had learned in Antioch and taught them to the people in Colossae. He took the truths he learned in Antioch and carried them forward when he went to Ephesus.
Ephesians, chapter 4: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…" In other words, "We're not just going to say we're Christians. Be a Christian, Ephesus." By the way, Ephesus was the fourth most influential city behind Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome.
" [Do it] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." I'm going to show you how Antioch did that in spades. Paul said, "You have to do that, because even though you're from different races and different people groups, don't you worry about different races and people groups."
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, '** When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives ***…'"*
In other words, Jesus compelled these men who were prisoners of sin and death to follow him. They became captive to him, and as any conquering hero did, he gave gifts to those who were delivered as a result of his conquering. Then it says in verse 9, "Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?"
By the way, I did a Real Truth. Real Quick. that answers the question…What did Jesus do between the cross and the resurrection Sunday? Did he go to hell? If you grew up in a church that quoted the Apostles' Creed, some of you guys had a little phrase in there that said, "I believe in Jesus Christ." And it goes through and then says, "…who was crucified, dead, and buried, who descended into hell."
That has been pulled, rightly, from most Apostles' Creeds that are recited today, because it is a misunderstanding of this text. What it's talking about here is he descended to the lower parts of the earth. The earth is made up of the heavens and the earth, so it's saying that Jesus came and walked on earth, which was, if you want to say it that way, hell. Jesus didn't go to hell to pay for your sins. When he was on the cross and died, it was finished right then.
First Peter 3 does tell us he went and proclaimed to the souls that were then in prison, "You messed up by not believing that God was going to provide a way for you, and I am the way," and those who had trusted in the grace of God that would come by observing by faith the sacrifices God said they should observe until that perfect sacrifice came were led, if you will, to a place of rest until Jesus at the final day resurrects them to live with him forever.
Paul is just teaching all this. Anyway, to do that, he said, "You're going to need a teacher here in Ephesus. And guess what? God is going to gift some teachers around here, and he's going to give some as apostles, some as teachers. He's going to give some as prophets, some as evangelists, and he's going to do that (Ephesians 4:12) "for the equipping of the saints."
What am I saying here? This is what a church does. Do you want to know how to be a church like Antioch that changes the world? Antioch is the reason we have churches in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano, and every other place there's a biblical church. Because of Acts 13. Because there were people there who were "equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until all of the members were little Christians who attained to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and became mature men and women."
"…to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…" Who are going to tell men, "Oh, if you love God, you'll let people do what they want to do. If you love God, how can you be against love?"
There are going to be men who are going to go, "You're right. Maybe that's what we should do," and they're going to be a compromised church. There are churches all over this country today that do not have biblical teachers, if they even bother to go to them, and as a result of that you have a compromised America.
These three little throwaway verses in Acts 13 are not throwaway verses. It's telling you if you want to be a church that changes the world you'd better make sure you're at a church where the pastors, prophets, and teachers are bringing forth the Word of God to you, that they're speaking the truth in love to you so that you can grow up in all aspects (Ephesians 4:15) to the one who is the head, Jesus Christ, so you would be a little Christ. Who your teachers are matters.
Paul is just saying when he starts a church in Ephesus, "You want to be a church like Antioch? Make sure you study God's Word, and make sure you're taught well. Make sure you don't forsake your assembling together. Make sure you live together and show tolerance to one another in love." Biblically, this is tolerance. There are all kinds of different cultures, all different kinds of tastes and appetites, but there's one Lord, one God, one faith, one baptism, one God who is over all and through all and in all, and you speak the truth of that God.
Old tolerance used to be that every idea could have an equal hearing. New tolerance is every idea has equal truth. That isn't good, people. When you progress off a truth you digress. I don't care which way you go. Progressiveness over truth is a problem. Tolerance where people are concerned is a virtue. Tolerance where there is truth is a tragedy. Tolerance, biblically, is one God, one Lord. Speak the truth of him. Teach them to follow him.
What you're going to find out right here is that in this church in Antioch (we're in Acts 13:1) there was Barnabas, and there was Simeon, who was called Niger. Niger is still a nation state in Africa. Do you know what Niger means? Black. What you're going to have right here in Acts 13:1 is a compliment.
You have a Jew, you have a black man from Northern Africa, you have Lucius of Cyrene (a Roman), and you have Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, this Edomite who grew up in Herod Antipas' house. He was his buddy and his brother, a foster child probably, raised with Herod the fox, who beheaded John the Baptist, who was there the night Jesus was betrayed. This guy Manaen went, "There's something about that Jesus," and God plucked him out.
You have an elitist Roman nobleman, you have a black man, you have a Jew, and you have a Roman citizen, and guess what they're doing? They are one, and they love each other, and they're at peace. You have right there in Acts 13 in the church at Antioch a church that's modeling what the world keeps looking for.
I've said this before. You go up to New York and there's the United Nations building up there. Chiseled into the side of the United Nations building is Isaiah, chapter 2, which says, "And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks," because the nations will unite and there will be peace.
Can I just tell you something? There will be no peace amongst the nations until men deal with the problem, which is that they are all arrogant, racist, self-protective men who want what they want. The United Nations is the biggest joke on earth. I don't know if you've noticed. It has been around since 1950. We have not beaten our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. We are still killing each other.
Do you know what is wrong with churches that don't teach well? You went to a church in Southern America, 1870 to 1960, and the teachers justified treating Simeon the Niger like he was less of a man, because they were taught poorly. You had racism and prejudice (see also stupidity) in the church. One of the things I am most grateful for in this town is the way this church assimilates all nations that are here.
We're a city with all kinds of immigrants who come. It's the number one immigrant settlement city in America. There are over 70 languages spoken in the homes of students who go to our public school system, and guess what? We have members from 70 different nations of origin whose native tongue is not English. I've said that before. That's like the tenth time I've said it, because it blesses me, because it is a mark.
If you live on an island like Cyprus, you're not going to be punished because you don't have a bunch of folks on that island who are from somewhere else, but we don't live on an island. We live in a city full of ethnicity. If we go, "I'm not going to tolerate you because you don't look like me. Your hair is different than mine, your accent is different than mine, your eyes are different than mine, your skin color is different than mine," we are not Jesus' church.
I would just say, "Way to go, church." If you're a grace-filled church, you ought to be gracious to one another. That's what Acts 13:1 is saying. There's a reason that Luke wrote that down. He goes, "Do you see what the United Nations can't pull off? The Prince of Peace can." We ought to be marked by our love for the nations, because that is what God is marked by.
Verse 2: "While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" Who did the church set apart to go do the work of the mission? Guys who were already doing the mission. I'm going to say this, and it might offend some people, but so be it. Do you know who the church in America typically sends overseas? Folks who can't serve well in America, people who are just awkward sometimes.
Not everybody. It would be crazy to make this a universal thing, but I've seen again and again… There are people who go, "I really can't find a church in America that wants me, people in my culture, my language, my tongue. I'll go somewhere else in a different culture, different language, different tongue, and see if it works there." Do you know who the church in Antioch sent? Their best and their brightest.
Whether they're awkward socially or not, leave that for a second. What really bothers me is that we send men and women to do things other places that they're not doing here. How crazy is that? That's why we fight for the word missions here at Watermark. We don't call what you do over there missions. No, what you do every day is your mission. Everything we do all the time is mission. If we see folks faithful here, we'll go, "Why don't you go teach over there for two weeks, you who are already faithfully sharing your faith and making disciples here?"
That's why whenever you see this little thing flash up there called Unashamed we beg you to go to it. Do you know what that is? It's an in-city mission trip we do every single month. We gather Friday night. We do prayer walks throughout the city. We go and show you different places where things are happening you can pray for.
Saturday, we work with our external partners to minister for four hours during the day and serve our city, and then in the afternoon we go share our faith, and that night we gather at Klyde Warren Park and invite all the church to go down there in downtown Dallas and worship. Every month that's happening. Has your Community Group been through it? Be on mission with us. Folks go, "How do I get to go to Africa? How do I get to go to Haiti?" Be unashamed right here first. That's who the church has always sent out: folks who are already doing it.
"Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." Guess what they're going to do? We're going to study verses 4-12 next week. What they went away to do was to teach the Word of God against all deceitfulness and trickery of men, and guess who they're going to run into? A magician who claimed to know the ways of God. You're going to see Paul do exactly what I just read in Ephesians 4 we're called to do.
Here's my closing point, and it's worth getting. If I had to describe the church at Antioch based on Acts 13:1-3, with a little tip of the hat back to Acts 11:20-26, I would describe it this way. It was a prophetic, biblical-teaching, disciple-making, grace-filled, unified, spiritually disciplined, Holy Spirit-attentive, Jesus Christ-abiding, ambitious missional church, and God used them. Guess what? That's the church he still uses.
I want you to look at this list. Are you willing to speak the truth in love prophetically and boldly and say, "I have to tell you, you can kick against the truth of God all day long, but this is the truth of God"? Are you a teacher? Are you teaching other people God's Word? Are you making disciples? Are you grace-filled? Are you unified or are you a prejudiced racist person who needs to understand that God loves the world?
Are you abiding with Jesus? Are you attentive to the Holy Spirit? Are you anxious to roll out of bed this week and go, "Lord, I want to share Jesus, and I want you to be with me"? Church, that's the church Jesus uses. If we want Watermark to change the world (and we do, because it's Jesus' church), that's the church we have to be. If we're going to be that church, you need to be a prophetic, teaching, disciple-making, grace-filled, unified, spiritually disciplined, Holy Spirit-attentive, Christ-abiding, missionally ambitious follower of Christ.
If you are, you will be called a Christian. If that isn't who you are, you might be like a bunch of other Americans who say, "I'm a Christian" but are not born again, Bible-believing, or evangelical. Do you want to know why our country is in trouble? Because probably about 70 percent too many people call themselves something they're not, and I mean it. But don't elbow somebody else. Look right in and go, "Who am I, Lord? Make me like them who changed the world."
Father, we're going to sing this prayer right now that you would come into our lives and make us the men and women you would participate with to change the world. Would you help us, Lord? Would you make us a prophetic, teaching, disciple-making, missionally ambitious people? For the glory of Christ and the good of the world and the joy of our souls I pray, amen.
Does it bother you sometimes, some of you really free people, when we sing a song that says, "I lift my hands up" and only 15 people have the courage to lift their hands up? Here's the thing. Do you know what bothers me? A church that lifts its hands up right here and doesn't go out and use their hands to serve this city. That's what bothers me.
If you're too prideful to say you love God as much as you love when Zeke runs an 80-yard touchdown, that might be a problem. It's a bigger problem if you cheer at the game and you go and wear a Redskins jersey. That's a completely crazy metaphor, but you get what I'm saying. The world doesn't care whether you lift your hands in here. It's watching to see if you lift your hands out there, if you seek the welfare of your city.
It wants to know if you know something that is the pivot point of their eternity. It wants to know if you can raise kids to be a blessing in this city. It wants to know if your kids are going to be leaders to their kids, if you're going to serve their kids and their schools. We are disciple-making, missionally ambitious, humble people.
When you walk out, we'll hand you these. Don't take 50 of them unless you're going to use them. Take three, give them away, and get more. Take as many as you're going to use. Just invite them to come. They'd love to know that somebody knows something. They wonder why everybody goes somewhere on Sunday morning once a year. Say, "Come and see." If you can't bring them Saturday, because there's not going to be any room on Sunday, bring them early.
Here's what's more important. We're here right now. Have you really come to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus? It doesn't matter where you've been. You can be raised with Herod, and God says, "I love you. Yeah, that's my boy. He died for you." It doesn't matter what race or nation you're from. He just wants to know if you want to know that he's your Father.
So do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith, and come, acknowledge your need, accept his provision of grace, and then with that gift of salvation comes a gift to use for his glory and others' good. So let's get busy, church, attending to his business, not a service. Let us know how we can help you. Have a great week of worship.