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This chapter marks the beginning of what we call the missionary age.  While we have observed in our study partial fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to make his people witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth (e.g., the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius), this is the beginning of his most significant accomplishment of that goal.  In the last study, I noted from 11:25,26 that it is every member’s responsibility to participate in the process of making disciples.  However, in this study I want to emphasize that it is every member’s responsibility to participate in going into all the world to make those disciples.  Not that everyone is to go into a cross-cultural situation, but everyone does have a responsibility to participate in the ultimate task.  While there are many ways to participate, this text focuses on three which we are not accustomed to thinking about. 

 

In this text you find all of the enabling grace to carry out that most dignifying of services.  You will do it by means of the Spirit of Christ whose power is personal for the sake of indwelling us so that we will build the Kingdom of God.  But we also find that the Spirit’s work is not privatized.  He works in us only as we faithfully participate in the Church. The marks of a Spirit-directed church are teaching, worshiping, and sending.  Each one of these requires more personal involvement by the churchman and more sacrifice.  But a church wherein these are being engaged in faithfully is a church which will make an eternally significant difference for Christ not just in its community but around the world.

I. Teaching

The first sign of a Spirit-directed church is that it is well-taught.  That requires two kinds of people: teachers and students.

A. Skilled Teachers

A church must put a premium on good teaching by calling good preachers and then giving them time to prepare in order to deliver their teaching with excellence.  The men in this text are identified as prophets and teachers with no clarifying comment about which men hold which office.  It is likely that this is an example of hendiadys, an occasion where two words refer to the same office.  That is, these men had gained skilled in taking Old Testament prophecies and teaching their significance for the present day.  That of course is all a present-day Bible teacher is called to do—explain and apply the Scriptures to today’s world.

 

1) Under Less Accomplished People: There must be a sizable majority who are humbly putting themselves under the teaching of the Word in corporate worship and Bible study.  The goal should be to equip every member so that he or she is able to teach at least one other person the truths of the faith.  I say that requires humility because some of you are highly accomplished in your vocational fields and it is humbling at times to take instruction in spiritual things from people younger than you and less accomplished than you in their regular vocations.  But humility is part of God’s curriculum for future teachers.

 

2) Under Different Kinds of People: Another humbling strategy God often uses to grow his people is to give them teachers who have very different backgrounds and skin color.  Think about the differences among these prophets.  Barnabas was a Jewish Levite priest.  Simeon and Lucius were Africans.  Simeon’s surname “Niger” means “black” most likely referring to his skin color.[1] And Lucius was of Cyrene, which is modern day Libya in North Africa.  It is likely that he too was dark-skinned.    

 

Therefore, every one of these teachers had a background that held potential to offend someone in this new congregation.  Gentiles had to humble themselves to sit under Jews.  Jews had to humble themselves to sit under Africans.  The poor had to humble themselves to sit under the affluent.  And the uneducated had to sit under the educated.  God often designs his church that way in order to test our true humility.  But the result can be glorious.  For example, these could commend the Gospel to anyone because “Everyman” was represented by the leadership.

II. Worshiping

To participate in a well-taught church only requires sitting passively under instructors.  However, a Spirit-directed church is also a worshiping church.  To be a worshiper requires more involvement than sitting and listening.  It means standing, singing, praying, and sometimes fasting. 

AWork

In the Old Testament, “worship” primarily described what priests did at the temple (Lk. 1:23).  However, for the first time Luke uses “worship” to describe what the community of Christians do together.  The Latin word from which liturgy is derived, refers to the work of the people.  Because the Spirit has come to each of us, we are all priests.  Even in the Old Testament, worship was not merely observation of the professionals praying and chanting; the worshiper was knee-deep in the gore of his sacrifice by the time he handed it to the priest!  Even more so now is it the case, that all the people of God—whom the Bible calls “priests”—are completely involved in worship. 

B. Rest

God gives you permission to spend one whole day in worship so that he may put you back together and lead you in the right way.  He gives you rest from your usual labors and activities to be blessed and restored.  Why do we neglect it?  The psalmist urges us to bookend our day in corporate worship saying that we experience his love in the morning and his faithfulness at night (Ps. 92).  Can you think of any need in your life that would not be answered by God’s love or faithfulness?   When you cut yourself off from the appointed worship services of God’s Church and spend the rest of the day in busy, frenetic, commercial, or self-consumptive activities you cut yourself off from the opportunity to be transformed by his grace.  The Bible teaches that the progress and accomplishments of our Christian lives will be directly correlated to our faithful attendance to corporate worship and the keeping of the Sabbath day.  That is not to say that worship and Sabbath keeping are meritorious but rather to say if you do not eat regularly at God’s banquet table you will be a frail, emaciated Christian.  But if you eat from his bounty, you will live a full and fruitful life. 

 

III. Sending

But a Spirit-directed church is not only about teaching and worshiping, it is also about sending. 

A. Spirit Appoints

Luke teaches us in his history that it is the Spirit who appoints leaders in the Church (Acts 20:28).  In both places where fasting and prayer are mentioned it is in  connection with choosing leaders to send, conveying the grave importance of this task in the Church.  Of course, sending and going require much more sacrifice than teaching and worshiping, but we are not the Church unless we are reaching out. 

B. People Send

While the church did not convey new powers or authority to these men, by placing hands on them they expressed their fellowship with them.  These men were their “apostles,” their sent ones (14:4).  The whole church sent them, and consequently, it was to the whole church that Barnabas and Saul made their report (14:26,27).  This idea of connecting to a cause by laying your hands on it is one which finds its origin in the Old Testament.  Remember when a sinner put forth a sacrificial animal, he was to put his hand on its head signifying that he was connected with it.  On the Day of Atonement, the priest would place his hands on the head of the scapegoat, symbolically placing the sins of the people there, so that when the goat disappeared over the horizon it communicated that the people’s sins had been removed.  They were a party to what the goat was accomplishing. So when these believers put their hands on the heads of Barnabas and Saul, they were communicating their union with the work they were going to carry out. 

 

How much will it cost me & is it worth it?

Here at our church, we have no excuses not to be involved in some ministry in our city. There are plenty of opportunities. In fact, most of them have been compiled in our Serving Memphis booklet. You can mentor children in education. You can serve the poor with food. You can participate in community development. You can rescue children and women from sexual bondage and victimization. You can provide compassionate for unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. You can share your faith. You can serve in recreational ministries and sports ministries. The list goes on. There is something for everyone to do to fulfill their part in the Spirit-directed church. In so doing, you are taking the kingdom of God in practical ways into the city in ways others recognize as good so they will glorify our father in Heaven. 

 

If this sounds costly, it's because it is. It will cost you a lot of money - at least by percentage of what you give - and it will cost you a lot of time and energy. It will cost you blood, sweat, and tears. It will cost you weekends at the lake; it will cost you weekends in the duck blind; it will cost you weekends fishing; it will cost you weekends in the mountains and on the beach. It will cost you! But at the great day when the Lord Jesus says, "well done good and faithful servant," you will never regret it. You will instead say, "if only I had given more. If only had more hours to give." 

 

Alan Redpath tells a story of two women who were talking over coffee one afternoon and one of the women was complaining to the other about how the church costs too much. They're always in need of money and they're always in need of volunteers, she was saying. 

 

The other woman wisely countered this way. She told her the story about how she and her husband had a child many years ago. From day one, that baby was expensive. Medical bills were expensive. It cost them sleep when they had to stay up at night with him. It cost them freedom. They endured changing countless diapers. Then came the toddler years and the difficulty of discipline and the many dollars spent on toys and other needs. The came school work, college tuition, and then dating. But then, during his senior year of college he died, and he didn't cost us anymore. 

 

"Which do you think I would rather have," she asked her friend, "the expensive child or the cheaper one?" 

 

The church of Jesus Christ is the only institution with the message of eternal life. It is the only place ordained to carry out that mission. May we never again complain of how much it costs but give everything we have and everything we are for the success of her mission. What a privilege we have to say thank you to Jesus in this way. 

 

 

[1] Some think that since the name is similar to Simon and that he is mentioned in juxtaposition to Lucius of Cyrene, that Simeon was in fact Simon of Cyrene.  However, it would be strange for Luke to spell the name of the same man two different ways.