Whole Life Whole Bible Day 41
Acts 11:19-21 (NASB)
19 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
Acts 11:26 (NASB)
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.
40: Acts of God
Luke makes it clear that the account he tells in Acts is a continuation of the story he began in his Gospel (Acts 1:1–2). In fact, it is the next phase of the story that goes back to God’s promise to Abraham and the vocation of Israel to be a light to the nations. That calling, embodied supremely in Jesus, is now passed on to his followers as they continue God’s mission, bearing witness — across cultural, ethnic and geographical boundaries — that his salvation will extend to ‘the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
The biggest personality in this phase of the story, of course, is Paul, who makes three separate journeys, travelling through the Roman Empire, proclaiming Jesus, establishing churches and returning to instruct them or writing to them.
It is equally apparent, though, that the work was carried out by ‘ordinary’ believers, who spread the word wherever they went (8:4). We don’t know the names of those who established the church in Antioch, but we do know that it was this multicultural mix of Jewish and Gentile believers who were first given the designation ‘Christian’. And it was this church that became the base for sending out others (Barnabas and Paul, no less, 13:1–3), launching a mission into the wider Roman world. Rightly the church carries out God’s work in its own place, and rightly it keeps in mind that the gospel is for all nations.
Beyond numerical growth, it’s also apparent that the work of the Spirit is embodied in the lives of the new communities formed — in prayer and worship, in distinct patterns of life together, in following the apostles’ teaching and in economic practices. This means that the church is not just one more social organisation within Roman society, but a community that, by its very nature, witnesses to the presence of God’s kingdom. Faith, then, is not merely private or interior but lived out on the public stage, engaged in the world.
Throughout, the center of gravity is God himself: mission is not what the church does, but what God does through the church. The same gracious God, the same exalted Christ, the same powerful Spirit and the same amazing plan mean that we too play a part in the continual unfolding of this story, witnessing to a renewed relationship with God and the restoration of the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ.
For further reflection and action
How would you describe the influence and role played by the book of Acts in (a) your own life as a Christian, and (b) the life and ministry of the church to which you belong?
Read some passages in Acts (for example, 2:42–47; 11:19–21; 13:1–3) that describe the early Christian communities. What are the recurring characteristics, and what picture of the church is built up from passages like these?
What might be some of the problems with using the book of Acts as a blueprint for churches today? How do we decide what applies and does not apply in our own time and place?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.