lesson
26

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

The mission of Christians
Acts 11:19-30

warm up

Rate the following on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 as "the most effective:"
1---5---10... Mission work in an area where you know the native language
1---5---10... Mission work in an area where you know the customs of the people
1---5---10... Mission work in an area where you know the common religion
Discuss the possibility of an evangelist being like a "fish out of water" in certain areas of the world, and not being very effective. What kind of things could be done to help an evangelist to become more effective in those regions of the world?
wise up
  

    The city of Antioch was the capital city of Syria. In fact, it was at that time the third largest city in the Roman Empire with a population of about 500,000. 

I. Evangelism: Vs. 19-21 
 
   1. Verse 19 takes the reader back to the events mentioned in Acts 8:1-4. We recall that when the church was scattered by persecution many "went everywhere preaching the word." Some of those fugitive evangelists took the message as far away as Antioch. What are the names of those who initially started or planted the church in the city of Antioch? 
    2. Where were these anonymous preachers of the gospel from? It is of interest that their native homes were places where the Greek culture was predominant (Cyrene and Cyprus). Discuss how important their understanding of Greek culture, language and religion may have been in their initial success. 
    3. According to verse 21, what additional factor did these preachers have going for them? What two things resulted from these evangelistic efforts according to verse 21? Discuss some things that "turning to the Lord" might imply. 

II. Edification: Vs. 22-26 
 
   1. Sometimes people think of the church as the building where the church assembles to worship. What, according to verse 22, did the church have that buildings don't have? Who did the church in Jerusalem choose to send to Antioch to encourage and help establish the new believers in their faith? From what you know about this man, do you think he was the right man for the job? (Cf., Vs 24.)    
    2. Evidently the brethren in Jerusalem understood that new disciples needed to be taught and  grounded in the faith. (Cf., Mathew 28:19-20.) Mission work includes more than just teaching the first principles. What two things did Barnabas exhort the new brethren to do according to verse 23? Many times young converts lose heart because their affection and attachment is more to those who taught them than to the Lord himself. And so when their favorite preacher leaves or disappoints them, their faith crumbles. The importance of this lesson taught by Barnabas may be why those initial evangelist mentioned in verse 20 are anonymous. The emphasis in Christianity should always be upon the Lord and not the preachers.
    3. Where did Barnabas find Saul (Paul)? How long did they work together in Antioch assembling with the church and teaching the people of the city? 
   
4. What were the disciples called for the first time in Antioch? What does that word mean? Some think that this name was originally a name given in derision by the enemies of Christianity. That seems unlikely considering the popularity of the new faith within that city. Also it is unlikely considering the prophecies that spoke of how God's people would be divinely called by a new name.

          Isaiah 62:2, "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name."

What was that "new name" if not the name "Christian?" It is a name that the early church wore with honor and affection. (1 Peter 4:16, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.") Today, we should seek to be known and identified only by that divinely given name which honors our Lord to whom we cleave. We should seek to be Christians and only Christians. Not only in name but in attitude and actions.

III. Benevolence: Vs. 27-30 
 
   1. There were many prophets in Antioch, but Agabus was evidently selected by God to reveal an upcoming famine. He is mentioned again in Acts 21:10. One of the proofs of a true prophet was the fact that his prophecies came true. The famine predicted in this case came about in the days of "Claudius Caesar" who reigned from 41 until 54 AD. 
    2. What act of benevolence did the early church at Antioch embark upon? Was this predicted famine only going to affect Judea or the whole world including those in Antioch? What does their action say about the unselfish attitude of these early Christians? Did their benevolence stop at the borders of their own nationality or race? If you had been a Jewish Christian at that time, would this act of charity have helped to endear your affections toward your new Gentile brethren? Do you agree that adversity sometimes helps to unite people in their common cause? 
    3. Mission work is not complete until those taught are empowered to act upon their feelings of compassion and goodwill. 

wrap up

   1.  We know from reading texts like this that the mission of the church involves evangelism, edification and benevolence. But when we think of the name "Christian" these same words should come to mind. When we see active evangelism, encouragement, and benevolence among Christians. . . we see the grace of God at work (Vs. 23a) and it should make us glad.

Assignment

  Please read Acts 12:1-25 for next week    copyright 2001