Chronicles of a Quiet Hero – Part 3 – Sermon by Alex Moir – 15 November 2020

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message.

Call to Worship

“The local congregation is a family-like community called into existence by the gospel of God’s forgiving love. The community gathers to worship together this God of forgiving love.” William and Lucy Hulme

Prayer

Gracious Father, as beneficiaries of Your forgiving love, we gratefully come into Your presence on this day, knowing we would not be here without Your care in our lives. May this time together empower us to extend some of this blessed forgiveness to those whose paths we may cross in the coming week. In the strong name of Jesus we pray … amen.

Song

Today's Message: Chronicles of a Quiet Hero – Part 3

Scripture Reading: Acts 11:19-26

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.Acts 11:19-26

As we begin this week’s instalment of our “Chronicles”, our important starting word is “scattered” in v. 19.  We are told that, in spite of the unfortunate displacement of the followers of “the Way” due to the death of Stephen, the sharing of the good news continued.  What a wonderful reminder to those of us who are counted among the believer’s today … tough times can be good times too!  The scattering of the early believers afforded them a wider audience … and an opportunity to witness to a group of people they never dreamed possible!

Our writer, Dr. Luke, focuses our attention on the happenings at Antioch, a very important city in the Roman Empire (3rd largest city behind Rome and Alexandria, pop. 300,000-500,000), where some of these “scattered” believers were taking up residence.  The sharing of the gospel was taking place there, among both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) with good results.  As the song says … “if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!”

The content of the message shared in Antioch is significant for us today.  We read in v. 20 that these early missionaries shared the “good news about the Lord Jesus.”  The gist of this message had nothing to do with the spiritual achievement theme that had characterized Judaism of that day.  Theologian Ernst Troeltsch expressed it this way … “So long as Christianity survives in any form it will always be connected with the central position of Christ – it will either exist in this form or not at all.”

The response was very heartening.  Luke writes, “and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (v. 21).”  To turn TO something means we must turn FROM something.  The wonderful New Testament word often used is metanoia, which means “to think again” … and that is a helpful reminder to us, as to what constitutes the process of conversion.  It involves “thinking again” about what is important in life.  What happens in the life of the new believer is that the things that once seemed to represent priorities fade into the background.  New loyalties emerge … we have been changed.

Of course, news of this astounding development reached “headquarters” in Jerusalem … and they knew just the person to send!  Our hero Barnabas is the one chosen to bring guidance to these new believers and for good reason … because of his Jewish background and having lived in a non-Jewish community, he could understand both groups that were coming to faith in Christ in this prominent city in the Empire.  His message to them was very simple … “remain true to the Lord” was what he told them (v. 23).  The Greek word used in this context most often means “to remain with someone.”  This is an idea that we as Canadians ought to be very familiar with … after all, look at all the Tim Horton’s coffee shops throughout our country!  We love to “remain with” our friends and enjoy their company. To be a follower of Jesus means to spend time in His presence and to always remember that He is with us, in whatever circumstances and/or places we may find ourselves.

Finally, we see where Saul enters the picture (v. 25-26).  That Barnabas went to look for him in Tarsus (see last week’s message, Acts 9) should not be a surprise.  We have already learned that Saul was uniquely gifted to speak in the Antioch context, where both Jews and Gentiles were represented.  Saul possessed a vision for the cause of Christ that included all peoples … hence his importance to the spread of the gospel.

However, there is another reason for us to spend a little time on v. 25.  That Barnabas feels compelled to recruit Saul to assist him in Antioch reveals two important personal traits.  Number one, Barnabas is a good recruiter, matching the gifts that Saul displayed with the need in that particular city.  This is something we always ought to keep in mind when we are searching for gifted folks to help with our mission in these times.  I once heard of a large church where they once had a vital ministry in a particular area of their ministry, but shut it down when they couldn’t find a gifted person to oversee it.  Barnabas shows a remarkable ability to fit ministry with giftedness … and it should work that way for us today as well.

But secondly, our hero shows us something else about himself … he is willing to share the spotlight with another.  It would be completely understandable for Barnabas to handle the Antioch situation on his own … but he knew of Saul’s ability and wanted to see the situation in this large city thrive.  This, too, is a wonderful example to us.  What a blessing it is to recognize the giftedness of others and share ministry with them!

Luke tells us that these two partners in the gospel stayed with the believers in Antioch for an entire year teaching “great numbers of people (v. 26).”  I can remember something similar happening in my home town of Chatham, back in the days of what has been called the “Jesus Movement.”  The healthiest church in our city at that time, arguably, was a United Church.  They had a wonderful youth ministry and many young folks were nurtured there and have become effective witnesses for the Lord through the years.  They had come into contact with a lay minister in the Detroit region who had served as a guest speaker in that church.  He looked every inch the Christian hippy that so typified the Jesus movement … long hair and faded jeans, just like the rest of us!  He was so well received that the leadership of that congregation extended to him an invitation to live in Chatham for a period of time (I think it may have been for a few months) and serve in a special capacity in that church, primarily in the youth area.  But I remember his work carried him throughout the city … he even spoke at an assembly at our High School!

Reflect

It is hard to estimate the impact that Terry had on our city … his influence was felt in our Baptist youth group as well! Do we believe that the Spirit can live and move as he did in Antioch and Chatham? All we need is a few like Barnabas!

Do I see any volunteers?

Prayer

We are so grateful, our gracious Father, for those early believers who saw the potential in the gospel for all people. If not for Barnabas and Saul, we ourselves would not be gathered here this morning! We praise You for the miracle of your Spirit, who is able to speak to all hearts and is not confined to certain areas of our world.

As always, our God, as we are led to celebrate Your care in our lives this day, we are reminded of the occasions over this past week when our thoughts and actions may not have reflected Your loving purpose for those around us. When our inadequacies tempt us to give up in despair, help us remember the forgiving power of the cross of our Saviour … and that He, too, called imperfect men and women to His cause. Grant us the courage to live for You, in the hope that when we fall short, yet the Spirit continues to work.

Finally, we think of those amongst us who may be “scattered”; where the familiar things of life have been taken, much like the people in our story this morning. We pray for students and teachers, where the normal routine of class room and playground is severely modified; for those taken from their workplace, separated from trusted colleagues; for those whose work has been lost due to the pandemic; for the elderly isolated in facilities and their own homes who miss the regular company of family and friends. In all of these circumstances we pray for a generous measure of your Spirit … in the strong name of Jesus … amen.

Song

Benediction

 “Grant me more and more of the resurrection life; may it rule me; may I walk in its power and be strengthened through its influence.” Puritan prayer