/Scripture reading for April 20th: Acts 11
Key Scriptures: Acts 11:19-25 “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he saw the grace of God, he was glad and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord, So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.”
Luke now tells the story of how the Church spread out from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. The persecution after Stephen drove disciples outward, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit they preached the Word to Jews and increasingly to Gentiles. The Jerusalem church heard about the salvations and sent a trusted leader, Barnabas, to check it out. Barnabas was an encourager and was a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” He exhorted the new believers to stay faithful but then went and found Saul (Paul) and brought him there to help disciple these Jew and Gentile converts. For a year they met together and taught the Word of God. It was here that disciples were first call “Christians.” Paul got experience teaching the new Gentile converts that he would be increasingly involved with as God had commissioned him.
Acts 11:26 “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, making disciples of all men and teaching them to observe all that You taught is the mission of the church. Help Your church to keep the main thing the main thing. Fill me with the Holy Spirit and faith to fulfill Your mission.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Scripture reading for June 17th: Acts 11:1-30
Without a vision, people cast off restraint. (Proverbs 29:18) Spiritual vision is the ability to see with the eyes of the heart what God is doing and where He is taking you. Accurate spiritual vision will always line up with the Word of God, which never changes.
The leadership of the early church was overwhelmingly devout Jews who had come to Christ. Their understanding of God’s plan was filtered through their religious training and traditions. There were parts of the Holy Scriptures that they were not open to and God had to help them. God worked with Peter first, helping him to see the need to go to the Gentiles. When the others in Jerusalem heard that Peter went to the Gentiles, they did not understand and criticized Peter. (Acts 11:1-3)
Peter explained how God had helped him to see that the Gentiles were also to be saved. (Acts 11:14) God worked in such a miraculous and supernatural manner, that their eyes were opened to God’s bigger plan. When these Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of tongues, all doubt was removed! (Acts 11:15-17) Those who heard the testimony began to praise God for granting the Gentiles repentance to eternal life!
With this new vision, the scattered church began to preach to the Gentiles in distant lands. Some went to Cyprus and Cyrene and Antioch preaching to the Greeks there. “The Lord’s hand was on them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) God’s grace brought salvation to all who would believe! The disciples in Jerusalem sent Barnabas who found Saul and both went to preach in Antioch and instruct the believers there. Great numbers of people were brought to the Lord as these apostles taught in Antioch for a whole year together. It is recorded that Christ’s followers were first called “Christians” at Antioch! (Acts 11:26)
New vision, expanded ministry, and great numbers of people being saved brought excitement and joy to the early church. Men and women, full of the Holy Spirit preached and taught, bringing the Word of Jesus Christ to Jew and Gentile alike. God saved all who believed! This simple program is still in effect today! God wants to use you to reach the world you live in! Are you full of vision and equipped with the Holy Spirit?