3. The local church

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

Acts 13:1-4

Acts 13 reveals how missionary work was supported by the local church.

Paul and Barnabas were released by the church at Antioch to the work that the Holy Spirit had called them. The church became the base to which they returned and reported, but the church did not run their mission. As Schnabel make clear,

The church in Antioch was not the “sending church” of Paul; Barnabas and Saul were commissioned and sent by the Holy Spirit (vv 2, 4). Barnabas has ten years of missionary experience before he left Antioch for Cyprus, and Paul had nearly fifteen years of missionary experience before they evangelized on Cyprus.

It was neither the church in Jerusalem or the church in Antioch that decided on the details of the missionary work of Barnabas and Paul in the cities of Cyprus. The two missionaries evidently made the relevant decisions regarding the cities in which they would proclaim the gospel, and presumably regarding John Mark as an assistant.

This was partnership not control.

Assignment: Read through Acts 13-21 and identify how new churches were formed, how they were strengthened, and became partners with mobile missionaries in the spread of the gospel.

Tomorrow: Geographical movement.

2 Comments

  1. Galen Currah
    Posted 25 April, 2013 at 3:13 AM | Permalink

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    I rub my eyes. Did I read this wrongly? The Spirit instructed the church to “set apart”. It did so by “laying hands” and “sending”. Did the church fail to understand? Fail to obey? Fail to look up the Spirit’s words in a theological dictionary?

  2. Posted 26 April, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    Galen, Schnabel’s point is about who is the primary agent in sending. Clearly the Holy Spirit takes the initiative. The sending is no mediated through the church. The church does not oversee Paul’s mission. His mission and the local church are equal partners.

    The word for “set apart” is “release”. If “sending church” fits this role, then they are the sending church. If “sending church” means ultimate authority or control (as some argue), then they are not the sending church.

    More on this in What Jesus Started.

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