Early church

1. Authenticated by the Holy Spirit

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

I'm still in the book of Acts. This time with Eckhard Schnabel as my guide. He makes four points in his application of the lessons we can learn today from Acts 13 — Missionary work is authenticated by the Holy Spirit, supported by the local church in Antioch, characterized by geographical movement. and focused on proclaiming the word of God. Here's the first,

Missionary work is authenticated by the Holy Spirit. The primary cause of the missionary work of Paul and Barnabas and the primary cause of the effectiveness of their proclamation of the gospel is the Holy Spirit as the transforming power of God’s powerful presence.

The missionary work of the early church—indeed of any church—can be adequately understood only if one grasps the reality, the power, and the work of the Holy Spirit as the effective reality, power, and work of God himself.

Too many missionary/missional/mission writings assume it's all up to us.

Assignment: Read through the book of Acts in a setting and identify the work of God the Father, the Risen Son, and the Holy Spirit. Print out a copy of the text and mark it. Mission is a work of God.

Tomorrow: Confrontation with evil forces.

The first church unpacked

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They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord addedto their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Hard on the heels of the events of Easter came Pentecost and the formation of the first church in Jerusalem. Jerusalem became the centre from which the gospel went out to the rest of the world. In Acts 2: 42-47 Luke provides and extensive summary of the life of that first church. I've been working through Eckhard Schnabel's commentary on Acts. Here's what he say about what we can learn and apply from Luke description, as we go out to make disciples and multiply communities of Jesus' followers. Everywhere.

An authentic church is a church in which God is present.

  1. The teaching of the apostles focused on the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and Lord, and in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The breaking of bread, when it includes the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, reminds believers of God’s plan of salvation, who sent Jesus to the cross in order that sins might be forgiven and the promised new covenant might become a reality.
  3. The believers experienced the awe-inspiring presence of God in the miracles that happened through the apostles, which were direct manifestations of the merciful work of God in their midst.
  4. The believers experienced God’s presence and invoked prayers of praise in which they thanked God for his blessings through Jesus.
  5. They experienced God’s effective presence in new conversions and in the continued growth of the church.

An authentic church is a church whose priorities are set by the gospel.

  1. Teaching by the apostles. Its primary focus is on Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and Lord; on God’s salvation through Jesus’s death, resurrection, and exaltation; on the integration into the community of God’s messianic people; and on the significance of the Scriptures that are read, explained, and applied to the lives of believers.
  2. Fellowship. The community of believes are “one” because they have all accepted Jesus as Israel’s messianic Savior and because they have all received God’s transforming Spirit. The church is a fellowship in that believers meet at one place, listen to the teaching of the Word of God, praise God, share meals, love each other, and share resources with fellow believers who are poor.
  3. The breaking of bread. This includes sharing meals as an expression of belonging to one family, the family of God’s people. And it includes the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and Lord. When Christians break bread, they praise God and remember Jesus’ sacrifice and thus are reminded of the needs of the poor and are challenged to help sacrificially.
  4. Prayer. Constant and joyful prayer acknowledges the presence of God in the midst of his people. Personal transformation, which produces, for example, the willingness to sell property and give the proceeds to the poor, is possible only when God changes hearts and minds — and hand and feet that carry out the sale of possessions. Constant and joyful prayer acknowledges that only God can lead unbelievers to repentance.

An authentic church is a church that continues to grow.

  1. Churches grow when the gospel is proclaimed. The priority of the teaching of the apostles includes evangelistic outreach to unbelievers — this is the primary calling of the Twelve as witnesses of Jesus, commissioned to preach the good news of Jesus from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
  2. Churches grow when the church is a fellowship. Luke attributes the continued growth of the church to the believers meeting in the temple and in private homes, listening to teaching, sharing meals, sharing with those in need, and praising God in prayer. These meetings attracted unbelievers, who became willing to repent, to commit themselves to faith in Jesus, the Messiah and Lord of Israel, to be immersed in water, and to join the fellowship of the followers of Jesus.
  3. Churches grow when they acknowledge the power of God. The continued and regular growth of a church is always the result of the work of God. It is possible for numerical growth to be nothing more than the attraction of popular entertainment. Numerical growth is authentic church growth only when people find faith in Jesus, the crucified, risen, and exalted Messiah and Savior, and when they receive the Holy Spirit of God, who visibly and powerfully transforms their lives.

"Acts (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)" (Eckhard J. Schnabel, Clinton E. Arnold)

Only three missionary journeys?

Paul's Travels - Schnabel table.jpg

Flip to the back of your Bible and you'll find maps outlining Paul's "Three Missionary Journeys".

We all use the phrase. Unfortunately it's misleading. Paul had ten year's missionary experience before he set off from Antioch on his "First" journey with Barnabas in Acts 13 — Damascus, Arabia, Jerusalem and his home region of Cilicia and Tarsus, the city in which he was born.

There's good evidence he was released after his first trial in Rome and went on to Spain and Crete before his final arrest and execution under Nero.

Luke knows a lot more than he tells us.

Have a look at the list, fifteen locations. He wasn't just church planting in each place. Whole regions were touched by the gospel. He completed his work, and moved on.

So, which church leaders today are operating with a similar job description to Paul's? Who is taking responsibility for pioneer evangelism and church multiplication across whole cities and regions? By responsibility I don't mean an organisational title, a mean someone who is taking responsibility, leading by example, and making it happen.

If local churches were doing their job, we would still need the equivalent of Paul and his coworkers today.

Schnabel on Acts

Eckhard Schnabel's commentary on Acts will be released today.

No news on a Kindle version. Here's hoping.

The commentary highlights:

  1. The work of God through the exalted Jesus who grants the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The significance of Jesus who is Israel's Messiah and the Savior of the world and who directs the expansion of the church.
  3. The work of the Holy Spirit as transforming power present in the lives of the followers of Jesus and their communities.
  4. The identity of the church as the community of God, comprised of Jews and Gentiles who are followers of Jesus.
  5. The mission of the church whose leaders take the gospel to cities and regions of the Roman Empire in which Jesus has not yet been proclaimed as Messiah and Savior.
  6. The historical events and the persons who played a role in the expansion of earliest Christianity.

"Acts (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)" (Eckhard J. Schnabel, Clinton E. Arnold)

UPDATE: Zondervan's response.

Steve

Thank you for contacting Zondervan Customer Care. If there isn't a Kindle version of a particular book when it releases we typically don't come out with one later.

Zondervan Customer Care

I'll be paying the extra cost for shipping the print edition to Australia. I'm surprised Zondervan don't see the need for a Kindle edition.

Schnabel on Acts

Eckhard Schnabel's commentary on Acts will be released today.

No news on a Kindle version. Here's hoping.

The commentary highlights:

  1. The work of God through the exalted Jesus who grants the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The significance of Jesus who is Israel's Messiah and the Savior of the world and who directs the expansion of the church.
  3. The work of the Holy Spirit as transforming power present in the lives of the followers of Jesus and their communities.
  4. The identity of the church as the community of God, comprised of Jews and Gentiles who are followers of Jesus.
  5. The mission of the church whose leaders take the gospel to cities and regions of the Roman Empire in which Jesus has not yet been proclaimed as Messiah and Savior.
  6. The historical events and the persons who played a role in the expansion of earliest Christianity.

"Acts (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)" (Eckhard J. Schnabel, Clinton E. Arnold)

UPDATE: Zondervan's response.

Steve

Thank you for contacting Zondervan Customer Care. If there isn't a Kindle version of a particular book when it releases we typically don't come out with one later.

Zondervan Customer Care

I'll be paying the extra cost for shipping the print edition to Australia. I'm surprised Zondervan don't see the need for a Kindle edition.

15 missional lessons from the Risen Lord.

Despite all the talk, there is a lack of clarity today about the mission Jesus has entrusted to us. Luke wrote the book of Acts to make sure that future generations knew what it meant to obey Jesus' command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

Every new generation of Jesus' disciples must ask themselves, "Does our understanding and practice of mission measure up?"

Eckhard Schnabel has identified fifteen lessons on mission from the book of Acts. Read each one and see how your understanding and practice compares.

  1. The missionary outreach of the church is directed by God at crucial stages (by the Spirit: Acts 8:29, 39; 10:19; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; by angels: Acts 8:26; by the Lord himself: Acts 18:9; 23:11); the apostolic mission is carried out by God himself (Acts 15:4).
  2. According to God’s will (Acts 10:1–11:18) and Jesus’ commission (Acts 1:8; 9:15) the preaching of the gospel moves from Jewish and Samaritan audiences to pagan Gentiles.
  3. The story of the early Christian mission is a story of geographical expansion from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the coastal plain, to Antioch in Syria, to Asia Minor and to Greece and finally to Rome.
  4. The mission of the church is Israel’s mission to the nations and therefore an essential aspect of Israel’s restoration (Acts 1:6–8; 2:39; 3:17–26; 15:14–18; 26:22–23; 28:23).
  5. Jesus’ status means that he can impart forgiveness, rescue from God’s judgment, the gift of the Spirit and salvation (cf. Acts 2:38; 10:43; 17:31; 22:16).
  6. The Twelve, who had witnessed the main events in the life of Jesus, particularly his death and resurrection, are the primary witnesses to the fact that God has fulfilled his earlier promises.
  7. The personal experience of the living power of Jesus Christ entitles other Christians to be regarded as witnesses as well.
  8. The proclamation of the Word is a decisive factor in the passing on of the message of salvation; the witness of the apostles and other missionaries, delivered in the form of speeches that were intended as a medium of persuasion, includes elements of reasoned argument.
  9. In the encounters with Jews the decisive point is whether Jesus is the Messiah whose life and death correspond with the plan of God and whose status as kyrios (“Lord”) accords him an authoritative position similar to that of God.
  10. In the encounters with pagans the proclamation centers on biblical conceptions of God, who demands repentance and has designated Jesus as Lord and future judge.
  11. Jesus’ position enables the apostles to do the same kind of mighty works as Jesus had done.
  12. The success of the mission is dependent on and enabled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8, 31), as the crucial factor in conversion is the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:14–17; 9:17; 10:44–48; 11:15–18); the missionaries are inspired to speak with an effectiveness that often transcends their native ability (Acts 4:13).
  13. In the conversion of individual people several factors come together (cf. Acts 10:1–11:18): God’s initiative, human instruments of God’s purpose, points of contact with the religious and ethical disposition of the hearers, the reception of salvation as gracious gift.
  14. The church needs to be open for new challenges and new developments (Acts 6:1–7; 10:1–11:18).
  15. The Christian mission involves progress despite opposition: missionaries are threatened by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, they are brought before magistrates of Greek or Roman cities; some are killed, others are maltreated, some escape by a miracle; despite the opposition, the word of God continues its triumphal progress.

To what degree is each one reflected in your mission principles and practice?

Pull down all those text books and conference notes you have and ask, how many of these fifteen lessons do I find in them?

Now realign your life and ministry around the movement Jesus founded and continues to lead as the Risen Lord.

15 missional lessons from the Risen Lord.

Despite all the talk, there is a lack of clarity today about the mission Jesus has entrusted to us. Luke wrote the book of Acts to make sure that future generations knew what it meant to obey Jesus' command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

Every new generation of Jesus' disciples must ask themselves, "Does our understanding and practice of mission measure up?"

Eckhard Schnabel has identified fifteen lessons on mission from the book of Acts. Read each one and see how your understanding and practice compares.

  1. The missionary outreach of the church is directed by God at crucial stages (by the Spirit: Acts 8:29, 39; 10:19; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; by angels: Acts 8:26; by the Lord himself: Acts 18:9; 23:11); the apostolic mission is carried out by God himself (Acts 15:4).
  2. According to God’s will (Acts 10:1–11:18) and Jesus’ commission (Acts 1:8; 9:15) the preaching of the gospel moves from Jewish and Samaritan audiences to pagan Gentiles.
  3. The story of the early Christian mission is a story of geographical expansion from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the coastal plain, to Antioch in Syria, to Asia Minor and to Greece and finally to Rome.
  4. The mission of the church is Israel’s mission to the nations and therefore an essential aspect of Israel’s restoration (Acts 1:6–8; 2:39; 3:17–26; 15:14–18; 26:22–23; 28:23).
  5. Jesus’ status means that he can impart forgiveness, rescue from God’s judgment, the gift of the Spirit and salvation (cf. Acts 2:38; 10:43; 17:31; 22:16).
  6. The Twelve, who had witnessed the main events in the life of Jesus, particularly his death and resurrection, are the primary witnesses to the fact that God has fulfilled his earlier promises.
  7. The personal experience of the living power of Jesus Christ entitles other Christians to be regarded as witnesses as well.
  8. The proclamation of the Word is a decisive factor in the passing on of the message of salvation; the witness of the apostles and other missionaries, delivered in the form of speeches that were intended as a medium of persuasion, includes elements of reasoned argument.
  9. In the encounters with Jews the decisive point is whether Jesus is the Messiah whose life and death correspond with the plan of God and whose status as kyrios (“Lord”) accords him an authoritative position similar to that of God.
  10. In the encounters with pagans the proclamation centers on biblical conceptions of God, who demands repentance and has designated Jesus as Lord and future judge.
  11. Jesus’ position enables the apostles to do the same kind of mighty works as Jesus had done.
  12. The success of the mission is dependent on and enabled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8, 31), as the crucial factor in conversion is the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:14–17; 9:17; 10:44–48; 11:15–18); the missionaries are inspired to speak with an effectiveness that often transcends their native ability (Acts 4:13).
  13. In the conversion of individual people several factors come together (cf. Acts 10:1–11:18): God’s initiative, human instruments of God’s purpose, points of contact with the religious and ethical disposition of the hearers, the reception of salvation as gracious gift.
  14. The church needs to be open for new challenges and new developments (Acts 6:1–7; 10:1–11:18).
  15. The Christian mission involves progress despite opposition: missionaries are threatened by the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, they are brought before magistrates of Greek or Roman cities; some are killed, others are maltreated, some escape by a miracle; despite the opposition, the word of God continues its triumphal progress.

To what degree is each one reflected in your mission principles and practice?

Pull down all those text books and conference notes you have and ask, how many of these fifteen lessons do I find in them?

Now realign your life and ministry around the movement Jesus founded and continues to lead as the Risen Lord.