The Book of Acts is the story of how the Spirit of God worked to fulfill Jesus’ promise to build and empower His church (Matthew 16:18). Jesus’ church is universal, made up of every born-again-believer throughout the ages, “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number” (Revelation 7:9).
The emphasis in Acts is not the universal church, but local churches “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Many of those churches are exemplary. For instance, from his Roman jail cell, the Apostle wrote to the church in Philippi to thank them for their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:5). They had generously supported Paul’s mission work and had encouraged him in his struggles. First Church of Philippi was a great church, but the church at Antioch stands alone as a model church, an example for today’s church to emulate.
The church in 2022 needs to make disciples. “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1–3). These leaders weren’t just imparting knowledge, they were making disciples, and training them to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:2).
The church in 2022 needs to reach the neighborhood. The city of Antioch, as we have already seen, was multicultural. The growing local church there obediently proclaimed “the good news about the Lord Jesus” even to the Greeks (Acts 11:20-21).
The church in 2022 needs to selflessly give away our resources. When the church at Antioch heard about the “severe famine... each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea” (Acts 11:28-29). I’m sure that there were plenty of needs in Antioch. They might have nearsightedly, selfishly, self-centeredly hoarded their resources, but they didn’t. Their focus was not inward, but outward.
The church in 2022 needs reach the uttermost. The events described in the opening lines of the thirteenth chapter of Acts are unprecedented. This had never happened. A church had never, ever, commissioned a foreign missionary. But, as the church in Antioch was “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.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off”(Acts 13:2-3).
The church was gathered, singing hymns, and studying Scriptures. Individuals were fasting, forsaking the physical pleasures of food in favor of seeking God’s glorious presence. Among them, there was an urgent, passionate desire to hear God’s direction. They were attentively listening when the Holy Spirit spoke, giving clear direction. The church had carried the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Now, from Antioch, the church would send Barnabas and Saul to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).