As mentioned in the previous post, the Church of Antioch started almost entirely through people being won to Christ by the itinerant evangelist who traveled through the region so in the infant stage of the Church, the only mature believers were the evangelist who planted it. While the prospect of tons of people being radically converted is unbelievably exciting, there are ramifications. A church full of immature believers was (and is) a problem waiting to happen and the Gospels advancement through the Church would be hindered dramatically. In response to this truth, Barnabus, Paul and visiting Pastors/Prophets/Teachers intentionally developed and implemented a strategy to bring spiritually immature converts to spiritual maturity. This was called discipleship.
I’ll mention again, we do not have record of the curriculum the leadership used is discipling these new converts but we do have the results of their being discipled. from these results, we can pretty accurately understand some basic teaching that was administered in Antioch.
First, as already mentioned in our study, it is obvious that the Gospel of Christ was central and foundational concerning their curriculum. Remember, these were the first people called “Christians” and I’d say that’s pretty indicative of a people who’d been schooled in the person, work and nature of Christ….The Gospel. It’s so important to keep in mind that these new converts emerged from Gentile secularism and had no knowledge (at best minimum knowledge) of the Old Testament. So the fact that they were so consumes with Christ teaches us they’d been instructed in Him. As a matter of fact, they were so well schooled in the Gospel, they understood the need to defend it! I’ll give you an example….when false teachers came through (as they ALWAYS do) teaching that something other than grace through faith was essential to a person being converted (circumcision, keeping of the law, ect), these believers confronted them and encouraged their leadership to seek a public and possibly controversial resolution (Acts 15:1-2)! So, we have a people who knew nothing of the Gospel suddenly defending it….yep, Doctrinal convictions! This comes from Discipleship!
Let me give you another basic teaching that permeated the discipleship ministry at Antioch, Stewardship. A quick study of the early church will reveal that, contrary to what many are teaching today, early believers were very poor. We can safely assume that the Church of Antioch did not posses much in terms of material wealth….YET….when the Prophet Agubus pleaded for an offering for the Jerusalem Church who’d soon face severe famine, the church gave a more than generous offering. The offering itself was simple…people gave in proportion to their personal ability (Acts 11:29) and they shared a sense of sacrifice for a Godly goal. Folks, this would not take place on it’s on, they were schooled in Biblical stewardship.
The Corporate Worship, at least in some sense, was also a learned behavior. Remember the background of the vast majority of these new believers? Gentile secularism and religious pluralism. Their “worship” background would have included cultic practices, animal sacrifice (possibly even human sacrifice) and sexual permisiveness. With this sordid background, instruction was needed concerning Biblical worship…and it was administered. How do we know that? Look at their worship – they hear and responded to Gospel centric messages, gave generously, prayed, participated in fast, had discernment and commissioned missionaries through the “laying on of hands” (Acts 11:27-30, 13:2-3). Learned behavior friends! They’d been discipled!
You may say, “OK! I get it! Discipleship was taking place at Antioch. Believers were growing in their faith, I know! BUT what good did that do?”
Simple – True disciples become disciple makers.
You see, the process of discipleship doesn’t come to a screeching halt when we’ve begun to grow in our faith….it’s only began! We’re to intentionally become disciple makers, taking others through the process we’ve benefitted from! This was the model of Antioch, better said…the Model of Jesus (remember what He did with the 12 and then commissioned them to do (Acts 1:8, Matt 28)?
Let’s get busy being…and making Disciples for the sake of the Gospel
Love you All and Soli Deo Gloria!- Pastor