THE ANTIOCH CHURCH
Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Acts 13:1 ¶ Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Barnabas and Saul have returned from Jerusalem where they had delivered the relief contributions to those there suffering from the famine. The new Gentile believers in Antioch had greatly responded with their natural provisions to those who had been instrumental in giving them their spiritual benefits! Romans 15:27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
And this is an evidence that these of Antioch were indeed, true believers! John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. This is the “oneness” of which our Lord spoke to the Father in his great prayer. John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And this group of believers is now referred to as the church. (Acts 11:26). And how did that come to be? The answer is revealed to us in verses 20 and 21 of this chapter. For there it simply states that some men, scattered to Antioch from the Jerusalem persecutions, that arose about Stephen, came preaching the Lord Jesus. Then we read in Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. For the word church, simply means “a calling out.” It is the same word translated, assembly in Acts 19:32, 41.
It is an assembling of those called out of sin into holiness, from transgression’s darkness into gospel light, that is referred to as the church! For the church is that assembly which is established upon the solid foundation of revealed faith! Matthew 16:15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
In these verses the Lord Jesus makes it a point to call Peter by a title that he only uses in this particular conversation. He calls him Simon Barjona. That is, Simon, son of Jona. Then the Lord refers to his own heavenly Father. By this he makes the emphatic point that the spiritual understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth really is, has never been reveal by, or through, that which is born of flesh! It does not come through the natural man, as Peter’s dad. It is exclusively a revelation by the Holy Spirit from God Himself, creating a new spiritual man within the heart of the sinner! For only those born of God, Christ’s Father, can know who the Lord Jesus is! Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Mankind sinned and came short of the glory of God! And those recovered in mercy, and by grace, are restored to the view of that glory once again in the revelation of the face of Jesus Christ! (2 Corin. 4:6).
For knowing Christ IS salvation! John 17:1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. There are a lot of those practicing religion, keeping its traditions, who have had no inward, divine revelation of God by the Holy Spirit! We know far more unregenerate religionists than we do true christians!
After chapter twelve of the Book of Acts, the mention of the Apostle Peter falls off its pages, until we come to chapter fifteen. And there we find quite a different Peter than we have heretofore known! For after his two divine perceptions (see Acts 10:34,35 and 12:11), Peter seems to be a quieter soul! (Knowing the absolute sovereignty of God will tend to do that!) For before he speaks, he holds back until all others have had a great deal of discussion concerning the necessity of circumcision for salvation. Then we read in Acts 15:7, And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
There are two things of great importance to the Christian church here revealed, that effects all down through the ages. One is that God will bare witness to those who are born of the Spirit! The other is that it has always been and shall always be, that every believer, Jew or Gentile, have their hearts purified by faith alone, and not by the keeping of the law! Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
God’s gift of the inner dwelling of the Holy Spirit bears witness that we are the children of God! 1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
And God’s gift of faith to each and every true believer is that which will continually work to the purifying of the heart! Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
This gift of faith makes everyone equal who receive it. For with faith there is no Jew nor Gentile, no male nor female, no slave nor free man! For that effectual, living faith has been once delivered to (all) the saints! (Jude 3). And it accomplishes the same benefits to all alike! Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For it is Through faith we understand! (Heb. 11:1,3a). Without God’s gift of faith, no one pleases God! Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. For one cannot know God, but by faith! You can’t argue an atheist into believing that there is a God! He must be granted faith! And all men have not faith. (2 Thess. 3:2).
Then one granted faith to believe that God exists, must now venture to pray to him, expecting that God will reward all who diligently seek him! And THAT is an individual, personal venture that cannot be accomplished for you by anyone else! Romans 14:22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God.
Abel had no bible! And there was no previous tradition concerning the order of worship! So how did he know what offering would be acceptable to God? Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Noah had never seen, or heard of rain! Genesis 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. So how did he know about a flood, or to make an ocean going vessel that would not be exceeded in size until the mid 1800’s? Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
And how do you know, and assuredly so, that you shall be transported into the glories of the eternal presence of the very Person of God, by a holy angel upon your physical death? You cannot know that by the practice of traditional religion! You can only know that by a personal faith that was given you by God! 1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
Remember what Peter said in his short discourse in Acts 15, concerning the salvation of the Gentiles, how God bare them witness? And did you see in Hebrews 11:4, listed above, concerning Abel’s sacrifice, how God testified of his gifts which he brought to the altar? And do you have the witness inside your heart? Has God actually witnessed by the indwelling of the Spirit that you are indeed a child of his? Or are you just assuming upon some bible verse that you are a good person whom the Lord will be happy to welcome into eternal bliss?
That didn’t work out so good for one bus load of religionists that pulled into the eternal parking lot, expecting an all expenses paid, eternal vacation! Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
Are you trusting in the solid Rock of Christ alone to sustain you? Are you honoring God by fully believing in his Son for your complete acceptance by him? Are you relying on that which is outside your religious efforts, which requires God’s gift of faith in order not to have a false and utterly eternally damning consequence as by religious works? Christ alone, and Christ’s faith alone, is THE only provision that every single soul has been granted in order to dwell eternally in the glories of God! Neither Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, James and John, nor your grandmother ever were included in heaven’s blessed company without FAITH!
So do you think that you shall be the only individual within all the masses of humanity, that John saw which could not be numbered, who shall be allowed entrance by your works? The angel of light – Satan – will tell you so! Do not listen to him! Do not trust your profession, or your baptism, but listen to God’s word! Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
So what hope have we of a holy righteousness? What hope have we of a blessed entrance into God’s eternal glory? 2 Corin. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Have you any interest in the atonement? Have you any value to place upon the full and complete redemption of God’s Lamb? Dare you flee to Christ right now and cry out for mercy for forgiveness of your filthy rag, religious practice, in which you have been trusting? For if He was not made sin for you individually, you cannot be made individually righteous before God!
Pastor Gene Breed
February 1, 2013