April 29, 2012

Antioch and Mercy Ministry

In Constantinople, 100,000 Christians maintained 50,000 poor, all the clergy, and 3,000 widows and orphans, all through the tithe.

Scripture: Acts 11:19-30

Sermon Notes:

  1. Antioch was a large and influential city in modern day Turkey, where early Christians fled from Jewish persecution.
  2. City churches were the primary focus of expansion in the early church, and Antioch (a large center of administration, culture, and commerce) became the first metropolis of Gentile Christianity.
  3. Cities are not without challenges; ancient cities were centers of moral depravity, often with an emphasis on cult prostitution.
  4. Jesus was proclaimed to the Gentiles as both Lord and Saviour.
  5. Many were looking for a divine Lord who could guarantee immortality, so when the Gentiles heard the gospel, by the power of the Spirit many were converted.
  6. Barnabas is sent to encourage the church at Antioch. All of us have gifts of ministry, whether it be encouraging others, sharing the gospel, sharing wisdom, supporting others’ ministry, or generating wealth.
  7. The biblical illiteracy and diversity in Toronto opens up unique opportunities to reach out within the city with the Kingdom message.
  8. Some don’t want to be called Christians, or to be associated with the institutional church of God in history. But with all her failures, the church is still the bride of Christ, the family of God and the institution/government of God’s people (cf. 1 Peter 4:16).
  9. There is reproach to name the name of Christ; we’re to bear responsibility for both our triumphs and failures in history.
  10. Agabus forecast the famine of AD 45-48, and the apostles took a large offering to Jerusalem. Believers saw it as their responsibility to care for their family and church, and afterward those outside the church.
  11. Provision for social needs is an aspect of the gospel but this does not mean indiscriminate hand-outs.
  12. Governance of the church is necessary to avoid idleness, envy, and anarchy (1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11).
  13. In Constantinople, 100,000 Christians maintained 50,000 poor, all the clergy, and 3,000 widows and orphans, all through the tithe.
  14. The resurrection is the unleashing of the power of God in Christ, whose transforming life and power is now at work in the world.
  15. If any power doesn’t serve God, it serves itself, seeking more power.
  16. To be obedient to God we seek to live as free men and women, not under theft and coercion of humanist state social financing.
  17. No matter how many dollars you extract from taxpayers, you can’t regenerate people; only God can change people.
  18. Under God, the church is to finance health, welfare and education.
  19. The Jubilee principle applied to our salvation is to embody debt-relief and freedom from bondage to sin (Luke 4:16-20).
  20. Jubilee expresses atonement — the restoration of all things in Christ.
  21. Jubilee put the control of property, and therefore production, into the hands of the family — the very opposite of the socialistic state.
  22. Covenant members only were eligible for Jubilee release; as believers, we’re released from the burden of debt in Christ.
  23. When you relocate salvation to wealth redistribution, you end up with no gospel at all, and a denial of the very blood atonement of Christ.
  24. We should work to get ourselves out of debt if possible. We must never justify theft from others in the name of aid to the poor. It’s not the role of anyone to steal, or to plan to steal, to “help the poor.”
  25. Being freed from our sins, we’re to have an overflow of compassion to others, serving the needs of the poor. Then taking back its biblical responsibilities, the church will regain its influence in society.

Application Questions:

  1. What are some of the challenges and advantages to Kingdom ministry within the city?
  2. In what areas of ministry has God specially enabled each of us to serve His Kingdom purposes?
  3. How do the following texts inform and motivate our engagement in mercy ministry? Ephesians 4:25; 1 John 5:2-3; James 2:14-26; Leviticus 25:35-38.
  4. How should we respond to those who make the charge that the Church of Christ in history is a failure and an embarrassment?
  5. Critique the anti-institutional, anarchistic trends in today’s church.
  6. What are the implications from Ezekiel 46:16-18 and 1 Kings 21:19 for inheritance tax and property tax?
  7. Contrast the socialist state’s view of power by coercion with the gospel’s view of power (see Matthew 20:25-28).
  8. Does our gratitude to God motivate an overflow of compassion, evidenced by ministry to the practical and spiritual needs around us?
  9. How can we promote the Jubilee principle in our spheres of influence this week?
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