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God’s Providence in His Church (Acts 11:19-30)

October 1, 2014

Reflecting on the Passage:

Here at East Point Church, we have begun a new sermon series entitled “Acts: The Spirit and the Church in the World“. This week’s sermon contemplates God’s steadfast love toward a called out people for the sake of empowering them to live distinctly different from the world. Pastor Duncanson points to the providential hand of Christ to govern, sustain, and preserve His Church even in an ungodly world. The focus of this sermon is on the providence of God in persecution, in church planting, in providing a faithful proponent, and in a partnership.

The Providence of God in Persecution

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews (Acts 11:19;ESV).

Surely, the believers in Jerusalem must have been wondering, “Lord, what are you doing?” in their persecution and the death of Stephen. Although, inherent in this question lies a belief that God is working despite the present situation, for He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). Pastor Duncanson describes this amazing truth as God’s providence, which is His active and intimate involvement in every event of our lives (cf. Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7). Perhaps God scattered them, so that they might scatter the Gospel beyond the walls of Jerusalem.


The Providence of God in Church Planting

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord (Acts 11:20-21; ESV).”

Christ was still mighty in the face of the tribulation and persecution. In fact, He committed Himself to personally build His Church through the ministry of His disciples (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 16:18). Even though the disciples in Jerusalem were shortsighted in their Gospel proclamation, the Lord provided men of Cyprus and Cyrene to supply the need in Antioch. The Lord had a plan to plant a church, He sent out His servants to proclaim His message, and He proved Himself strong in the capturing of hearts in Antioch (cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalm 127:1).

The Providence of God in Providing a Faithful Proponent

The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24, 18;ESV).

Subsequently, while the Lord was working in Antioch, the Church in Jerusalem received word and sent Barnabas. Why do they send Barnabas? Could it be because Barnabas was a good example of someone who was captured by the love of Christ? Scripture describes Barnabas as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Therefore, God sent them Barnabas, because this church needed encouragement by one who could identify the power of God and comfort others with the Gospel.

The Providence of God in a Partnership

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:25-30;ESV).

Meanwhile, the church was growing and Barnabas needed help. Saul, a fellow-laborer of Christ, was a few miles from Antioch in a city called Tarsus, so Barnabas sought him out for support and brought him to Antioch. Christ was showing the world that He was building a church that was distinct from the world. Truly, these disciples in Antioch had begun to make a name for Christ, so much so that those around them gave them the name “Christian”. This church was unbelievable and people took notice of them because they were different people, serving and loving each other as Christ called and empowered them to do (John 13:34-35).

Are we different for Christs sake?

What is the Lord doing? He is giving us an opportunity to imitate our Savior, to serve, and to give generously. The Lord is working out His plans in the world and in our lives for His glory and the good of His people.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Glory, who is strong and mighty, mighty in battle (Psalm 24; Matthew 28:18-20). No matter what the children of God may face in this world, Christ has His quiver full of disciples willing to be sent out as arrows to proclaim the Gospel and the return of their King.

Listen to this week’s full sermon for free.

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