Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Acts 13 and 14.
There is a lot to learn from this testimony of the early church that we can apply to our work in the mission field God has called us to.
There are two key things I want us to see and learn from the early church in Acts in these chapters.
1. They were God-centered.
Acts 13:2-3 While they were 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 fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Right out the door, what we find time and time again in the ebb and flow of the early church is that they were serving on mission out in the community, but they would never forsake the central need to be at the throne of God together as a body.
Constantly, we hear of them praising God with song, fasting, and spending time in prayer.
Make it personal:
How often do you make big decisions to go “here” or do “that” without first going to God in prayer?
How truly committed are you to your local church family or to worship, financial giving, discipleship, and service?
How are you gathering with other believers to pray and to go out into the mission field God has put you in?
Another way the early church members were God-centered in their missional lifestyle was they SAW GOD IN ALL THINGS! One of the vital foundations we need to keep us pressing on in our service of others outside our comfort zone is to see God in all things. Paul demonstrates this to us as he responds to the rulers of the synagogue’s request to give a word of encouragement to the people.
Acts 13:15-25 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’”
Now think about all this for a moment. Don't take this kind of narration of history for granted. Let it strike you as strange as it really is.
Is this the way you talk about life to others? When you tell somebody about the past, do you say, "God did this, and God did that, and God did that, etc."? Paul consciously chose to narrate history this way. In this, he is making a statement—one that we need to listen to again and again today.
He was saying, “There is a great and glorious God. Know Him. Reckon with Him. Think about Him.” He was saying that God is really working in everything. It's reality. If you want to be a Christian, it means believing that God is the main character in world events—that He is the most important factor in all matters.
Paul is talking to unbelievers here; he is evangelizing. And part of what he was trying to do was show them a way of looking at the world that sets the stage for the gospel—namely, that it is God's world. He made it; He owns it and everyone in it. He works in it. He is guiding it to His appointed goals. Everything, without exception, everything has to do with God and gets its main meaning from God.
Do you, like Paul, see God at work in all things in your life? Do you see how He is at work in your car not working or in your job changes, in your health, in your relationships, in your coffee brew flavor? When we are out there loving others, we must remember it is never God then us; it is always God before us, in and through us, ahead of us. It is vital that we see God in all things!
2. They were focused on disciple duplication.
There is an important trend that we see Jesus begin when He trains the disciples to go two by two. Not only are you vulnerable alone, but who are you duplicating yourself into?
There is a clear and undeniable design of God in the New Testament church: We are not meant to do life outside of gospel community. Most of the New Testament is written to the church, because the most basic understanding is that Christians do not do life alone. This principle is essential in the ministry of the early church and is critical that we do not miss it today.
Acts 14:21-23 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Notice the church missionaries did not just go into an area and preach salvation and then move onto a new area.
They understood that God’s most central design of the body of Christ was to duplicate themselves into new disciples.
This is the way God designed the gospel to thrive in a new area. The investment in discipleship gave opportunity for growth; a new church was planted as elders were prepared and raised up to lead and as brothers and sisters continued to invest themselves into each other in discipleship community.
Make it personal: Who are you purposefully discipling in this season? Maybe you don’t feel ready to disciple others. If so, then who have you invited to disciple you? We either need to be receiving disciple training or taking others through it. This is the only way we, the church, will fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord for us, the church.
Mathew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
1. All Authority
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Do you trust in Jesus’ authority?
Notice the connection between Matthew 28:18 and 19. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. THEREFORE go and make disciples of all nations."
In other words, the fact that Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth—the fact that He is the ruler of the kings on earth—means that He can take their citizens to be citizens of His kingdom.
This means that Christian missionaries are rightful emissaries and ambassadors of the King who is over all other kings, and no one has a right to keep them from calling all people everywhere to submit to the King, Christ Jesus.
Think about that. We must realize that our success as the body of Christ is not based on who we are or what we can do. It is not about how smart we are, how creative we are, how talented we are, how rich we are. It is not about what we can offer. Our success is based on who Jesus is and what He is capable of doing in our lives. That is what our success is based on: His authority, not our own.
Everything must be staked on His word—trusting that He alone has all the authority.
2. Go Therefore
Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore …”
This is not speaking of going to a specific location but of an investment outside of yourself—an investment into others. It means you cannot stay. You cannot keep to yourself. My authority is for a purpose that I am going to put to work in and through you. It’s not to terminate on you. It is something that involves you investing outside of yourself.
Do you invest into others outside of yourself?
“Go therefore” means get up. It means go out. One of the very real realities of our sin is that we only live our lives for ourselves. When you are struggling with your sin you want to be SELFISH. You don’t want to GO. You want to stay—stay where you are comfortable. Stay at home on the couch and just consume and be entertained, or work longer hours so you can consume more stuff.
The “therefore” ties the going—the investing—to what was just said.
Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go therefore!
When we get who Christ is and who we are in Christ and what He is doing in the here and now in the world, we will not STAY.
We will not keep to ourselves and make our paycheck and buy our groceries and do what we want to do! Instead we will go invest into others. We will live with a life-changing confidence in the authority of the One who sent us. We will invest and make the most of our days that He gives us to go in His authority.
3. Make Disciples
Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples …”
If we are going to make disciples, we need to know what a disciple is.
The standard definition of “disciple” (noun) is someone who adheres to the teachings of another.
It is a follower or a learner.
A “disciple” is someone who adheres to the teachings of another.
Applied to Jesus, a disciple is someone who is trained to adhere to be like Christ.
Are you becoming a disciple who is being trained to makes disciples?
Making disciples involves training in God’s word and calling people to become those who learn from Christ; teaching people what Christ has commanded; teaching people to obey all that Christ has commanded; teaching them to obey in the context of church life; and summoning the church to command all nations to follow Jesus and become little Christs and, as a result, glorify God and fulfill Jesus’ commission.
If we are going to “make disciples,” we must first be discipled.
Jesus didn’t show up on the scene and say to a bunch of fishermen, “Go make disciples.”
They didn’t know Christ yet, so how could they teach others to be like Him?
They hadn’t yet been trained by Christ and His word, so how could they teach others His word?
What Jesus did say to them is, “Follow me.”
Matthew 4:19b “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Notice Jesus says, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Disciples are made through the ministry of the word entrusted to the church, which includes preaching, teaching, evangelism, and counseling.
The word teaches, reproves, corrects, and trains in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
The word makes disciples, and Christ makes disciples through the word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Is that not a picture of discipleship?
So discipleship will include instruction, study, and digging into God’s word and truths. It is the process of conforming our minds to God’s will and way. This is how we are shaped.
Let me remind you that the goal is to make disciples of Christ. NOT disciples of you! In 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” You can say with Paul, “Watch me as I follow Christ. Christ is the One we want to be like.” Christ is still the One we are learning to be like. He is the One we ultimately follow and belong to!
4. Of All Nations
Matthew 28:18-19 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”
Do you see your testimony and ministry work as unto the nations?
The goal in our discipleship is to be able to send readied disciple makers to go to the ends of the earth.
May we truly learn from the example of the early church and their passion for God and commitment to disciple making and do the same in this season by which we have been handed the responsibility to these things. May it be so!