READ – Acts 11:19-26
2019 VISION PART 1 - GOING DEEP IN SCRIPTURE
The church in Antioch is a “hinge” church in the book of Acts. It was in Antioch that the first diverse multi-ethnic church was formed. It was from Antioch that the first missionaries were sent to take the gospel to “the ends of the earth”. The first part of Acts (1-12) tells the story of an almost entirely Jewish church in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – people and places that all had knowledge and esteem for the Bible. The second part of Acts (13-28) tells the story of a predominantly Gentile church in cities of the ancient world - people and places that had little to no knowledge and esteem for the Bible.
The church at Antioch is a blueprint for the kind of church Jesus can build in a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city. It’s the blueprint for the kind of churches the apostle Paul sought to establish all over the world. It’s a blueprint for the kind of church we are praying Jesus would build here at Trinity OC.
The first thing we’ll look at is how it was a church that went deep in Scripture.
1. WHY GO DEEP IN SCRIPTURE
The story of the church at Antioch starts back to Acts chapter 8, “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria…. So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word (8:1, 4).” Their story is picked up in 11:19, “Now those who were scattered because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one but Jews. But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus.” At first these Christians hesitated to talk about the word with Greeks but some just couldn’t help it – they began proclaiming the good news that was the deepest part of their lives – the good news about Jesus. For the Christian who started the church at Antioch, the “word”, they spoke, the “good news” they proclaimed was what the Scriptures were all about (see Luke 24:27, 45ff).
The Christians who started the church at Antioch are a picture of what happens when someone goes deep in Scripture. The people to whom they spoke the word saw 2 things in their lives:
1) The Scriptures somehow gave them something stronger than the worst that could happen to them. They were refugees who lost everything. Yet somehow, they not only endured their suffering, they thought of others and how important it was for them to hear this good news.
2) The Scriptures somehow gave them something better than the best that could have happened to them. The best news they could have heard would have been, “Come back home to Jerusalem. It’s safe now”. What’s remarkable is that they could’ve heard this – if only they left behind their new commitment to Jesus and his church. But they didn’t. They couldn’t. Why not? They must’ve thought they had something better in Jesus than even the best thing that could’ve happened to them.
When these displaced Christians started talking with others about Jesus and the Scriptures, they spoke with an undeniable credibility. People must’ve been wondering – what could be this strong? what could be this good? The church at Antioch began with people deeply convinced in the truth and power of the Scriptures.
2. HOW TO GO DEEP IN SCRIPTURE
As this mix of people from different backgrounds became attracted to the message of the Bible and formed a church, what would they do first? What would be their priority and focus? Acts tells us that after Barnabas visited from Jerusalem and encouraged them, he knew exactly what they needed. He got Saul and “for a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers”. What did it look like for this church to go deep together in Scripture?
1) Consistency – “for a whole year”. Based on the evidence from the rest of Acts, this is more than a weekly gathering. It was almost certainly a daily gathering (see Acts 2:42-46, 5:42, Acts 19:9). The soaked and marinated in the Scriptures.
2) Community – The story emphasizes the “large numbers” who were taught (11: 21, 24, 26). Why such a focus on numbers? Reading and learning Scripture is meant to be done in “large numbers” – in community with others.
3) Conversation – We are told here what these daily teaching sessions looked like. But the rest of Acts tells us that Paul’s style was a mix of instruction and dialog. These large numbers didn’t only silently listen but asked questions and discussed what they were learning.
This is the way the church at Antioch was built. While being careful about establishing a “formula” for the variety of ways a church can go deep in Scripture – this is how Jesus built the church at Antioch. It’s the foundation for how they established a faithful, long-term presence in their city and became the first sending church.
3. THE IMPACT OF GOING DEEP IN SCRIPTURE
What was the impact of this deep engagement with Scripture over time? We could summarize it like this – a transformative personal encounter with Jesus. This is the ultimate purpose of the bible and it is the impact all our reading, studying, discussion is meant to have.
The city of Antioch was known to classify and categorize people using nicknames. There were the “Herodians”, the “Neronians” and the “Augustiani’s”. When it came to this new religious movement, the people had no way to categorize them. They finally figured out the best nickname for this community – “Christians”. The Christ-people. The people who look like and act like this Christ they keep talking about. We “become Christians” through deep engagement with the Scriptures because in the Scriptures we personally encounter Christ. Going deep in Scripture isn’t for gaining information, finding self-help advice to better ourselves or for pointing the finger at all that’s wrong with other people. Going deep in Scripture is going deep in relationship with Jesus Himself. As we encounter Him there, we become like Him.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. What are your biggest personal objections or biggest personal obstacles to going deep in Scripture? What things have been most helpful for you in going deeper into Scripture?
3. What is your response to the idea that the Scriptures give us something stronger than the worst that can happen to us and better than the best thing that can happen to us? How did the lives of the Christians who started the church at Antioch show this? Is it promising too much to make this claim for anyone? Have you experienced this?
4. Of the 3 parts of the “formula” for how we can go deep in Scripture, which of them is most lacking in your relationship to Scripture? Why? How might you (or your community group) put these into practice?
5. What can we learn from the nickname this church earned for themselves (“Christians”)? Would anyone in your give you this nickname? What role does Scripture play in making us “look and act” like Jesus?
6. Do you resonate with the idea that to read and learn the Scriptures is to personally encounter Jesus Himself? How is this similar or different than your motivations and reasons for reading Scripture?
a. What questions do you have about this? What experience do you have in this?
b. For further support of this idea, see John 5:46, Luke 24:13-49, 2 Timothy 3:10-17
7. What is one thing you can do in 2019 to go further into Scripture? Share it with your group or a friend and ask them to regularly check in with you to see how you are doing.