The Greatest Message!
Every person can learn the importance of the message of Jesus Christ by looking at the events in this passage.
Over this past week a woman I was working with was excited because her daughter in law was going to the Doctors for an ultra sound. She was going to find out if she was having a boy or a girl. So every day we would hear stories about how this couple did not want any more children. She would tell us stories about the two boys that were already in that family. Of course being the grandma she would tell us about her concerns for that family.
Finally Friday afternoon arrived and we heard the news, she was expecting a baby girl. Mom, dad and grandma were excited about the news, but little brother seemed to be a little disappointed.
You could sense that grandma was excited to be a part of the news. I would guess that she stayed near the phone so she would not miss the information when it did come.
I hope that we can all identify with situations where people have experienced things they were excited to hear about. Or maybe it was news they were anxious to hear. There are some events in the passage we are studying today that point to the fact that the message of Jesus Christ was a big one that people should listen to.
Event I. Scattered
A. The Jewish leaders were working at doing anything they could to stop Jesus and his followers from delivering their message. They started with Jesus and eventually had Him crucified, but Jesus rose to life and the message continued to spread. I can just imagine that the religious leaders felt a sense of relief when Jesus was crucified, but that quickly went away when Jesus rose from the dead. Now they are dealing with all of Jesus followers who are telling people that Jesus is still alive. They just can’t seem to get rid of Jesus and his message. In Acts 7 we see another incident of the religious leaders putting out a big effort to stop Jesus and his followers. They try to stop Stephen and they stone him to death. As a result of this stoning the followers of Jesus spread out over the entire region. It is my understanding the after Peter gave his stirring message in Jerusalem where 3000 men come to know the Lord the people just stayed in Jerusalem. Following the stoning of Stephen the Jesus followers scatter. They are starting to think about self preservation.
B. These people who had become Christians in Jerusalem are now back in their homes. Not only did the people scatter, but the message that had impacted their lives went with them. Every time that the religious leaders have tried to stop the message they went after the messenger. They killed Jesus, but he rose to life and the message went on. They killed Stephen, hoping to kill the message, but others carried the message on. They were not able to find any way to kill the message. They might be able to stop the messengers, but they were completely unsuccessful in killing the message. The message continues to live.
C. Even today there are countries in our world who have tried to outlaw Christianity. They are trying to kill the message, but it has continued to spread. They are able to deliver the message with short wave radio, and by smuggling Bible. They might be able to stop the messengers, but the message of Jesus Christ will always live on. Christians might be scattered, but the message will continue.
Event II. Tell the message
A. After Stephen is stoned and the Christians run for their lives they go to their homes. Many of them had traveled long distances to participate in the Jewish Festival in Jerusalem. They received more than the opportunity to celebrate, but many of them came to know Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord as a result of this encounter. They are driven to their homes as a result of the persecution. So they tell their families and their friends about what happened to them. They had come to Jerusalem for the festivals, so the people who came to Jesus before the stoning of Stephen are either Jews or they are converts to Judaism. In v. 19 it says that they told the message to Jews only. They were of the Jewish faith and so they were giving the message to others who had a Jewish faith.
B. In v. 20 we read about a group of rebels. It says there that they spoke to Greeks also. This was probably something they had never really thought about. The Jewish faith was pretty closely tied to the nation of Israel and they probably thought that Christianity ought to be the same way. One of the things that seem to be missing is the evangelism program. I don’t see any of these people going through any kind of training. Instead they go to their homes and businesses and they start of tell them what happened to them.
C. In the church we like to toss out terms like evangelism, witnessing, and calling. Maybe we use those words because they make us sound more important. They really all boil down to telling other people about what has happened to us. I went through Evangelism Explosion where I memorized verses that I would share with other people on calling nights. Those were the nights we would go to people’s houses to talk to them. Then I participated in the GRADE ministry. It was very similar, but it had its own unique characteristics. Many people think that in order to witness you need to have gone through one of those programs. The programs might be helpful, but they are not necessary.
D. The message that was being delivered was something so important that they could not wait for the training, or even the opportunity for things to get right. They needed to tell people. I would imagine that they had come through an amazing experience in their life, so they went and told the people they saw. Those people they told wanted to be a part of it as well. It was very natural and it leads to people coming to know the Lord in other countries. How perfect it must have seemed.
E. We can all tell the message. We don’t need to participate in a special training program. We don’t need to have a crowd to address. We can just tell people what has happened in our life. It can be something that takes place as a part of a regular conversation. People need to hear the message and maybe God is taping you to be the messenger.
Event III. Sent
A. Henry Blackaby has a quote from Experiencing God “find out what God is doing and get in the middle of it.” He uses the illustration of trying to start a church. As they were working through this they sensed that God wanted them to start a church in a particular area. In order to make sure they began to pray and ask people what sort of sense they were getting from their prayers. Soon people started to come forward with stories of many years of prayer for this area. One man told the story of falling away from God, but having the desire to come back to him. It was obvious that God was at work there and they needed to put themselves in the middle of that work.
B. When the disciples in Jerusalem hear what God is doing in Antioch they send Barnabas to continue the work that has begun. Jesus had trained the disciples and challenged them to carry on the message he had begun to deliver. He had even given them the Holy Spirit to help them to continue in that work. When they hear what God is doing in Antioch they send Barnabas. He was not sent to show them how to do things right. He was there because that was an area where God was working. It was an area they had not recognized as a possible mission field. When Barnabas got there, “he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” He was helping them to continue what God had already started.
C. Perhaps this could be called humble strength. The disciples seemed to fit into the category of Jesus’ chosen few. He had handpicked these guys to carry on the message. It would be very tempting to think they were the only ones really qualified to do this work. This apparent new movement that they had not thought of pops up. What are they supposed to do? They send Barnabas to encourage.
D. The message was significant enough that it did not matter who was delivering the message. The disciples did just what needed to be done in order to help encourage them. What was happening was important enough for Barnabas to go and encourage. I think that there are times when we get scared that someone else is going to take over what we are doing. If God is involved it does not matter who is doing it. What is important is that God is there.
Event IV. Believed
A. The word “believe” may just be the most important word for Christians. In Acts it says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved— you and your household." Jesus came so that men might believe in him and receive eternal life. It is a huge part of why Jesus came into the world. Now we see in this passage that there are many people who believe in Jesus Christ. It was a great number of people who believed in Jesus.
B. This people had no doubt come to the understanding that Jesus was the only way they would get to God. They had probably functioned under the notion that the way to get to God was by being really good. So a lot of people worked hard at obeying God’s laws and doing nice things for people. But, they had come to understand that this was not enough. What they were doing was good, but it just was not enough. A relationship with God only comes through Jesus Christ. We need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Otherwise our efforts are pointless.
C. The only way for a person to get to God is through Jesus Christ. That was the message that the disciples had been working on throughout the book of Acts. Now the unlicensed individuals had gone and started telling the people of Antioch this. It was a great message that needed to be delivered. It is the same today. We need to be delivering this message to the world. People need to know that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. They will not receive it through osmosis. God has chosen human being as his mouthpiece. The message is delivered through people like you and me. The world needs to know about Jesus and we need to be the ones to tell them. The message is still important today.
There are a lot of important things that happen in our lives. They are things that we get excited about. I think that we should be praying that God would rekindle that excitement for the message of Jesus Christ. It still remains the most important message, but it seems to have lost some of its excitement in the lives of people.