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The Scriptorium

One Church

Our oneness is our great strength. Acts 11.27-30

Mission to the Gentiles: Acts 11 (7)

Pray Psalm 133.1.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!

Sing Psalm 133.1, 3.

(Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara: Children of the Heavenly Father)
Behold, how sweet, how pleasant, when the brethren dwell together.
All in unity abiding find God’s blessing there presiding.

Read Acts 11.1-30; meditate on verses 27-30.

Preparation
1. What did Agabus prophesy?

2. How did the church in Antioch respond?

Meditation
Barnabas had been gone for over a year, so the church in Jerusalem decided to send a team up to help (v. 27). These men are described as “prophets.” Their work appears to have consisted in traveling about to teach the Word, supplementing whatever ministries and teaching existed in places like Antioch. But at least one of them also had the gift of prophetic foresight, given by the Spirit to prophets, and not to everyone (v. 28).

What Agabus prophesied, Luke tells us, came to pass a bit later (v. 28). But receiving his message as the Word of God, the church in Antioch was not going to wait for disaster to come upon their brethren in Judea. They gathered up a collection and sent it to Jerusalem with Saul and Barnabas (vv. 29, 30).

The believers in Antioch and the believers in Judea were one Church, one Body of brethren, with one common concern for the Kingdom and the wellbeing of God’s people. We must “work hard” to maintain this kind of unity (Eph. 4.3), but doing so is an important part of the ongoing work of Christ. Jesus said it’s unity like this that convinces the world that He has come for its salvation (Jn. 20.21). Paul would maintain this focus on the worldwide oneness of the Body of Christ throughout the course of his ministry, and across the vast expanse of the Roman world (cf. Rom. 15).

Things were expanding rapidly, but Luke did not want us to lose sight of the fundamental oneness of the Body of Christ. Of course, today we pretty much have lost sight of that. Disunity has become the norm among the churches of Jesus Christ, and we don’t make much of an effort to overcome that and demonstrate the oneness we have in Jesus Christ.

Unity among the churches of the Lord doesn’t just happen. If we will not work at our unity, then we can’t blame our unbelieving neighbors for not taking seriously our claim that Jesus has come for the salvation of the world.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The disciples in Antioch determined (came to the decision) to help the church in Judea because of the coming famine (Acts 11.29). But as we know from this multi-attributed statement: The road to hell is paved with good intentions, good intentions don’t always get the job done.

And as the Bible says: “Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain” (Prov. 25.14)
And then the Bible adds this warning: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecc. 5.4, 5).

Happily for the Church in Judea, the disciples determined to send relief, and then actually did it! (Acts 11.30)

And they gave, “each according to his ability.” (Acts 11.29)

A tithe is one tenth of a person’s income. And one tenth of our income does not belong to us. It belongs to God. In fact, if we hold that back and keep it for ourselves, we are guilty of robbing God. He asks, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3.8). And who wants to be guilty of that?

So their ability to give depended entirely upon their own income. It would be a different amount for each one. But give it they must and give it they did.

The same is true for us. And today, the blessings of tithing are also still true. God tells us to “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3.10).

There are always needs in the household of faith. Churches, para-church organizations, neighbors—all have needs that can only be met by outside assistance. And these needs are in our local churches and neighborhoods, but also all over the world.

When we ask the Lord to show us, where He wants us to determine to help, then He will guide us to know where to give. And we will rejoice to do it.
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9.7)
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20.35).
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4.16).
“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13.16).

Determine. Do.

For reflection

1. The Christians in your Personal Mission Field have needs. Whom will you encourage today?

2. Why is it so important that Christians care for one another’s needs? How can churches do that in a community?

3. What does it mean to be a “cheerful giver”? How can believers encourage one another in this?

Grant, Lord, that Christians may forget other names and distinctions, and love one another as the followers of Christ ought to do. True Christians will feel for their brethren under afflictions. Thus will fruit be brought forth to the praise and glory of God.Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 11.25-30

Pray Psalm 133.2, 3.
Pray that God will build a strong desire for unity in the souls of all His people, and that believers and churches everywhere may begin to work hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4.3)

Sing Psalm 133.2, 3.
(Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara: Children of the Heavenly Father)
Like the precious oil of blessing flowing down on Aaron’s vestment,
God’s anointing rests forever where His people dwell together.

Like the dew of Hermon’s fountain falling down on Zion’s mountain,
So the blessing of the Savior dwells where unity finds favor.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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