Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Antioch-Syria and the Early Mission to the Gentiles – Part 3

June 19th, 2011 · No Comments

In this study we continue to lay a foundation for an understanding of early Christian mission, particularly the mission to the Gentiles that emerged through the apostle Paul, with its base in the church of Antioch-Syria. Today’s study again looks at some of the characteristics of the early church in Jerusalem. Our teacher lays particular emphasis on the “Jewishness” of the early church in Jerusalem, made up of native Jews as well as Jews and proselytes, “devout men” who had come from every nation under heaven (the Diaspora). They practiced the Law of Moses as any other devout Jew of that time would have done. What made them distinct was their acceptance of the apostle’s testimony concerning Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which, again, was being confirmed with signs and wonders following, which created a sense of awe among all who witnessed this. They were a people of eschatological faith, whose reward was in the age to come. They were transformed by the Word to walk in love, cleansed from covetousness and idolatry. They thus put their possessions at the Lord’s disposal to meet the needs of those who were destitute in the redeemed community.

In the backdrop of all this were two primary devotional practices: 1) devotion to the teaching of the apostles, and 2) devotion to the prayers. Our teaching mentions some of the “prayers” that were prayed continually by the apostle Paul (Eph 1, 3; Phil 1; Col 1) and also breaks down the 5 key components of the Lord’s prayer listed in Matt 6:9-13.

Today there is a need to “re-lay” the apostolic foundation upon which the true church is built (Eph 2:20) so that it might grow into the fullness to which it has been called (1:22-23; 2:20-22; 3:19; 4:10, 13). The Lord has given to the church “equipping ministries” so that this might come to fruition (4:11-16). This is why we must be devoted to the apostle’s teaching: so that we might be cleansed, matured, and equipped to reach God’s goals concerning what we are to be and do. This requires focus, and discipline borne of vision. The goal, that is, our ultimate eschatological hope and destiny, is clearly stated in passages like Romans 8:17b-30 and Ephesians 1:3-6. From this we look at 7 things such hope gives to us in Christ:

  1. Strength to endure through trial and suffering
  2. Motivation to grow in holiness
  3. Motivation to be good stewards of our gifts
  4. Encouragement to know that the Lord will take care of us in every circumstance
  5. Motivation to discipline ourselves unto godliness
  6. Growth in our knowledge of God’s love
  7. Knowledge that our lives are really about two ultimate issues, namely, growth in the character and image of God, and the use of our gifts for the edification of others and His glory.

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