An Early New Testament Document: Acts 15:22-36
“22) Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,
30) So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31) When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32) Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. 33) After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. 34) [But it seemed good to Silas to remain there.] 35) But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.” Acts‬ ‭15‬:‭22‬, ‭30‬-‭35‬ ‭
Acts 15:23-29 might not seem exciting to you and me. But this small letter carried to Antioch by the men mentioned above was among the first New Testament documents. It affirmed the doctrine of justification by faith that freed the Gentile believers from the yoke of the Law to walk and live in the Spirit by grace.
It was so important, the Jerusalem council appointed Judas called Barsabbas and Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch. When they arrived, they gathered the church together and read the letter out loud. Verse 31 says; “And when they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.” It announced good news!
Judas and Silas were also prophets. The idea of prophets most likely included the concept of being anointed preachers. They encouraged and strengthened the brethren with long messages. The church at Antioch became the scholarly and anointed church for the New Testament believers. It was equivalent to gathering the top ten Bible scholars of our day for a prolonged Bible conference.
Soon, both Jerusalem and Antioch became key sending churches for world missions. Nearly all of the apostles chosen by Jesus during His ministry were sent out from the church at Jerusalem around the world. Thomas went as far East as India. The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas, Mark and Silas. It is likely that others were sent out as well.
It is crucial to note that the Great Commission was paramount for these early churches. I believe they reached, discipled and sent out hundreds of workers. Making disciples to take up the baton of world missions was their mission statement and focus.
Some wonder why God did so many signs and wonders in the early church? It appears from Hebrews 2:1-4 that God steps up in powerful ways to confirm the gospel message as it is preached and spreads.
Churches given to the Great Commission soon surf on the wake of the supernatural. They are alive, filled with awe at the presence of God and are vibrant. They constantly see God move and work in extraordinary ways. By contrast, passive and introverted churches become deserts. They dry up and die. It happens all the time.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global