God Uses Ordinary People to Build His Churches – Pt 1 – Acts 11:19-30

26 June, 2022

Book: Acts

God Uses Ordinary People to Build His Churches, Pt. 1


Introduction the Text…

  • As you’re finding your place in the book of 11, I want to quickly sketch in the context of our passage.

You will remember back in…..

  • Acts 7, we read of Stephen being violently murdered or Martyred for his Witness to Christ before Sanhedrin, then…
  • In 8, we read of the violent persecution, led by Saul, and allowed by God, against the Church, for God’s purposes.
    • Luke states that “Saul Ravaged the church”
    • In Ch.9 He breathing out threats & murder ag: disciples
    • In Ch.22, Paul h-self, relates how he Bound, Imprisoned & even Put to Death, those who followed Christ &: Way
  • In 8:14, Luke recounts how the Apostles, still in Jerusalem, sent Peter/John to Samaria, following Philip’s evangelistic work.
  • So, it’s fairly clear at least some of apostles were still in Jerus.
  • So, it was the disciples who’re mostly experiencing persecution, and it was the disciples who were going out, witnessing, and speaking the Gospel of Christ to all, everywhere they went.


  • From Chapters 8 thru to 11 and vs. 18
  • We saw how:
    • Samaritans were reached thru Philip’s Gospel witness
    • Ethiopian heard the Gospel & took it back to Africa
    • Coastal Regions were reached by Peter, after Saul’s conversion & persecution ceased & Church had peace
    • Cornelius & his Roman-Gentile Co. are reached w/ Gospel
  • So, the 3rd/final line in the Expansion of the Gospel is crossed
  • The Gospel has gone out from Jerusalem
    • 1stly to the Jews in Galilee, Judea & the Coastal regions
    • 2ndly to the half-Jew/half-Gentile Samaritans and now
    • 3rdly to the Gentile Romans,
    • All that remains, is to take it the ends of the earth!


  • Now, In 11:19, Luke reaches back & ties the persecution against the Disciples in 8, to another new phase in the spread of the gospel, and that is to Greek-Hellenist Gentiles.
  • The stories in 11:19 – 12:25 serves to transition fr: prominence of Peter as the 1st major character, & leader of the church
  • To rise of Saul-Paul as the 2nd maj. Char. in book Acts
  • It also serves to introduce us to the Antioch Church which will be the centre & spring-board of Evangelistic Missionary work,
  • not from Jerusalem, but from Syrian Antioch.


Well, Let’s read together: Ch. 11:19-30


Introduce the Message:

  • What struck me as I read-studied this was that the men and women God used were not super-men and super-women
  • They are ordinary men and women, with ordinary lives, ordinary talents, abilities, relationships, hopes, dreams, wishes,
  • They’re so ordinary that you and I can relate to them
  • They’re so ordinary that when we see the great works being done by them, we immediately realise it’s not them –
  • Its God! God is the one doing the work here…
  • ….in Antioch, in Jerusalem, in churches all over the world…
  • and here at NPEBC…. God is the One who does the work
  • God does His work & He Delights to Use Ordin. People to do it
  • God works thru ordinary men and women to build His churches
  • And The response that God requires of us is:
    • Faith, Believing His Word & Trusting His Person
    • Submission to Him, to His Will as revealed in His Word
    • Obedient Co-operation w/ Him as He works in us both to Will and to Do for His Good Pleasure
  • Well, In our text we can see 4 stages in church plant’ng/growth
    • 1st) There’s the Planting of a church, thru Witnesses
    • 2nd) There’s the Growth of a church, thru Encouraging
    • 3rd) There’s the Establishm’t of a church thru Teaching
    • 4th) There’s the Ministry of a church thru Disciples
  • We’ll look at the first two today the others next week.


First: God Births Churches thru Ordinary Gospellers, vss.19-21

  • Notice that the Antioch Church was Birthed thru unknown, unnamed witnesses, who simply went about speaking the Wd.


Vs.19, The People God uses as to Speak the Gospel

  • They’re witnesses Scattered thru Saul’s Persecution
  • And, beloved I confess that when I was studying I went right over that statement, until later in my studies when it kind of hit me, think about what they had gone thru in that scattering
    • Their homes we invaded
    • Their loved ones had been taken away to prison,
    • Some of their loved ones had even been murdered, for their testimony, their witness for Christ
  • I was reading Hebrews again this week and part of what caused me to give thought to this was the statement that the writer makes that the Hebrews Believers, in 10:32-34
    • Endured a great conflict of suffering…
    • They were made a public spectacle…
    • They showed sympathy to those imprisoned…
    • They accepted joyfully the seizure of their property
  • Listen, for these Jewish disciples-believers in Christ who were scattered by persecution, it was no walk in the park!
  • They spread out, speaking of Christ, knowing that having already done so, it cost them greatly – and yet they continued to do so, anyway
  • How do people do that… Not by being Super-Christians
  • Its ordinary people,
    • who’re filled with God’s Spirit,
    • who’re compelled by Christ’s Love for them, and
    • by their love for Him
  • It’s ordinary people, who have surrendered themselves to do the will of God, wherever and however He sends them
  • The challenge is, bros & sis, are we, ordinary people just like them, willing to allow God to use us in that same costly way?


  • Now, we see that as the disciples began to spread out they spoke the Gospel to the Jews only.
  • The early Believers saw themselves as distinct group within Judaism; hence they communicated the Gospel to Jews
  • Jesus was proclaimed to Jews as our Lord & Christ-Messiah
  • Peter preaching at Pentecost in Acts 2:36, said “…let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
  • In Acts 5:42, the apostles, “…every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching & preaching Jesus as the Christ.
  • Jewish Disciples spread out preach. Jesus as Christ to Jews


  • In 9, they travelled North to Phoenicia, then, North west to the Island state of Cyprus & then, back on the main land further North to western Syrian city of Antioch.
  • Phoenicia, as I understand it, represents modern day Lebanon
  • Cyprus’ history included heavy Grecian & Mycenaean influence going, at least as far back as 1400BC,
  • And, by the 1st century time of Acts, included a fairly large Hellenistic Jewish community/occupants.
  • Barnabas, himself is a Jewish Levite from Cyprus.
  • These Unnamed, Unknown to any but God came to Antioch


Antioch of Syria. (1 of 16 cities w/ that name) was built about 300 bc

  • by Syrian emperor Seleucus in honor of his father Antiochus.
  • It’s located on a fertile plain in a western bend of the Orontes River that terminates in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • In ancient times the population reached 500,000 people
  • Because of its location Antioch was a busy, cosmopolitan centre of: trade, religious ideas-practices, with high levels of intellectual and political life…. Kind of reminds me of Melbourne
  • Under Roman authority Antioch received:
  • Beautiful public works,
    • Harbor improvements,
    • and special trade advantages.
  • But, beside its truly high culture were
    • the degrading practices of strange Fertility Religions,
    • brutal, bloody sporting events, and
    • a whole host of mystery religions, but there was also…
  • A was a large Jewish community in Antioch, (Barnabas)

As we’ll see Antioch will play an important role in the early church

  • Acts 13 records: the first missionaries were sent from there.
  • From the third century to about the eighth century, Antioch was an important centre for the development of Christian theology…
  • And here in our text we see ordinary people brought here by God’s doing to speak the gospel & see a church planted


Vs.20, The Message God Uses,

  • The message Spoken by these ordinary Greek speaking disciples, who’re men of Cyprus & Cyrene, who came to Antioch.
  • The “coming to”, suggests that there were already some Jewish Believers there, witnessing to the Jews only…
  • But these Hellenistic Jewish Believers, began to speak the Gospel to the Greeks also, Preaching Jesus as Lord.


While we are not told the details, no doubt their Gospel Message was similar to that which Peter-Paul preached to the Gentile

  • That the One True God of the Jews was the Only True God
  • That God had created all mankind in Holiness & Righteousness
  • That man, in willful rebellion & disobedience to God was sinner
  • And man, left to his own devices stood to face the un-mitigated wrath of an righteous, angry & offended God
  • But God, from a desire to glorify His name,
    • to display His grace,
    • to redeem mankind, had sent Jesus of Nazareth
  • Jesus had been born & lived in sinless perfection,
  • He’d been delivered over to wicked & cruel who crucified Him
  • He’d died, and been buried in a borrowed tomb
  • But God had raised Him from the dead, declaring Him to be the Son of God with Power
  • God has appointed Him to be the Judge of the Living & Dead
  • Jesus, as Lord has ascended to the Father’s right hand
  • Jesus, as Lord and Judge is returning to judge all mankind
  • To those who submitted to Him in Faith and Repentance: Life!
  • To those who refused to submit, there would be condemnation!
  • They preached the message of the Gospel of Christ


Vs.21, Notice the Power to Turn the hearts of men is the Lord’s hand…

  • It is Not the Style-Dynamics of the Presentation of the Message, It is the Power of God, the Hand of the Lord that does the work of changing the hearts of men…
  • The work of turning men to the Lord is of such a miraculous nature that it can only be accomplished by the Lord.
  • Peter & Paul, these men, all the “great” preachers down thru the centuries – they’re ordinary men, just like us, who, Like Paul, in weakness, fear & trembling, preach & speak the gospel, wherever & however the Lord leads us….
  • And when we, by faith, submit & obey, the Hand of the Lord is with us To do His Work to turn the hearts of men to Himself


Vs.21, Notice: Goal of Speaking the Gospel is to turn People to: Lord

  • It’s to turn listeners, from serving themselves, their idols, their sinful nature, and to turn them to the Lord.
  • So, God is the Substance of the Gospel…
    • God is the Hope of the Gospel….
    • God is the Goal of the Gospel,
    • turning men-women to Himself
  • Paul said the same thing in Lystra as they tried to offer sacrifice to him and Barnabas, in Acts 14:15, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things (and turn) to the living God,
  • Paul again in Acts 26:18, in giving his defense of his ministry to Agrippa, said that Jesus had sent him the Gentiles, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in (Me) ’
  • The hand of the Lord was with these unnamed, unknown Hellenistic Jews who spoke the Gospel of Jesus as Lord to the Antiochene Greeks and Large Numbers of believers turned to the Lord.
  • The Work was-is God’s.
  • The tools he uses are ordinary men/women just like you and I.



  • 2:13, It is God who is working in U to will & to do for his good pleasure,
  • It is God’s work to plant churches, and he calls, and moves us to be involves in His work
  • It is God who Scatters/disperses us thru various tools/devices
  • It is God, who Compels His disciples to speak & preach Jesus Christ as Lord, to Jew and Gentile wherever he has placed us.
  • It is God, whose Powerful Hand is with us, as we speak and preach the simple yet profound message of Christ-Crucified
  • It is by God’s Powerful Hand at work that the listener turns from sin and self and unrighteousness and turns to Jesus Christ, so that, whether in large numbers or small, it is His doing that turns them
  • How immensely freeing to know that my sole responsibility is to preach the gospel, in its completeness, without wavering or watering it down,
  • But, it’s not my responsibility for who will believe, that is God’s


2ndly: God Grows His Churches Thru Ordinary Encouragers, vss.22-24

  • The Antioch Church is Connected, Encouraged & Exhorted
  • 22, By God’s doing, news of their response to the gospel makes its way to the parent church in Jerusalem
  • And so, Jerusalem sends ‘Barnabas-the-Encourager’ to them
  • It is not suspicion, or a power-struggle that moved them.
  • It is for the purpose of Connection, Encouragement and Help.
  • Church planting, (as I discovered), must always take place according to the Principles of Discipleship.
  • The seasoned, mature Church & Leadership watches-over, helps, encourages and, occasionally, steps in 2 correct/re-focus
  • So, By God’s doing the Elders in Jerus. send Barnabas: Antioch


Well, Who is this Joseph, who was called: Barnabas

  • 4, He was a Jewish Levite of Cyprus who became one of the earliest Christian disciples in Jerusalem.
  • In Acts 4:36, his name is recorded as Joseph, but he was surnamed ‘Bar-nabas’, by the Apostles, which is translated as ‘son of Encouragement or Consolation’
  • In Acts 9:27, he was the one to introduce Saul-Paul to the Apostles after Saul’s conversion.
  • In Acts 13, he and Saul/Paul were set apart, by the H. Spirit, to their missionary work, which began with their travelling to Seleucia, and then sailing across to Barn.’s homeland of Cyprus.
  • In Acts 14:14, Luke records him as 1 of 2 Apostles. beside Paul
  • In Acts 15:12, At the Jerus. Council, Barn. defended the claims of Gentile Christians to be part of the People of God, by testifying to God’s Performing Signs and Wonders among them.
  • And neither Barnabas nor Paul were perfect – ordinary men!


  • And, Sadly, in 15, owing to a dispute w/ Paul over John-Mark, these two ‘brother-missionaries’ part company.
  • And in 15:39, Barnabas took Mark & sailed away to Cyprus.
  • …YET, in a display of awe-inspiring grace, we see the effect of Barnabas-the-Encourager, later, in Paul’s own life…
  • In prison, close to his execution, Paul sends for: same disputed John-Mark to come to him, for he is Now Useful to him…
    • ’ Influence in J-M, is clearly seen, to Paul’s benefit
  • And, lastly according to Extra-Biblical Church tradition, Barn. was the founder of the Cypriot Church & the Church of Milan
  • was Martyred for his faith, on Cyprus @ Salamis, AD 61.


  • And as we read this text and others that speak about Barn., we can see that he was far from being your typical type-A, Entrepreneurial, Pioneering, Super-Achiever….
    • Not that there’s anything wrong w/ them… not much


Barnabas was an Ordinary Bloke, useful to God & used by God

  • He followed Christ, as one of his disciples
  • He was happy to take a back-seat to others, namely Paul
  • He was known for his Encouraging, Exhorting Ministry-Love
  • He quickly engaged-included others in God’s work, investing time-effort in them, to see them useful to God also.
  • He was a man of God, who saw what God was doing, in the most unlikely of people, and got involved to encourage, exhort & help.
  • Praise God for men like Barnabas…. Men like my Uncle Jack


  • He was, as Luke describes him here:
    • A Good Man, Full of the Holy Spirit, and…Full of Faith
  • Al three of those descriptions are possible only because of the presence and the work of God the H. Spirit in his life
  • Which is such Grt Encouragement for me, and all of us, who’re
    • not so Type-A,
    • not so Super-achieving, but are
    • much more the mediocre-type of peoples


  • It is not Personality, Talents, Ability, Special Personal Gifting that God uses in his men-women
  • It is God, Displaying the glory of His Grace, working thru the unlikely ones – The 12 Disciples – Unlikely like Nothing Else!
  • We, like Barn., are useful to God because of His working in us
    • It is God who Saved us,
    • It is God Filled us with His Spirit,
    • God, who Applied Christ’s righteousness to us,
    • God, who Gave us the gifts of faith, & repentance, and….
    • God, who Works in us to Will & Do for His Good Pleasure
    • God, who Scatters, sends us, leads us, places us,
    • opens some doors & closes others


  • All God desires fr us is Faithful Submission & Obedience 2 Him
  • Like Barnabas, our simple responsibility is to Joyfully co-operate in obedience to God, trusting him for the results…
    • There is so much more I could & want to say about that!


So, How does the Lord use Barnabas, this ordinary bloke?

Vs.23, Barnabas Witnessed the Grace of God

  • God opened his eyes to see God’s Grace at work in these Newly Saved, Former idol-worshipping, Greek-speaking men/women
  • It takes a Wk of God’s Spirit, 2 C God’s Grace at Wk around us
  • It’s always easy to see what’s missing, what’s deficient,
    • what’s out of place or what’s wrong….
  • Pardon me, but how quick we are (and by ‘we’ I mean me)
  • How quick I am to see what’s lacking, what’s wrong, instead of what’s right, 2 C God’s Grace at work, unfinished, but working…
  • May God help us all to see more of God’s Grace at work….


  • By God’s doing, Barnabas witnessed God’s Grace at work and….

Vs.23, Barn. Encouraged-Exhorted them to remain faithful to Lord

  • In a more literal translation the text reads:
  • “he rejoiced and encouraged/exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord, w/a steadfast purpose/resolute heart
  • Notice Btw, that his encouraging-exhorting ministry is explained by Luke as the result of His Godly character
  • 23-4, “He began to encourage…For he was a good man….”
  • His encourage.-exhort. ministry was the outflow of a Godly, Spirit-filled, Faith-filled life.
  • Which means his ministry wasn’t just a shallow, cheerleader:
    • “ra-ra-ra-you can do it, yes you can, yes you can!”
  • Barnabas Urged & Pleaded & Implored them to remain faithful, to remain true to the Lord… Don’t turn away! Keep on Going!


  • But, Notice the Manner of their remaining faithful to the Lord:
  • It’s with a steadfast purpose, or with a resolute heart
  • It’s with a Determination not to walk away, not to drift away.
  • And brothers & sisters it’s got to start here in our heart!
  • It’s got to be with a Determined heart that we will remain true


  • I know this text is describing the planting of a new church, with new believers, in a strange place…
  • Beloved there is a terribly great need, in ev. church, whether it’s a new-old, established church or not… incl. this one,
  • There is a need for this type of encouraging-exhortating min.


So! How Do you-we develop a determined, resolute heart in others?

  • How do U-I En-courage, or impart courage to someone?
  • Courage comes from knowing certain Unshakeable truths.
  • Like the general before the battle that tells the troops
    • There’s more of Us than Them
    • We’ve got bigger harder-hitting cannons, than they do
    • We’ve got better intelligence, better armour, etc., etc.
    • We’re braver, stronger, bigger, then they are…
    • He speaks truth (exaggerated) to impart Courage
  • We Impart Courage & Develop Determined hearts by Infusing Truth into their-our hearts & minds:


Here’s a few examples:

  • You can’t do it on your own,
    • But God has Filled you with His Spirit and He is be working in/through you to do it…
    • Greater is He that is in You, than he that is in world
  • You won’t last 2 seconds on your own, in this spiritual life,
    • But God is working the Surpassing Greatness of His Power toward U the same power he worked, to raise Christ from death
    • God began the work in you, to make you alive,
    • God will finish the work he has begun, all the way to death/Christ’s return.
  • Barnabas faithfully exhorted and encouraged these newly saved bros & sis & the result, we can see in vs.24, that considerable numbers were brought to the Lord….



Listen, God used unnamed, unknown men to preach Jesus

  • God used an annamed, unknown Methodist farmer to preach the gospel on a cold, snowy London morning and saved CH Spurgeon
  • God used Barnabas, who was an ordinary bloke, to encourage & exhort and strengthen the small, newly saved believers, who’re beginning to form into a church in Antioch
  • God always uses ordinary people, becoz that’s what we all are.
  • God uses ordinary people becoz, thru ordinary people, who’re empowered by the All-Mighty God, to do what only God can do, then…. He gets all the Glory, and we get all the benefit.


  • Brother and sister in Christ, we may not be in a church-plant situation, yet…. Hopefully one day we will be….
  • But for right here, for right now, there is still a tremendous need for Spirit-filled,
    • Faith-filled,
    • Ordinary men and women to Encourage and Exhort one another to remain true to the Lord, with a determined heart…

So, how do we do that?

  • We take what we have already: The Truth of the Word of God
  • We pray & plead with the Lord for wisdom,
    • for direction,
    • to be led by the H. Spirit to those who need that exhortation and encouragement,
  • We speak the truth of God that has its own power,
    • to encourage, to exhort, & sometimes unbeknownst to us, to gently rebuke & correct our brother/sister in Christ.
  • We come alongside and we link arms together with those who’re struggling, downcast, weary in the journey, and we look to see the grace of God that is at work and we encourage with truth.


  • As great, and necessary as exhortation and encouragement is…
  • Every church, newly planted or long-term establish. needs the apostle’s doctrine, faithfully taught and applied, to continually grow, and develop Christ-likeness, in its disciple-members.



  • God does His work & He Delights to Use Ordin. People to do it
  • God works thru ordinary men and women to build His churches
  • And The response that God requires of us is:
    • 1) Faith, Believing His Word & Trusting His Person
    • 2) Submission to Him & His Will as revealed in His Word
    • 3) Obedient Co-operation w/ Him as He works in us both to Will and to Do for His Good Pleasure