“So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. [d] 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.” Acts 15.30-35
It’s not hard to notice the initial mention of “men” leading the early church. I’m not saying this is correct, but it was the cultural norm of the day. Men were the leaders, elders, governors in society. However, Jesus did much to include and liberate women as many of his closest disciples, although not among the first twelve, were women. So here again we read that Judas and Silas, both men, were sent to do the work of the Lord.
This isn’t a reflection upon the lack of women mentioned as leaders in the New Testament church, because we can make the case for many others including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. Women also played a pivotal role in the early church, serving as deaconesses such as Phoebe. Those being sent in this passage are Judas and Silas, and yet Jesus also sent women.
The message today is one of Jesus sending people through the power of the Holy Spirit and the early Church in Antioch and beyond. We are now beginning to witness the expanse of the ministry of the Gospel. We are seeing the growth from just Jesus to the three, from the twelve to dozens of disciples, to hundreds and thousands. But again, key leaders were being sent, moving to different churches to encourage and “strengthen the believers.” And their purpose was to encourage, preach, teach and heal those who were sick.
The sending process has always been compatible with Christianity. In my denomination, pastors are sent, appointed by elders and Bishops. In the general church as a whole, congregations call forth and send pastors. The transference of clergy and lay leaders to meet the needs where they arise is important. The multiplicity of layers of leaders to strengthen and grow up churches both now and back two thousand years ago is substantial.
And so my question to you is this — are you being called and sent? You do not have to be a vocational, theologically trained minister to be used for the Kingdom. All you have to do is to be willing. As you reflect upon this Scripture, will you be captured by the Holy Spirit to help transform the world? Will you go into your part of creation and speak the name of Jesus? Will you offer grace, love and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name?
Go and make disciples, was Jesus’ final command. Let it be our commission this day.
“O Lord God, it is good to be used by you. I thank you for loving me, encouraging me, sending me. Come now, Holy Spirit, use me as you will. Lay me aside or put me to doing. Allow me to be your hands and feet that I might draw near to your heart. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen