Peter Kendrick, professor of theology and culture
New Orleans Seminary, North GA hub
Dwight Moody credits his friend Henry Varley with the words that forever changed his life, “Moody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.”
Four foot eleven inches tall, Lucy Wright Parker was a native Georgian born in Augusta, baptized at First Baptist Church of Augusta, and graduate of Shorter College in Rome and the nursing school at University Hospital, Augusta. In 1923, she was commissioned by Southern Baptists to serve as a missionary. She served 42 years as a single missionary nurse in China and South Korea.
She endured political upheavals of the Japanese occupation of China and World War II as well as personal struggles with cancer and a perforated stomach ulcer that nearly killed her.
After the communist takeover of China and death of Bill Wallace in a communist prison, Ms. Lucy served 11 years as the nursing director at the Bill Wallace Memorial Hospital, Pusan, South Korea. She ministered to the sick in the hospital, the Chinese refugees in Pusan, as well as those living in the slums and on the streets. She had a particular affection for the “children of the streets” – the street orphans.
She was once dubbed the “The white-clothed angel.” My favorite nickname that was given to her was the “American maiden grandmother” because on one of her frequent street visits she found me and I became her grandson – Peter Wright Kendrick.
Imagine what God can do when a church and a believer responds to the call of God and gives themselves up wholly to Him. The church at Antioch was that kind of church – a church full of believers who gave themselves up wholly to God.
A revitalized, united church
Antioch was an extraordinarinary church reflecting its extraordinary heritage. A church plant, Jewish converts from Cyprus and Cyrene had gone to Antioch and evangelized the Greeks (Acts 11:19-20).
Every church was once a new church plant. The church at Antioch never forgot its heritage. There are several things we can learn from this church.
First, those serving as prophets and teachers of the church reflected their community. There was Barnabas; a Cypriot Levite, Simeon (possibly a black African, since he was nicknamed “Black”) and was perhaps the same Simeon who carried Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:26); Manaen, an intimate friend (perhaps an adopted foster brother) of Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded and presided over one of Jesus’ trials (Lk 23:7-12); Lucas, who had come from Cyrene and may have been one of the founders of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:20); and lastly, Saul (Paul), a zealous Pharisee who had persecuted the church.
Second, the focus of the church was to worship God and seek His direction for their lives. Worship of God is never self-centered, asking “God bless me even more.” Rather, worship of God is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).
Judging from the response of God, the church must have been asking about the need to spread the Gospel beyond Antioch – to plant another church.
Third, God always responds to those on their knees worshipping and seeking His will. In this passage, He impressed upon the prophets in the church to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work He had called them (13:2).
Fourth, a church responds in faith to God’s answer. They “laid their hands on them” as a sign of affirmation, blessing, and commissioning. Then, they “sent them away” to work.
We cannot ignore that this church sent out two of its most invaluable members. We shudder at the prospect of losing one member. The church of Antioch never hesitated in giving up 40% of their leadership wholly to God. Likewise, Paul and Barnabas never hesitated in leaving the safety of the church.
Rejection for the Gospel
Believers who give themselves up wholly to God should expect hardships, anger, rejection, and perhaps, even death (Luke 21:17; 1 Cor. 11:25-33). Following a great Sabbath preaching (13:16-41), Paul was invited back on the next Sabbath. (13:42-43). This time the “whole city” is there and some of them are more than angry.
Filled with jealousy, they contradict and abuse Paul (13:44-45). In the face of opposition, Paul and Barnabas chose to continue to preach the Gospel with boldness (13:46). The Jewish leaders were so angered that they incited others and eventually amassed enough influence to have Paul and Barnabas expelled. (13:50-51).
Joy for others
Believers who give themselves to God are blessed in the midst of persecution and will rejoice as they witness people who embrace the Gospel. The “whole city” did not reject the Gospel. The Gentiles who Paul had encouraged to continue “in the grace of God” (13:43) welcomed the message, and many believed (13:48). As a result, “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.”
Ms. Lucy was always thankful to her church and Southern Baptists in sending her out. She never regretted answering God’s call. She felt sorrow over the men and women who rejected the Gospel, but rejoiced because many came to know and serve God, including me.