Antioch: A Pattern for Sending Church Aid (Acts 11:27-30)
Acts 11:27-30, “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (NKJV).
The book of “Acts” is the record of the activities of the apostles. These actions and processes of the apostles is helpful to modern-day Christians because it helps us see the “pattern” of how they operated (see Philippians 3:17). One such process in Acts 11:27-30 details how the early church operated in their use of funds.
Was money sent out willy-nilly to any person who asked or any organization who requested it? Churches receive abundant financial requests from both believers and unbelievers along with many organizations. Was there an apostolic process for how these requests were handled to help us in our discernment? Acts 11:27-30 sets a helpful precedent for churches to consider as they fine-tune their processes to be in alignment with apostolic patterns. Notice a few items we can learn from the Antioch church...
First of all, they were quick to act in response to unique problems. We do not always have much time to prepare for tragedies like house fires, tornadoes, or earthquakes. Sometimes, we have a couple of days preparation when we hear of hurricanes nearing the coastlines or incoming blizzards and ice storms. Yet, the “prophets” of this first-century church forewarned Antioch of a coming “famine throughout all the world.” These disciples did not wait until after the famine occurred. They began putting together funds immediately to help their brethren in other places.
Second, the money was not just for everyone in Judea. No, the text details the church was sending “relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea” (11:29). Some tend to think of the church as a grassroots fundraising arm for every relief effort. This is a work far broader than the one assigned to it in Scripture. In fact, this case, as well as every other case of the church sending money for benevolent causes was for the saints’ only (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-34; 6:1-3; Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1). Churches would be bankrupt if they tried to support all the poor in the world. These passages put limits on our work.
Thirdly, the church sent money directly to those in need. It is worth noting they did not use a middle-man relief organization. They sent the money directly to “the elders” of the churches in Judea through “Barnabas and Paul.” Let us be content with God’s pattern for how benevolent work was prioritized and funded. The simplicity of this process provides for us God’s wisdom ingiving churches a pattern for financial aid.