Guest speaker Yan Hadley spoke tonight on the subject of grace and its effects on believers, looking at Acts 11, where believers at Antioch were first called Christians. God’s grace in their lives meant they were no longer living for themselves but for Christ and therefore they had a powerful impact on their community. Despite opposition and persecution, despite living in a culture that was opposed to Christianity, God’s grace in their lives was visible to others.
Four characteristics of grace were seen here:
1) Irrepressible purpose – these believers were faithful and steadfast in their purpose which was to be ambassadors for Christ, speaking of Jesus at every opportunity.
2) Inextinguishable passion – living under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit, able to continue in their witness despite opposition. We see this characteristic in the early church repeatedly (see Acts 4 & 5 when despite arrest and being forbidden to speak of Jesus, the apostles continued to preach passionately. Passion was allied to truth and Paul spoke fearlessly in Thessalonica and Athens, debating vigorously with people about Jesus.
3) Irreproachable purity – understanding that our lifestyle must match our words, wiht God’s grace providing the ability to resist temptation (Titus 2:11) and purity leading us to gain favour with others as they respect our integrity.
4) Indisputable power – having confidence in the power of the gospel (Rom 1:16) and regularly seeing healings, miracles, deliverance and even the raising of the dead. Rom 15:17-19 reminds us that word, deed and the power of signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit need to be combined in our witness.
These characteristics must be seen in our lives too, showing the world that there is more to life than self-centredness, that zeal and passion must influence our actions, but our words and actions must also be married. Words, deeds and supernatural power must be the characteristics of all believers whose purpose in life must be to speak of Jesus. Only as we are radically different from the world can we hope to achieve the same kind of influence and favour of the early Christians at Antioch. God’s lavish grace can enable us to abound in every good work (2 Cor 9:8) and thus to be worthy of the name ‘Christian.’