Cooperating With God’s Hand

People have a lot of strange ideas about what exactly the “hand of God” is. Often if something goes wrong or right for reasons that are unclear to us, we’ll assign it to “the hand of God”. But in actuality, the bible uses that phrase on several occasions to describe God’s purposes. If God’s hand is said to be with us, it means we are cooperating with His purposes and we are recognizing the results of His work. If His hand is said to be against us, it means we are opposing His purposes and often suffer the frustration (and bruising) that comes from trying to pick a fight with God.

In our ongoing study of the book of Acts, we’ll be reading Acts 11:19-30 this week, and we’ll see that phrase, the hand of God, used in a positive context (v21).

The early church was enjoying the favor of God as they were cooperating with His purposes. How were they cooperating? Well, that’s what we’ll try and unpack.

V19-21 introduce us to some unnamed Christ followers who are planting a church of gentiles in Antioch of Syria. Given all that’s been repeated from chapter 10 through 11, do you find it intriguing that these two no-name people were already doing what God was pushing Peter to do? What observations can you make about that concerning God’s view of church hierarchy and what every believer’s role is? How can we learn to cooperate with God’s purposes from this account?

The church of Jerusalem sends Barney to investigate…maybe to get this all under control, in V22-24. The text says that what he saw made him glad. What did he see (v23)? Given the immoral reputation of Antioch and the wildly diverse cultures that were represented in that city, what could he have seen had grace not been his focus? What can we learn from Barney about cooperating with God’s purposes?

V 26 tells us that the name “Christian” was originally a derisive name coined by the sarcastic people of Antioch. What was happening (v25-26a) in the lives of the Christ followers of Antioch that would cause them to suddenly stand out as different from everyone else…so much so that they got labeled for it? How well do we stand out from the crowd we’ve been placed in? What can we learn about cooperating with God’s purposes from this?

Finally, the section ends with some prophetic dudes warning of a coming famine. V29 tells us about the response from Antioch. What does their action teach us about cooperating with God’s hand?

2 comments

  1. It seems they were cooperating with His purposes by doing what He asked, going into all the world preaching the gospel…and YES it is absolutely intriguing that two no-names are out ahead of the game bringing the good news to the gentiles! Apparently there is no church hierarchy. We all have the Holy Spirit within and are able to follow wherever he leads..We’ve all have been given the mission of the great commission, whether we are talking to non-believers at work, in our homes, out planting churches, or helping others who have, we all have a part to play in spreading this good news!!!
    Barney saw the Grace of God!! He saw the influence of God on the hearts of the people. Maybe that influence hadn’t yet worked it’s way through all their life choices but Barney chose to keep his focus on the Good he did see trusting God to finish what He started….He went to get Saul, which I found interesting as well since he had tried ministering to some Helenists back in chapter 9 who tried to kill Him. Paul had to be stoked whether it was the same ones or another group that God had had His way in their hearts! So cool Barney and Saul helping the no-names grow the kingdom where they had planted. Apparently the truth they learned from the year of teaching from Paul and Barney began working it’s way out as they were now being labeled Jesus-freaks (Christians)!!! Only God level activity takes us from vile to virtuous…
    Their immediate response to the prophesied need was further proof that His re-naturing activity was clearly at work!!! Let’s purpose to co-operate with His hand at work in our own lives that His influence on our insides shows up the outside!!

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