Acts 13:1 “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul.”
God had staffed this congregation in Antioch to make it a church well-prepared for his mission. Luke tells us that they had prophets and teachers. It’s possible that some of the men in the list that follows were prophets, and others were teachers. It is possible that all five were a little of both. But it is certain the members of the church in Antioch received God’s word in two different ways, or “styles” if you will. Sometimes their leaders preached to them. Sometimes they taught. Christians needs both.
You see, a “prophet” was more than a divinely approved fortune teller. He was a preacher. When you read the Old Testament prophets, from time to time they talk about the future. But mostly they preach to God’s people, like your pastors preach to you. They tell it like it is. They announce the good news.
That kind of delivery method has fallen out of favor with many people. They don’t want to be “told.” They want to be taught. There is a time and a place for teaching. But preaching isn’t meant to cram your head full of new information for a quiz later. It is telling the truth. It is reporting God’s news.
If you are a Christian, there are times you want to be preached to, whether you realize it or not. When you wind up in the hospital, you don’t want a teacher to bring you a Bible class. You don’t want white boards, diagrams, and a time line comparing the ancient kings of Judah with those of Israel. You are facing your mortality! The only “little” surgery is one someone else is having. You may or may not be a bundle of anxieties, doubts, and fears. But you want someone to tell you God still loves you! He isn’t punishing you here, because all your sins went to the cross with Jesus. He has all the power in the world to see you through. Whether your time in the hospital ends with you going home, or going home, you win! If you are a Christian, you already know all of that, but your faith longs to hear someone say it with confidence and authority. You want preaching, because it drives your faith deep and makes it strong. The church in Antioch had prophets, preachers, who were doing just that.
Teaching expands your understanding of God’s word and enhances the usefulness of your faith. Compare your faith to a house. Preaching cures the concrete foundation, making it harder and harder. It drives the piers and pilings of that foundation down to the bedrock, and then drills them deeper and deeper into the bedrock.
But all of that strength for just a one room shack? Teaching adds rooms. It increases the functionality. You get a decent door and a decent entryway, because we need to sort out what comes in and what stays out. You get a fireplace to keep things warm, a kitchen because the occupants need to be fed, good bedrooms for rest. A large living space can host others, and a large workshop is a place from which to serve them. The more the house grows, the better it functions, the more it can do.
It’s the same for a Christian. A well-prepared believer listens to preaching and teaching. He doesn’t pick and choose.
Why is this important? From the beginning the church in Antioch was a church with a heart for evangelism– the kind of people who knew that everyone needed to know Jesus, regardless of who they were or what they looked like. The Lord was about to ask these people to give up their senior pastor, the first pastor they ever had in Barnabas. With him would go arguably the best teacher Christianity has ever had in the person of Saul, later known as Paul. We don’t hear even a hint of objection from this church. They fast and they pray and they send the men off. They had been well-prepared for God’s plan.
God wants your faith to be strong and deep, because who knows what challenges are going to be coming. He wants your faith to possess an ever-expanding collection of Bible knowledge and understanding so that you will have the words to say and know the right things to do when you get the opportunity to witness and serve. God’s plan for us involves preaching and teaching so that we can be well-prepared.