(Am I ) My Brothers Keeper
Text: Acts 11: 12 – 30
Proposition: As much as we may resist the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, in God’s eyes we are more than we aren’t.
Introduction: Am I my brothers keeper? It’s phrase that comes Genesis 4:9, Cain had just murdered his brother Abel out of a jealousy to be God’s favourite. God, knowing full well what has happened asks Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain’s response was, “Am I my brothers keeper?” and it has become a catch phrase for the last 7000 years. It questions our degree of responsibility for anyone other than ourselves, even for family members like Cain’s brother. As we read through the pages of Scripture we begin to discover that there is a responsibility that we are entrusted with. Jesus used examples that said if we clothed anyone who was naked, visited anyone in prison, even just gave a cup of cool water in His name then it would be as if we had done it directly to Him. The love your neighbour commandment, the story of the Good Samaritan… all these infer that we are in some sense our brother’s keeper, even as he or she is our keeper. In a culture that breathes and exhales independence, that’s soaked in capitalism more than communalism, we tend not to want others keeping watch over our souls much less the added responsibility of us having to care for them. As much as we may resist the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, in God’s eyes we are more than we aren’t. This morning we are going to explore that thought as we follow the trail of Acts 11. The church leadership in Jerusalem has recently found out that Peter had gone to a Gentiles house in Caesarea, to a Roman centurions home no less. The first part of Acts 11 is Peter explaining all that had happened previously, how it led to he and six other Jews travelling north from Joppa to the Gentile Cornelius’s home and there to witness first hand the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon these foreigners. It would seem from what happened there and immediately following it that this business of being our brother’s keeper has more to it than meets the eye. Turn with me to Acts 11: 12 – 30.
I. Being Your Brother’s Keeper May Take You To Places You’ve Never Been.
Places you’ve never been, like a Caribbean Island perhaps, or like the inside of a jail, or to places where you tell others about Jesus in way you never thought you could or even to the place where the Holy Spirit directs you and you don’t doubt it for a second. When it comes to being your brother’s keeper you may find yourself going to places you not only have never been but to places that you never thought you could ever be. That was exactly the case with Peter and his six wide eyed Jewish friends as they entered Cornelius’ house that day. They hear a man they never thought could be spiritual describing a vision he had had of an angel directing him to send for Peter. The prayer of Cornelius is not recorded for us in Scripture, but the answer to it is, Cornelius remembers being told to, “…call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.” A Gentile home, a Roman centurion, open hearts that eagerly want to know how to be right with God, the opportunity to speak the name of Jesus to people eager to hear it, this was a new place for these men. The whole household was all gathered there, I think that means children as well as men and women, hired men as well as employers. Being your brothers or sisters keeper doesn’t have an age range or social class attached to it. It simply means being willing to go to a place you’ve never been before because they need you to, they need help and they need Jesus.
II Just Because It’s Not What You Desire Doesn’t Mean It’s Not God’s Desire.
Peter relates how he had just begun preaching to them the truth of who Jesus is when all of a sudden God interrupted the sermon and the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentile audience. Sometimes it’s like that isn’t it, right while we are just beginning to do some form of ministry God interrupts us and in a second does what only He can do. It was Peter’s desire that the Gentiles be accepted as good people, God’s desire is that they be built right into the church. Peter’s desire was that they needed to be taught to make sure their faith was genuine, God’s desire was to gift them, to move by grace, to pour out the Holy Spirit and let that be evidenced in an unmistakable way. God calms Peter’s concerns by bringing to his remembrance words that Jesus had said years before, words about they how they would all be baptized with the Holy Spirit. But I like most what he said next, “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” To be their brother’s keeper especially when the brother was a Gentile was far from what they all desired as Jewish men and yet, here they were. “Who was I that I could withstand God?” I think those words may become our words as we become stretched in this whole understanding of being our brother’s keeper unto faith in Christ. I love how this ends, there’s a silence as the leadership hears this and then they begin glorifying God for the repentance and faith showing up where it was least expected. Be quick to agree with God, when He shows you who the brother or sister is that He wants you to keep, only be silent for a moment before you begin to agree and glorify Him.
III. It Begins with Just One or Two Being Their Brothers Keeper, But Then…
Verse 19 says that the Christians who fled from Jerusalem when Stephen was martyred made their way north towards Greece. They spread the gospel of Christ as they went, but they would only speak at the synagogues with other Jews. Then a few, just one or two, from Cyprus and Cyrene came to the mainland to Antioch and began sharing the gospel with some Greek Hellenists. Perhaps to their utter amazement people began to be saved and it tells us, “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” News travels all the way down to Jerusalem and the apostles send out a man named Barnabas to go and make sure things were as they should be. Barnabas comes and sees that they are right on track, he encourages them to have a purpose of heart in the work they were doing in the evangelism of reaching people for Christ and then in helping them to grow as Christians. Barnabas knows that he needs help so he travels to Tarsus and finds a man named Saul, once the persecutor of the church but now a disciple in the making. He brings Saul, his Greek name is Paul, back to Antioch and they stay there for a year helping the church to grow. Being your brother’s keeper will involve evangelism but even more so it will involve discipleship. Discipleship will require purpose of heart, spending time, sharing understanding, discovering the Word, together knowing Jesus more than you did before. Let me ask a simple question, ‘Who is discipling you and who is it you are discipling?’ Who are you getting close to, who is that you are letting get closer to you for the purpose of heart to grow as a Christian? The church is not meant to be a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s meant to be deeper than it is wide. That’s how it perseveres times of testing, trial, that’s why the testimony of who Christ in you is never gets watered down or washed away. That’s what being your brother’s or sister’s keeper is all about. It is a process, it will take time and demand priority over all other things like sports, business, leisure, and any other of the birds of the air. But if you will make disciples, if you will become your brother’s keeper, Christ will use you to change people even if they live on the other side of the world. Look at what these young disciples in Antioch began to do. They hear about a famine coming to the whole world, even their area. They know the regions of Judea and Jerusalem are not exempt. Look at verse 29, “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” The church in Antioch, a church plant you could say, was only 2 years old and yet they were disciples that knew they were their brother’s keeper even when they might never see those ‘brothers and sisters’ face to face ever. Missions was born out being our brother’s keeper and they sent relief as each was able to help.
Who is discipling you, in any church there are a few that it begins with but then it is meant to grow to others. Perhaps it’s the kids you’ve never met that will come to a time like Awana. Perhaps it’s in the creating of a new ministry to reach the unseen. Perhaps it’s a Bible study where you have opportunity to read and share the work of God in your life. Perhaps it’s in the way that you serve Christ through serving others. However it is let me encourage you to take a closer look at how you can become more of a disciple of Christ than you were before. Who is that you are particularly pouring your faith and love in Christ into? When it comes to God’s perspective on your life, you are your brother’s keeper.