Reading For Friday Acts 11:19-30
The persecution that broke out in Jerusalem had scattered believers as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. The city of Antioch was the third largest city of the Roman Empire (after Rome and Alexandria) and the capital of Syria. It was multicultural and sophisticated, even for a large city. City officials had encouraged immigration, going so far as to offer Jews full citizenship. There were large communities of Jews, Greeks, Romans, Asians, and Africans. The Christians in Antioch were nonconformists that spoke to the Greeks about Jesus. God's plan for the nations was clarified daily as Gentiles and pagans were told the news about Jesus Christ. Many believed and turned to the Lord.
News spread and soon the church in Jerusalem received the news about this unorthodox church. They dispatched Barnabas to investigate these claims and to bring news back concerning these new believers. When Barnabas arrived, he saw the evidence of grace and was filled with joy. He encouraged the believers and exhorted them to be faithful. Luke describes Barnabas as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. So many people were coming to the Lord, that Barnabas sought help in making disciples. He travelled to Tarsus to look for Saul of all people, and when he found him they both made their way to Antioch. They met with the church for a year, and this was the first place that the name Christian was used.
It was such an amazing thing that prophets came from Jerusalem to visit the church at Antioch. A man named Agabus and prophecies through the Holy Spirit that a great famine was coming. This community of new believers rallied to send relief to the brothers and gave generously to that end. The church then sent the gifts to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. The gospel was moving, and God was building his church in ways that most could never have imagined.
Things To Consider:
- What are cultural and racial barriers that exist today?
- Are there any of these barriers that you struggle with? Why?
- Do you think it was wise to send Barnabas to Antioch? Why or why not?
- Why is teaching so important for new believers?
- How would people label you if they were asked about your faith?
- What does the gift from the church at Antioch tell you about their faith?