Reading: Acts 11
Some of the Lord's followers had been scattered because of the terrible trouble that started when Stephen was killed. They went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they told the message only to the Jews. Some of the followers from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and started telling Gentiles the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's power was with them, and many people turned to the Lord and put their faith in him. News of what was happening reached the church in Jerusalem. Then they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When Barnabas got there and saw what God had been kind enough to do for them, he was very glad. So he begged them to remain faithful to the Lord with all their hearts. Barnabas was a good man of great faith, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Many more people turned to the Lord. Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. He found Saul and brought him to Antioch, where they met with the church for a whole year and taught many of its people. There in Antioch the Lord's followers were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-26, CEV)
Reflecting and Thinking
News about the baptism of Cornelius and the Gentiles' reception of the word traveled quickly. When Jews in Judea became aware of the happenings in Caesarea, Peter went up to Jerusalem to explain what had happened. In the first half of this chapter, Peter recounts the events at the house of Cornelius, providing many helpful details in the comparison.
Those scattered by the persecution traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, but the gospel was shared only with Jews. After the conversion of Cornelius, some who came to Antioch spoke to the Gentiles, and many became believers. Again, the news reached Jerusalem, and the response this time was to send Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas rejoiced to see the work of God. He encouraged the new Christians (as they soon came to be called), and brought Saul from Tarsus to Antioch. If Gentiles were coming to faith in Antioch, and if Saul was to be an apostle to the Gentiles according to God's commission, Antioch was a good place for Saul to be.
This text shows the providence of God in several ways. The gospel will spread more rapidly into the whole world if it is being spread by both Jews and Gentiles. Antioch had the second largest concentration of Jews in the eastern Mediterranean, but the reception of the Gentiles in Antioch was probably easier than in Jerusalem. This time, Jerusalem seemed ready, and no better ambassador could have been chosen than Barnabas, who was also from Cyprus, where some of the early preachers to the Antioch Gentiles were from. How did Barnabas know to go get Saul? Perhaps Saul had told him the story of his conversion and the words of the Lord (chapter 9). Barnabas had been one of Saul's first supporters in Jerusalem. When news of famine problems in Jerusalem reached the church in Antioch, it (including some Gentiles) decided to send aid. Barnabas and Saul were those charged with delivering the help. How interesting that the Jerusalem church needed and received aid from Antioch so quickly. God's providence is not always easy to see, and this chapter is often overlooked in such studies.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your constant involvement in our lives. We marvel at your work; by faith we answer your call depending on you to work for good in our efforts. May we today see those who need and want you, in Jesus' name, Amen.