2011-07-30 - The Church in Antioch
When Stephen was killed for preaching the Gospel, the early believers were scattered by the persecution. Some of these followers travelled as far as Antioch, which was a large city in the Roman empire. In Acts 11:20-21 we read, “Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (NIV)
Formerly the Gospel had only been presented to the Jews, but in Antioch the non-Jews, or Gentiles, were able to hear about Jesus. When the church in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent Barnabas to check into this new church. What Barnabas found was exciting. He “was glad, and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts 11:23) Barnabas even sent for the apostle Paul to come meet with the new church in Antioch. The church continued to grow and we read in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were first called “Christians” in Antioch. The believers in Antioch were so filled with the Gospel, that they sent Paul on three missionary journeys.
The growth of the Antioch church shows us what came come from adversity. As a result of persecution, the people of Antioch were able to learn about Christ. This new church was able to send missionaries to further spread the Gospel. How can we turn adversity into good actions today? What can we do to spread the Good News?