Acts 11:19-26 - The Church at Antioch
Welcome to our Bible Study. We are studying Spiritual Applications from Acts. The Subject of my message today is "The Church at Antioch." My text is Acts 11:19-26. Early in the history of the Church, the Gospel spread to Antioch. Revival came, and the Church became a strong missionary center. There are several observations about the Church at Antioch that will be a great blessing to us.
1. God Blessed The Persecuted And Scattered Church
Because of persecution led by Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, the saints were scattered abroad. These saints* seized the opportunity and preached the Good News of the Gospel everywhere. In our text, Luke picks up the story of the persecuted saints*. As our text indicates, the Gospel reached Phoenicia, Cyprus, and the city of Antioch. The Gospel had a very strong impact.
Before looking at the rest of the story, we must recognize that the scattering of the saints* resulted in the fulfillment of Christ's promise in Acts 1:8. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they would receive power to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest part of the earth. Persecution was an instrument that God used to help make this happen.
2. The Gospel Reaches Antioch
At first, the scattered believers ministered only to the Jews. However, some of the scattered believers from the island of Cyprus and the North African city of Cyrene came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also about the Lord Jesus Christ. The sense of this passage is that the visiting believers ministered to the Gentiles. They clearly understood that the Gospel was for all men everywhere.
Luke does not set down the sequence of events. It would seem, however, that the group was speaking only to the Jews did not know anything about the breakthrough of the Gospel among the Gentiles at Caesarea. Also, it seems likely that the men from Cyprus and Cyrene came later and had heard the news of Caesarea and knew the way was open to reach the Gentiles. The hand of the Lord was with the men from Cyprus and Cyrene, and many people believed in Christ. A large number who believed turned to the Lord.
Over the years, we have witnessed the progress of the Gospel in country after country. The Gospel, when preached in the power of the Spirit, has a strong impact wherever it is preached. People are saved, healed, and transformed by the Word of God when it is ministered under the inspiration of the Spirit.
3. The Church At Jerusalem Sends Barnabas To Antioch
When the church in Jerusalem heard the news about the progress of the Gospel in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas was a Levite (Acts 4:36) who had been born in Cyprus. Because of the Greek culture there, he would relate well to the Greeks. When Barnabas arrived, he saw the grace of God at work and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord.
The Bible tells us that Barnabas was "full of the Holy Spirit." But what does that mean? It means that people who were filled with the Holy Spirit can be "filled" again at particular times and places and for special purposes. Some people frequently give evidence of being "full" of the Spirit and thus become so characterized. Moreover, the expression "full of the Spirit" refers to the ongoing manifested presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The important point is that we rely on the Holy Spirit at all times. He will empower us according to the need at the time.
When the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch, it was obvious that they saw Antioch as a very important center for the Gospel. This city was destined to become the major missionary center of the times. Today, we follow the leadership of the Spirit by planting the church in strategic locations. Many times this happen within the major cities of the world.
4. Barnabas Enlists Saul
Barnabas did much to encourage the church at Antioch., Then after some time had passed, Baranabas left Antioch. He traveled to Tarsus looking for Saul. Once he was located, they returned back to Antioch. Together, they ministered there for a year. Many of its citizens were taught the Word of God and became disciples of Jesus. They were so much like Jesus that they were first called Christians in Antioch. Obviously, many were believers in Christ, and they were Christians, but the name Christian first began to be used in this city.
A fascinating part of this story is that the persecution of the believers by Saul caused them to scatter over a wide area in the first place. Then, sometime later, some of those who were scattered went to Antioch to preach. Meanwhile, Saul was converted on his way to Damascus. Now, Barnabas goes to get Saul so that Saul could establish the harvest in Antioch.
The story of the planting and development of the church in Antioch is truly amazing. Saul and others persecuted the church. They intended to do harm to the saints*, but what they intended for evil, God meant for good. The church at Antioch became a major center of missionary activity. The ways of God in leading His church, are absolutely marvelous! He stills works in wonderful and even astonishing ways today. All who are involved in church planting today will surely be inspired by how God led the believers in advance of the Gospel at Antioch.
*The word "saint or saints" is a general term to refer to anyone who is a Christian believer.
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