April 20, 2020 – Monday
Acts 11:19-21 NIV
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
As so often happens, persecution of a Christian or Christians results in a growth of the overall church. In this case we are told the good news spread to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, but only – initially – to other Jews. What is described here and in the subsequent verses is an expansion of the word that might have taken months or years, but resulted instead in weeks.
Especially noteworthy, the word spread among Greeks and thus Gentiles. This began at effectively the same time as Philip’s ministry in Samaria and is an early example of the movement of Christ’s message from the Jews to the Gentiles. It may be seen as preparation for the move from a Jewish outreach to the Gentile outreach of Paul and Barnabas. Here are the subsequent verses that show this: 22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
No longer were they called followers of the way, but were called Christians, followers of Jesus the Christ. Note none of this happened on the efforts of those who spread the word on their own. Instead as in verse twenty-one, The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. Effective ministry and missionary work always depends on the Lord, without Him all efforts are without effect. Barnabas view of what was going on in Antioch reflects this for When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
What a city Antioch was to have such an incredible growth in followers of Jesus. It was considered the third greatest city in the Roman empire behind Rome and Alexandria with a population of more than 500,000. It as well known for business and commerce and a great level of immorality. It was a city in need of the word. Thus when we read they believed and turned to the Lord it would be a portrayal of people repenting and coming to Jesus in faith just as happens today.
God used the persecution and death of Stephen to spread the word of the good news of His Son far and wide more rapidly than it would have otherwise. He also used it to begin to spread Jesus message not just to Jews, but to Gentiles as well. With this we can see the truth in Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who] have been called according to His purpose. May we also be able to see this in all that is occurring in our own time.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton