The Church Grows
Lord, as I read today, may I be a person ready to speak of Jesus, and to act in his name.
Read Acts 11:19–30
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.
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.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectMission involves both word and action—and today’s reading contains good examples of both.
The action shifts north to Antioch—capital of the Roman province of Syria, and the third-largest city in the empire. In this thriving city of 500,000 people, a “great number of people” (21,24) believed and turned to the Lord. Within a few years Antioch, not Jerusalem, became the epicenter of the church.
God’s ways are not our ways. Refugees poured out of Jerusalem in fear of their lives following the death of Stephen. They settled where they could—all along the Mediterranean coast, south and west towards Libya and Cyprus (19,20). These displaced and uprooted people who started out in fear became a bold movement of God’s love—confidently speaking the Good News to Jews and Gentiles as they traveled.
One year later, strengthened by the teaching of Paul and Barnabas (26), Antioch’s fledgling church was transformed into one that was strong enough to support the believers back in Judea (29,30). It’s not hard to see why Antioch became known as “the cradle of Christianity”!
Think of media images of refugee families, displaced and distressed. Where is God in this? What is your part?
Lord, I lift those who are reaching out for practical help and the hope of the Gospel. Encourage them with Your presence.