Wednesday: The Church in Antioch

Motivated by Cornelius’s conversion, Luke briefly interrupts his account of Peter’s ministry to show the gospel’s initial progress among the Gentiles.

Read Acts 11:19-26. What happened when some Jerusalem refugees came to Antioch?

Paul and Barnabas Sent Out

Image © Classic Bible Art

This section of Acts Chapter 11 refers back to Paul’s persecution in chapter 8. Thus, while the previous developments were taking place in Judea and elsewhere, some of the Hellenistic believers who were forced to leave Jerusalem were spreading the gospel way beyond the borders of Judea.

Luke gives special attention to the great city of Antioch, in Syria, where refugees began to preach to their fellow Jews and to the Hellenists, and many of them were accepting the faith. Jesus’ commission in Acts 1:8 was then being realized through the efforts of these Hellenistic Jewish Christians. They were the ones who became the real founders of the mission to the Gentiles.

Because of the church’s success in Antioch, the apostles in Jerusalem decided to send Barnabas to evaluate the situation. Noticing the great opportunities for the advancement of the gospel, Barnabas sent for Paul in Tarsus, feeling he could be a vital helper.

Barnabas was right. During the year he and Paul worked together, large crowds, mostly Gentiles, could hear the gospel. The enthusiasm with which they spoke about Jesus Christ made the believers there become known for the first time as “Christians” (Acts 11:26). That they “were called” Christians indicates the term was coined by those outside the church, probably as a form of mockery, while the believers preferred to refer to themselves as “brethren” (Acts 1:16), “disciples” (Acts 6:1), or even “saints” (Acts 9:13). By the time Acts was written, “Christian” had become a common designation (Acts 26:28), and Luke seems to approve of it. “Christian” means a follower or an adherent of Christ.

What does it mean to you to be called a “Christian”? What about your life is truly Christian? That is, how differently do you live from non-Christians on the things that really matter?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons