disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” – Acts 11:26
on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Jerusalem
was the original launchpad of Christianity. It’s easy to see why. Jesus had
been crucified in Jerusalem.
Jesus had risen from the dead in Jerusalem.
And all 12 of the apostles lived in and led the church in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem
was the launchpad of Judaism, it made sense for Jerusalem to be the launchpad of Christianity
as well. But in Acts 11, Jesus Christ created a strategic shift.
In Acts 8:1,
we read that on the heels of Stephen’s martyrdom, “a great persecution broke
out against the church at Jerusalem.” As a result, “those who had been
scattered preached the word wherever they went” (v.4). It’s remarkable to
realize that the great persecution against the Christian Church in Jerusalem was led by
Saul. But his plan to wipe out Christianity backfired. His persecution actually
helped Christianity spread—just as Jesus had planned all along.
of Jerusalem, some followers of Christ began to spread
the gospel 300 miles away in Antioch.
And just as Jerusalem had been the launchpad for
the Christian church to reach ISRAEL
for Christ, Antioch
would become the launchpad to reach the WORLD for Christ. It was in Antioch
that some Christian men began to do something revolutionary: They “began
speaking to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus” (v.20).
This may not sound like a big deal today, but it was a HUGE deal! Up until that
point, Christians had only been leading Jews and Samaritans (who were
half-Jews) to Christ. But these Christ-following men in Antioch didn’t hold back from sharing the
gospel with ANYONE; they even shared the gospel with Greeks.
Greeks referred to here were complete pagans. Not only were they not Jewish, many
of them couldn’t care less about God. They probably worshiped gods like Zeus, Apollo
and Daphne, and many of them likely spent their weekends getting drunk and
having sex with Daphne’s temple prostitutes. These were not God-fearing or
moral men. They were heathens—heathens who desperately needed to hear and be
transformed by the power of the gospel. And some Christian men in Antioch were willing to
stick their necks out and try what had never been done before—lead complete pagans
to salvation. And look what happened: “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a
great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (v. 21).
happening in Antioch was so revolutionary that word of it spread 300 miles
south, all the way back to Jerusalem. So the church leaders found just the man
to go up north and check it out: Barnabas, whose name means “son of
encouragement.” When Barnabas went to the church at Antioch, he liked what he saw: “He was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the
Lord with all their hearts” (v. 23). But something must have been
missing, because he tracked Saul down—150 miles away—and brought him back to Antioch. Verse 25 tells
us, “For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great
numbers of people.” And don’t miss this last sentence in verse 26: “The
disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
most likely were the ones who coined this term for Christ’s followers.
Outsiders who observed the Christians in Antioch
noticed that their lives were all about Jesus Christ. Christ was first on their
lips. Christ was first in their actions. Christ was first in their worship. It
reminds me of a wonderful morning prayer written by St. Patrick, whose holiday
just came around in March: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on
my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of
everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every
ear that hears me. I arise today.”
three life lessons to consider:
#1: If you are a Christian, you have to think, act and share Christ outside the
box. Jesus’ followers in Antioch
were the first to freely share the Gospel with ALL people regardless of their
socio-economic, ethnic or moral differences. Regardless of how unchurched they
were. Regardless of how godless they were. Regardless of how immoral they were.
To live up to the name “Christian,” you and I need to do the same. We need to reach
beyond social, ethnic and religious barriers and introduce people to Jesus
Christ. And once they accept him, we have to disciple them—helping them to
build a brand-new life centered on Jesus Christ.
#2: You need a Barnabas in your life—a faithful, spirit-filled Christian who
will encourage you to love and serve Christ with all your heart and will stand
with you as you do. That’s one of the reasons Jesus gave us … the CHURCH.
Chances are, your home church has many Barneys and Barnitas who can come
alongside you and encourage you to grow in your faith and obedience to Christ.
#3: Just like Barnabas and Saul, we are much better and stronger together. So,
don’t be a lone-ranger Christian. When God calls you to do something for Him,
enlist at least one other Christian to do it with you. Evangelist D.L. Moody
hit the nail on the head: “It is better to put 10 men to work than to do the
work of 10 men.”
Dane Davis is the pastor
of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday
services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook
Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.
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