Scripture Reading: Acts 11:19-26
“But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord…And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:20-21, 26c)
Antioch was the third largest city within the world during the first century. It was a melting pot for at least five cultures: Greek, Roman, Semitic, Arab and Persian. Antioch was most famous for its worship of Daphne, whose temple was located five miles out of town. Daphne worship included the use of temple prostitutes. Throughout the world the phrase “the morals of Daphne” was a euphemism for depravity.
This worldly, pagan city became the metropolis for Gentile Christianity. It was the birthplace of foreign missions. What happened in Antioch was proof positive of the power of the gospel: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:18).
An earlier persecution in Jerusalem scattered the early believers throughout the world (8:1-4). God used this persecution to spread His Word and the gospel. Those who were scattered preached the gospel wherever they were. Some spoke the word to their fellow Jews (v. 19); others shared their faith with both Jews and Gentiles (v. 20). Notice that Antioch was evangelized not by the apostles but by ordinary Christians. It wasn’t the professional clergymen; it was the laymen who gave the gospel to the people of Antioch. As they proclaimed the gospel, the hand of the Lord was upon them and a great many people turned to the Lord (v. 23).
These early believers were first called “Christians” in Antioch (v. 26c). They were not theologically trained, nor professional students of the Bible. They were believers, who motivated by the grace of God, took the gospel wherever they went. They made it a priority to share the good news of Jesus with neighbors, fellow workers and acquaintances. Can you imagine the impact that could be made on our culture if Christians today faithfully shared the gospel like those early believers shared it?
Lord Jesus, give me boldness so that I too can be a faithful witness of Yours in this world that desperately needs to hear the good news of salvation. I desire to be available today to share the gospel with those You bring into my life.
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