Think back for a minute to your days in school. What happens when there is a school bully? Okay, so there is a school bully and there might be a few options, one option is that everyone is going to fight him and take him down. Everyone knows that he is the bully, and so you all agree that at such and such a day it is time to say, no more and everyone can take him out. But you know what too often might happen? No one will make the first move, right?
I love history. I love reading historical literature. One reason that Rome could win so many battles was not because there army was better trained but that they could toughen things out longer. In ancient warfare the battles were fought in hand to hand combat and so the battles were fought until one army fled. The Roman army was tougher. Okay, what am I getting at, you ask? Am I looking for another excuse to talk about William Wallace? No. I want to talk about Christian persecution.
Here we are in Acts 11:19-26 and we see that it seems to be one of Luke’s common summary passages. He is referring back to what has happened since Stephen’s stoning. Now, in the last chapter and the beginning of this chapter God has opening Peter and some of Jews in Jerusalem up to Gentiles. At this time, let’s see what is going on.
Let’s read Acts 11:19-27 and the theme is the Antioch church witnesses to the Gentiles. The application for us is verses 23 and 24 stay True to the Lord and may it be said of us like it was of Barnabas.
Turn in your Bibles to Acts 11:19-27:
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.
- Notice in verses 19-21 the church begins to grow in the city of Antioch.
- Those who were scattered because of the persecution. Now, you have to wonder, “what persecution is he writing about?” We have to look back to Stephen’s stoning which was in Acts 8:1 and 4 and that was when Saul was breathing murderous threats upon the church. At that time there were wolves after the church. Everyone fled, everyone fled, except… except who?
- I heard this wonderful illustration recently. Someone comes to the house with a gone so everyone will run except who? The kids may flee, the neighbors, or friends can flee, but the dad will not flee. The dad is there to protect his children and his wife.
- In this case, this was true. The early believers all flee, except the apostles. The apostles stay in Jerusalem and protect the church.
- There were wolves on the attack, but they knew that the Lord was in control.
- So in verse 19 we see that they made it through different cities and then made it to Antioch. Antioch was a very large city. Antioch was the third largest urban city of antiquity behind Rome and Alexandria. Interesting that this is where God will launch the mission to the gentiles. That is so awesome!
- But at this point the mission is only to Jews.
- Then there were some, we find in verse 20, who started preaching to gentiles as well, Praise God! Galatians 3:28!
- A large number who believed turned to the Lord. These people Trusted the message of Jesus and repented, that is what it means to turn their lives over to Jesus.
- In verses 22-26 Barnabas comes to Antioch to encourage the believers
- Once again, in verse 22, we see that the Jerusalem church is still the home base. They hear something is going on, so they send Barnabas.
- In verse 23, what does he do? He rejoices.
- What do you do when you hear God does something amazing?
- What do I do when I hear God does something amazing?
- Do we rejoice?
- We become Spiritual introverts instead of extroverts, we need to be outspokenly praising and uplifting God!
- He encouraged them: this means that he brought them aid. He encouraged them to remain true to the Lord.
- That is an application for all of us. Remain True to the Lord— don’t fall away—stay true.
- It messes me up when I read things on Facebook or whatever and I hear what goes on from my flock and so I say the same thing, stay true.
- Barnabas saw all these new believers and he is saying, “stay true.”
- Look at the description of Barnabas in verse 24:
i. He was a good man (that is only give by Luke about Joseph of Arimethea in Luke 23:50)
ii. Full of the Holy Spirit
iii. Full of faith
- People were saved
- That is something to praise God about.
- So Barnabas needed help. So what did he do?
- He went for Saul, and he searched for him. Now is has been about 9 years since Saul has become a believer and verse 25 describes it as though it was hard to find him but Barnabas finds him. Saul and Barnabas teach the people for a year. They taught great numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
- By the way, Saul may have been an outcast from his family by now for his Christianity. Also, Luke is setting this up for Acts 13 and Saul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey.
- Notice something about that word Christians:
- It contains Jewish thought, as the equivalent of Messiah, the Anointed. (ii) It shows the Greek language in the substantive—’Christ.’ (iii) It also includes the Latin language in the adjectival ending ‘ians’ (Latin, iani). This universality is a reminder of the language of the title on the Cross.”
- Something else, the “ians” means that we identify with Christ.
The application for us is verses 23 and 24 stay True to the Lord and may it be said of us like it was of Barnabas. So, can we pursue being full of the Holy Spirit, can we pursue being a good man or woman, can we pursue being full of faith?
Do you identify with Christ? Are you a Christ-“ian”? If so, go and make disciples as they did in this passage.
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)