Opening Prayer

Lord God, fill me with your Spirit; help me to spread your love and faithfulness wherever I go today.

Read ACTS 11:19–30

The Church in Antioch

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.

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Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to grasp what is happening in this text and to apply it to our experiences.

Think Further

Our text today reports a crucial turning point in Luke’s story. The narrative moves from a focus on named individuals, like Stephen, Philip, and Peter, to anonymous disciples who had fled persecution and scattered far and wide, sharing the good news. This has rightly been described as the ‘spontaneous expansion’ of early Christianity: a movement of the Spirit breaking entirely new ground. The actions of believers from Cyprus and Cyrene who moved into the great city of Antioch and there spoke to their Greek friends, ‘telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus’ (v. 20), represent the opening of a new phase in this story.

There are two aspects of this leap forward to notice. First, the description of the form in which the message about Jesus was expressed – ‘the good news about the Lord Jesus’ – indicates that this was an act of contextualization, or interpretation, retelling the gospel within a Greek-speaking community. The word ‘Lord’, Kyrios, was used throughout the Roman Empire to refer both to local deities and to the Caesars. In ascribing this term to the crucified Jesus, his followers were declaring that he was the true Savior of that world. As Andrew Walls says, this was ‘the beginning of the conversion of the Greek world.’1 Second, at the same time, a geographical and cultural shift was happening, from Jerusalem to the huge, cosmopolitan city of Antioch. The expanding church in this city, taught by Barnabas and Saul, would become the base for mission to the Mediterranean world. This pattern of change has occurred repeatedly in Christian history.


In what ways is our experience similar to that described in this passage?

Closing prayer

Holy Spirit, keep me ever mindful of Jesus’ priceless sacrifice made for me. Show me where I can express my gratitude for him in the lives of those around me.

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by kingstar

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