The miraculous conversion of Cornelius opened the door of the gospel to the Gentiles. God had made it very clear to the church that He accepted the Gentiles just as He did the Jews for salvation. Now, the church had entered a new phase of evangelizing the world. Luke shifts his attention from the church in Jerusalem to the newly established church in Antioch. This church would soon serve as the base from which Paul launched his missionary journeys.
Did You Know...?
1. Antioch (11:26) was the capital city in the Roman province of Syria with a large population of gentiles (3rd largest city in the Roman Empire with a population of more than 1/4 a million people). It was widely known for its tolerant attitude towards different religions and cultures which was probably why so many Christians who were scattered by persecution settled there. This environment made it conducive for preaching. Apart from that it was located on several of the most important trade routes of that time making travelling to other parts of the Roman Empire easier and more efficient.
2. There were two cities by the name of Antioch. The one mentioned here was Antioch in Syria, as opposed to Antioch in Pisidia, where Paul visited during his first missionary trip (13:14).
3. Christians (11:26) means “Christ followers” or “those of the household of Christ.” [ref] This name was given by the Greeks or Romans to the followers of Jesus, probably with contempt. But the name had become universally accepted to identify the followers of Christ. [ref]
- Scattered Members Preached as Far as Antioch (11:19-21)
- Barnabas Sent to Minister in Antioch (11:22-24)
- Barnabas Sought for Paul’s Help (11:25-26)
- Church in Antioch Sent Aid to the believers in Jerusalem (11:27-30)
Locate Antioch on Map A. How was the fact that the gospel had now come to Antioch strategically important in the development and future direction of the church’s evangelistic work?Hide Answer
As can be seen on a map, Antioch was situated to the north of Samaria and Jerusalem, and it was a gateway to Asia Minor and beyond. From the recorded development of the church thus far, we can see that the gospel had reached the north beyond Judea and Samaria, and it was now ready to move into the Gentile world. As we will see later on in Acts, this would be the direction that the apostle Paul would take in his missions to the Gentiles.
Consider the background of Antioch, why was it an ideal base for foreign missions?Hide Answer
Antioch was the third largest city in the empire, and it was a city of diverse cultures. Therefore, the church had much exposure to various ethnic groups. In fact, the church itself was made up of Hellenists as well as Jews (11:19-20). This mix of different cultural backgrounds both within and surrounding the church afforded a good opportunity for the workers to prepare for missions beyond Judea and Samaria.
How far did the believers scattered by persecution travel to preach the gospel?Hide Answer
They went beyond Judea and Samaria and preached along the Mediterranean coast, going as far as Phoenicia and Antioch, and even crossing the sea to Cyprus (19).
To whom did these believers preach?Hide Answer
Most of them preached only to the Jews, but some also preached to the Hellenists in Antioch (19-20).
What was the effect of the preaching?Hide Answer
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (21).
What does the Lord’s abidance with these believers teach us?Hide Answer
1. The Lord worked with these believers because He was pleased with what they were doing—they were carrying out the Lord’s commission of bringing the gospel to remote regions. From these believers’ experience, we know that our Lord is pleased when we share our faith with those we come in contact with and make preaching the gospel the priority in our daily lives.
2. It was because of the Lord’s guidance that a great number believed and turned to the Lord. In preaching the gospel, it is not by our own eloquence or persuasion that we can convert people. We need to depend on the Lord’s power to turn people’s hearts to the Lord.
How is your church doing as far as reaching out to people of different ethnic groups? What can you do to take part in this effort?
What did the church in Jerusalem do when they heard news that the gospel had reached Antioch? Why?Hide Answer
They sent Barnabas to go as far as Antioch in order to help the believers in Antioch grow in their faith and to continue with the Lord with all their hearts (22-23).
What can the church today learn from the action of the church in Jerusalem?Hide Answer
It is very important for well-established churches or general assemblies to support the work of younger churches by sending workers to them. The purpose is to help build up the faith of the believers, strengthen the bond between the churches, and maintain unity in doctrine.
In the same way, when a local church branches out into new locations, the mother church should also support and encourage the new churches, especially in the initial stage of development, so that the new churches may become strong and self-sustaining.
What was Barnabas like?Hide Answer
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. In other words, he had a strong relationship with the Lord and had excellent spiritual qualities.
What was the effect of Barnabas’ work?Hide Answer
A great many people were added to the Lord (24).
What important lesson can we learn from Barnabas about church growth?Hide Answer
Good workers who are close to the Lord and who have the divine qualities of Christ play an important role in church growth. They practice what they preach, and therefore draw people to the Lord through their Christ-like character. Not only so, the Lord works with them to make their work effective. So if there are many people in church who are like Barnabas, the church will grow and be strong.
In what ways can you also be a Barnabas in your church today?
When the church in Antioch grew large, what did Barnabas do?Hide Answer
He went to Tarsus to look for Saul and brought him back to Antioch to help him in the ministry.
What can workers of God learn here from Barnabas?Hide Answer
1. Barnabas was a humble and God fearing man. He was not interested in claiming credit for the pastoral work in Antioch, but took the initiative to invite a coworker to work with him. He was also a wise man. He recognized his need for help and sought for help immediately.
Even though we may be serving in an area of the ministry quite well, we do not have to always do everything ourselves. As the needs of the church grow, we should seek help and bring new workers into the ministry, and we should work alongside the new workers to give them on-the-job training. Doing so will benefit the new workers as well as the whole church.
2. Another distinctive quality of Barnabas was that he was magnanimous and knew how to bring out the best in others. Without Barnabas, Paul would not have been accepted by the apostles or members in Jerusalem or serve in Antioch. As we will see later, Paul’s involvement in the ministry in Antioch prepared him for his future missionary journeys. In the same way, without Barnabas, Mark, who deserted him and Paul during Paul’s first missionary journey, would not have been given a second chance and eventually become a good worker for God. Barnabas was keen on raising up newer and younger workers and providing them with the opportunities to serve God.
Today, we ought to take note of people’s gifts in serving and provide them with ample opportunities to join the ministry. Even when the younger workers may seem incapable of the work at first, we need to give them time to grow and be patient with them.
3. For Barnabas to seek Saul’s help was not an easy task. Not only did he have to travel all the way to Tarsus, he had to look for Saul when he reached Tarsus until finally locating him. Barnabas knew that God had called Saul to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and he had a heart of love and patience to train potential workers. That was why he went through all that trouble.
Similarly, it often takes some extra effort to discover the gifts in younger workers and to encourage them to serve. But if we understand that involving more help is beneficial to the church, we would make the effort to help them join the ministry.
What kind of ministry did Barnabas and Saul focus on in Antioch? Why?Hide Answer
For a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. Through the teachings of God’s word, Barnabas and Saul helped them to be rooted in their faith. The church should aim for not only an increase in membership but also an increase in the quality of the members. If pastoral work is neglected, the believers will decline in their faith or be unable to withstand trials. On the other hand, believers whose faith are firmly rooted in the Lord will make a church strong. Therefore, the ministry of teaching is crucial to the well-being of a church.
Why do you think the disciples in Antioch were called Christians?Hide Answer
The disciples in Antioch were called Christians by the outsiders probably because their lifestyles and conduct distinguished them from unbelievers and identified them as followers of Christ. Their lives were a living demonstration of the spiritual qualities of the Lord Jesus.
Another reason might have been the fact the outsiders saw that the believers in Christ were clearly distinct from followers of Judaism. Both Jews and Gentiles in the Antioch church must have fellowshipped freely in a way that was never seen in Judaism.
How should you live up to the name of being a Christian?
Based on this paragraph, what good examples do we see in the believers in Antioch?Hide Answer
1. When the believers in Antioch learned that the believers in Judea were in need, they sent relief to them through Barnabas and Saul. Just as the church in Jerusalem assisted the church in Antioch by sending them Barnabas, the church in Antioch now helped the brethren in Judea with material provisions. They showed their love by their actions (cf. 1Jn 3:18). This is an excellent example of how brethren in Christ ought to supply each other’s needs.
2. Another lesson we can learn from the believers in Antioch is how everyone in the church was involved in the relief effort. They “each according to his ability, determined to send relief” to the brethren in Judea. Every member was compelled by their love for their fellow believers and each took up the responsibility to send aid. In the same way, everyone in the church should learn to take part in giving. Rather than delegating the task to a few wealthy donors, each person can be involved, regardless of how much they can give. If the whole church takes up the task, “each giving according to his ability,” then God will be pleased, and all believers can share in the blessing of giving (2Cor 8:12).