Thursday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 11:19-30

The Gospel Spreads Even Wider

You will recall earlier that upon the stoning of Stephen, a persecution arose against the Church that caused many believers to scatter (8:1).  Thereupon, Philip traveled north and preached the Gospel in Samaria where it found fertile soil.  Jesus commanded them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  What we have seen in the last few chapters is the Gospel spreading to the last geographical location Jesus mentioned: to the uttermost parts of the earth (1:8).  So we read here that upon the persecution after Stephen’s martyrdom believers scattered even as far away as Phoenicia (north in Syria), Cyprus (the island about 100 miles off the coast of Phoenicia), and Antioch (even farther north).  I would encourage you to look at a good map of this region in the first century to familiarize yourself with place names in the Bible; it helps make the Scriptures come that much more alive.  Remember, ours is a real faith that happened in the real world in real space and time.  At any rate, the Gospel keeps moving north and west in Acts.

Now the believers had been preaching the Lord Jesus to none but Jews.  But some decided to preach to Gentiles; and just as it happened with the Ethiopian and Cornelius, they too believed and turned to the Lord.  Upon receiving this news back at the mother church in Jerusalem, good man Barnabas who was “full of the Holy Spirit and faith,” was dispatched to verify.  And not only so but this “Son of Encouragement” stayed on to exhort the people to remain faithful to the Lord, and then went and got Saul of Tarsus, former church persecutor turned believer, to help in the work.  And so the church in Antioch grew and became so noticeable to the public that they dubbed them, “Christians,” which, as you know, stuck.  It’s amazing what exhortation can do to help grow a church.  We need Barnabases.

We finally read that a prophet came down from Jerusalem to Antioch and prophesied a great famine over all the world.  Luke verifies this by telling us that this happened when Claudius was Caesar (A.D. 41-54).  So what did the Christians in Antioch do?  They sent relief to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.  And after Barnabas and Saul delivered the relief to the Jerusalem church, Paul then collected even more relief for them from other churches founded on his missionary journeys which were largely Gentile; after all, we must share both spiritual and material blessings with one another (Romans 15:27).  The Gospel is a Gospel of brotherly kindness and love, sharing burdens, and lifting one another up—lifting the churches of Jesus Christ up.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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