A BLESSED RESPONSE
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to 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 ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, 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, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
This passage was the basis of one of the devotionals at a meeting I attended some time ago. As we were going through it several things popped out to me, and I thought I would share them with you.
1) I noticed that the background of this story is persecution and famine. It was not a pleasant time or an easy time for the church. But the believers did not let adversity or lack of resources impede their witness. In verse 19 we see that they were “telling the message” even as they were fleeing from persecution.
2) I noticed that it is in this story that we get the first account of the Gospel being shared with Gentiles. And who was doing it? We don’t know . . . it was being done by the unknown nameless followers of Christ. It seems significant to me that it wasn’t the apostles; it was just some guys from Cyprus and Cyrene.
3) I noticed a really important thing in vs. 21: “The Lord’s hand was with them . . .” Ordinary people are just ordinary people, but they can do extraordinary things when the hand of the Lord is with them!
4) I noticed that the church was not satisfied to just share the Gospel; verses 22-26 are all about discipleship. Barnabas went to see what God was doing in Antioch. When he recognized that Greeks were being saved, he sent for Paul and together they began to teach the new believers the principles of the faith. They devoted a whole year to this one church!
5) And I noticed that the story ends with a demonstration that the church in Antioch was not only faithful in witness and worship, but also in mercy. Their first response to the news of a coming famine was to give to the needs of others.
So what should we learn from this?
1) We may be tempted to wait until “things get better” before we step out to do ministry. That isn’t the biblical pattern. Put to use whatever you have been given for the honor of Christ and the glory of God
2) Don’t wait for a “big name” to come on the scene to lead your outreach; God is calling you!
3) We have to put our trust in God alone.
4) We have to be committed to the work of ministry for the long haul.
5) God calls us, not just to speak for Him, but to work for Him as well. He is going to reach out to those in need through you and me.
Pastor Keith Andrews