If you are Christian, BE Christian!
Acts 11:19-30 (Pastor Heo)
11:19 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.
There were at least three steps on the ladder to preach to the Gentiles.
- Chp 8: Philip preached to the Samaritans (half-Jews)
- Chp 10: Peter preached to the Gentiles (Cornelius + family and friends) – but it was Cornelius who took the initiative – he sought the church and was ALREADY a God-fearer – ready to be saved.
- Chp 11: In Antioch, the gospel was preached openly and publicly to Gentiles. The gospel is finally launched on its worldwide mission.
Christianity took the most important turning point in church mission history in these three – Philip, Peter, Antioch.
We don’t know the names of the people from Antioch who took the gospel to the Gentiles – they go down in history as nameless pioneers of Christ. Nobody remembered this courageous act – but God does.
Their names may not be written in human history, but their names are written in God’s book of life.
When you do something at church or for church, do not do it to be recognized by man – do it to be recognized by God – because his memory lasts for eternity, but man’s memory lasts but a short while.
“11:19 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.”
Chp 7 – Stephen was killed
- As a result, great persecution broke out
- Because of this, only the apostles and a few leaders remained in Jerusalem
- All the others scattered – mostly throughout Palestine
Chp 8 – Philip preached to the Samaritans
- The mother church heard, and sent Peter and John there
- At the same time, the gospel spread throughout the land to many other places
- At first, they preached only to Jews.
But later, some from Cyprus and Cyrene came to Antioch and preached to the Greeks.
- God was so happy with them, he worked through them, and a great number of people turned to the Lord.
- The mother church heard this news
- So, they sent Barnabas to confirm the news and witness this new work.
The most important place in this story is Antioch. At that time in history, there were at least 16 Antiochs – and even in the Bible there are 2.
- Antioch in Syria (this one)
- Antioch in Pisidia
The Antioch of Syria was the capital of Syria, 300 miles north of Jerusalem – beyond Palestine and 50 miles in from the Mediterranean.
At that time, the biggest three cities in the world:
- Antioch (this one)
- Metropolitan – but corrupt
- It was famous for chariot racing and deliberate pursuit of pleasure (like Las Vegas today) – luxurious immorality.
- It was most famous for Daphene (a god with whom a mortal fell in love) idol worship.
But in this dark place, the gospel began to shine. We must understand that there is nowhere in the world that the gospel cannot shine. No stronghold of Satan that the gospel cannot destroy.
So in church history, Antioch is very meaningful. There are at least 4 “world records” here:
- The FIRST place the gospel was preached to the Gentiles openly and deliberately
- The FIRST place the believers were called “Christians” (nickname)
- At first, this was a contemptuous nickname
- The FIRST local church which collected special offerings to help Jewish believers in Judea in time of famine
- The FIRST local church which dispatched missionaries to the Gentiles (Barnabas and Saul)
“I am Antioch”
Our Antioch church is named after THIS Antioch church.
“11:23 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.”
(Tarsus is Saul’s hometown)
Remember, when the Jerusalem church heard about Antioch, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate it and confirm the new converts.
The mother church did not send one of the 12 apostles, but it is by the providence and grace of God that Barnabas was sent – he was the most suitable choice. (v. 24)
Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement” (open-minded), native of Cyprus – he was a blend of Roman, Greek, Jewish culture. And when he arrived he rejoiced to see the grace of God in this Gentile city. He was so happy to welcome new believers into the church.
Actually, he had TOO MUCH to do – so he needed help. At this moment, Barnabas could have asked to the mother church to send somebody to him to help him – or he could have sent a messenger to Jerusalem to get someone. But he didn’t, he himself went personally to Tarsus to bring Saul specifically.
Several years earlier, Barnabas had stood up for Saul and supported him when the other believers doubted him. Some time later, men tried to kill Saul, so he escaped to his hometown, Tarsus. And up to now, several years have passed – and there is no real record of what he did. But we can be sure he must have preached the gospel in his hometown faithfully and Barnabas remembered him in his mind.
The right mind has the ability to see the right person at the right time for the right purpose.
Barnabas must have realized that if he worked with Saul he would sink into the place of secondary importance.
“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.” (Barnabas is first)
“30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” (Barnabas is first – the leader)
“13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.” (Barnabas first, Saul last)
But Barnabas’ name disappears in chp 16, and Paul’s name goes on to the last sentence of this book.
From Chp 13:43 we can see this change:
“43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”
Barnabas to Paul was like John the Baptist to Jesus: “He must become greater and I must become less.”
Actually, I HOPE that you also will do likewise to ME. And Children to your parents as well. We must raise up people / leaders greater than we are.
“27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.”
Interestingly, this title was not given in Jerusalem or Samaria. This title was given by non-Christians.
There were many terms:
- Brother & sisters,
- the church, etc
The believers had no idea to call themselves “Christians” – this is mixed “Christ” + “ian”
- “Christ” (Greek) = “Messiah” (Hebrew)
- “ian” (Latin suffix) = belonging to the party of
To them, the believers could not apply the divine name to themselves. At that time, the term “Messiah” was a term of divinity – so if they took it for themselves, it would be considered very blasphemous.
So the outsiders nicknamed them “Christians” because at that time, this was a name of ridicule, contempt, etc.
To outsiders, the lifestyle of Christians was too high – they could not understand their moral standards. It was too high to follow. Even in poverty, persecution, they responded with joy, thanksgiving, blessings. Why? Because they always focused on heaven, not this world. So, many people called them “crazy.”
Even in Korean, sometimes outsiders call you, “예수쟁이”. Who can be called a “Christian” by outsiders?
Paul said, “If I live, I live to Christ. If I die, I die to Christ. Whether I live or die, I belong to Christ.” He MUST be called a “Christian” by outsiders.
Are you a Christian? BE a Christian.
About 15 years ago (in Turkey?), I had trouble in a mission conference. I went shopping and the seller tried to explain something to me, but his words were strange.
- I said, “Truly?”
- He looked at me very solemnly and said, “I AM MUSLIM.”
This short sentence gave me much meaning. “Muslims NEVER tell lies, etc”.
He was SO proud of being Muslim. Our pride in being Christian must be higher.
“I am CHRISTIAN.”
This should give so many meanings.
“I am honest, don’t lie, bless when cursed, etc.”
- George Folks and his followers trembled whenever they opened the Bible. They were called “Quakers” 퀘이커 교도?
- At that time, there were so many Puritans, these were called Quakers.
- Methodists also – due to their very strict pursuit of holiness – became “Methodists”
Alexander the Great: one day in his army there was another “Alexander.” (Like we have many Aarons, Davids, Johns, Pauls, etc). He was famous for his timidity.
But we know Alexander the Great conquered the world at age 23. He called the soldier to himself,
“Are you named after me?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“If you’re named Alexander, BE an Alexander! Or change your name!”
Fortunately, our Lord Christ, full of mercy, love, compassion, does not say this to us. But he does challenge, encourage, and empower us to BE who we are.
If you are Christian~ BE Christian~ let others KNOW who you are through your lifestyle!
Because “Christian” lifestyle is the visible representation of Christ to those who cannot see.
“God bless you Christians.”