“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.” Acts 11.19-24
Much of Acts 11.1-18 is a recap of what happened in Acts 10. The Gospel was preached to the Gentiles, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (11.18). Now the Gospel was spreading even more when Stephen was persecuted by the Jews (and formerly Saul/Paul.) Some of those believers went to places like Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. They were moving north, up the coast, even as far as Antioch what is now in modern day Turkey.
It was there in Antioch that the Spirit really began to move among the Gentiles. The text tells us “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” When news of this spread to the church in Jerusalem, v.22, Barnabas was sent to Antioch. He arrived and encouraged him as he was known to be “the son of encouragement.” This was his role. And because “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, a great number of people were brough to the Lord.”
The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Antioch appears to be the springboard for the spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles. It was there that these followers were first called Christian’s. It was there that the Holy Spirit as unleashed to anyone who believed, not just the Jews but also the Gentiles. It was in Antioch that what had began as just an ember was now becoming a roaring fire of salvation fueled by the Holy Spirit.
Living and working in Waco half the week, I can’t help but relate Antioch Church in Waco with the movement of the Spirit so many centuries ago. Although many of our churches are filled and fueled by the Holy Spirit, Antioch is known as one driven by the Spirit. It is one great example, along with others, about the on going nature and work of the Spirit of God through his people.
Antioch’s arrival, now I am speaking of Antioch of old, assured salvation could come to the Gentiles. It was not until Saul was met by Christ on the road to Damascus, that the Spirit and salvation came to non Jews. But Pandora’s box has now been open and what was to follow would impact the world for eternity reaching into my own corner of the world and saving me too by his grace and for his glory.
“O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving the gift of your Holy Spirit to the world that we might be filled with your love and power. Come now, Holy God, find us faithful and willing. Allow us to walk in step with your grace and be attend