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The Pastor's Blog

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MAKING DISCIPLES




Syrian Antioch, about three hundred miles north of Jerusalem, was Rome’s third largest city, a culturally diverse, cosmopolitan port city on the Mediterranean Sea at the mouth of the Orontes River. Only Rome and Alexandria were more populous.

“Those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19–21).


Something extraordinary occurred in Antioch. Gentiles were saved! Not just one or two, but crowds of them! When the Gentiles in Antioch heard about Jesus, the One who had given His perfect life as a ransom for theirs, the One who overcame death and the grave, the One who offered a personal relationship with the living God, the One who promised eternal life in Heaven, they placed their hope and trust in Him. They were eternally transformed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.


In Antioch, a multi-ethnic church was born. Jews and Gentiles from every zip code broke bread together as a unified body of believers. It was new, unique, and beautiful.


Soon rumors of this reached Jerusalem where Peter and the others responded quickly. “They sent Barnabas… a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:22, 24). Surely the Apostles commissioned Barnabas to determine the authenticity of the evangelical movement, the orthodoxy of the teaching, and the genuineness of the great awakening.


What Barnabas found was real. “When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts” (Acts 11:23). Immediately Barnabas began to teach the new converts, discipling them, instructing them, encouraging them. There were so many baby believers that Barnabas soon discovered that he needed the assistance of others. Who? Where? Barnabas “went to Tarsus to search for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers” (Acts 11:25–26).


Saul, the once-pharisaical zealot who had met Jesus on a dusty road south of Damascus, had been born-again. He had spent time alone with his Savior in the Arabian Peninsula and returned to his boyhood home in Tarsus. Undoubtedly, Saul had busily shared his faith and sharpened his skills as an evangelist and preacher/teacher.


In Antioch, Saul and Barnabas faithfully and tirelessly shared the responsibility of training and teaching the ethnically diverse congregation. As they did, they equipped merchants and travelers from every corner of the globe to carry the Gospel as they returned to their individual homelands. In Antioch, where believers first earned the name “Christian” (Acts 11:26), Saul and Barnabas labored for the Lord as He established His growing and going church and simultaneously touched the four winds with the love of Jesus.


Jesus commissioned His disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). In Antioch, Saul and Barnabas faithfully made disciples who would go to the ends of the earth and make other disciples.




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