Disciples Called Christians

Acts 11:19-30

The Church at Antioch

What to Expect:

  • Barnabas is sent from Jerusalem to help in Antioch.  Barnabas is impressed.

  • Barnabas seeks out Saul who is in Tarsus.  He has not been active in the church for about 8 years.

  • The Jewish Christians work through the synagogues. The Cyrenians bypass the synagogues.

Barnabas and Saul at Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.

Disciples left Jerusalem under the persecution of Saul.  Most went North. Today, a certain number of disciples continue to Antioch.  Disciples first called Christians here.

20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Hellenists are a subgroup of the Barbarians.  They are Greek pagans, not Jewish or Christian.  The synagogue is bypassed. This is a new thing. It is significant.  It comes on the heels of St. Peter’s conflict in Jerusalem. The men from Cyprus and Cyrene take evangelism a step farther that the church had previously worked.  They go straight to the Hellenists. This is a small group of the evangelism that is taking place in Antioch. Most is still in the synagogues and directed toward the Jews who do not yet believe.

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

The Lord opens doors for evangelism and closes doors for evangelism.  Here the Lord provides a favorable environment for evangelism and is also blessing the work.  A great number not only joined the church, they also believed the Gospel. They turned to the Lord.

22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

All the apostles are visiting new churches.  They are not in Jerusalem. Normally, the apostles organize and direct the church.  In this case, the church helps out. Barnabas is from Cyrene. This is the same group that is evangelizing the Hellenists.  Barnabas is sent to Antioch to confirm what is taking place in Antioch, especially among the Hellenists. He is described the same way as St. Stephen.  Barnabus is a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Good means more than a nice guy. It means he is competent for the task. He is baptized and believing.  He is well instructed and able to teach.

25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

Saul had not been active in the recorded history of the church for the last seven or eight years.  

26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

This took place is 43 or 44.  Up to this point, the Jews and Greeks that believe in Jesus simply call themselves disciples.  In Antioch, others give them a new name - Christian. This too is a first.

Relief to Judea

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.