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Worthy of the Name

By Deana Pruitt
Monday, March 8, 2010

Scripture Verses
Acts 11:19-30

The Church in Antioch
 19Now 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. 20Some 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. 21The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

 22News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When 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. 24He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

 25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and 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.

 27During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One 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.) 29The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Persecution didn’t silence believers after Stephen’s trial and execution. It just spread them and their message further throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.  Acts 11:19-29 is a text that focuses on the disciples who settled at Antioch and formed a church there that ministered to both Jews and Greeks. 

Luke’s account is an eloquent testimony to what a church can be and can accomplish when it is centered on Christ.  The Antioch disciples don’t just preach the Gospel. The disciples preach the Gospel  with confidence and rejoicing.  They share their message with everyone, not just Jews.  When the Jerusalem church sends Barnabas to check them out, he is not only co-opted into the Antioch ministry, he gets Paul involved too!   It’s impossible not to feel the excitement and joy of the Antioch Gospel believers as their fellowship grows both in numbers and faith.

We don’t know the Antioch disciples by their individual names, but we do know that they were the first believers to be called Christians.  Nearly two millennia later, believers are still called Christians, but what else do we have in common with the Antioch disciples?  What can we learn from their enthusiasm, their devotion and faithfulness,& their courage?  Amid difficult times, do we keep our eyes on God and our hearts attuned to the Holy Spirit?   Are we ready to step out into the unknown and follow Christ wherever He leads?  Are we worthy of the name?
Dear God, please help us to stay focused on you, so that we may be the church and the people you would have us to be.