Summary: What really describes what a Christian? What do you do that sombone would give you the nickname of Christian....can anyone tell?
The C word
If you are keeping up with your reading you know that this scripture is an ongoing story about the growth and expansion of the church. Last weeks reading starts with A gentile Cornelius, a Roman centurion that is a God fearer. He has a visitor, an angel that tells him his faith and his good works have risen like an offering before God. He is to send for Peter who is about 25 miles away in Joppa.
Then the story jumps to Peter who has a vision where God tells him that there is no separation between clean and unclean. He uses images of all kinds of animals and when Peter resists. God tells him not to call something unclean that “He” – God has made clean.
Then suddenly men come and invite him to come to Caesarea where he meets Cornelius.
Keeping the review short, he preaches and Cornelius and family receive the Holy Spirit. Peter witnesses that God has saved a group of Gentiles.
That is a pretty radical step. That is something that is hard for him to accept. And when he gets back to Jerusalem, the rest of the apostles call him on the carpet for hanging out with gentiles. He defends himself and tells the story…
15"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
In the beginning…it sounds like he is describing the day of Pentecost. I wonder if we could be talking about tungs of fire dancing over the heads of the household. The others back off their objections and recognize that EVEN gentiles can repent and have eternal life.
This leads us to today’s scripture.
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. 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. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 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. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 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.
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 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.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
The story starts with a flash back, it reminds us that the followers of the WAY have been scattered and headed out as far from Jerusalem as possible after Stephen was murdered.
The scripture mentions that se they went they were, “telling the message only to Jews.”
That sounds a little snobbish doesn’t it, to tell only the Jews?
In a way it is, the Jews were a people that tried to stay culturally pure. In the past God had given them instructions to not inner marry with other people. Jerusalem was a big time Jewish town. Hebrew was the chief language and if you spoke with an accent people quickly knew you were not a local.
There were always lots of out of towners and often people moved there from all over. For the most part Jews spoke Hebrew and they did not like being forced by the Greeks and later the Romans to use other languages. So they just learned enough to get by. We will not even talk abut what they really thought of the gentiles. Scum, not worth talking too…
When the followers of “The Way” went out to the foreign places who are they most likely to speak to? The people that spoke Hebrew…Jews.
Their other languages would be rusty and perhaps they held some prejudice or separation from the Gentiles. Perhaps they would be attempting to keep their purity because contact with gentiles made them unclean and therefore unacceptable to God.
Then the next line, “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.”