Sermons

Summary: The genuine mission to the Gentiles begins, and Antioch in Syria becomes the center for the developing church, leaving Jerusalem behind with a narrow view of evangelism. For the first time the church actively proselytized Gentiles.

  Study Tools
  Study Tools

May 13, 2014

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: III.E.1: The Church established (11:19-21)

Scripture (Acts 11:19-21; KJV)

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

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

Introduction

The genuine mission to the Gentiles begins, and Antioch in Syria becomes the center for the developing church, leaving Jerusalem behind with a narrow view of evangelism. For the first time the church actively proselytized Gentiles. The Samaritans of chapter 8 were partly Jewish. The Ethiopian eunuch on his own was reading Isaiah 53 on his return from Jerusalem, and even Cornelius took the initiative in seeking the gospel from Peter’s lips. But here the church took the first step to take the gospel to the uncircumcised Greeks.

Commentary

19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

The narrative now goes back to the time of the persecution following the martyrdom of Stephen. In other words, the events described in this passage took place before the conversion of Cornelius, therefore, we know that many Gentiles were added to the church prior to Cornelius.

Some of the refugee Christians, probably made up largely of Hellenistic{1] Jews (Jews who spoke the Greek language), left Jerusalem during the persecution that followed the death of Stephen. Note the similarity between 8:4 and 11:19: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

To escape the persecution, Saul of Tarsus being the chief oppressor, they fled to cities as far away as “Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch.” Stephen’s death had incited Saul to persecute the church more vigorously (8:3{6]) and he consequently was converted (9:1-30). At first these disciples witnessed Christ only to the Jews in those areas. Now a third result from Stephen’s martyrdom was the spreading of the gospel to the Gentiles in those lands (Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch). One of those who was scattered was Philip (8:4{7]), and he witnessed to the Samaritans, an Ethiopian, and to the seacoast communities as far as Caesarea (8:5-40). Another group of Hellenistic refugees is described as evangelizing the seacoast towns further to the north, in the Phoenician plain, which extended some seventy-five miles along the coast of middle Syria from Mt. Carmel north to the river Eleutheros. Its principle cities were Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon, and Zarephath. Others began work on the Island of Cyprus, the easternmost island of the Mediterranean and some 100 miles off the Syrian coast. Paul and Barnabas would later continue the witness on Cyprus (13:4-12).

20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

The refugees who traveled the furthest north were believers from Cyprus and Cyrene who went to the city of Antioch and began proclaiming to the Greeks that Jesus was Lord. These coastal towns were all heavily Hellenized, and the Greek language would have been dominant. It was, therefore, an appropriate area for witnessing by these Greek-speaking Hellenist{1] Christians.

Antioch, the capitol of the province of Syria, with a population of half a million, was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, following Rome and Alexandrea. It was located on the Orontes River, 300 miles north of Jerusalem and 15 miles inland; but we must not confuse this city with Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14{4]). There were at least sixteen Antiochs in the ancient world, but this one was the greatest. Its magnificent buildings helped give it the name “Antioch the Golden, Queen of the East.” The main street was more than four miles long, paved with marble, and lined on both sides with marble colonnades. It was the only city in the ancient world at that time that had its streets lighted at night.

A busy port and a center of luxury and culture, Antioch attracted all kinds of people, including wealthy retired Roman officials who spent their days chatting in the baths or gambling at the races. With its large cosmopolitan population and its great commercial and political power, Antioch presented to the church an exciting opportunity for evangelism.

It was the seat of the old Seleucid Empire and was founded by Seleucius in 301 b.c. Antioch was the official residence of the Roman legate{2] for the province of Syria. To suppress disturbances in the Roman territory in the East, the legate had a garrison of four legions. A large Jewish population inhabited the city, and many Gentiles were so impressed by the Jewish way of life that they became proselytes to Judaism. The relationship between Jews and non-Jews in the city of Antioch was very peaceful and pleasant. Josephus{3] says that the Jews were granted equal privileges with the Greek citizens.

Download Sermon With PRO View On One Page With PRO
Browse All Media

Related Media


Battle Gear
SermonCentral
PowerPoint Template
Den Of Lions
SermonCentral
PowerPoint Template
Esther
Billions of Reasons
Video Illustration
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion