17 May 2011

Acts 11:19-26

"and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians'" (v. 26)


In this passage we hear of the dispersed community, those who have scattered in the face of persecution following the death of Stephen, executed by stoning for breaking the Jewish blasphemy laws (Acts 6:8 - 7:60). As they travelled they spread the gospel (good news) and the believing community grew to such an extent that the Apostles who remained in Jerusalem as the Church scattered, sent Barnabas as a go-between, a vital link between Jerusalem and the new sister church developing in Antioch and who now came to identify themselves as Christians. Barnabas becomes the agent by which Saul is reintroduced to the story. Saul had changed from being a zealous persecutor of Christians (Acts 7:54 - 8:3). He had experienced the call of God upon his life and was beginning to being brought into the story quietly as a teacher alongside Barnabas helping to teach and form the new community of believers (Acts 9:1-30).

The fact that this community now described themselves as Christian may or may not be significant. But here is a group that holds clearly within its membership those who are outside the Jewish tradition as well as those within, and who now have given verbal expression to their gathering as disciples of Christ.

To Ponder

Recall your own journey of faith and how you first claimed the word Christian as your own. Ponder on what has changed, what has stayed the same and how the word has expression in your life now.

How is it possible that someone so zealous in their persecution of those who are 'different' or who are on the other side of a religious divide to the point of being instrumental in their deaths might have such a sudden change of heart?

In today's society how are we to believe that those who commit terrible deeds in the name of their god can demonstrate genuine repentance?

Bible notes author

Deacon Sue Culver

Sue was born in the north-east of England, moving to live in Mansfield in her late teens. She worked in various administrative jobs until she 'retired' to start a family.