Saturday 11 June 2022

Bible Book:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. (v. 19)

Acts 11:19-30 Saturday 11 June 2022

Psalm 112


In this passage the Church is going through a fundamental shift as people recognise that this gospel is not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. In the previous passages Peter told the Church in Jerusalem about his experiences in Caesarea in which the Holy Spirit ‘fell upon’ the group of Gentiles he was visiting just as it had fallen on the first believers on the day of Pentecost. He does this having been criticised for eating with uncircumcised people (non-Jews).

 Now, as people have been scattered by persecution, the news about Jesus Christ goes with them, and some people speak the message to some Greeks in Antioch. The response is immediate with many of them becoming believers. As the news of this reaches the Church leaders in Jerusalem, they send Barnabas who then goes to get Paul to help him and they spend a year together in Antioch. It is here that the growing movement gets a new name, Christians.

The book of Acts is clear that the tensions in the Church over the issue of circumcision and whether Gentiles should be allowed in were very real. There is a sense of a changing identity, which is highlighted when the predominantly Gentile believers in Antioch are given the name Christians. We know of course that this name would stick and become the name for the whole movement, but imagine what it was like for the leaders in Jerusalem to see their movement given a new name by a bunch of outsiders? The rules for entry and the name of the movement are all being changed and it's beyond their control. Perhaps with some sensitivity towards this, the believers in Antioch decide to provide relief to the believers in Judea (and therefore Jerusalem) at the prospect of a famine (vs 28-29).


To Ponder:

  • Are there any parallels between this story and the Methodist Church’s recent decisions about marriage and relationships? If so, what are they?
  • How would you feel if a group of Muslims became Christians and then changed the name to something else?
  • What does this story teach us today about the work of the Spirit?
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