You may notice in these verse that they were still just telling the message of Jesus to the Jews and not to the Greeks. But a great thing happened. Those Jews in Cyprus and Cyrene could not keep it to themselves and went ahead and shared the message and Greeks starting receiving Jesus and then the whole thing broke loose. Wow. It’s a Breakout!! The gospel that was imprisoned by those who thought it only for the Jews could not be held back anymore and like a wildfire, it starting spreading everywhere…..EVERYWHERE!!!
What would happen, even in the south, if we started spreading the message of Christ again wherever we went? All indications are people would be saved!! I say, even in the south, because we assume most people are saved in the Bible belt, but are they? NO!! To assume that is no different than the original Jewish disciples believing the gospel was to be shared with Jews only!! The gospel cannot be imprisoned. God is going to force it to break out of the chains we have put on it. Chains that should not be there and will not hold against the power of God. Scripture in verse 22 says “News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.” The great encourager, Barnabas, went to Antioch and saw that the grace of God was being experienced by non Jews, and it said he was glad and encouraged them to keep it going. Good ole Barnabas. He would never try to put out the fire of the Lord by throwing traditional water on it. He actually threw more fuel on it by encouraging them. This was very important in the overall ministry of the gospel, because Antioch became the hub for worldwide mission work from there on. Antioch was the pivotal location for the birth of Paul’s missionary journeys and the leaders in the church at Antioch supported that work by prayer and finances. It was at this time that Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and he found him and brought him to Antioch. They met with the church at Antioch for a year and taught great numbers of people. Get this! It was in Antioch when believers were first called Christians! I have heard it said that being called a Christian in those days was a bad thing or an insult, but not so at Antioch. They were called Christians or Christ Ones because of the mix of Jews and Gentiles serving side by side in that church. Being a Christian labeled you as a person who would accept anyone to come to Christ. They were one in Christ. With their varied backgrounds the unifying part of the whole church was being one in Christ. So I warn you not to think in a bad way about the name Christian, but be careful to guard the true meaning of it, which is people from varied backgrounds and families serving the Lord together as one.
One of the prophets from Jerusalem named Agabus, stood up and predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. The disciples didn’t sit around and wonder if it was going to happen. They rallied together and provided help for the brothers living in Judea and they sent their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. When was the last time you saw a church respond to a word of warning from the Lord and respond in faith to meet that need? Not lately! When the Holy Spirit breaks out many miraculous things start to happen and God’s people need to be wise, but trusting, to respond to God’s message, even through a prophet. The fall of Rome was at hand in the Judean region and it was going to impact the gospel being spread, but God was going to protect that message through speaking to Godly men and showing them what to do. When God pours out His Holy Spirit in a situation and the chains are cast off, then God begins to do great and mighty things. It’s a Breakout!!
Time to ask ourselves.
1. What chains am I putting on God?
2. What chains am I putting on the message of God?
3. What chains are controlling my words and actions?
4. What chains are keeping me from believing God to do great and mighty things?
Time to throw off those chains and start thinking like people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and let Him use your life for His glory. Time to be free from the chains of indifference and apathy and stand up and proclaim the gospel as never before. It is time..
The Pilgrimage continues….