Acts 11: 19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus.21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
As we know from Acts 8, Saul the persecutor had just been a part of getting Stephen killed and after that, the following happened. Acts 8: 1 A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.)3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But God had bigger plans for Saul and Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, as he was picking up speed to kill more followers of Jesus in Damascus. Those believers who were scattered preached the good news about Jesus wherever they went. At that time a believer name Phillip went to Samaria and told the people about the Messiah. The power of God was evident in Phillip's life and in his speech and many were healed and spirits were cast out as well.
The thing to realize is that the persecution did not stop the gospel from being proclaimed and the message continued to grow and spread to many more cities. The message could not be quieted because God had given the burden for the message to be preached and the believers took the message with them wherever they went. If that were the case today business offices would soon see more and more believers doing their work as servants of Jesus. Not begrudgingly, but with love and offering. Soon the owners of those companies would see the effect of the gospel of Jesus and the life-giving change in their workers and they too would receive Jesus.
In our world, we might feel a little "scattered" at times because of the persecution we also face when we share Jesus, but we too are not held back by persecution because the "message" and the power of the Holy Spirit in that message is where the power comes from.
Undaunted we should continue to offer this hope to a lost and dying world and the name of Jesus will be lifted up. In Acts 11 we see the continued working of God through His church, even when they had been through much. Acts 11: 19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus.21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
The unifying power of Jesus came in the midst of persecution and even though the fellowship of their "community" of believers was torn apart the mission remained the same and even more received the message of hope because the power of God was in their individual lives and was not dependent on them and their community.
The unique part of this whole thing is that the very one who had caused them to be scattered and persecuted them was the one who brought them all back to the purpose of their lives. Saul, who is now Paul, is brought into the picture and the following verses show what was done. Acts 11: 22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
The name "Christians" may not have been a name claimed by those believers themselves because they were following "the way" of Jesus. But the result of that large crowd being taught the message resulted in that name being placed on those in that fellowship. We carry that name today but with a much different connotation. If someone goes to a church building and hangs around other Christians, or lives in the Bible Belt we call them Christians. Billy Graham believed that over 75% of those attending churches in America were probably not born-again believers, but we call them Christians. When Jesus comes again all of this will be brought to light and those who are not born-again will not
enter glory with our Savior. It is very important that we don't call ourselves something that we aren't and thus deceive ourselves into thinking we are changed without Jesus making that change.
Read God's word and you will see what happens when you are born-again. And you cannot see heaven without being born again in the Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus this in John 3:5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” Sadly, followers of Jesus today almost laugh at the term born again and thus minimize the need for a life change so life change does not happen. Do not base your eternity on supposition but on the Word of God alone.
When you are really regenerated there are changes that take place and in those changes, God does great things. God gives you a Spirit that powers your very life and your steps are steps dedicated to serving Jesus and the end result is many more coming to Jesus. When God gets a group of those people together and He forms a church, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus told Peter this in Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. We must live in that power to be the church. Begin today!
The Pilgrimage Continues