Daily Truth Bible Study Acts 11: 1-30 Part 2
For today’s study, we pick up in verse 19. Let’s take a look at what is happening outside of Jerusalem. Remember back in chapter 8 that a large effort to persecute the body of believers in Jerusalem began after the stoning of Stephen. Also remember that Saul of Tarsus was a major player in this effort. The result of the attack on the Church was that most of the followers of Christ were dispersed into parts of Judea and Samaria. God’s team was in big trouble, right? No, not at all. God used what looked like a threat against the Body to begin the outreach that would take the Gospel into other areas.
Those who were scattered traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and even to Antioch more than 200 miles to the north. Scripture notes these men were proclaiming the Gospel to Jews only which had been the customary practice until recently when peter was shown that Gentiles were also to receive it. These scattered men most likely did not know this yet however. Eventually, some of the men made it up to Antioch and spoke about Jesus to Greeks there. God worked through these men and many in Antioch believed. God’s work was being done despite the stoning of Stephen and the persecution that scattered many believers from Jerusalem. Never assume that a turn of events that looks discouraging cannot end up accomplishing God’s plan. God works in ways we cannot predict or imagine.
Antioch was a major metropolis and the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire. As this would typically suggest, it was full of activity. Major trade routes passed through it and pagan beliefs and activities dominated its culture. Antioch was about as vile as a place could get with all of its immorality and so forth. However, the work of God is successful wherever God decrees. Let’s be totally transparent for a moment. Antioch was much like one of the major cities in the US today. The Roman author Cicero described Antioch of that day as being a place of learned men and liberal studies but it also reveled in pagan worship and sexual perversion.What could/can God do in such a place?
When some of the followers of Christ arrived in Antioch, they preached the Lord Jesus to the people there and many believed. More specifically, verse 21 says, “And the hand of the Lord was with them (those preaching Jesus) and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Now, let’s zoom out to modern times for a moment. Here is a city totally corrupt and pagan-dominated. What is a preacher to do? Make friends with the culture to get established as a member of the community in hopes that one day he can slip in a bit of info about Jesus in a way that will not offend anyone? This is what many today would suggest but this is not what was done in Acts 11. Also, today many would suggest that the evangelization effort mold itself into what the culture of the city could/would accept. Again though, this is not what we see in scripture.
The Bible nowhere suggests the power of the conversion of souls rests in the approach taken or the finesse of the preacher. God’s hand was upon the preaching of the total truth of who Jesus is, what He did, why He did it, and why the people needed Him. Many believed and turned to the Lord due to the work of God then just like today. If you understand anything please let it be this…God is sovereign. He does His work His way. He made THE WAY of salvation and instructed us to proclaim it. The men preached God’s truth and many in Antioch believed and turned from their old ways to follow Jesus. Repentance is inseparable from true belief. May God bless the study of His word.