Monday, April 21, 2008

Acts: Antioch (11:19-26)

Christianity’s early adherents saw themselves as Jews. They didn’t really see themselves as a separate group until Antioch. As a cosmopolitan, urban center and the third largest city in the empire after Rome and Alexandria, it was a perfect place for Christianity to expand into the Gentile population.
The men responsible for initially bringing the Gospel to Antioch are not named. We may never know who founded this important and influential Church. It is also interesting to note that the Apostles were content to send Barnabas to investigate instead of one of their own number. Barnabas was the perfect choice to send to Antioch, and a large factor in the success the movement experienced beginning there. He was an encourager, and one imagines him empowering the new Christians to reach out to the city and grow in areas no one had previously imagined the faith would be accepted. The work soon grew to the point that Barnabas needed help. He went to a lot of trouble to find the person who quickly becomes the main character of Acts: Paul.
In some ways Christianity had its birth in Antioch. The model for success in future expansions of the faith was discovered there. Christianity is a faith that works in all cultures because it is beyond culture. It thrives in large urban settings and expands from there to the surrounding regions. Somewhere along the line the idea has been abandoned. In some people’s view it is the faith of small towns and country churches and has no place in large, influential, multicultural cities. That is just not Biblical.

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