A. Rapport for the time
What is in a name
Big Apple—New York
The Big Easy—New Orleans
Sin City—Las Vegas
Denver—Mile High City
Philadelphia—City of Brotherly Love
We have nicknames our families give us when growing up
Baby John, Little John and then by the Grace of our Lord finally someone came up with the nickname JJ and that stuck until I got old enough finally just to be John.
In our OT names often tell us a lot about a person or their background, their family, or best yet how God see’s them or plans to use them for his Kingdom.
Names have always been important.
Kent Hughes—Preaching the word—Alexander the Great once learned that in his army was a namesake, another Alexander, who was a notorious coward, “Alexander the Great, who conquered the world when he was just twenty-three, called the soldier before him and said, ‘is your name Alexander and are you name for me? The trembling coward said, ‘Yes, sir. My name is Alexander and I was named for you.’ The great general said, ‘Then either be brave or change your name!’”
B. Reading of the text
C. Review of the text
We have not been in Acts in a few weeks so I want to remind you of just how far we have come.
Review how far we have come from ch. 1-11
D. Relevance of the text
The text we are in this morning desires that we look at the name Christian and how it developed in the early church. My desire this morning is that we look at out own personal title as a Christian and how it should affect us as individuals called by God to represent him!
I. No Stopping the Gospel
I. No Stopping the Gospel
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Just as a reminder..Stephen was back in chapter 7 of Acts. As Saul stood by and watched—Stephen has shared the Gospel with the people using the OT and Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon. But what he really did was tell the truth and challenge the heart of the people and they didn’t want to hear from God.
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen died and the persecution of believers began but God in his infinite Wisdom used the persecution of the early church to spread HIS fame quickly throughout the are starting in Jerusalem and working out. To understand and apply all that his happening in these verses we need to be reminded about the City of Antioch. This is not some small city, this is the third largest behind only Rome and Alexandria at the time. People have been scattered from Jerusalem to Antioch some 300 miles to the northeast. God has decided that the city is a good part of HIS strategy of spreading the Gospel and bringing people into the Kingdom.
It was strategic for its size but was also strategic because the people of the city were in desperate need of being saved. Now many Jews lived in Antioch but ti was mainly a gentile & pagan city. They worshiped Egyptian deities, such as Isis and Serapis, and Greek deities such as Demeter. Also, very near Antioch was the cult center Daphne with a temple to Apollo and Artemis. Just to understand the Grove that was around the temple to Apollo was 10 miles around.
The people of this city desperately needed to know the Lord and God uses the scattering of HIS own to spread the good news. You see the people could not help themselves. They were in love with Christ and desperate to let others know even though they themselves are running for their lives they are telling others about what God is doing. Can you imagine being that desperate for God. Oh how our hearts should be in love with Christ that much that we would share what God has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
Beloved the Hand of the Lord was with them! God was blessing the ministry to the Gentiles!
15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
The Hand of God in Scripture
46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord.
3 the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me.
22 And the hand of the Lord was upon me there. And he said to me, “Arise, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.”
We who are found in Christ this morning have the hand of God upon us because the Spirit of God dwells inside our very being. We have the hand of God to direct and guide that we might be good ambassadors for our King.
II. Steadfast Purpose
II. Steadfast Purpose
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
The Jerusalem Church is the center of activity for the what Christ is doing in the region and home base for the Apostles. Peter and John were sent to help Philip in Samaria back in chapter 8.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
This time they send out Barnabas
36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus,
The son of Encouragement. what a great title don’t you think for a man of God.
NAC Commentary “Barnabas was a “bridge-builder,” one who was able to see the positive aspects in both sides of an issue and to mediate between perspectives.
That was the type person needed to go check out Antioch. He is also the perfect selection because of being from Cyprus.
24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
24 tells us about Barnabas and the Man of God that he was but vs. 23 tells us what he saw when he arrived in Antioch.
23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,
He witnessed the grace of GOD…Oh how marvelous the Gospel is that is poured out upon unbelievers who turn to Christ in Repentance and faith. Paul---speaking to the Ephesian Elders.
24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Barnabas saw the work of initial work of God in their life and encouraged them “to remain faithful to the Lord with Steadfast purpose!”
Steadfast purpose…Devoted hearts....with all their heart in the NIV. This is what a disciple of the Lord is…steadfast---resolute or dutifully firm and unwavering.
Purpose—That which is planned or purposed in advance
III. Christians acting as Christians
III. Christians acting as Christians
27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
I want to skip to this portion for just a moment because I want you to notice what the church was doing as they lived together in Community. This famine came between 45-47 AD and the Church cared for the Church. Believer who have been given new hearts should be generous with what we have because all we have is to be used for the Kingdom of God. We are but a vessel to be used by the Lord for his good pleasure.
IV. Teaching Christians
IV. Teaching Christians
25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Barnabas seeing the word of God and the movement among his people understands that he will need help in growing the newly converted believers. He sets out to find Saul in Tarsus and bring him back to Antioch.
Remember…Paul escaped and went to Tarsus
30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Barnabas doesn’t know the exact location of Saul because it has been in the neighborhood of 8-10 years since he first introduced Saul to the Disciples in Jerusalem.
Barnabas and Saul meet with the church. They gather the local church. The church was purchased by blood of Jesus Christ and is to be loved on and adored and is to be used as God’s primary way Christians are discipled and encouraged to follow after Christ. God did not intend for churches to become places in which to hide the Gospel or to tell people how great they are if they just try harder. Beloved Saul and Barnabas spend a year pouring their lives into the church in Antioch building up leaders that they might grow Christians. The sanctification process takes time.
Commentator—Sanctification is often a slow and arduous process. We must patiently instruct those we are discipling and not lose heart when the work seems slow and difficult.
The desire of our hearts should be that we are being poured into by leaders who desire not to build a better portfolio or Resume but leaders who desire to see us “Grow in Christ likeness.” And beloved that is a messy business but one that is to be led by the Spirit of God alone because he alone knows his Kingdom.
They are called Christians for the first time in Antioch. This would be a derogatory word not a good word. Given to them from people outside the community of believers.
What does Christian mean today?
I need you to pray with me and for me and for Fellowship Baptist.