We have been though the parable of the soils or what Jesus called the parable of the sower briefly. Some people heard the Gospel and receive it well and are saved to serve Jesus as Lord and others hear the Gospel and it does not penetrate their souls … rather, the message is rejected and the soul is lost! Today, please read the Acts passage again:
Ac 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
1) The depth of scattering due to the persecution that started with Stephen’s martyrdom. They went to … Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch … and … Cyrene.
(1) Phoenicia is situated on the Mediterranean Coast where modern Lebanon is, including parts of modern Syria and Israel. There were a number of trade routes through this area. Phoenicia became notable in the first millennium as merchants, traders and colonizers.
(2) Cyprus is an Island in the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times she was famous for her copper resources. She also produces wine and olives. The word “copper” is derived from the Greek name for the Island, “Kupros”. She has experienced her share of rebels, massacres, earthquakes, droughts and famine. The Greek Cypriots trace their ancestry to the Mycenaean Greeks, whilst the Turkish Cypriots to the Ottoman Settlers.
(3) Antioch is the Syrian Antioch we spoke of yesterday.
(4) Cyrene was a city on the North African coast located in north-eastern Libya. It is interesting that although those who were scattered in the persecution only Gospelized the Jews living in Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.
Remember, they had not come into contact with Saul after his conversion, nor Peter after his awakening to God’s Gospel being all inclusive … people from all ethnicities, languages and nations who believed in Jesus and what He did may be saved after repentance where they renounce their previous religion or religions. Because Christianity is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant, those who scattered only went to the Jews to convince them Messiah had arrived.
Maybe there is a lesson for us to learn here. The Visible Christian Church today is filled with Christianized people. They believe they are Christian but have not experienced the new birth. It is these people who those sects who have broken away from Christianity are after. They stand on street corners or walk the streets knocking on doors seeking to recruit people they can indoctrinate. Normally the ones they attract are those who have not been discipled in the Church. They have a very basic knowledge of Christianity but do not understand the Gospel, so when such people whom I shall called “false prophets or false teachers” present fanciful stories to them with scattered Bible verses that “seem” to make sense but in reality are illogically quoted for the hearer to think the speaker has Biblical wisdom, the unsuspecting listener is often bamboozled and starts to fall for satan’s trick strategy.
Why does this happen? Because the Church itself is at fault. Too often, there is no persistent evangelism from the pulpit, little or no doctrinal teaching and no discipleship. Easy Believism and easy Church Membership are offered to attract numbers and finances. This is the reason for so few born again people in the pews.
My point is this … Why don’t we evangelize the Church Members and Adherents? Why don’t we ensure the Church membership becomes people who are born again? Our example should be those whom the Spirit scattered to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. They went to the people Jesus came to and evangelized them … the Jews. These Jews were like our Church Members and Adherents who are unsaved. Let’s reach them before the cults reach them for should the cults reach them first, they will become the greatest opponents of the Church.
2) Breaking the mold.
Ac 11:20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
The Holy Spirit was at work all over not just with Saul and Peter. Believers from Cyprus and Cyrene decided to reach out to the Greeks in Syrian Antioch with the Gospel. This was revolutionary but then the Gospel mandate is just that … revolutionary. We shall return to this tomorrow but for today, what we see here is that evangelism needs to be done within the Church and amongst those who are foreigners to the Gospel. Remember the parable of the soils? Some will believe whilst some may not. Our goal is to get the Gospel out so that some will come in.
O God, please make us productive in evangelism. Remove fear of persecution, filling us with much passion for lost souls. Grant us confidence in our God. Amen.