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Antioch! (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2023 6:00 am

Antioch! (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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January 3, 2023 6:00 am

Pastor Rick teaches from the book of the Acts


Pain should not make us stop preaching Christ.

He is whom we believe. But Satan wants the hardship, the difficulties, the things in life that scare us and hurt us. He wants those things to stop us from loving the Lord, from loving the brethren, and from doing our duty. And we know better.

We should be ready for these things. It may hurt more, but we are supposed to preach the gospel no matter what. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in Acts chapter 11 as he begins his message called Antioch. When they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, and a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.

And so it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. And in these days, prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them named Agabus stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren, dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. The title for this morning's message is Antioch, and it is the name of a city in that ancient world that every Christian should know.

Looking at the title, you know I could have come up with other names, but you know this is the one that we need to be familiar with. Travel 300 miles almost straight north from Jerusalem and you will come to this ancient Gentile city. This Antioch belonged at the time to Syria. Today it is located in modern Turkey. It's not to be confused with another Antioch in Pisidia, which is also in Turkey.

This one is on the Mediterranean coast. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Rome of course was first, and then in Egypt there was Alexandria. This Antioch became the epicenter for Gentile converts to Christ without Judaism. Up until this time, most Gentiles that came to Christ, well there weren't really any. They first came by way of becoming a Jew, and then they became Christians, but then Peter of course went up to Caesarea and brought them into the faith. But they really weren't coming into the church until we get to this chapter, and this is what we're considering this morning.

Here at Antioch, the Christians will really be coming into the church, and everything is going to change. I was reading an update from one of the missions that works primarily in Iran and Afghanistan, that part of the world, and they were telling of a convert to Christ named Abdul inside Afghanistan in his own words. Evidently he called and left a voicemail, and I want to share what he said because I think it has everything to do with what we're looking at here in Acts chapter 11.

Abdul called in and he said, we truly had never heard about him. Of course that is Jesus Christ. He lifted us up out of the pit. Thank you so much, Lord. How much you have loved us, that you came to save us. The grace of Christ is enough for me.

I don't want anything else. This is recent. And you listen to these words, and of course I would think that all of us are a little challenged by it. But here is someone who never heard of the name of Jesus Christ today in the time we live in. And in Antioch, at the time that this took place, there were those who never heard of the name of Christ either. Today in America, there are many who have heard of the name of Christ.

They just don't know anything about him. There are others that do, and there are others that are confused, but there are some that just have no knowledge of the scripture, true knowledge, and that is where we come in. Well, looking at verse 19 of Acts 11, now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen, traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. Now as I was reading the verses, the word Antioch kept coming up, and I think that is on purpose.

It is stressed because of what took place there. Four thought-provoking words there in verse 19 for us, persecuted, scattered, traveled, and preached. The Lord told the Christians to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but they were very sluggish about that. They remained in Jerusalem, but the persecution pushed them out. And even then, as we're looking at in this section, the Jews mostly were the Christians at this time. They weren't really bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. They didn't know how. They're going to learn though.

They're all learning. It says after the persecution. No, we cannot always flee persecution, but in this case they did and it was a good thing. 2 Corinthians 4 verse 9, Paul said, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. The hardship that they incurred in Jerusalem did not deter them from bringing their faith to other places. You know, the world might reason and say, well, you know, if they were persecuted, it would be a good idea not to try to recruit people to a religion that is not well received.

The opposite was true. Aren't we glad? This signals to us that the word of God is primary and joy in this life is secondary.

I would like to have them both at the same time, but that is not the reality for us always. Hardship is no reason to stop preaching. That is what is coming out of this. They were persecuted. They got away from the persecution and they continued to preach. Why should pain make us stop preaching Christ? Can any Christian answer that question? Is there an answer to that question for a Christian?

Of course not. Pain should not make us stop preaching Christ. He is whom we believe, but Satan wants the hardship, the difficulties, the things in life that scare us and hurt us. He wants those things to stop us from loving the Lord, from loving the brethren, and from doing our duty. We know better.

We should be ready for these things. It may hurt more, but we are supposed to preach the gospel no matter what. It says here in verse 19 that they were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen. Well, Stephen preached, as did the apostles, that Jesus is the coming one. That answers the question that the great prophet John the Baptist asked from prison.

Are you the Christ or are we looking for another one? He had that moment of doubt. And of course the Lord said, go tell John the things you've seen, the things that you've heard.

He'll figure it out. And then after those messengers went to tell John, they departed. Jesus addressed the audience and said, make no mistake, among prophets none greater than John. So he did not.

He built him up. He said, as a great man of faith, had a moment of doubt. That is all part of the learning processes of who Jesus is. They went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch preaching. When Stephen was persecuted, these are the areas they spread to. But of course for us, our attention is going to center on Antioch. The word, it says here at the bottom of verse 19, the word they preached to no one but the Jews only.

Now we're about 10 years after the resurrection and still this is the case. They were too isolated to know how to reach the Gentiles. And as I mentioned, they're going to learn. And these chaps who show up from Cyrene and Cyprus, they're the ones that are going to lead the charge. And they're common Christians. They're not apostles.

They're not even leaders. They're probably not even that well taught in Christianity. Reason why I say that is because Barnabas gets up there and he says, we need to bring some teaching here.

And that's when he goes and gets solved. We'll come to that verse 20 now. But some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene who when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists preaching the Lord Jesus.

So typical of the Bible. In verse 19, you know, you're so many years back, 10 years back to Stephen. And now in verse 20, you're 10 years later when these Cyrenians and Cypriots arrive here in Antioch. Barnabas happened to be from Cyprus, a small island there, an island in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Israel. And this Antioch, oh, about 100 miles.

Well, not maybe that far. Antioch is 16 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. Well, the significance of that is they had seaports. This is a doorway to the trade routes of the East. People from various cultures were drawn to this area.

This is why it's such a big city. It was a cosmopolitan city. People from various ethnic groups were here.

Those from Rome, Egyptians, Persians, people from India as far as China. They're all here in Antioch, cosmopolitan. And these are the people that Christianity is going to start bringing into the church, not only the faith, but in the assembly.

And it all happens here. He says here in verse 20, when they had come, spoke to the Hellenists. So Luke makes it clear that the Christians were spread.

They had been around. But these two groups of people, when they arrived here in Antioch, they began to speak to the Hellenists. These are Greek-speaking, Grecian-cultured Jews who are now taking the gospel to idolatrous people, people who worship man-made religion, statues and figurines being a big part of it, and paganism. Well, paganism is worshiping creation without the Creator, and it is alive and well today. And this is where the church was doing her duty as believers.

And this is recorded for us. It is to challenge every single generation of Christian. Antioch was the center of worship for the pagan goddess Daphne. And this brought much wealth to the city.

In fact, it was called the beautiful city, one of its nicknames. It included, as almost always with the ancient religions, licentious and what we would say immoral practices. And Paul had to sort through this. This is why in his letters, he says to the Christians, you know, things like, have one wife, and he has to lay these things out. Don't lie. Why are you telling Christians not to lie?

You would think that we would know that. But it is because of the influence of their environment, their surroundings, their environment gave license to these things. And of course, the great apostle did not sweep these things under the rug. Neither did the other ones. Incidentally, Peter was sent to the Gentiles by the Holy Spirit. It was very pronounced. We covered that in chapter 10.

In the beginning of 11, we reviewed it again. These Cypriot and Cyrenian Jewish disciples of the Messiah, they went to the Gentiles without any record of God having a dramatic experience with them. But it was an experience nonetheless. And of course, whenever it is God, it is dramatic. The Lord, the Holy Spirit, is in control of everything that is taking place here, just like we know He is in control of everything in our lives if we yield to Him. He is present for it all.

That's why we read in Proverbs and we make, you know, we put it on t-shirts and coffee mugs and refrigerators. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge the Lord, because He is sovereign. And part of His being God includes that He is ubiquitous. He can be everywhere and He is everywhere at the same time. The world doesn't know this. In fact, as we go through the Old Testament, we know that they localized their gods. Well, He's the God of the hills and He's the God of the valley. And this is crazy. This is not God.

And today, there are people just as ignorant, and I don't mean that as an intended insult, just a fact, ignorant of the revelation of God to man. Well, they arrive here at Antioch and they decided to begin as a matter of policy to reach out to the non-Jewish people. And this has not happened before. Again, Peter was sent, yes, but it seems that that had been it.

This is on a larger scale. Evidently, they were inspired by Peter's experience at Caesarea. And perhaps even, they finally got word of what God told Saul, Acts chapter 9. But the Lord said to him, to Ananias, who was going to go to Saul, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Now, a devout Jew may have listened to that and said, Well, he's just going to bear the name of Yahweh to them, but it doesn't mean he's going to lead them into Christ.

He wouldn't just think that way. It took time. It was very difficult. And this is not to say that they were somehow less sensitive, less loving than us. They were victims of their upbringing, and it wasn't just washed away instantly.

This had to develop to overcome these things. That's why I give you time stamps saying to you, for example, this is now about ten years after the resurrection. And Christianity really has not moved as Jesus said, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature. Well, Christianity here in Antioch will be set apart from everything else.

It will be set apart from Judaism and from paganism when the worldlings say, You're Christians. God didn't give that through the believers. It came from the unbelievers. You're Christians.

And it stuck. It's suitable. It's right. And in that sense, it does come from God. We'll open that up when we get to verse 26.

Here, they are preaching the Lord Jesus, these Cypriots and Cyrenians. Our primary purpose is to spread the word of God. Why are you here on earth? Well, of course, you've got to make a living. You've got to raise children. You've got to do various things. But the main reason why you are left here in this life is to preach Jesus Christ in some way, in some form, through your testimony, through speech, the combination of these things, throwing at it everything we've got to prepare ourselves to be useful to God. Now, there may be times when you just don't feel it.

It's not happening. Well, that's going to be the case with Saul the apostles while he's in Tarsus and Cilicia. But while he's there, he's preaching.

He is working. There is much evidence in history that there were Christians in this area and during the time of Saul, who became Paul. But he's going to be used on a grander scale in a little while, faithful with the little things. It can take a long time and a lot of pain. It's a lot of pain to be used by God. This preaching of the Lord, it was to bring what God says to man, to man. God has already revealed it in his word. He has said it to mankind. But how does it get to them?

As I read about that convert in Afghanistan, Abdul, he never heard of Jesus Christ. Somebody got there. We look at some maybe participant in a pagan religion and we sneer at them. Oh man, they're here. And our hearts should be, Lord help me to reach them.

You love them too. And to remember that. If you listen too much to the news, you might, you're, that part of your heart that would reach out to the unbeliever may start to become a little foggy because you're just so bombarded by what Satan is doing. You're losing sight of what God wants to do. And that is to bring his son to man.

And he uses us to do it. They're preaching the Lord Jesus to these Gentiles, overcoming opposition. Now, some feel that these were not Gentiles, that they were speaking, these were Jews under the Grecian culture speaking to other Jews in the Grecian culture.

But that would be a redundancy. Ten years into this, we've already passed the experiences of Acts chapter 6. The Greek speaking Jews, cultured Jews, they were already accepted. That is not how this section reads at all. There would be nothing remarkable about preaching to fellow Jews because, in this context, because Luke is making it remarkable. Of course it's remarkable to speak to anybody about Christ. But that's not where he's going here.

They, this is a fantastic experience. These are far-sighted believers. Likely men and women doing their part. The Cyprians and the Cyrenians, the Jewish Christians, taking the first major step into the Gentile world. Not to take away from Peter, what Peter did. It wouldn't happen without what Peter did in Caesarea. But it's happening. And it's happening finally. They begin to preach Christ to the Gentiles, bringing them into the church, where there was no such thing before.

Not like this. It was then, as it is now, all about who God is. Who truly is God? Is he who man says that he is? Or is he who God says that he is?

And what evidences do you have? What is one to do with their life after they discover who God is? These are the pressing questions for them in Antioch and for us to this very day. Who is God?

What are we to do with that? What did Saul the Apostle say when the Lord met him on the road to Damascus? Who are you, Lord?

What do you want me to do for you? That simplifies it. Verse 21, And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great multitude believed and turned to the Lord. The hand of the Lord is the hand of Jesus Christ.

And he uses our hands to pull it off, to make this happen. In Mark's Gospel, we read, And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. Well, again, at that point, they were just going out to the Gentiles, but they were doing it nonetheless. To the Jews, pardon me.

And a Jewish soul is just as important as a Gentile soul and vice versa. Now, we're seeing it spread, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. The Gentiles were hungry for the truth. Many of them were sick of the made-up gods. The things that the zoos were fighting against this one, arguing with that one, and Mercury and all this nonsense.

The spread of Christianity. Excuse me. Let's pause for a minute. That will help when they make the radio, message radio.

When they help the message going, okay, forget it. Good night. Can I have an interpreter?

Anybody here speak American? Alright, back to this. The spread of Christianity in Acts is pronounced, and it is deliberate. Luke is, the whole purpose is, he's documenting this. Oh, Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. Well, here it is.

This is how it happened. Theophilus, if it is a single person, which I believe it is, he's reading this stuff and he's devouring it. Evidently a person of means. And Theophilus gets this, and more than likely, Luke probably has an original copy or two, you know, you would think. Somebody said, this is so good, we've got to publish this. We have it preserved for us. The majority text of manuscripts that we have are called the majority text because there's so many of them. And there's so many of them because they were that good. They were that important. So they kept copying, keeping them in circulation. Some would fade, you know, get lost, they would just keep producing them. Whereas there are other manuscripts where there are not that many.

They're evidently not as good. I believe that. That is my understanding. Coming back to verse 21. And a great number believed and turned to the Lord, verse 22. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. Well, this news is received in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem's got issues. At the end of this, hopefully if we have time, I'll mention what churches I would not want to attend in the New Testament. There are churches I just would not want to belong to. There are churches I would love to have belonged to.

And I'll mention some of them in a little bit. But at this point, news gets to Jerusalem and I'm sure many of them received it well. Great, the Gospel is spreading. The trouble's on the horizon. We'll get that in Acts 15 to prove that point.

But mark the wisdom of the choice to send Barnabas. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, today's teaching is available free of charge at our website. Simply visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can subscribe at or simply search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app. Tune in next time as Pastor Rick continues teaching through the book of Acts right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-03 07:06:58 / 2023-01-03 07:16:19 / 9

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