5/5/16 Christians

The next time the apostles meet together, news has reached them of several of their brothers and sisters who escaped Jerusalem before Saul came looking for them after Stephen’s death.  They are astonished to learn that some have gone as far as Antioch, Cyprus, and Phoenicia.  “According the messenger that came, they have formed several small churches there, but no Gentiles have been approached, only Jews,” Nathaniel says.  “I have heard that some of the men who were originally from Cyprus and Cyrene have been sharing the message of Jesus with the Greek Jews,” James comments.  “We need to begin to spread the message to Gentiles as well.  But who will be comfortable with this?  Many of the newer believers will not like it,” Peter says.  “Barnabas!  He will be perfect for this,” says John.  “He is from that area and has a great interest in this kind of work.”  So they call Barnabas to them and explain what is going on and what they want him to do.  “Will you go and work with the new churches as far as Antioch?  They need sound teaching to strengthen them.  Once you get to know the brothers and sisters there, and they are comfortable with you, then you can broach the subject of accepting Gentiles into the church.”  Barnabas gladly agrees and sets out.  He goes from church to church on his way to Antioch, staying with the small communities of believers for a few weeks at a time, teaching the believers and proclaiming the message of Jesus to all who will listen.  Throughout his journey, many new believers are added to the churches.  All the believers love Barnabas, because he is a good man, and his deep faith and generous spirit help to encourage all of them to stand strong in their own faith.  Once he reaches Antioch, he determines that he will go to Tarsus to see if Saul will come back with him to assist him in his endeavors.  When Barnabas finds Saul, he is very excited.  “Saul, my old friend!  It is so good to see you again!”  Saul turns and sees Barnabas coming towards him.  “Barnabas!  What brings you here?” he asks.  “I have come to see if you will come back with me to Antioch.  The apostles sent me to build up the new churches in the area, and I could use a partner, if you are willing to come and assist me.”  “Of course I will come!  The church here is doing well.”  They leave the next morning and return to Antioch.  They find so many people in Antioch who are ready to ask Jesus to take away their sins that they end up staying in Antioch for a whole year.  Many of the new believers in Antioch are Greek Jews, and they call the Messiah “the Christ” in their language.  Because of this, the believers begin to be known as Christians.  One day, a man named Agabus from the church in Jerusalem comes to visit them.  The Holy Spirit has given Agabus the gift of prophecy, and has shown him that there is going to be a great famine throughout the whole Roman world during the reign of Claudius Caesar.  There is a lot of concern for the church in Jerusalem, since it is a city, and there are no farms to grow crops.  The Christians in the community come together to pray and discuss what might be done, and they determine that they will work with other churches in the area to gather food and supplies to help their brothers and sisters in Judea.  When this is accomplished, they send Barnabas and Saul back to Jerusalem with the supplies.

 

Acts 11:19-30

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