Now they which were scattered abroad on the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch…
I. BELIEVING IN CHRIST'S NAME. In this story three forces are to be noted.
1. Persecution (ver. 19). The devil made nothing when he stirred this up. The blood of the martyred Stephen was the seed of many Churches.
2. Conservatism. "Speaking the Word to none save only to Jews." Conscientiously seeking "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Unlike Peter, they had had no vision. They were acting under the impulse of hereditary bigotry and natural affiliations.
3. Progression. "Some of them...spake unto the Greeks also." Notice —
(1) That it was only "some of them." When an old bondage is to be thrown off, emancipation comes to individuals before it comes to the many.
(2) That it was not native Jews. Men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who had associated with Greeks as well as with Jews, it was as easy for them to speak to the one as to the other, and, not blinded by Jewish prejudice, they could see their equal right to the benefit of the sacrifice upon Calvary.
(3) That they were unknown men. In the time of about 100,000 were reputed to be Christian — here truly a great result from the efforts of a few obscure men.
(4) That their work was a simple one. They held up Jesus as Saviour and Lord — that which any other earnest disciple of Christ can do, and must do if the world is to be evangelised.
(5) That their work was immediately attested. "The hand of the Lord was with them."
II. KNOWN BY CHRIST'S NAME. Let us see how this came about.
1. The work reported (ver. 22).
2. The work approved.
(1) The sending. The case of Cornelius had prepared the Church at Jerusalem for such tidings. Perhaps they were afraid that the workers might do some things ill-advised, but they showed their sympathy with the work by sending such a man as Barnabas.
(2) The rejoicing. The joy of Barnabas was the best sort of approval. Barnabas knew the Lord's handiwork when he saw it.
(3) The exhortation. Barnabas believed in the perseverance of the saints — not in putting the hand to the plough, and then looking back. God wants no ninety-day recruits in His service. His enlistment roll is for life. Note, that continued fidelity to Him comes from "purpose of heart," rather than purpose of the will or conviction of the head.
(4) The man. "For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith." This statement is given as the reason why Barnabas so instantly showed his sympathy with the work among the Gentiles.
3. The work assisted.
(1) By the countenance that Barnabas gave to it. "And much people was added to the Lord." As a representative of the Church at Jerusalem his approval would give the work a new impetus, as being done under the sanction of the Church. To this was added the force of his own personality, made potential by his goodness and possession of faith and the Holy Spirit.
(2) By the united efforts of Barnabas and Saul. The work too great for one. The glory of much of Paul's career is due to the man who believed in Paul, and gave to him his opportunity. Many a man who is no Paul himself may set a Paul to work. The revival, as such, appears to have been over, and they devoted themselves to instructing these converts in the new faith they had professed.
4. The new name. "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
III. HELPING BELIEVERS IS CHRIST'S NAME (vers. 27-30). The starving Jewish believers at Jerusalem learned how good it was to have brethren not of the direct seed of Abraham. The Gentiles and Jews indeed had become "one flock, one Shepherd."
(M. C. Hazard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.