Sermons by the Monday Club
Now they which were scattered abroad on the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch…
Here we trace a series of providences —
I. IN THE INSTRUMENTALITIES. As the gospel was to be first preached to the Jews, it was fitting that Jews should be the first to proclaim it. Between that people, however, and all other nations, there existed formidable barriers. When, therefore, the time was come for them to be broken down, some medium must be found less hampered than the Jews by prejudice, and at the same time so far Jewish as to have received from the Jews the gospel. Such a medium was afforded here (ver. 19) by Greeks who had become Jewish proselytes. Belonging to a class "who sometime were afar off," to whom should they turn so naturally as to their kindred, the Greeks? As, when the fulness of time was come for Christ to be born, God had prepared Gentile watchers to be looking for His star, so when the gospel was ready for the world the same Providence had prearranged that messengers fitted for the work should be ready to be to it as wings to bear it on its worldwide flight. It is ever thus. He who has prepared the gospel for the race, prepares means for its extension. In this God has often been in advance of His Church. When she has faltered He has opened ways into regions beyond, where His preordained messengers might plant Christian standards.
II. THE PLACE. Antioch was a centre of commanding influence. If the new religion could be planted in this queen of Gentile cities, with her wealth, her culture, her sources of widespread influence, her teeming thousands, then the followers of Christ would stand on vantage ground unequalled. And this was substantially accomplished. Antioch became a Christian city. In the time of Theodosius it is alleged that one half of her population were professed followers of Christ. Between the years 252 and 380 A.D., ten Christian assemblies were here convened. Here Paul exercised his first systematic ministerial work, and from this point he started on all his missionary journeys. Here was born, and here Ignatius wielded his mighty power for the Christian faith. Thus, this city, where the first Gentile Church was gathered, exerted for centuries a controlling influence in spreading the new religion. From this let us, who are now entrusted with the gospel, learn —
1. To be bold. Christ calls for no timorous messengers. Christianity is in this world to conquer, and it will.
2. To plant the gospel in centres of influence. There were other cities than Antioch, but none of so extended and controlling influence.
III. IS SHAPING THE IMMEDIATE RESULTS.
1. The name by which, for all ages, the followers of Christ are to be known (ver. 26). To the formation of this word each of the three leading nations of earth made a contribution. The thought is Jewish, denoting "The Anointed One"; the root, Χριστ, is Greek; the termination, ιανοὶ, is Latin. Thus, in the providence of God, the same three nations whose differing dialects proclaimed above the Cross, "Jesus, the King of the Jews," now unite in forming a word which for all time shall be applied to those who follow Christ.
2. The breaking down of jealousies between Jewish and Gentile converts, as seen in
(1) The mission of Barnabas.
(2) The generosity evoked by the prophecy of Agabus.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)
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.