Acts, Chapter 11
Word quickly spread among believers that Peter had associated with a non- Jew. Back in Jerusalem, Peter explained everything that had happened adding, "who was I to think I could oppose God?"
The believers in Jerusalem recognized that God was reaching out to the Gentiles and so wisely adjusted their opinions accordingly. This marked the beginning of the church's interaction with non-Jews. (We'll be the first to say how thankful we are that God chose to allow EVERYONE to hear and know the turth about him!)
As you may remember, the persecution of Stephen resulted in the scattering of Jewish Christians. Although many still focused their efforts toward reaching Jews, some went to Antioch, one of three major cities in the Roman empire, to try and reach non-Jews with Christ's message of hope and forgiveness. They braved entering the heart of a secular (or at best polytheistic) culture, abandoning even the comfort zone of Jewish culture. (What an example for us!) Their work became very successful and, after hearing about it, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabus to see what was happening first-hand.
Barnabus is just the kind of guy we'd like to work with. He was incredibly generous with his property (Acts 4:36-37) and seemed to believe the best about people (even someone like Saul!) until the facts proved otherwise(Acts 9:27). In fact, his real name was Joseph, but the Apostles liked to call him Barnabus, which means "Son of Encouragement"(Acts 4:36). Living up to his name, Barnabus encouraged the believers in Antioch and even added to the good they were already accomplishing(Acts 11:23-24).
Barnabus brought Saul to Antioch and they began to work together. No doubt the result of their efforts, the first church of mostly non-Jews was established in Antioch. It was also in Antioch that followers of Jesus were called "Christians" for the very first time.
Often times it seems that those who become Christians in their adult lives have a great deal of passion for serving and loving God. This was no less the case in Antioch. The church there was eager to do good and took action with swift generosity when a famine hit the Roman empire. Combining their efforts and giving what they could, the Christians in Antioch sent their contributions to Jerusalem for distribution by church leaders.
Barnabus and Saul, one of the New Testament's "dynamic duos", delivered the gathered amount to its destination. But their work together was just beginning...
Next Week: Prison Break!
Coffee House Question:How do you think that church can better reach out to sub-cultures like sci-fi/fantasy fans and gamers?