Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19-30)
As we have discussed already this phase of the spread of witnesses of the Good News of Jesus has been precipitated by the persecution of Stephen. We now know that this movement of the gospel through to Antioch was the second phase of the spread of the Gospel out from Jerusalem. This move of the Spirit of God and His witnesses goes from Jerusalem as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and from there to Antioch in Syria. That’s what we have been told by Luke. The Gospel, the Good News about salvation through Jesus reached Antioch after Stephen’s martyrdom. Then Luke adds the comment “some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus”. Well that is interesting, isn’t it? The second phase reaches them from Jerusalem via Phoenicia and Cyprus. We might expect that. I think you will need to take time to look at a Bible Atlas and find out where these place are. Jerusalem, Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. If you find where these places are it makes sense. You can see the flow of how the Gospel spread. Take time to do that.
What is curious is Luke’s next comment. “Some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus”. At first when the message reached Antioch it was via Phoenicia (and Cyprus – well that is a little curious but understandable) and after that on to Antioch. But the first time is for Jews only. Following that Luke tells us that some believers went to Antioch from Cyprus (yes) and Cyrene (now that is curious for sure). Why Cyrene? And why is it this group who begin to preach the Good News about the Lord Jesus to Gentiles. I am still pondering the matter of the gap between verse 19 and verse 20. Now perhaps more so.
Let me put the picture together with some maps taken from one of the atlases in my library. Yes you read it right. I don’t have just one atlas, I have a number of them. So I will share some maps with you so you can put it all together. (These maps come from the Candle Atlas of the Bible)
Take some time to ponder the information contained in these maps and then we will move on.
Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.Jack Dorsey
Never say no to responsibility. Every responsibility is an opportunity for promotion.Anon
The wise man is not he who gives the right answers; he is the one who asks the right questions.Claude Lévi-Strauss
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.Henry David Thoreau
It takes a long time for God to do something suddenly!Phil Pringle