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“The Rise of Antioch” (Acts 11:19-30)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

In the 1500s there was evidence of a small native settlement in Florida that was labeled Rio de la Paz. Later that settlement would disappear and a group of Black Seminoles would establish a settlement in the area named Minatti.

Still later, a settlement would be established named Ft. Blount. The community would undergo several different names, including Peace Creek, Peas Creek, and Reidsville. However, in 1862, the community would come to be known as Bartow, Florida.

The late 1900s was a period of growth for the city of Bartow. In 1885, the Florida Southern Railroad opened in Bartow. A year later, the Bartow branch of the South Florida Railroad, connecting Tampa and Orlando, was completed. In 1887, Summerlin Institute, the first brick schoolhouse south of Jacksonville, was built.

By the turn of the century, Bartow had become the most populous city south of Tampa on the Florida peninsula – larger than Miami or West Palm Beach.

As the city grew, a number of industries moved into the Bartow area. In the first few decades of the 1900s, thousands of acres of land around the city were purchased by the phosphate industry. Bartow would become the hub of the largest phosphate industry in the United States. Polk County was the leading citrus county in the United States for much of the 20th century, and Bartow had several large groves.

Well, that’s just a bit about the rise of Bartow. I’m grateful to Wikipedia for some of that information.

It’s interesting to learn about the rise and influence of a city. Today, we’re going to learn about the influence of another city. Today’s sermon is entitled “The Rise of Antioch.”

Let’s read the passage for today and learn about this city.

Let’s look at Acts 11:19-30:

19 Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.

25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

27 In those days some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine throughout the Roman world. This took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea. 30 They did this, sending it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul.

Join me now in prayer as we seek to hear from the Lord.


Ok, let’s learn what is so significant about Antioch.

First, notice that . . .

‌I. Barnabas travels to Antioch.

Luke starts off in verse 19 by giving us a bit of a refresher. We need to recall that after Stephen was killed for his faith, persecution broke out, and the people of the early Jerusalem church scattered.

You may recall that Acts 8:1 says, “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.”

So, followers of Jesus were scattered all throughout the ancient world, well beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem.

Here’s a map to show the areas that Luke mentions in verses 19 and 20. Look at how much the believers scattered.

Luke mentions these cities. So, here’s Judea (the region around Jerusalem). Then Luke mentions Phoenicia, Antioch, Cyprus, and Cyrene.

Then, Luke tells us that some followers of Jesus who had settled in Cyprus and Cyrene then came to Antioch and began to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the Greeks, or the non-Jewish people living there.

(go back to point #1 slide)

A lot of these people who heard the gospel in Antioch believed what they heard and turned to Jesus Christ.

Once again (as has happened several times in the Book of Acts), news reached the believers in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to check on what was going on in Antioch.

Do you remember Barnabas?

We first met Barnabas in Acts 4, as he sold some property and donated the funds for the use of the early church.

Then, we hear about him again in Acts 9, as he speaks on behalf of the recently converted Saul to the disciples in Jerusalem.

Also, you may recall that his name means “Son of Encouragement.” We’ll see in this passage that he offers some more encouragement in Antioch.

Verse 23 tells us what happened when Barnabas arrived in Antioch. It says, “When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts.”

Verse 24 says that as Barnabas encouraged them, even more people were added to the number of followers of Jesus there in Antioch.

Sometimes people just need some encouragement, don’t they? They need to be told to keep up with good work, keep following Jesus, keep being faithful, and keep strong in the Lord. Barnabas was that type of guy for those in Antioch, and the Lord blessed them through the ministry of Barnabas.

Church, let that be a little side note from this passage. Be an encourager. Aim to strengthen the faith of others by being an encourager.

Barnabas was an encourager. However, Barnabas felt that there was someone else who could also help the situation in Antioch, so we he went to fetch his old friend Saul.

That takes us to our second point:

‌II. Saul travels to Antioch.

Look again at verses 25 and 26.

25 Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers.

Why would Barnabas want Saul?

Well, remember Saul had been dramatically changed by God, he was passionate about his faith, and the Lord had gifted him with a unique ability to debate and explain that Jesus is the Messiah.

You may recall that Acts 9:22 says, “But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Also, in Acts 9:28, it says, “Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”

So, Barnabas sought out Saul in order to bring someone with a sharp mind and a contagious passion for the Lord Jesus Christ, to teach the growing number of followers of Jesus in Antioch.

Barnabas traveled from Antioch up to Tarsus to fetch Saul, and Saul came with Barnabas back to Antioch.

We see what resulted in Saul coming to Antioch. He and Barnabas taught large numbers of believers in Antioch.

Notice this also: the effect of so many people coming to Jesus and growing in their faith in Antioch led to other people giving them a nickname.

Once again, look at verse 26. It says at the end of that verse, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

You see, up until this point, the Christians referred to themselves with other names, such as the Way, Followers of the Name, the disciples, the brothers, the Church, and more.

Never at this point had they been known as Christians, which means “belonging to Christ” or “of the party of Christ.”

Just as a little side-note here, would people describe you as someone who belongs to Jesus Christ?

That’s a challenging question, isn’t it? Do you belong to Jesus? Do others know that you belong to Jesus?

So, the term Christian started to distinguish the followers of Jesus from other Jewish people.

You see, as more and more non-Jewish people started to join the disciples, and as the disciples started to learn more and more about what it meant to follow Jesus, a wedge would start to be driven between those Jews who rejected their Messiah and those (Jewish and non-Jewish) who embraced Jesus as the Messiah.

And so, as a result of the ministry of Saul and Barnabas in Antioch the believers would increase in number and influence, so much so that they earned a new nickname that would remain some 2,000 years later.

We’ll find out that the influence of those in Antioch would go far beyond simply earning a nickname.

That takes us to our third point:

‌III. Resources travel from Antioch.

In verses 27 and 28, we learn that prophets were traveling from Jerusalem to Antioch, including one particular prophet named Agabus.

Now, we’ll hear about Agabus again later, but for now he is prophesying about a famine that will affect much of the Roman Empire.

Notice how the believers in Antioch came together to support the believers back in Judea, the region that surrounds Jerusalem.

Verse 29 says, “Each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers and sisters who lived in Judea.”

This generosity that we see is right in line with the generosity that we see in the earlier part of Acts when the early Church shared their resources with one another.

Pay attention to what is happening here, church: The gospel was so powerful in Antioch that these new non-Jewish Christians were so filled with the love and grace of God that they were sending resources out of Antioch back to Judea to support those whom most of them had never met and perhaps never would meet on this side of heaven.

What would drive them to such generosity? It’s only the love of God and the grace of God as experienced in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit of God.

Church, the gospel should drive us to radical sacrifice and generosity!

We, the believers in Central Florida, should have this same behavior when it comes to giving to the work of the expansion of the gospel and the prospering of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians should be the most generous, the most compassionate, and the most sacrificial.

Before we leave this point, notice in verse 30 that we see that Saul and Barnabas took these resources to the elders.

This is a small picture that the leadership of the individual churches is shifting from the apostles to the elders, of course, also known also as pastors, overseers, and shepherds throughout the New Testament.

That’s just a little nugget that we need to notice in this passage.

Ok, back to the main point now: we see that resources came out of Antioch to help the believers in Judea.

Barnabas traveled to Antioch, Saul traveled to Antioch, and resources traveled from Antioch.

Let this bottom line summarize what we’re learning today:

‌Bottom Line: Antioch became a hub for gospel expansion.

We witness here the rise of Antioch. This city would go on, as we shall see, to be a center, or a hub, for the expansion of the gospel for years to come.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Antioch as a city was quite wicked, yet the church in Antioch was quite powerful, even in the midst of worldliness.

Why is that?

You see, the church there was not of the world; they were not of Antioch; they were of Jesus. After all, they were called Christians: those who belonged to Jesus!

Church, so also, we ought not to be of the world; we ought to be of Jesus! We ought not to be of Bartow; we ought to be of Jesus. We ought not to be of a certain political party; we ought to be of Jesus.

We ought to be Christians, those who belong to Jesus.

What a beautiful passage from the Book of Acts, which shows us the rise of Antioch.

Challenge yourself this week in the following two ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Ask God to make us more like Antioch.

Church, let me ask you something: Could God make our church a hub for gospel expansion? (you bet He can)

Could God make our church a place where disciples are growing in their faith? (you bet He can)

Could God make our church a center of Jesus-like generosity? (you bet He can)

Will you join me this week in asking God to make us more like Antioch? Make that your challenge this week.

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Expand the gospel.

You can be a gospel expansion hub as well.

Share with others how Jesus has changed you.

Let someone know that they are loved by God.

Invite someone to church.

Pray for someone, and let them know that you are praying for them.

Tell someone the basics of what it means to be forgiven of their sins.

Challenge yourself to expand the gospel this week.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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