Preaching The Gospel In Antioch
Disciples who are passionate about sharing the gospel with others take
seriously the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Why do
disciples consider these verses to be important? These verses are important
because they highlight several key concepts that aid, motivate, and instruct
followers of Jesus in their work for the Lord. Authority is a key concept in
Jesus' instructions to his disciples. Disciples acknowledge that every ounce
of authority in the universe belongs to Jesus. When he says “go”, disciples
go! Jesus' words also highlight the work his disciples are to be involved in.
Followers of Jesus Christ do not get distracted from their work of disciple
making, baptizing, and teaching. Finally, Jesus' instructions to his disciples
remind them that He is with them in their efforts. How could anyone neglect or
not be passionate about sharing the gospel with others? Our King has told us
to go. He has given instructions concerning what we are to do. And He has told
us that he will be with us. Matthew 28:18-20 sets the stage for the work the
church is to do.
The church in Jerusalem took the words of Jesus to heart. They boldly spoke
the word in spite of prison, beatings, and threats. Their response was to
preach Jesus as the Christ in the temple and from house to house (Acts 5:42).
In fact, they went throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria preaching the
word when they were forced to flee Jerusalem because of persecution (Acts 8:1,
4). Nothing stopped their enthusiasm. They simply continued to do what Jesus
instructed them to do. Do we have the same enthusiasm they had? Do we consider
the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 28:18-20 to be important?
Many Christians recognize the importance of Jesus' words in Matthew 28:18-20
and understand that being a follower of Jesus Christ is more than just sitting
on a pew for a couple of hours during the week. Many Christians recognize the
need to share the gospel with others and understand that they have been
instructed by the Lord to “go.” However, “going” can be quite scary and
unsettling. Sharing the gospel with a complete stranger sometimes requires us
to step outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we avoid certain people. Sometimes
we go blank. Sometimes we lose our focus. What can help us here? What should
we keep in mind when we share the gospel with others? A close look at some
“old” friends will set us on the right path.
We are reintroduced to some familiar friends in Acts 11:19. We first met them
in Acts 8:1, 4. Those who were scattered because of the persecution in
Jerusalem arrived in the city of Antioch. They preached the Lord Jesus as soon
as they got there. Their time in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26) provides us with
three important lessons that will help us in our work of sharing the gospel
Branch out. The gospel had been primarily preached to Jews in the city of
Jerusalem (Acts 2-7). Acts 8 through 10, however, records an explosion of the
gospel in terms of geography and the diversity of people who heard it. The
gospel spread through the villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8:25). It was
preached on a desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza (Acts 8:26). The gospel
was proclaimed in Damascus (Acts 9:19b-20). Peter proclaimed the good news in
Caesarea (Acts 10:24, 34ff). A diverse group of people in these areas heard
the gospel. Samaritans, an Ethiopian, a zealous Jew, and a devout Gentile all
heard the good news.
Luke, in Acts 11:19-20, continued to record the remarkable spread of the
gospel. He wrote, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution
that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch,
speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of
Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also,
preaching the Lord Jesus.” It seems, at first, that only the Jews in Antioch
were the recipients of the gospel. However, certain men from Cyprus (Barnabas'
home) and Cyrene branched out and preached to the Hellenists (Greek-speaking
Their example reminds us that the gospel is for all. Sometimes we only share
the gospel with people we are comfortable with; people that look like us and
talk like us. Sometimes we discriminate in our preaching. Those who are
passionate about sharing the gospel with others, like the men from Cyprus and
Cyrene, are able to branch out. They are able to see past gender, race, and
economic status. Disciples who are passionate about sharing the good news go
to the greatest of lengths to teach others about Jesus. We should not be
content with just sharing the gospel with only a certain portion of the
population. Knowing this can help us step outside of our comfort zones and
Stay focused. The men of Cyprus and Cyrene were focused. They preached “the
Lord Jesus” when they arrived in Antioch (Acts 11:20). What was the result?
Luke wrote, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who
believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Luke emphasized what was being
preached throughout the book of Acts. Jesus was at the center of every message
(Acts 2:22; 3:13-15; 8:5, 12, 35; 9:20, 22). This should not be surprise us.
The disciples were simply doing what Jesus instructed them to do. They were
converting people to Jesus.
It is easy to get sidetracked and distracted when sharing the gospel with
others. Some people try to change the subject. Some people bring up questions
that can be answered later. We might be the problem. Are we guilty of trying
to convert others to our local congregation? Are we guilty of trying to
convert others to our way of thinking? The wise disciple never gets distracted
from the goal of sharing the good news about Jesus with others. Wise disciples
are locked in and focused!
Do you find yourself struggling for what to say when speaking to others? Have
you ever wondered where you should begin? The example of those who went to
Antioch provides us with the answer. They preached Jesus!
Stay connected. News had its way of traveling even in the ancient world. Luke
wrote, “The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and
they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was
glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast
purpose...So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found
him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and
taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called
Christians” (Acts 11:22-23, 25-26). What should we do when people respond to
the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do we baptize them and then forget about them? Do
we move on? We should move on in one sense. We must always be on the lookout
for new opportunities to share the gospel with others. However, in the process
of moving forward, we must always keep our eyes focused on those who have
responded to the gospel.
Barnabas was sent to Antioch and exhorted these new Christians to remain
faithful to the Lord. That is part of our work too. Babes in Christ need our
constant attention, so we must be ever willing to tend to their needs while we
share the gospel with others. Staying connected leads to spiritual growth and
it strengthens the church. Disciples who are passionate about sharing the
gospel with others focus keep in mind what Jesus said about making disciples –
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you. Barnabas, Saul, and others
remind us that part of the Great Commission is about staying connected with
the ones we teach.
Jesus wants his disciples to share his word with others. The Christians we
read about in the book of Acts were committed to this mission and the results
were amazing. The efforts of a group of men in Antioch should motivate us to
do better. They branched out to others, they were focused on preaching Jesus,
and they continued to work with new Christians. Let us be truly committed to
what Jesus wants us to do and follow the example of our brethren in Antioch.
The results will be amazing!
By Jay Taylor
From Expository Files 20.3; March 2013