Lesson 76

The Church at Antioch

"The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number
believed and turned to the Lord."
Acts 11:21 (Phillips Translation)

Except for Jerusalem, the city of Antioch in Syria was the most important city in the history of the early church. The gospel message brought there found many "hearing ears" among the Gentiles. It was at Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

The Antioch church had very simple arrangements, much like those practiced by Jesus and the apostles. They met for growth in knowledge, fellowship, and to help each other in the narrow way. They helped send missionaries to other cities.

Paul started his first and second missionary journeys from Antioch. His third journey also started there but ended with his imprisonment in Jerusalem.

When the brethren at Jerusalem heard of the growing number of believers at Antioch they were delighted. Earlier, at the stoning of Stephen, some of Jesus’ followers escaped to Antioch and these brethren taught the people there all about Jesus and the wonderful plan of God.

Barnabas was a good and faithful minister to the church at Antioch. He was a native of Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea; he was a Levite and well-learned in the Law. His name means son of consolation or helper, and he was a kind and loving comforter who helped teach the new Christians. There were so many who were hungry for more knowledge of the plan of redemption that Barnabas sent for the Apostle Paul, the best teacher he knew (Acts 13:1-3, 14:26, 15:36).

Paul and Barnabas were loved and respected by the Antioch brethren. The Jews, however, hated and persecuted them. Not long after this, terrible persecutions were inflicted upon the Christians by the Roman emperors who took pleasure in doing so, just to relieve their boredom!

God permitted these evil things to come to the church as testings of their faith and loyalty to him. They are necessary to the church, who walk in Jesus’ footsteps so that their characters can be developed and crystallized (made definite).

The experiences of the church throughout the Gospel Age often have been extremely cruel and difficult, coming in many different forms. These experiences also help the church become very sympathetic with all people who have gone through trying and difficult experiences. It will give the church an understanding of and compassion for them in the next age.

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