Sermon in a nutshell: Acts 11: 19-30 “The Disciples were called Christians.”
We have learned that “world mission” is God’s will. Paul confirmed it by answering his call to be a missionary to the pagans. Peter confirmed this by baptizing Cornelius, a pagan man. God made it clear in John 3:16 that God did not intend to save just Jewish people. The whole world is in God’s mind. God opened the doors for world mission in many different ways. Ironically, however, the door was first opened through persecution.
The Bible says that those who had been scattered by persecution traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they spoke about Jesus “only among Jews.” Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Isn’t it amazing? This is about the same time when Peter saw the vision and baptized Cornelius. It is clear that God was opening the doors to the Greek world. Cornelius was just one of the many who heard the Good News of Jesus.
We cannot make a movement but we can be a part of it when God is making a new movement in history. Our job, as a church, is to open our eyes to see where God is working and to respond to God’s new wave with obedient hearts.
Jerusalem’s church did it. When the news of Greek converts reached the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Barnabas stayed there to nurture the new disciples. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So, for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The Greek followers were taught and nurtured not by the 12 apostles but by this new apostle, Paul!
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. “Christians” mean “The followers of Christ.” Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew world, Messiah (“The anointed one.”). The Greeks were the first ones who were called “the Followers of Christ.” They believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah! To the Jewish people, who had a royal image of the Messiah, Jesus, who died on the Cross, could not be the Messiah. However, the Greeks accepted the suffering, death, and resurrection, as the manifestation of both God’s love and power.
Once the Christians accepted this new picture of the Messiah—not the ruling king but the sacrificial and serving servant—this became the new example and model to follow. Christians were characterized as the ones who served others and sacrificed their lives for others. When they heard the prophecy of the coming famine, they decided to provide help to the people in Judea. They sent gifts to the elders through Barnabas and Saul. Sharing the Good News and sharing resources became the trademark of the Christians. During this Lenten season, let us restore this wonderful tradition so that we can be called Christians. Amen.
- In what ways have you joyfully shared your resources with others?
- With whom have your shared the Good News?