TEACHING THE TEACHER
desirous of repairing the harm which he had done to the church at Jerusalem; but a definite command of the Lord Jesus sent him now forth to the country of the Gentiles. Acts 9:26–30; 22:17–21; Gal. 1:18–24. He labored in or near Tarsus, preaching the faith which formerly he had laid waste.
Meanwhile an important new step in the progress of the gospel into the Gentile world was taken at Antioch. Acts 11:19–26. Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria, was situated on the Orontes River, near the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It was the third greatest city of the empire, ranking immediately after Rome and Alexandria. And among the great Gentile cities it was the first which was encountered on the march of the gospel out from Jerusalem to the conquest of the world.
At Antioch, certain unnamed Jews of Cyprus and Cyrene, who had been scattered from Jerusalem by the persecution at the time of Stephen's death, took the important step of preaching the word of God to the Gentiles. Before, they had spoken only to Jews; here they spoke also to the Gentiles. Gentiles were received no longer merely in isolated cases like the case of Cornelius, but in large numbers. To investigate what had happened, Barnabas, an honorable member of the early Jerusalem church, Acts 4:36, 37, was sent from Jerusalem to Antioch. Barnabas at once recognized the hand of God, and sent to Tarsus to seek Paul. He and Paul then labored abundantly in the Antioch church. At Antioch the disciples of Jesus were first called "Christians"—no doubt by the Gentile population of the city. The fact is not unimportant. It shows that even outsiders had come to see that the Christian Church was something distinct from Judaism. A distinct name had come to be required.
QUESTIONS ON LESSON XVII
- Describe the conversion of Cornelius in detail. What was the importance of the event?
- What was the meaning of Peter's vision on the housetop at Joppa?
- What important step was taken at Antioch?
- Trace the part of Barnabas in furthering the work of Paul.
- Show how every successive step in the offering of the gospel to the Gentiles was taken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.