Day 17

The Church in Antioch

from the reading plan

Acts 11:1-30, Romans 15:25-28, 1 Peter 4:16-19

Not too long ago, an organization called The Atheists of Kenya released a statement that their secretary had resigned his respected position within the organization. The reason given? “He has found Jesus Christ and is no longer interested in promoting atheism in Kenya.” When I read the press release, I wondered, “Who was it that had the courage to share the good news with this most unlikely of converts?” It’s funny, because that very thought immediately revealed that my own heart is occupied with unbelief. I’ve never doubted that God could do such a thing. But I realized that I doubted that He would do such a thing. 

Every great movement of God has come about by the power and providence of God. And in many cases, God’s work takes place in the most unlikely of ways among the most unlikely of people. All we have to do is turn through the annals of biblical history. Abram was a pagan before he became Abraham. Saul was a murderer before he came to know Christ. I imagine that you can think of countless people who God has radically transformed and utilized on His mission to seek and save the lost. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. 

I’ve always loved the juxtaposition of Acts 1:8 and Acts 8:1. In chapter 1 the apostles are promised that in the power of the Holy Spirit, they will be sent from Jerusalem into all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In chapter 8, the catalyst for this mission movement was the death of Stephen, which scattered all but the apostles throughout, you guessed it, the regions of Judea and Samaria. 

As the good news of Jesus Christ spread out from Jerusalem, the establishment of the church in Antioch marks a transition in the book of Acts. In Acts 11:21 we are reminded that, “The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” In other words, no one could doubt that it was the power and providence of God that brought this Gentle church in Antioch about. When the report came back to Jerusalem, the Jewish apostles could not deny that the gospel was at work. It’s difficult to understate how momentous this establishment of a Gentile church was to Israelites who had enjoyed their status as God’s chosen people for thousands of years. 

Perhaps you are reading this right now and you know of someone who is far from God, an unlikely convert. Perhaps that person is you. When it comes to the reach of God, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. When it comes to the power of God, it doesn’t matter how entrenched some are in destructive patterns or crippling doubt. The Lord’s hand is outstretched in an invitation to join the large number who have already believed and turned to Him. 

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