Monday 16th January 2017 - Daily Reading:
Acts 11 - Jesus' People by Richard Cowling

Acts 11 begins with Peter being questioned by the circumcised about going into an uncircumcised mans house. Peter shares his vision and ends it with: 'So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in Godís way?'

This was beginning to occur more and more. Gentiles were coming to know Christ and receive his Holy Spirit. In Antioch, we see the first set of missionaries speaking to Gentiles and many of the Gentiles they spoke to came to faith in Jesus as God's 'Big Picture' plan was coming into view.

God had spoken to Abram about how one day all the nations would be blessed through his seed (Genesis 22:18), and that his decedents would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 26:4). Here in Acts is the beginning of the big picture being fulfilled. In Antioch we first see the title 'Christians' which simply means: 'Jesus-people'. This covered both Messianic Jews and Gentiles that had come to faith in Christ.

The church in Jerusalem that had questioned Peter about his involvement with Gentiles, but then seen God's hand on it, sent an amazing encourager to the Church in Antioch to help them. Antioch was a very powerful and yet immoral city, so it would have been a big culture change for some of the Gentiles to go from that to following God. However Barnabas was a gentle man and strengthens the body of the church, encouraging them to fully give their hearts to God and as a result many more came to the Lord.

Barnabas then goes to Tarsus to seek and find Saul. This is 12 years after Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus, and Barnabas, being the encourager that he is, recognises Saul's gift and so goes to bring him out and help him in his ministry. So they taught in the church at Antioch. Barnabas and Saul were so highly regarded that when a famine was prophesied to be coming across the Roman empire they were given the collected relief and sent with it to Jerusalem.

So here we see how the wider church is beginning to work together. It's no longer just the church in Jerusalem, but loads of little churches are starting and growing. We need to remember we are part of a 'Big Picture'. It doesn't matter what denomination building we attend, we need to remember we are all 'Jesus people', and we need to support and pray for one another as much as we have the ability to do.

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