When we get baptized, we are expected to live like Jesus. Sometimes we don’t do well living like Jesus. Sometimes we do well in living like Jesus. We might want to find encouragement to live like Jesus. I believe we find such encouragement from this part of the Acts of the Apostles.
For here we see the believers living like Jesus. Yes, they were scattered away from Jerusalem. But these believers kept on talking about Jesus. They not only spoke about Jesus, but they wanted to be like Jesus.
A. Following Jesus begins with speaking the word about Jesus (11:19-21)
1. The believers traveled north of Jerusalem, out of Judea, into Phoenicia
2. They sailed to Cyprus
3. They went to the 3rd largest Roman city – Antioch
4. They only spoke to Jews, at first
5. Some men from Cyprus and Cyrene (100 miles East of Benghazi Libya) spoke to the Greeks about the Lord Jesus!
6. In Antioch, the Gentiles, the Greeks, even turned to the Lord!
7. Wow! It is possible speak about Jesus and for people to believe in Jesus. It takes much more than hearing about Jesus to live like Jesus. Believing in Jesus is displayed partly through devotion. Someone had to teach the believers in Antioch about being devoted to Jesus.
B. Barnabas, again, is an example of living like Jesus (11:22-26)
1. He traveled to Antioch to find out what was going on
2. Barnabas recognized God’s grace at work among the believers in Antioch
3. He was encouraging the believers to be faithful to the Lord
4. How could Barnabas be an example of living like Jesus?
a. Barnabas was a good man because he realized all the good God had done for him through Jesus
b. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit – devotion opens us to the Holy Spirit
c. Barnabas was full of faith – knowing how faithful God is, we gain faith
5. Barnabas got help from Saul – spending a year in Antioch teaching the believers
6. The believers became disciples
7. The disciples were called Christians, literally “little Christs”
8. When we live like Jesus, people are going to be brought to the Lord. It looks like the idea of learning from the apostles, breaking bread, the prayers, and having fellowship with believers helps us to live like Jesus. The same formula that worked in Jerusalem now is working in Antioch. Yet, in this city of half a million people, the seriousness of following Jesus took on a whole new level.
C. Part of being “little Christs” is we give according to our ability for the relief of other believers (11:27-30)
1. As more believers came from Jerusalem to Antioch, even a prophet was among them
2. Agabus foretold about a famine for the world, which occurred during Claudius’ reign
3. These disciples ,these Christians sent relief to the believers in Judea
4. The idea being the community of goods first started in Jerusalem continues in Antioch. Barnabas was among those in Jerusalem who had sold all he had for the relief of others. Now, the Christians in Antioch were providing the same sort of relief for the believers in Jerusalem. Now we are beginning to see what it means to be a Christian.
As we research Antioch, we discover many learned to be disciples in Antioch. Many learned to be Christians in Antioch. Over the centuries, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Ignatius, learned about being devoted to Christ in Antioch. John Chrysostom learned about Jesus in Antioch. Jerome spent time in Antioch before he went to Jerusalem to translate the Bible into Latin. Then there was Ignatius.
Two things from Ignatius we learn. First, we learn: “Now I begin to be a disciple . . . Let fire and cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment . . . come upon me, so long as I obtain Jesus Christ.” (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 1, (Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984), p. 39) And Ignatius would show how he lived as a little Christ, a Christian, by facing persecution and his own martyrdom.
We find that he desired to be an imitator of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. (Read p. 43 quote.) He prays not for release from his sentence of death,
And Ignatius did die, in Rome. Yet we begin to see what it means to be “little Christs.” To be Christian is to be willing to do what Jesus did. We are willing to die so other people can become like Jesus.
We are Christians when we live our belief in Jesus. When we learn about God’s devotion to us, we desire to be devoted to Jesus. When we learn Jesus gave from his ability to give to us, according to our need, we will become Christian. When we give according to our ability to give, according to the need of the people around us, then we too will be “little Christs.”
Can today be the day we learn to give according to our ability? Will today be the day when we admit our great need, so that we can receive life from Jesus, the one who gave up his life so that we may have life?