The Church in Antioch: Acts 11
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 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 disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Matthew Introduction: Recipients
The first recipients of the gospel of Matthew were probably the church at Antioch. It was the church where Christians were first called by that name. The church was a major missionary center and teaching center. Because it rivaled Alexandria as the main city of the Near East, it was an excellent base to spread the new faith. Trade routes went deep into Persia and ships sailed from there all over the Mediterranean basin.
We think that the earliest recipients were from Antioch because of the references of early church fathers to the work. The Christians of the city should be noted for their desire for teaching and their zeal for the faith. This gospel would have challenged Jewish people in the city to assess the claims that Jesus was the Messiah. Gentiles would have been challenged by the story of the resurrection in particular, but must have also been challenged by the miracles and the teaching. It is Christians, though, who would have learned the book the most. They would have been encouraged to spread the new faith.
- What events from Acts happened in Antioch?
- Which people were associated in Antioch?
- How would people of Antioch have been encouraged by a written account of Jesus’ life?
- How is your city multi-ethnic, connected by trade routes, and interested in learning like Antioch?
- How could the content of Matthew’s gospel be shared in your city? How could you strategically use your city’s positioning and resources (like the church at Antioch) to spread Matthew’s gospel?