Thursday, April 23. Acts 11:19-30.
This is a repost from the Acts study.
Society longs to have a center. It needs to have a place from which and to which all ideas flow. For the Roman Empire it was the city of Rome that lay at the center of its people. For centuries it was Jerusalem that lay at the center of the Jewish culture. At the center of Jerusalem was the temple with all of its pomp and circumstance. In that house it was believed that the presence of God made His dwelling.
In our story today, Luke drives home one of the major themes of Acts. Luke continually teaches us that there is no political or geographical center to the Kingdom of God. To demonstrate this point we see that the center of influence in the early church began to drift from Jerusalem to the city of Antioch.
This shift makes sense for two reasons:
- Theologically. God was communicating to the people that it was not the physical temple and the racially exclusivist Jews that comprised the Kingdom; rather it was the cosmopolitan kaleidoscope of humanity that comprised the Kingdom of God. Being the third largest city in the Empire and a melting pot of races, Antioch was the perfect choices to give a physical representation of what the Kingdom was supposed to look like.
- Practically. There was a practical reason to choose this city as well. The Kingdom was about to launch on its “ends of the Earth” campaign. In order for this to happen it needed a centralized sea port. Jerusalem was land-locked and not conducive to world-travel. Antioch, on the other hand, was situated on the Orontes River and had a port a Seleucia at the mouth of the river where it emptied into the Mediterranean ocean. We’ll discover that this multicultural city became God’s launching pad for the Kingdom’s expansion into the Roman Empire.
The real shift comes in the phrase, “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” This was a negative label given to them by people who thought they were social deviants. “Oh, they are those Christ-ones.” Now, we wear the label proudly. Our center is not a city, or an ethnic group. Our center is Christ. We are Christ-ones.
May you stay centered today.